Chinese poem illustration: 小雅 采薇/ Xiaoya – Cai Wei by Anonymous
Wei(薇) is generally explained as vicia sepium, or wild pea(野豌豆)in Chinese. Nobody is sure what species exactly it is. From the history literature, it is a humble vegetable for poors while adored by hermits living in big mountians. The character itself indicates the leaves or flowers is tiny, it also implys fading away. Finally the word of picking up wild pea(采薇) was connected with hermit life in Chinese literature, while it is hard to tell if this metaphor was employed in this poem.
This poem is about a war with the nomad invaders from northwest(猃狁), it doesn’t talk much about the war itself but the life of the poet/soldiers and their families back home, the sadness of separation from each other, the huge worry toward each other: are they still alive? do they still have food?
This poem laid the cornerstone of the later poetry genre: Trip of Duty Poetry(羁旅行役诗) and Thinking of Home and People Poetry(思乡怀人诗).
Part1 is about the life in the battlefield with huge worries to his home.Part 2 is about the glorious troop marching homeward bound, yet ended with even more untold sadness when getting nearer to his home.
The sentence “昔我往矣，杨柳依依。今我来思，雨雪霏霏。 ” is marked as one of the most touching and beautiful sentence among Book of Songs.
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