Poetry and Literature / China and Macao


Camilo Pessanha*;Jing Guoping**

Camilo Pessanha


PREVIOUS PAGE: Untitled. CARLOS MARREIROS. 1996. Pencil on paper.

Repaying an old debt to the ilustrious editor of "Progresso", I am delivering today, to this weekly, a few dozens of short Chinese compositions the deciphering of which has entertained the leisure times of these last six years of residence in Macao — the first of old age — extracting from that effort (it must be truly admitted) hours of such a tender spiritual pleasure that I had not envisaged to be great.

I will start with a minuscule anthology of seventeen [sic] elegies of the Ming dynasty —elegies because of the tone of pained melancholy which prevails tall, while their form, incisive and short, is more epigrammatic — which have been selected from the numerous and lengthy songbooks of those times of the early nineteenth century, by one of the most delicate aesthetes of the Middle empire, as a farewell gift to an intimate friend departing to distant lands.

The compiler and copyist of these delightful masterworks was the Minister Iong-Fong-Kong, ·i who during those days (of the Chia-King· reign) in Beijing held the most important positions of the Empire. Including that of mentor of the heir apparent to the throne. The recipient of the offer was a disciple of this high dignitary who was just starting his public career, leaving to serve a humble post as sub-prefect in some country burgh of our neighbouring province of Kuang-Tung. · His friends called him Mi-Kan·ii(lit.: tasty root) —his forename and family name not being mentioned in the dedicatory — as it was stylistically current to suppress such frivolities. He probably died in this remote exile at the very beginning of his career without seeing again the profile and snow of his native village. This might explain why ninety years later (the booklet is dated San-Mi, · iiiwhich corresponds to 1811), those few sheets, brought from so far away as a precious relic — converted to an album (with a cover in precious wood from the Philippines on which was carved the name and a short eulogy of the Master) stored in a solid tamarind case with a double lid — were sold to me for the cheap price of two Patacas by a pawnshop (a hao, ·iv as people call them over here) in the Tarrafeiro.

The same dedication states that the verses are from the Ming period. Besides saying that they lived in this period (1368 to 1628) it gives no information about the author or authors. With the assistance of a Chinese literati I was, nevertheless, capable of identifying each of the compositions, and ascertaining their authorship, — which, in fact, is not a formidable task. In all there are eleven poets — whom I wil mention in Notes, together with the translations of the poetry which is ascribed to one of them. These, certainly intentionally chosen are so similar in their metre — of a calm and dolent passé —, so orientated by an underlying philosophy — concomitantly nihilistic and stoic —, so homogeneous in tune of an identical emotion — amorous and grave —, so uniform in the predilection for analogue imagery and in their fast and vigorously evocative procedure, that their reading in the original Chinese makes one believe them being produced by one spirit and systematized fragments of a unique work.

I have transliterated, — as far as the radical difference between the genius of the two languages allows. I made an effort to supress none of the ideas pertaining to the original, even the adjectivated and accessory ones — although, in order to comply with that imposed faithfulness, I had to sometimes sacrifice the rythmic cadence and the relative formal symmetry which I aspired to give to the translation of each Chinese quatrain, as it was obviously impossible to translate them in Portuguese quatrains. I added nothing, neither with the intention of giving relevance to certain details, nor with the preoccupation of [creating] false exoticisms. I have isolated the translation of each of the verses, and within each I have maintained, whenever possible, the original order of ideas and symbols. That is to say that I have attempted to transfer from the Chinese poetical context whatever was possible to be transfered — the substantive or imaginative element — as the sensorial or musical element derived from a very special metric technique (which sapiently made use of prosodic expients not available in the European languages), is absolutely unconvertible.

Untitled. CARLOS MARREIROS 1996. Pencil on paper.

Finally, not trusting my own capabilities — imperfect notions of a mere amateur whose studies of that language were randomly acquired in my leisure hours — I submitted the work to the criticism of my dear friend and master Mr. José Vicente Jorge, who with so much distinction is in charge of the Expediente Sínico (Chinese Bureau), in Macao. Ths illustrious sinologist not only kindly corrected some passages of my translation making it more according to its original intention, but also spontaneously supplied me with a large amount of explanatory notes — the most valuable which accompany each composition and without which — as the reader will verify — the understanding of the texts would be impossible (even under merely an aesthetic criteria) regardless of the accuracy of their versions.

