Drinking On The Lake, First Clear, Later Rain

About us
Contact us


Hangzhou's West Lake glittering in afternoon sun

Slideshow  Google Map  Timeline  Timemap  Graphic Mode  Comments (0)



Drinking On The Lake, First Clear, Later Rain
        Su Shi

Sunlight glitters on rippled lake.. good,
Mist shrouds mountain colors...rare.
Compare West Lake to the beauty Xizi
Always elegant, lightly made up or dressed to kill.* 
Yǐn Húshāng Chū Qíng Hòu Yǔ Èr Shǒu
Sū Shi

Shuǐ guāng liàn méng qíngfāng hǎo
Shānsè kōng méng yǔ yì qí
Yù bǎ Xīhú bǐ Xīzǐ
Dàn zhuāng nóng mǒ zǒng xiāngyì
Translator: Dongbo 東波

*Indebted to Irving Y Lo's excellent translation:

Shimmering water at its full---sunny day is best;
Blurred mountains in a haze---marvelous even in rain.
Compare West lake to a beautiful girl, she will look
Just as becoming---lightly made up or richly adorned.

Xi Shi 西施 (b 504) was a beauty from the state of Yue ( Zhiji 諸暨 City in modern Zhejiang). The king of Yue, Gou Jian, 496-465 B.C., was defeated by Fu Cha d.47 B.C., the king of Wu near present day Suzhou in 494 B.C.. Gou Jian devised a plan to avenge this loss. Knowing Fu Chai's weakness for women, Gou Jian selected the beautiful peasant girl 西施 Xi Shi, trained her in the arts, and gave her as tribute to Fu Chai. Befuddled by love for Xi Shi, he neglected affairs of state. The Wu kingdom became weak and Gou Jian attacked and routed the Wu armies in 473 B.C.. King Fu Chai committed suicide. Since this time Xi Shi has become the archetypal Chinese beauty in the minds of Chinese, and she lives on in poetry and folk songs in the Jiangnan region. The West lake in Hangzhou is considered to be a reincarnation of Xi Shi and in this poem Su Shi changes here name to 西字 Xizi in reflection of this belief.

'Xizi's presence here is appropriate here because the poem was written (in 1073) at the scenic West Lake in Hangzhou, which is close to the region where the Xi Shi in antiquity is reported to have lived.

The comparison of West Lake and West Girl was often repeated by Su Shi himself and by later poets. The principle of pairing, as it operates in this poem, brings together not only a lake and a woman, but also clear weather and rain, plus two kinds of beauty...one subdued and refined, the other heavily but tastefully accented with adornments...and two constituent elements of scenery, mountain and water. In the arrangement of these elements, polar opposites come together as the lake's water is coupled with dryness (clear weather) and land (mountains with moisture (mist and rain). Or putting it differently, the juxtaposed entities...lake and mountain...exchange their essential attributes.' Hans H Frankel, in The Flowering Plum And The Palace Lady

西施殿为纪念西施而建,位于诸暨城内,历史久远。相传西施为中国古代四大美女之首,姓施,名夷光,春秋末年越国人,约于公元前506年,出生于诸暨苎萝山麓苎萝村。父亲砍柴卖柴,母亲浣纱织布。古时候苎萝村施姓有东西两村,夷光家住西村,所以被称为西施。公元前494年,越国被吴国战败,越王勾践 释归回越后,卧薪尝胆,刻苦图强,在大臣文种、范蠡的辅佐下,整顿吏治,发展生产, 同时献大量珍宝、美女于吴王。西施就是在这样的历史背景下,被推上了历史舞台。约在公元前490年,越王勾践索美女西施、郑旦,教以礼仪,习以歌舞,献吴王为妃,以迷惑吴王夫差,离间其君臣关系。 西施临危受命,忍辱负重,以身许国,扮演了使者和间谍的角色。公元前473年,越国军队攻占了吴国都城姑苏,灭掉了吴国。这在一定程度上,与西施的牺牲和奉献是分不开的。对此,明代的西施祠,有副用鸟虫篆书写的对联:“越锦何须衣义士,黄金祗合铸娇姿 ”称颂西施在兴越灭吴中的功绩。西施的一生,蕴含了愁苦、曲折和沉重。而民间行关西施的传说,都是那样美好和神奇,长留人们心目中的,是西施为越国的复兴所作出的牺牲和奉献,也是后世歌颂纪念西施的真谛所在。西施殿正是赖于这一民族文化的基础,向人们展示了一个质朴纯洁,实实在在的西施。

Related Items:
Hángzhōu 杭州
Xīhú 西湖
Zhèjiāng 浙江