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Test Your Translation Skill - Part I

Here's a Chinese lyrical poem with its literal meaning.  See how you fare your translation against a "professional" translation.  You will be surprised how wrong/misleading it can be! Why? I shall present mine later after you all have at least a stab at it.


虞   美          人         - 李煜

Yu beautiful person   - Li Yu


春       花        秋        月      何     時      了

Spring flower autumn moon what time finish?


往       事      知   多      少
Past events know many  few


小       樓      昨   夜      又     東   風
Small tower last night again east wind


故       國      不   堪      回       首      月     明        中
Old country not endure return  head moon bright  inside


雕       欄            玉       砌      應       猶    在
Carve balustrade marble steps ought still remain


只    是 朱   顏    改
only is red face change


問   君                   能   有     幾     多      愁
ask gentleman/lord can have some many sorrow?


恰              似    一   江    春       水      向       東    流
Just/exactly like one river spring water facing east flow


Here's one "professional" western translation.


Oh when will autumn moon and spring flowers end?

How many past events I've known.

The east wind buffeted my room again last night,

I cannot bear to remember the bright moon of the old country.

The marble steps and carved balustrades must still be there,
The people's rosy cheeks are all that's changed.
How much sorrow can one man have to bear?
As much as a river of spring water flowing east.

Feb 15, 2013 6:12 PM
Comments · 8

My version.  If you want to know why it was translated this way, see


Oh when did the spring flowers leave?

When did the autumn moon fade away?

Of events past, I knew too much.

Again, once more the east wind visited my small tower abode last night.

My country of old, no longer can I bear, I yearn for the brightness in the moon of yore.

Carved balustrades and steps of jade ought to remain the same.

Only the erubescence had changed.

My Lord, how much sorrow can you endure?

Exactly as much as thawed waters of a spring river flowing east.

February 19, 2013

Yes, he failed as a ruler but succeeded as a poet.  Sung Hui Tsung also failed as a ruler but though talented in the arts is better known for his humilation under the Jin.

February 17, 2013

haha, Li Yu is one of my favourite poets. 

February 17, 2013

Haru, thanks for including those 3 versions.  This shows that you cannot believe in all that are posted on the internet.  I would like you to comment when my version is posted.  If you disagree, please give your opinions.  This group is for learning the finer points of English and Chinese through poetry. 


I just hope that more people will join in this delightful foray. :)

February 17, 2013

Haru, you should give yourself more slack.  This version of yours is one of those "professional" translation that is not quite true to technical requirements of translation and also not to the true intent of the poet.  However, I do like the word "turret" but the image invoke is solely western.  I still prefer the generic "tower".

February 16, 2013
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Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Other), English
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Other)