One of the most flagrant characteristics of Chinese poetry and undoubtedly the most difficult obstacle to its exegesis by Westerners, is the exaggerated taste for historical or literary allusions which gives a double sense — one more superficial and direct, while the other, alluded or symbolic, more erudite and profound — not only multiple passages but sometimes entire poems. Obviously that any translator who is not command of a vast sinologic knowledge, sails with the permanent danger of perishing against invicible and treacherous shoals. Furthermore, complicating the misfortunes resulting from this duplicity, the imprecision of the language, (such a fundamental asset in Chinese literature), sometimes even the 'words' are devoid of meaning — diverging their dual understanding and even, sometimes, being in total opposition. Another problem is that, lacking syntactic laws controlling the structure of phrases (even knowing the correct idea behind the representation of each vocable), these are susceptible to the most contradictory interpretations. It is therefore common that several attempts must he made to search for the value of each of these discursive components; the definitive version only to be definitely determined after the full understanding of the [text's] comprehensive meaning, that is, if not absurd. Futhermore, in poetical diction this lack of precision is aggravated by an epigraphic concision — or, if the reader so desires, telegraphic — of diction in itself. The supremacy of elegance commands a quasi total suppression of the 'words' designating logical relations, certainly and more vividly suggesting (and that intensive suggestiveness is one of the untranslatable charms of Chinese poetry) in the imagination of the reader concrete ideas adopted by the author as poetical symbols — but unsupported by the least indication of mutual dependency.

All these obscurities and ambiguities take H. Giles, the eminent professor of Cambridge University, former [British] consul in Ningpo, and the author of a reputed monumental dictionary, to say (Chinese Literature, p. 144) that "A Chinese poem is at best a hard nut to crack". The reader can therefore envisage how precious it was to me — in those unexplored and famed seas of Chinese erudition and sentimentality where my timorous and cautious curiosity ventured — the timely succour of the trained and dedicated pilot that good fortune set on my path.

My excellent friend was further benevolent to the point of substituting, in my imperfect endeavours, the orthography of the romanized Chinese 'words' (that is, those phonetically written in Latin 'characters') — which in the original manuscrit were written according to the Guandongnese pronunciation, transferring them to Beijingnese [sic] — the Mandarin language — how they are usually known by the Europeans. The result of this distinction was that although maintaining their primitive form adopted by me for exclusive use (as I had never envisaged to make public these essays, or at least not so soon), 'words' that the reader might be used to see (and certainly at least a few amongst the corographic names would not be strange) would have remained unrecognizable.

Suum cuique. If this modest attempt, futile pastime of sad hours during long years of solitude, will deserve from the reader some momentous interest, this will certainly not be due to the insignificant knowledge and hypothetical talents of the author and signatory, but more to the highest competence of the professional who collaborated in their final arrangement — at least officiously, and with double justice therefore, to the thankfulness of all.

Translated from the English by Rita Camacho.

Poems translated from the Chinese by Ieong Sao Leong, Sylvia 楊秀玲 Yang Xiuling

Translator's footnote:

The rendering into English of Camilo Pessanha's translation into Portuguese of the following Chinese eight poems complies as closely as possible with their Portuguese version, thus being their transliteration. For comparative purposes, each poem is followed by a new translation made by a Chinese scholar directly from the original Chinese into English.


登閲江樓 Deng Yuejianglou

Ascenção ao miradouro de Kiang

Ascent to the Kiang Viewpoint1v

1. 絕頂樓荒舊有名

"Este altíssimo torreão abandonado foi outrora célebre

("This very high abandoned turret was famous long ago.

2. 高皇曾此駐龍旌

Aqui plantou seus estandartes, ornados de dragões, o fundador da dinastia Han.

Here the founder of the Han dynasty set his banners, adorned with dragons. 2vi

3. 險存道德虚天塹

Defendia-o como inultrapassável fosso, a virtude do rei... Eram supérfluos os circundantes canais.

The virtue of the king protected it as an unsurpassable ditch... The surrounding channels were superfluous.

4. 守在蠻夷豈石城

Faziam-lhe guarda as próprias tribos bárbaras. De que serviriam muralhas de pedra?

Barbarian tribes kept guard to it. 3vii What was the use of stone ramparts?

5. 山色古今餘王氣

Hoje, como então, a montanha esplende de régia majestade

Today, as then, the mountain resplends of royal majesty.

6. 江流天地變秋聲

Rolam do Kiang as águas; e céu e terra confundem as suas vozes outonais.

From the Kiang roll down the waters; and the sky and earth blend their autumnal voices.

7. 登臨授簡誰能賦

Da comoção que sente, assomando no alto, quem poderia ordenar o poema?

From the comotion felt, looming high, who would be able to organize the poem?

8. 千古新亭一滄情

Pavilhão novo, pavilhão novo! — de pungentes máguas milenárias... "

New pavilion, new pavilion! — Of millenary pungent sorrows...")4viii

登閲江楼 Deng Yuejianglou

Climbing the Lao Lao Tower Overlooking the River

1. "The desert tower was once famous with glory,

2. Here Emperor Gao Huang mounted dragon flags of victory.

3. His virtuous deeds guarded so well against barbarians,

4. That all moats, trenches and stone ramparts became supefluous.

5. The mountains today, as before, radiate with majestic power;

6. The rivers mingle with Heaven and Earth in an autumn chorus.

7. Standing here, overwhelmed, who could compose the poem?

8. Oh, the ancient Lao Lao Tower and a bosom of sorrows!"


龍潭夜坐 Longtan yezou

À noite, no Pego-dragão

At night, in the Pelagic-dragon5ix

1. 何處花香入夜清

"De onde vem este perfume de flores, embalsamando a noite puríssima?

