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From "Among the Flowers" by Mao Xizhen to the Tune of ‘Music of Qingping "

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

This poem is found in juan 10 of an anthology entitled Collection from Among the Flowers (Huajian ji 花間集). It is a Ci 辭 poem that follows the rhythmic patterns of ‘Music of Qingping’ (清平樂). The poem treats themes of separation, grief, and sadness. The pairs of dancing butterflies and the flowers are common metaphors for romantic love. The dust or powder on the butterflies’ wings is also likely to be intended as a reference to a feminine presence, someone who is no longer there. The smoke that rises from the jade brazier and breaks up as it floats through the air works as a metaphor for the spiritual rift that the speaker perceives between himself and the person and the past circumstances that he loves. Several words in this poem refer to domestic architecture and furnishings: the courtyard garden and the balustrade where the poem is set, the curtains of the women’s quarters, and the brazier. There are many beautiful images, including, the pairs of dancing butterflies that “thread” their way through the openings in the balustrade, the jade brazier, and the gauze curtain of smoke. The evening wind is so strong that it blows the flowers away. The poem evokes a time of peace, happiness and companionship that has been lost forever, leaving only loneliness, grief, and memories.

Mao Xizhen 毛熙震 (fl. ca. 947) ‘To the Tune ‘Music of Qingping’ 清平樂, Collection from Among the Flowers (Huajian ji 花間集), juan 10


Chūn guāng yù mù

Spring light near sunset,


Jìmò xián tíng hù

Silent and alone, idle at the courtyard door.


Fěn dié shuāngshuāng chuán jiàn wǔ

In pairs, dusty butterflies thread the balustrade, dancing.


Lián juǎn wǎn tiān shūyǔ

The curtains rolled up, at evening light rain


hán chóu dú yǐ guīwéi

harbouring grief, solitary, I lean against the curtains of the women’s quarters.


Yù lú yān duàn xiāng wēi

Smoke from the jade brazier breaks, its fragrance imperceptible


Dōngfēng mǎn shù, huā fēi.

The East wind fills the trees as flowers fly.

清 佚名 傳馬荃 花蝶圖 卷

Flowers and Butterflies: Attributed to the woman painter Ma Quan (1669?-1722?) (Qing

Dynasty 1644–1911). From the Collection of A. W. Bahr, Purchase, Fletcher Fund, 1947. Currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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