I was recently listening to a Chinese podcast, and happened across an interesting lesson on a poem from China’s Tang Dynasty. While the poem is rather simple (only four verses), it still stuck a personal chord.

The poem describes the parting of two friends who live far apart and are not sure when they will see each other again, if ever. As I have chosen to spend my life (or at least a significant potion of it) in China interacting with the Chinese people, I often find that I am far from home, with few opportunities to return regularly. The poem thus spoke to me pretty strongly, and seemed rather appropriate to describe the sentiments experienced by other world travelers and expats who find themselves far from home in foreign lands.

Therefore, I wanted to share the poem here on the China Culture Corner, as I am sure others have had similar experiences and sentiments. My own translation of the poem is provided below:


We say farewell between the mountain peaks;

The sun sets and I close the door;

Next year when the grass is green again;

Will you return once more?

For those of you interested in the Chinese version, I have provided it below along with Pinyin for easy pronunciation:

送别 (sòng bié)

山中相送罢 (shān zhōng xiang sòng bà);

日暮掩柴扉 (rì mù yǎn chái fēi);

春草明年绿 (chūn cǎo míng nián lǜ);

王孙归不归 (Wáng sǔn guī bù guī)。

About the Poem and Poet

While the poem starts off describing the parting of two friends, the central theme actually revolves around the author thinking about whether he will see his friend again. The last three lines focus on the poet longing for his friend after their parting,  and wondering whether his friend will return the following year.

王维 (Wáng Wéi) was an accomplished Chinese poet, painter, and who lived in the Tang dynasty between approximately 699 and 761 AD. During his life he wrote over 400 poems, and was especially known for portraying and describing nature. His works were so highly thought of that it was said his poems contained a painting, and his paintings a poem.

Thanks for reading!

Do you have any questions or comments about translating between the English and Chinese languages? Do you have any ideas you would like to share on bridging the Chinese and Western cultures? Please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below.

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