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Chinese poem illustration: 长干行 其一 Song of Changgan 1 by Li bai

长干行

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Reminiscences of a merchant’s wife life story through several vivid and lively snapshots. Wording like 青梅竹马, 两小无猜 in this poem became popular idioms in today’s language.

For today’s Chinese, this poem is mostly interpreted as love story, while it is classified as Woman Complaining poetry (闺怨诗) actually. This type of poetry contribute a big portion of classic chinese poetry, most of them could be double referring.

In the surface, it is always about a woman complaining on her husband, her lover, her life etc. More or less it resembles the relationship between an officer and the emperor. The husband or the emperor shares a lot commons, so does the wife or the officer. The Tang poets like to use the wife’ complaining as an indirect complaining to the emperor and his own bad luck.

Particularly, Li Bai choose a merchant’ wife as the subject, who is the lowest in Tang’s social levels, this add on the sadness.

长干行·其一
李白

妾发初覆额,折花门前剧。
郎骑竹马来,绕床弄青梅。
同居长干里,两小无嫌猜,
十四为君妇,羞颜未尝开。
低头向暗壁,千唤不一回。
十五始展眉,愿同尘与灰。
常存抱柱信,岂上望夫台。
十六君远行,瞿塘滟滪堆。
五月不可触,猿声天上哀。
门前迟行迹,一一生绿苔。
苔深不能扫,落叶秋风早。
八月蝴蝶来,双飞西园草。
感此伤妾心,坐愁红颜老。
早晚下三巴,预将书报家。
相迎不道远,直至长风沙。

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