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rice

| 2019-06-27 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

This character refers to rice, an important crop in China. Sometimes it is used as a general concept for crops grown in paddy fields.


 

稻花香里说丰年
dào huā xiāng lǐ shuō fēng nián

Dao hua xiang refers to the sweet smell that emanates from paddy fields. Shuo means talking about something and feng nian refers to a promising year. This proverb literally means the sweet smell emanating from the paddy fields speaks of a promising year.


This line is derived from a ci poem, “A Summer Night on My Way Home from the Yellow Sand Bridge,” by Xin Qiji (1140–1207), a Chinese poet and military leader during the Southern Song Dynasty. “Startled by magpies leaving the branch in moonlight,/I hear cicadas shrill in the breeze at midnight./ The rice fields’ sweet smell promises a bumper year;/ Listen, how frogs’ croaks please the ear!/Beyond the clouds seven or eight stars twinkle;/ Before the hills two or three raindrops sprinkle./There is an inn beside the village temple. Look!/The winding path leads to the hut beside the brook.” (trans. Xu Yuanchong). Xin’s poetry is known for its heroic and bold style. This poem is quite rare because it conveys a sense of serenity and grace.


The first two lines of the original poem are made up of six nouns—magpies, branch, moonlight, cicadas, breeze and midnight. Without any verbs, they depict a lovely summer night in the countryside, during which the author is walking along a winding road in the breeze. When approaching the paddy fields, he enjoys a chorus of frog croaks. He imagines that those frogs are sitting in the paddy fields and talking loudly about the coming harvest this year. Then he encounters a hill as it lightly rains, and where there are a few stars shining in the night sky. When he thinks that it will take a long time before he can find the inn, he suddenly sees it as the winding path leads to the hut beside the brook.


Xin wrote this ci poem when he retired to a retreat in beautiful Shangrao County, after his great ambitions were frustrated in the court. However, Xin doesn’t complain about his hardships. He indulges himself in the beautiful views of the countryside. This ci poem portrays the author’s generous and magnanimous demeanor.

 

​edited by REN GUANHONG