"Where from does it come this perfume of flowers embalming the very purity of the night?

2. 石林茅屋隔溪聲

Entre bouças e fragas, uma cabana de ola, perto da qual um arroio murmura...

Amongst pastures and crags, a hut of palms, near which a brook murmurs...

3. 幽人夜出每孤往

Como de costume, o eremita parte ao surgir da lua

As usual, the hermit leaves as the moon rises.

4. 棲鳥山空時一鳴

Em um covão do monte, um pássaro, poisado, ininterruptamente gorgeia.

In a hillside depression, a perched bird, uninterreptedly chirps.

5. 草露不辭芒屢濕

Não lhe importa que as ervas, impregnadas do orvalho, lhe encharque as alpercatas de junça.

Careless that the grass, soppy with dew, might soak his junk espadrilles

6. 松風偏與葛衣輕

As suas vestes de ligeiro cânhamo, soergue-as, enviezando, a brisa primavril...

He raises slightly his garnments of light hemp, 6x slanting, the spring breeze...

7. 臨流欲寫猗蘭意

À borda da torrente, intento fazer versos ao viço das orquídeas.

By the torrent, intent in making verses to the lushness of the orchids. 7xi

8. 江南江北無限情

Embargam-mo as saudades, violentas empolgando-me, do Kiang-Pei e do Kiang-Nan.

I am forcibly seized by a violent nostalgia of the Kiang-Pei and Kiang-Nan.")8xii

龍潭夜坐 Longtan yezou

Night on the Dragon's Pond

1. "Where does this fragance come from, resfreshing the fair night?

