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Brightness

| 2019-10-17 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
 
This character has various meanings. It is usually used as an adjective, meaning “to be bright, light, explicit or obvious.” It also refers to a dynasty in imperial China, the Ming Dynasty.
 

 

江船火独明 
jiāng chuán huǒ dú míng 
Jiang refers to a river and chuan is a boat. Huo refers to fire while du means “only.” Ming means “to flare” or “to burn.” This term means that on a river boat a lone torch burns. 
 
This is a line from the poem, “Welcome Rain One Spring Night,” by the great Tang poet Du Fu (712–770). After the An Lushan Rebellion, Du Fu led a largely itinerant life, unsettled by wars and famines. In 759, he came to Chengdu (Sichuan Province) and based himself there for most of the next five years. Despite financial problems, this was one of the happiest and most peaceful periods of his life. Before the composition of this poem in 761, Du had lived in his cottage, which was known as the Du Fu Thatched Cottage, for two years. He planted vegetables, flowers and made friends with the local farmers. This might be why he was so glad to see the spring showers—“A good rain knows its season/ And comes when spring is here;/ On the heels of the wind it slips secretly into the night,/ Silent and soft, it moistens everything./ Now clouds hang black above the country roads,/ A lone boat on the river sheds a glimmer of light;/ At dawn we shall see splashes of rain-washed red—/ Drenched, heavy blooms in the City of Brocade.” (trans. Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang) 
 
As the Chinese saying goes, “Spring showers are more valuable than oil.” Farmers always look forward to the rain in spring. This poem compares the rain in a spring night to a person, a good person, who knows when to arrive or assert influence, stirring new growth at the moment of arrival. The rain also behaves like a gentleman, stealing softly into the night, nourishing soundlessly. “Clouds hang black” and “a glimmer of light” indicate that this rainfall may last for a whole night. The last two lines represent Du’s happiness, because he cannot help but imagine the beautiful and refreshing view of the City of Brocade (the south of present-day Chengdu) the next morning—a landscape moist and pink, laden down with blossoms. 
 
edited by REN GUANHONG