Poem: The Love of Lotus

By | February 27, 2013

The Love of Lotus

By Dunyi, Zhou (North Song Dynasty, 1017 – 1073)

 

Lovely plants are many, in the water, or on the land,

Yuanming Tao (a famous poet) in the Jing Period loved only chrysanthemum,

Since the Tang Dynasty, people like peony very much.

For me, lotus is the only one for me,

She grows up in the mud, but with no dirt on it,

She is cleansed with water but shows no coquettishness,

She is slender, straight with no branching,

Her scents could be smelt from far away,

She could be watched with distance but not played in hand.

 

I will say, chrysanthemum is the hermit,

Peony, the nobleman,

Lotus, man with highest integrity,

Love of chrysanthemum is rare after Tao,

Love of lotus, who share with me?

The love of peony, too many, no doubt!

 

This famous poem teaches a really typical story depicting how ancient Chinese people express themselves which is in a very indirect way. The poet mentioned three flowers: chrysanthemum, peony and lotus symbolizing three major people, hermit, nobleman and man with integrity. The author insisted to act like a man with integrity. He was a poet but still actively participating in the government works as local government officials, thus he described the lotus/himself as “grows up in the mud, but with no dirt on it”. He actually didn’t like chrysanthemum/hermit as in his opinion this kind of person contributes nothing to the country and the society.

In the traditional culture, Chinese people with literacy tend to express themselves with statement of outside objects. In another word, their sentiments are sensitive and difficult to be understood which has been inherited to some extent today in term of quite different way of communication among the Chinese communities.

 

Original poem in Chinese is given as follows:

 

爱莲说(周敦颐) 

水陆草木之花,可爱者甚蕃。晋陶渊明独爱菊。自李唐来,世人甚爱牡丹。予独爱莲之出淤泥而不染,濯清涟而不妖,中通外直,不蔓不枝,香远益清,亭亭净植,可远观而不可亵玩焉。

予谓菊,花之隐逸者也;牡丹,花之富贵者也;莲,花之君子者也。噫!菊之爱,陶后鲜有闻。莲之爱,同予者何人?牡丹之爱,宜乎众矣!

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