2. Clearly, over the crags and thatched huts a brook is murmuring.

3. As usual, the lonely hermit sets out at moon-rise,

4. At sunrise, from the hills, birds perching in the wood are chirping.

5. Oblivious of the dewy grass soaking my straw sandals,

6. Ignoring chilly breeze from the pines fluttering my hemp tunic,

7. Watching the water flow, I still aspire to write a song of orchids,

8. With boundless unfailing passion from North and South of the river!

王廷相 WANG TINGXIANG 登臺 Dengtai Sobre o terraço Over the terrace9xiii 1. 古人不可見 "Os antigos mortos, invisivelmente ("Invisibly, the ancient dead 2. 還上古時臺 Vêm ainda ao seu terraço antigo... Still come to their ancient terrace... 10xiv 3. 九月悲風發 Já sopra da nona lua o vento lamentoso. Already the sorrowful wind blows from the ninth moon. 4. 三江候雁來 De os três rios devem estar a chegar os gansos de arribação. The migrating geesexvi must be arriving from the three rivers. 11xv 5. 浮雲通百粵 Cobrem nuvens a vastidão dos dois Kuangs. The two Kuang12 are covered by a cloudy vastness. 6. 寒日隱蓬萊 Declina, pálido, o sol, sobre o P'ang-lai. Over the P'ang-lai13xvii sets, the palid sun. 7. 逐客音書斷 Desterrado da pátria e sem notícias dela, Exiled from the homeland, and with no news from it, 8. 憑高首重回 Para essas bandas volvo de contínuo os olhos." I constantly turn my sight towards those lands.") 登臺 Dengtai Mounting the Five-Storey Pagoda in Guangzhou 1. "Gone are the ancient, 2. Still I can mount this ancient tower. 3. Winds of sorrow are wailing in the Ninth Moon, 4. Migrating geese are returning from the Three Rivers. 5. Massive clouds are racing across Bai Yue, 6. Quietly winter has arrived in Peng Lai. 7. An exile, far away and cut off from home, is standing there 8. Alone, with many a lingering glance towards the homeland! In U-Ch'ang14xviii 1. 洞庭葉未下 "Em Hsian-Hsiang é já quase outono, ("It is almost autumn in Hsian-Hsiang, 15 2. 瀟湘秋欲生 Embora não caia ainda a folha nos jardins de Tung-ting. Although in the Tung-ting16 gardens, the leaves are not yet falling. 3. 高齊今夜雨 É noite, e da minha mansarda oiço chover, It is night time, and from my attic I listen to the rain, 4. 獨臥武昌城 — Sózinho, na cidade de U Ch'ang. — Alone, in the city of U Ch'ang. 17 5. 重以桑梓念 E lembram-me a amoreira, e a catalpa da casa paterna. And I remember the mulberry and the catalpa trees of my parents home. 18 6. 淒其江漢情 Ao sentir perto as águas do Kiang e do Han... Feeling the nearby waters of the Kiang and Han... 19 7. 不知天外雁 Vá alguém entender a grulhada dos gansos, Will someone ever understand the trumpeting of geese, 8. 何事樂長征 — O festivo alvoroço com que emigram. " —The festive fluster of emigrating!")20 在武昌作 Zai Wuchang zuo A Poem Written in Wuchang 1. "There's no sight of leaves falling in Dong Ting, 2. Yet Xiao Xiang already feels autumn coming. 3. Lying alone in the city of Wuchang, 4. From my study I listen to the night-long drizzling. 5. Choked with nostalgia for folks in my hometown, 6. My heart grieves at scenes of Hanshui and Wuchang. 7. May I ask, my dear wild goose, 8. Why are you so keen on flying long journeys?" immense horizon, all flowery. 2. 行人相顧欲霑衣 Pára o viandante a olhar. A chuva do arvoredo que ainda goteja, vai-lhe repassando a túnica... The traveller stops and stares. The drops of rain which still fall from the trees slowly drench his tunic... 26 3. 楚王宮外千條柳 Oh! se dos mil chorões, à volta das ruínas do palácio real de Ch'u, Oh! if from the one-thousand weeping-willows surrounding the ruins of the royal palace of Ch'u, 27 4. 不遣飛花送客歸 As flores soltas me fizessem cortejo, à despedida, no regresso à pátria!" Their falling flowers could accompany me in procession, biding farewell, in the return to homeland!") 春思 Chunsi Reflections in Spring 1. "The flow of the spring river glitters in the last streak of the setting sun. 2. The traveller pauses and stares, with tears soaking his tunic. 3. Oh, you thousands of willows, surrounding Emperor Chu's palace, 4. When will you set your catkin flowers flying to bid me farewell?" I hear the geese32 sounding the alarm for return.") 幽寂 Youji Lonely Tranquility 1."I indulge myself in the solitude of this thatched hut, 2. But in my loneliness, sadly, I think of old poems. 3. Orioles are singing, but not in my homeland; 4. Flowers are blooming only to upset my spring mood. 5. The sun's falling setting the sky aflame with clouds golden. 6. Over the deep blue waters gusts of wind are blowing. 7. Wild geese from the North are squawking, sending 8. The message that in March they're coming home."
In: "0 Progrcsso". Macau. 4 Outubro [October], 1914. p.2. In; "0 Progrcsso". Macau. 13 Setembro [September], 1914. p.2.


1The author of this poem is Uang-Shau-Jen· (°1472-†1528), alias Uang-Po-an· and Uang-Iang-Ming·, sobriquet Uan-Cheng. ·A remarkable diplomat, philosopher and poet during the reigns of Hung-Chich,· Cheng-Te· and Chia-Ching. — [GILES, Biog. Dicc., p.839].

2The Kau· Emperor. There were many emperors to whom was given the posthumous cognomen of Kau (high). The poet must be making reference to Kau-Ti or Kau-Tsu·, founder of the Han dynasty (206BC-25AD).

3Lit.: "It was among the barbarians Man· and I· --meaning, "keeping them in respect by the prestige [he] with which they were regarded" that (the monarch) looked after (the integrity of the national territory)." Since ancient times these tribes stirred trouble in China with their rebellions and invasions,

4Sin-T'ing· (New Pavilion), in Kiang-Nun,· on the Yang-tse-kiang· river. During the Chin dynasty (265-420) some eminent literati and fervorous patriots were in the habit of gathering at such a place to cry in unison for the misfortunes of the motherland. [P'ai-uên-iün- fu·, vol.4, rhyme·]. Contrary to its appellation, this pavilion was already an ancient building when it was visited by the poet.

5We were unable to identify the location herewith called Lung-t'an.· Giles dictionary register a waterfall called Hei-lung-t'an· (Black Dragon's Fall), in the environments of Beijing. We heard that there is another Lung-t'an in An-Hui,· near the Yang-tse-kiang.

6The pachinus angulatus,· according to J. M. A. da Silva, and the pueraria phaseoloides or pueraria thumbergiana, according to the modern lexicographers, are varieties of one of the numerous textile plants which grow in China.

7The Odoriferous Orchid· is the title of an ode by Confucius. The poem celebrates the beauty of the enlightened man's spiritual life among disgraces and social imorality. [A translation of it can be found in LEGGE, Chinese Classics, vol.1, p.77].

