相思

Longing

February 2021 / 王维

A short poem on love by Wang Wei.


相思 

Xiāngsī

Longing 


唐·王维

Táng· wáng wéi

By: Wang Wei


红豆生南国,

[red bean] [grow] [south] [country]

Hóngdòu shēng nánguó

The red beans sprout in the south.


春来发几枝。

[spring] [come] [grow] [how many] [sprouts]

chūnlái fā jǐ zhī.

How many shoots come with the spring?


愿君多采撷,

[hope] [respectful address, you] [many] [harvest]

Yuàn jūn duō cǎixié

I hope that you pick many more,


此物最相思。

[this] [contains] [most] [lovesick]

cǐ wù zuì xiāngsī.

For they hold my greatest longings for you.


Rhyme Scheme

XAXA (si/zhi)


Vocabulary

相思想念,to long for a lover

希望, wish

采撷, pluck

对人的敬称, respectful address


Analysis

Red beans (红豆), with their vermillion hues and cardioid form, have come to represent the human heart in Chinese culture. Though the first three lines of this poem are fairly straight forward, the fourth is particularly difficult to translate. 相思, alternatively translated as lovesickness, missing someone, or longing, is difficult to tease from the succinct verse of Tang era Chinese. In modern Chinese, the final phrase can best be approximated to 因为它最能寄托相思之情。寄托 is the key word here, meaning to imbue with sentiment. Wang Wei’s wife passed away at 32, and he never remarried. It is possible that this poem was written after her death.

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