花間春眠長, By the flowers, a long spring slumber,
人生蝶夢短.Life is but a short dream of the butterfly.
飛燕梅楊去,The flying swallows, the plum blossoms and the poplars are all gone,
水流不斷斷.Only the river is still flowing unceasingly.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
The Chinese reader might be puzzled by the word order of 梅楊 which usually means the Chinese strawberry (Myrica rubra). Actually, the double meaning in the poem do not refer to their literal meanings. They are the names of three great beauties in Chinese history. I have listed their names in chronological order. "Flying Swallow" is Chao Fei-yen, the Han Dynasty Empress. The "plum blossom" is the official title of a Tang Dynasty concubine because of her love for it. As for the "poplar", it is the last name of the imperial concubine who later replaced the former as the emperor's new favourite. Once they were the number two in the land but in the end were dealt with a tragic end.
Without launching into a lengthy discussion, the butterfly dream in the poem refers to the dream of the philosopher Chuang Tze who was wondering if he had dreamt of himself as a butterfly or that it is the butterfly dreaming of a man.
Thursday, August 20, 2015