Chinese Tang Poem: Ode to the Goose

In my blog, I introduced several Chinese Tang Poems already: Spring dawn, Grasses, Painting and On the Stork Tower.

In this post, we will learn another well known Chinese Tang Poem written by Luo, Binwang (骆宾王) ( luò bīn wáng ): Ode to the goose (咏鹅) ( yǒng é ).

Some readers might have a question: Why we learn Tang poems or Chinese ancient poems?

These poems were written in long time ago. I just want to learn modern Chinese to communicate with Chinese people, not these hard to understand poems.

There are two reasons why Mandarin Chinese learners had better learn some Chinese ancient classic works, for example, Tang poems.

1, Tang poems are regarded as one of the best part of Chinese literary and culture.

Tang dynasty is one of the prime times in Chinese history, accordingly, a lot of great Chinese literature works, especially Tang poems, appeared during that time.

2, Tang poetry is not only an important part of Chinese literature and culture but also a part of modern Chinese language.

Even today, many Chinese children are required to memorize many Tang poems for the purpose of language learning and literature education.

It might not be a big issue if you don’t know any of Tang poems or other Chinese literature works, however, if you wish to be an insider to communicate well with Chinese people, you had better know some of the best Chinese literature works including Tang poems.

Many of Tang poems become a part of modern Chinese language. It means, many Chinese people use words from Tang poems on the daily base. If you don’t know any of these poems, you might get lost sometimes.

Now let’s take a look at the poem: Ode to the Goose. Some people translated this poem as: Ode to the Geese.

It was said the author, Luo, Binwang, was only 7 years old when he wrote this well known classic poem.

According to the story, one of Luo, Binwang’s relatives came to visit his family.

This guest found seven-years-old Luo, Binwang was very smart, so he asked if Luo, Binwang could write a poem when they walked by a pond where a group of geese were floating on the water.

At the beginning of the poem, the author, Luo, Binwang, wrote:   ( é ) 鹅 ( é ) 鹅 ( é ). 鹅 is the Chinese name of  the “goose”.

Then he started to describe a beautiful vivid scene with a goose singing to the sky: 曲项向天歌 (  qū xiàng xiàng tiān gē ). 曲: curved, bended 项: neck, 向: toward, 天: sky, 歌: sing.

From this sentence, we seem see a group of geese are singing to the sky while holding their beautiful curved necks.

Then the author wrote: 白毛浮绿水( bái máo fú lǜ shuǐ ). 白: white, 毛: feature, 浮: float, 绿: green, 水: water.

红掌拨清波 ( hóng zhǎng bō qīng bō ). 红: red, 掌: here it means a goose’s webbed feet, 拨: push aside, move, 清: clean, clear, 波: ripple.

From above two sentences, we seem see several white geese are swimming on the pond with their feet moving in the clean clear water.

This poem is very short but it describes such a beautiful picture with just several well selected words.

We seem hear the sound. We see a colorful beautiful picture: A group of white geese are floating on the green clear water. That is the beauty of this poem.

Now let’s watch the video to learn how to read this poem. Enjoy your learning.


2 Replies to “Chinese Tang Poem: Ode to the Goose”

  1. Fascinating! After my family immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada, my parents continued teaching me and my sister Chinese at home so we wouldn’t forget it, and they did so by teaching us classical poetry. I still love the poems that I remember.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Teresa. Your parents did a great job to teach you and your sister classical Chinese poetry.

      When I was a kid, my dad gave me a book: 唐诗三百首 (Three Hundred Tang Poems), I had to memorize all of them. It is really a great experience to learn Chinese characters and culture at the same time.

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