8Kiang-Pei· and Kiang-Nan·, the present provinces of Kiang-Su· and Chék-Kiang,· at the mouth of the Yangtse-kiang river. The orchids of these regions are famous for their beautiful flowers. The poet was a native from Iü-Iau· in the province of Chék-Kiang. Inhaling the fragance of the flower that for Confucius was symbolic of the serene disdain of pure souls, he searched to sublimate his precarious earthly existence by following the examples of the master. But his struggle proves to be fatal as the perfume reminds him, with deathly nostalgia, of his remote homeland.

9The author Uang-T'ing-Hsiang,· was also known as Uang-Tse-Heng.·

He reached the Chin-Shih· grade during the reign of the Hung-Chih· Emperor (r.1487-†1505). He was Minister of War and mentor of the heir apparent to the throne. [U-ch'ao-pieh-ts'ai-shih-chi,· din.,· fasc.5].

10The 'terrace'·-- short for the "terrace of the king of Iüeh"· ·--, and erudite appellation of the Five Storied Pagoda,· in Guangzhou, built over the northern wall of the city. During the European occupation of the city, from 1857 to 1861, it was the headquarters of the allied forces.

It was built in 1368, during the reign of Tai-Tsu·, the first emperor of the Ming dynasty. The legend says that it was erected in the same place as a tower built by Uei-T'o·, king of Meridional Iüeh,· and founder of the city during the Han, in the last century BC.

11The Three Rivers·. So it was called in the old kingdom of Yang,· the Yang-tse-kiang (Blue river of the Europeans) together with two of its tributaries. For the poet, staying in Kuang-Tung they symbolised the North, his native land. The poet was born in Chün-Ch'uan,· in Shan-Hsi,· the southernmost province of the empire.

12'Kuangs'· is a generic alternative writing of the present Kuang-Tung and Kuang-His· which together relate to their ancient constituencies.

See: Note 10 — the one-hundred divisions of the Iüeh, meaning all the land presently covered by the Two Kuangs.

13P'ang-lai-hsien-kwan· (the Daoist monastery of P'anglai),· west of Guangzhou, on the opposite side of the river. P'ang-lai· [Penglaishan] (wild brambles) is one of the Three Islands Genii inhabited by the mythological Immortals, and covered by densely forested and undulating hills. [COUVREUR, Dicc.; PETILON, Alusion litteraires, etc.]. A regional and popular tradition places this Daoist Eden in Kuang-Tung, where the Huang-Sha pavilion presently stands, and further explains that the hills once collapsed and were long under water when the region was entirely submerged. [For this reason GONÇALVES, Dic., translation is "o Mar Morto de P'ang-lai" ("P'ang-lai Dead Sea").

14The author of this poem and the following two is Hsu-Chên-Ch'ing, ·alias Ch'ang-Gu, contemporary of the previous [Uang-T'ing-Hsiang]. He was a teacher at the Imperial Academy [U-ch'ao-pieh-ts'ai-shih-chi, din., fasc.6].

15The Hu-Nan· region [province]. Hsiao· or Hsiao-kiang,· is one of the tributaries of the Hsiang-kiang· which irrigates that region. The Hsiang-kiang crosses this province from south to north flowing into the Tung-ting· lake.

16Tung-ting, the biggest and the most picturesque of the the Chinese lakes in the northern part of Hu-Nan, connects with the Yang-tse-kiang. It is also known by the poetic name of Ün-mang· (the vastness of waters under the clouded sky).

17U-Ch'ang,· is the capital of the Hu-Pei province and of the vice-kingdom of the two Hu· situated alongside the Yang-tse-Kiang not far from the Tung-ting lake. Separated from Hankan by the river it nevertheless constitutes an homogeneous urban conglomerate with this highly important port open since 1861 to European trade.

18For the Chinese these two trees symbolise their motherland. One of each species was traditionally planted adjacent to all rural homes.

19Kiang·-- by antonomasia, the 'river' — means the Yang-tse-kiang or the Blue river. The Han crosses the Hu-Pei province from north to south, its waters merging with those of the King near U-Ch'ang before covering an eastbound distance of one-hundred-and-ninety leagues, before reaching the sea in Kiang-Su, the hometown of the poet U-Hsien.·

20The compiler placed this poem near the precedent. There are two autumnal 'sketches' which harmoniously match, being rigorously the same in their metric and structural technique, as well as in the intimate correlation of their thematic subjects. They could be entitled: Waiting for the Blue River Geese (Port.: À espera dos gansos do rio Azul), and In the Blue River. The Departure of the Geese (Port.: No rio Azul. A partida dos gansos).

21Ing,· is the archaich name of U-Ch'ang, capital of the kingdom of Ch'u· and a progressive intellectual centre of Chinese society from the eight to the fourth centuries BC (See: Note 17).

