Li Yu: A Tragedy King and Talented Poet

In this post, I am going to talk about another famous Chinese person: 李煜 ( lǐ yù ).

If you like, you can read my posts about other well known Chinese people: Echo: A Writer and Wanderer周璇 (Zhou1 Xuan2) and Her Songs.

李煜 had a short lived life. He died at 42 years old. Some claimed he died of poison.

李煜 might not be a good king but he was definitely a great poet.

In this post, we are going to learn one of his poems: 虞美人 (yú měi rén). By the way, 虞美人 is a just title for a specific poem format.

Some people gave this poem different titles, for example, 几多愁 ( jǐ duō chóu ) or 春花秋月何时了 ( chūn huā qiū yuè hé shí liǎo ).

In case you want to know, 了 has two pronunciations: le and liǎo.

When 了 pronounces as “le”, it is a modal particle. When 了 pronounces as “liǎo”, it means: end.

Before we talk about this poem, we had better learn a bit of the background about how this poem was created.

李煜 was born in a royal family. When his father died, he became the king.

However, 李煜 was not a devoted king. He was more interested in art and buddhism.

Soon his kingdom was occupied by the enemy. 李煜 became a prisoner.

During this period, 李煜 wrote some poems expressing his feeling about his situation and his home country.

虞美人 was one of these poems. This poem was regarded as one of the best poems in Chinese literature.

In this poem, 李煜 described his sad feeling as a prisoner. Even today, we can still feel his emotion from this poem.

Now let’s take a look at this poem.

chūn huā qiū yuè hé shí liǎo
春花秋月何时了,
When will spring flowers and autumn moon end
Note: Spring flowers and autumn moon mean each year, the time. 

wǎng shì zhī duō shǎo
往事知多少。
who will remember those past moments

xiǎo lóu zuó yè yòu dōng fēng
小楼昨夜又东风,
Last night in the small building I heard the east wind again

gù guó bù kān huí shǒu yuè míng zhōng
故国不堪回首月明中。
It was very hard to look back my home country at the moon night

diāo lán yù qì yīng yóu zài
雕栏玉砌应犹在,
 Beautiful jade built railings with engraved flowers should still exist

zhǐ shì zhū yán gǎi
只是朱颜改。
However my looking totally changed

wèn jūn néng yǒu jǐ duō chóu
问君能有几多愁,
Ask how much sadness I have

qià sì yì jiāng chūn shuǐ xiàng dōng liú
恰似一江春水向东流。
It is like a river full of spring water running to the east

Since this poem is so famous, many musician tried to compose  music for this poem.

In this post, we are going to listen to a version by 罗正伦 (羅正倫) ( luó zhèng lún ). Enjoy your learning.


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