China the Beautiful

Calligraphy by Su Shi [Su Shih]


Poems written in Huang-chou on Cold-Food Festival

Dated 1082.
Handscroll, ink on paper; 13 1/2 x 78 1/2 in. (34 x 119.5 cm).
National Palace Museum, Taipei

"Since coming to Huang-chou,
Three Cold-Food Festivals have come and gone.
Each year I wish to prolong the springtime,
But spring departs without lingering.
This year again we suffer the rain,
Two months of dreary, autumnlike weather.
Lying in bed, I listen to [the showers on] the crabapple blossoms,
Mud splattering the flowers and the snow.
All in secrecy spring is stolen and wasted,
Wreaking vegeance in the middle of the night.
How does it differ from a sickly youth
Up from his sickbed, his hair already white?

The spring river wants to pour through the window,
The force of the rain is unrelenting.
My small house is like a fishing boat
Amid a fog of clouds and water.
In an empty kitchen I boil cold vegetables;
In a broken stove I burn damp weeds.

How could I know that today is the
Cold-Food Festival,
Except that I see ravens carrying paper money?
The emperor's gates are nine layers deep,
The family tombs ten thousand li away.
Will I in the manner of Juan Chi
weep that the road is at an end?
Dead ashes, blown, will not stir to life."

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