The verse makes an allusion to an old allegory — The Outlander of Ing·— attributed to Sung-lü·, a remarkable diplomat and poet of the Ch'u kingdom. The legend describes how its author had tried to explain to his lord and master, king Hsiang·, (posthumous cognomen), the reasons for his disdain for the crowds, ovations and his indifference to their censures. The following translation is an adaptation from the Uanhsuan,· ·vol.11, p.25:

"A musician from other lands once came to the town of Ing, seduced by the fame of its flowering artistic culture, anxious to acquire further knowledge, and to develop his manners among its refined and civilized society. In Ing there was a special place — a sort of amphitheatre or similar — exclusively for the performance of concerts, recitals and musical venues, and an obligatory meeting point for all those interested in musical matters. The newcomer, as soon as he found lodgings, impatient to share in the intense spiritual life of the city, naturally went to this place. And it just so happpened that it was a most favourable introductory occasion for exactly at that moment a special competition was taking place with the purpose of stimulating beginners and shaking vocations of all those who had them restrained so far. It was open to all those who wished to perform and submit to the general public the veredictum of their arts and talents.

He decided to participate, but either because he was sincerely timid or frightened of being criticised for being too scrupulous, he selected as his first piece a banal composition in a rather undignified style. It just so happened that contrary to all his expectations, his humble beginning was triumphantly acclaimed. The thousands of voices of the choruses raised in unison, tremendously elevating his single voice and as soon as the piece was finished the select and huge audience stood up in resounding applause.

In response to such a generous and gratifying welcome, he decided to sing another piece of a better style. As it was foreseable, not as many elements of the choruses participated as before —just a few hundreds — but the final ovation was equally general and clamourous.

Encouraged by the auditorium's receptiveness to his interpretations he decided to embark on a decisive trial, and immediately started the the first bars of the "Formidable is the Snow on the Spring Sun", a hymn of sublime inspiration and exquisite technique, renowned in those days to be the ultimate singing test of master singer. Some voices still accompanied him but, by the time he had finished the collective enthusiasm had considerably faded.

Finally, in a passionate outburst for the love he had for art, the troubadour, while playing a lute, sang an innominate and splendid song, the harmony of which raised his enraptured soul to the most resplendent peaks of idealism. It was a work comprising a wide spectrum of harmonic concepts inspired by divine emotion, and achieving effects of the most transcendental and unforeseen beauty by complex and unprecedented technicalities. But what a deception! Halfway through his spellbound rendering he realised that the precinct was empty apart from three or four ardent admirers of those realms of lofty beauty (called these days 'melomaniacs') who ectsatically and deeply moved surrounded him."

Besides the intentions attributed to this story by the popular minister Sung-Iü, we can reach another possible conclusion, probably profitable for future research on comparative civilizations: that there were no snobs two-thousand-four-hundred years ago, in the land of Ch'u.

22Popularly translated as 'perfect beauty'. ·In painting, one of the branches of the category which deals with the 'human figure'· deals with types of 'feminine beauty'.·

23"The Torrent of the Mountain"· is in fact a compound of two distict compositions: "The Mountain" and "The Torrent". When played by their author Po-Ia· — a kind of legendary Chinese Orpheus — they had the power to evoke, first, a vision of the Tai-shan· Mountain, and second, a crashing waterfall.

24Son· or daughter· — "as princesas" ("the princesses"), and by antonomasia, the two princesses O-Uang· and Nü-Ing,· daughters of Iau,· and wives of Shun, whose destinies we will later refer to.

In the ode The Second Wife ·of Hsiang, of the nine by Ch'ü-Tzü compiled in the Uan-hsuan, vol.8, there is the following verse:

"[...] the princesses went (lit.: their spirits "descended from the sky") to live in the islets of the North." The Uang-I· notations of this ode state that: "[...] the daughters of the lau Emperor who were given in marriage to the Shun Emperor, died on the margins of the Hsiang, becoming its water fairies."

25 See: Note 15.

26The locution zhanyi· is usually used with the character lei, either directly expressed or tacitly implied, meaning 'water the dress with tears'.

In a Tang dynasty poem there is the following verse... "[...] raindrops falling from the almond tree flowers, will soon water her dress."·

27The lands of Hu-Kuang (or of the two Hu), together fractions of present Ngan-Hui and Ho-Nan corresponded to the territory of the principality or feudal kingdom of Ch'u. Weeping-willows are extremely common trees in central China where they reach great sizes, a fine sample of one being photographically reproduced in the book by E. Wilson, entitled A naturalist in Western China (See: Note 21).

Long [weeping-willow] avenues are elements almost obligatory in the landscape paintings of the Yang-tse-kiang.

28Pien-Kung,· alias Ting-Shih.· He was a contemporary of the authors of the previous poems. He was President of the Treasury. [U-ch 'ao-pieh-ts'ai-shih-chi, din., fasc.5].

29The oriolus sinensis.·

30Meaning, 'old kingdom'· or 'homeland'.· An archaic expression which continued to be literarily popular after the unification of China as a residual memory of feudal times.

