Updated: Jul 29
Mao Zedong wrote this poem on an auspicious day, the first day of the first lunar month, the beginning of Spring Festival, in 1930. Ninghua, Qingliu, and Guihua are the names of counties in the mountains in western Fujian Province, where Mao was garrisoned with a detachment of the red army as they prepared to advance down into Jiangxi. Mao was a skilled and learned poet and he displays his mastery of traditional poetic forms here, harnessing them for a new, political purpose. He has chosen the regulated verse form Rumeng ling. A poem in this form, which dates back at least to the Song dynasty, must consist of just thirty-three characters, with required internal repetitions and rhymes. The Poetry Pavilion is host to two poems by Li Qingzhao in the Rumeng ling form. Chairman Mao’s poem invokes the forces of nature, so evident on that winter’s day, and the local deity of Wuyi mountain. The red flags, symbols of the confidence and energy of the red army under Mao’s leadership, unfurl like traditional Chinese scroll paintings, suggesting the links between the cultures of past and present. This poem was downloaded from Baidu baike in 2023 and it is reproduced it in simplified characters here.
Rú mèng lìng yuándàn
Rumeng ling The first day of the lunar new year
Lù ài, línshēn, tái huá.
At Ninghua, Qingliu, and Guihua, roads are narrow, forests deep, and mosses slippery.
Jīnrì xiàng hé fāng? Zhízhǐ Wǔyí shān xià.
Where to today? Straight down from Mount Wuyi.
Shānxià, shānxià, fēngzhǎn hóngqì rú huà.
Down the mountain! Down the mountain! The wind unfurls red flags like paintings.