虞美人

Yu Mei Ren

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Poem by Li Yu (李煜 937AD to 978AD), the last ruler of
Nan Tang (南唐 937AD to 975AD), during the period of Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms (五代十國).
Teresa Teng has a song on this poem, called Ji Duo Chou (幾多愁).


春花秋月何時了?———Chun hua qiu yue4 he2 shi le?
往事知多少!—————-Wang3 shi4 zhi duo shao4!
小樓昨夜又東風,———-Xiao3 lou2 zuo4 ye4 you4 dong feng,
故國不堪回首月明中!—Gu4 guo2 bu4 kan hui2 shou3 yue4 ming2 zhong!

雕欄玉砌應猶在,———Diao lan2 yu4 qi4 ying yu2 zai4
只是朱顏改.—————Zhi shi4 zhu yan2 gai
問君能有幾多愁?——–Wen4 jun neng2 you3 ji duo chou2?
恰似一江春水向東流.—Qia4 si4 yi jiang chun shui3 xiang4 dong liu2!

When will the beautiful scene of spring flowers and autumn moon end?
It depends on how much you know about the past events!
The east wind blew on the little building last night,
When the moon is full I cannot bear to look back at the old country!

The carved balustrades and marble steps should still be there,
With a change of colour.
I ask you how much worry can you take?
It is like the water of a river flowing to the east

This poem was written by Li Yu.
———————————————–

The background of the poem.

In 937AD Li Sheng (李昇) founded the Kingdom of Nantang (南唐 937AD to 975AD) with his capital was at Jinling (金陵 present day Nanjing 南京 in Jiangsu province). He changed the name of Jinling to Jiangning Fu (江寧府). Li Sheng died in 943AD and was succeeded by his eldest son Li Jing (李璟). He was crowned Yuanzong Emperor (元宗皇帝).

In 960AD Zhao Kuangyin (趙匡胤) founded the Song Dynasty (960AD to 1279AD) and was crowned Emperor Taizu (太祖皇帝). Li Jing, the ruler of Nantang (南唐) died in 961 and was succeeded by his 6th son Li Yu who was a man of letters and excelled in painting and calligraphy. He was also interested in music. In 975AD, Zhao Kuang Yin, the first Emperor of the Song Dynasty attacked Nantang. Li Yu, the ruler of Nantang, surrendered without a fight. Li Yu was honoured with the title of Weiming Hou (違命侯 or the Marquis of Disobedience).

The following year Zhao Kuangyin died and was succeeded by his younger brother, Zhao Guangyi (趙光義) who was crowned Emperor Taizong (太宗皇帝 976AD to 997AD) Zhao Guangyi changed Li Yu’s title to 隴西郡公 or the Duke of the Prefectire of Longxi.

In 978AD, on the night of 7th day of 7th Month , his birthday, Li Yu composed this poem and he called it "虞美人 Yu Mei Ren"

春花秋月何時了?—Chun hua qiu yue4 he2 shi le?
往事知多少!———-Wang3 shi4 zhi duo shao4!
…………………………………….
…………………………………..

Having composed it, Li Yu asked his wife Xiao Zhou (小周) to sing. She was
very sad. With tears welling up in her eyes she sang. Zhao Guangyi (趙光
義) heard about it and was not happy. Li Yu gave a copy of the poem to one
of his former officials who passed it around to others of his former officials.
All the former officials of Li Yu felt sad when they read these lines:

故國不堪回首月明中!
Gu4 guo2 bu4 kan hui2 shou3 yue4 ming2 zhong!

問君能有幾多愁?
Wen4 jun neng2 you3 ji duo chou2?
恰似一江春水向東流.
Qia4 si4 yi jiang chun shui3 xiang4 dong liu2!

The two lines showed that Li Yu was still nostalgically thinking of his
extinct country. Having heard about the reactions of Li Yu’s former officials
Emperor Zhao Guangyi was very angry. Knowing that Li Yu could not forget
his extinct country and in future he might harbour the intention of reviving
his country and rebel against the Song Dynasty. In 977AD, Emperor Zhao Guangyi had him killed by putting poison in his food.

When Li Yu died he was only 42 years old. Generations later people compiled Li Yu’s poems and his father’s poems into a book titled "The poems by the two rulers of the Kingdom of Nantang 南唐二主詞". Recently people compiled the forty odd poems by Li Yu into a book and called it "The poems by the last ruler of Nantang 李後主詞".

CHUNG Yoon-Ngan

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About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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