31The Chinese year corresponds to the twelve month lunar year of complete moon cycles, although its beginning is determined by the zodiacal position of the sun is such a way that the phases of the moon always coincide with the same seasons.

In order to obtain such computation, in each five years is added a two months (or two intercalate moons) compensation (the difference the solar and the lunar years), in two diferent embolismic years,· each having thirteen moons. The first day of each year should correspond to that of the first new moon of the sign of Aquarius (or, according to Chinese cosmography that of the 'Mouse'·). It should therefore never be either before the 21st of January or later than the 19th of February.

The second moon, which usually corresponds to the month of March, is the second of the [Chinese] year and that of spring. The new moon which corresponds to the month of October is the last of Autumn.

32Wild geese (anser segetum)[sic] which come to hibernate in the tropical zone of the southern rivers. Their characteristic flight pattern, in long aligned rows converging towards a frontal leader has been an inexhaustible source of paintings and poems in the Far East. These migrations take place in spring and in autumn, these being the most appreciated seasons by Chinese and Japanese artists.

33Li-Mang-Iang,· alias Tien-Tzü· is the author of this and the three following elegies. He was contemporary of the authors of the previous poems. He was secondsecretary of the Treasury. [U-ch'ao-pieh-ts'ai-shih-chi, din., fasc.5].

34 See: Note 15.

35It is an orchid,· the symbidiun ensifolium [WILSON, A naturalist in Western China, vol.2, p.34], greatly valued in China and abundantly planted alongside the Blue river and its adjacent lakes (See: Note 8).

The gracile frailty of this plant, the hieratic discretion of its delicately singular flowers of velvety stems of sombre colouring; its mellow and fresh, exquisite and penetrating perfume elected this modest plant to become the symbol of the more praiseworthy supporters and upholders of Chinese morals (See: Notes 7 and 8.)

36River Lai,· in Hu-Nan, a tributary of the lake Tung-ting.

37The long ago rich forests of the central and lower Yang-tse-kiang are now totally exhausted. Some precious woods are still relatively abundant in the western mountains, among which several varieties of thuja,· abies,· camphor laurels,· persea nan-mu· [BRETSOP NEIDER, Botanicum sinicum], etc.

The Chinese aesthetically honour these woods incomparably more than any possible analogous European varieties. The architectural exquisiteness of the Chinese temples and palaces lies almost exclusively in their majestic massive columns supporting an intricate trabeation which holds the roof, and in their partitions and interior furnishings — all traditionally made of the most precious woods.

38Green jasper·[GILES]. It looks like jade but is slightly less valued.

39Jade,· from the Spanish piedra de hijada — sometimes, wrongly named jasper or agathe— is a hardstone(silicate of aluminum and magnesium) much cherished by the Chinese which adapt it to jewels, insignias and luxurious objects. It is the hardstone par excellence being given by the Chinese a symbolic meaning analogous to the extreme virtues held by orchids among all flowers. It was exalted by Confucius who described at length its symbolism.

Its colour can assume a wide range of tonalities, from pearly white to dark olive green. Due to the accidental mixture of other colouring substances, such as the oxide of chromium, it may present red, yellow, light brown and black pigmentation. It is unctuous and generally translucent, although it may range from being almost transparent to being totally opaque. Its mat shine remains constant despite the degree of polishing. Its surface maintaining a lardaceous tinge. Its percussion is a distinctly limpid yet frail sonority. For its special sound quality, jade was in ancient times selected for the craft of a standar chiming instrument, a kind of xylophone formed by a number jade blades of different length each one of them emitting the exact diapason of a musical octave. The percussion notes of this instrument were considered as the idealised music of the philosopher.

40 See: Note 44.

41 See: Note 16.

42Iau,· Shun,· and Ü.· are the three great kings of the Chinese proto-historic times, constituting reigns — 237-2198BC — considered the patriarchal Golden Age repeatedly recalled by Chinese writers. As Ian's son was not fit to be a ruler, his father disinherited him electing as his successor Shun to whom he gave in marriage his two daughters O-Uang and Nü-Ing (See: Note 24). The sons of these marriages being equally unfit to rule, Shun prescribed that after his death Ü should rise to the throne, having been in life his close adviser on the administration of the kingdom.

Shun died in Tsang-U,· Ning-Üan,· district, Iun-Chou,· prefecture, Hu-Nan province, during an inspection tour he was conducting in his territories in the company of his two wives. After his death they refused to leave Hu-Nan, where they found solace for the deaf and desolate misery of their frustrated destines, on quiet waters of the region's rivers and lakes. Along the Hsiang shores grows a variety of bamboo· [banzhu· or leizhu·] whose leaves are covered by small pale speckles. The legend says that these are the profuse tears of the two widows [GONÇALVES, Arts, p.377; WIGER, Textes Historiques, p.46; Kang Chien,· vol.1, etc.]

The poet does not comply with the traditional story, the widows comparing the uncomprehensible supposed 'tearfulness' of the bamboos to their own silent laments.


Jing Guoping

i long-Fong-Kong·: from the Daxing· district, in Beijing (°1733-†1818). Alias Zheng San,· sobriquet Fu Xi.·

ii Mi-Kan· correspond to the following ideograms: 密根

iii San-Mi· corresponds, in the sexagesimal cycle, to the year of 1881.

iv Hao means, in popular language, a 'pawn house'.

v Kiang means the Yangzi, the longest river of all China.

vi The birth date of the Gao Huang emperor has not yet been conclusively ascertained. Some historians say it was 247BC, others 256BC. He reigned from 206 to 194BC and died in the year 195BC. He was the founder of the Han dynasty which was in power from 206BC to AD25.

vii The 'Man' and 'I' barbarian tribes raided the frontiers of the Chinese empire. ‘Man’and ‘I’ were the names respectively given to the native Chinese of the ‘southern’ and ‘western’ regions. In the verse they generically refer to ‘all native Chinese tribes’.

viii The New Pavilion is in the south of the Jiagning· district. It is also known as Laolaoting.·

ix Lung-t’an, means Dragon’s Deep Pool, is a common name in Chinese toponomy. The mentioned gorge [Pelagic-Dragon] is in the north of the Jurong· district, Jiangsu· province, adjacent to the Yangzi river.

x Most Chinese encyclopedias include this term with the Latin name: pueraria thumbergiana. In Macao, from the roots of this plant is made an edible strach called kót fân,· its fibres being woven into a light textile called gebu· [Port: pano de nuno], which the local people use to tailor white summer garments.

xi The title of Confucius' ode is Yilangchao.· Yilang is a 'type of orchid' and chao means a 'melancholic poem'. Confucius always considered himelf a frustrated intellectual. One day he found in a valley some strangely fragrant and rare orchids. Based on them he improvised some melancholic verses which later were the inspirational source of a new literary style to be called "Yilangchao".

xii ‘Kiang-Pei’ and ‘Kiang-Nan’ literally mean the ‘north’ and the ‘south’ regions bordering the Yangzi river which runs from west to east.

xiii Uang-T’ing-Hsiang (°1474-†1544), from Yifeng· in the actual Lankao· district, province of Henan. Alias Zi Neng,· sobriquet Ling Chuan.·

xiv The King Yue's Terrace was on the Hill of Yuexiu,· more commonly named Hill of the Goddess of Mercy,· in the north of the city of Guangzhou. The terraced viewpoint was built by Zhao Tuo,· king of the Southern Yue· kingdom, tributary of the Han Gao Zhu· emperor.

xv According to a number of dictionaries the three mentioned rivers are not the Yangzi and two of its tributaries but a generic denomination for all the rivers of north and central China from where the wild geese originate.

xvi The Yan (Lat.: anser albifrons) is a 'wild goose'· or a migrating bird of the anserinae species. In Chinese literature, a 'wild goose' frequently symbolises a ‘messenger’.

xvii P'ang-Lai (Lat.: evigeronacer) is a popular Chinese weed. The mentioned P'ang-Lai Daoist monastery used to stand in the southeast of the city of Guangzhou.

xviii Hsu-Cên-Ch'ing (°1479-†1511) from the Wu district. Alias Chang Gu,· sobriquet Chang Guo.·

Ing was the capital of the kingdom of Chu, annexed in 225BC by the Qin·dynasty which was in power from 221BC to 206BC. Ying was in the region of Jiwangcheng,· northeast of the actual Jiangling· district, Hubeiprovince of. It was known as 'a land of songs'.

In the context of the verse the tune "Shanshuiyin"· ("The Torrent of the Mountain") means 'Chinese classical music'.

xxi Pien-Kung(°1476-†1532) from the Licheng· district in the actual Shangdong· province.

xxii Ying· (Lat.: cettia cantans) is an 'oriole' [a wild bird of ancient times].

xxiii Li-Mang-Iang· (°1473-†1530)from Qingiang· in the actual Gangsu· province.

xxiv Zhi,· means in this context, a 'sand bank'. In fact the true meaning of the character is more a 'small island'.

xxv This river is also know as Langjiang· (Orchid river), and Peipu· (Jade Pendants river). All its three tributaries flow into the Dongting· lake.

xxvi It is a printing mistake. It should read: "See: Note 42."

* LLB (Bachelor of Law). Poet. Author of Clepsidra, Esboço Crítico da Civilização Chinesa (Critical Sketch on Chinese Civilization), Ensaio sobre a Literatura Chinesa (Essay on Chinese Literature) and numerous and varied contributions to a number of publications both in Portugal and Macao. Died in Macao in 1926.


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