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Contemporary

| 2020-12-09
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

This is one of the most common Chinese characters. When pronounced as dāng, it often means "be equal to, turn towards, work as, or undertake." When pronounced as dàng, it often means "to pawn."


对酒当歌 

duì jiǔ dāng gē 
 
Dui means "to face" and jiu "liquor." Dang means "should or ought" and ge "sing." This term indicates that "life is short, do not postpone joy." 
 
This is the first line of the poem "Duange Xing" ("A Song") written by Cao Cao (155–220): "Wine before us, sing a song./ How long does life last?/ It is like the morning dew;/ Sad so many days have past./ Sing hey, sing ho!/ Deep within my heart I pine./ Nothing can dispel my woe,/ Save Du Kang, the god of wine./ Blue, blue the scholar’s robe;/ Long, long for him I ache/......In my heart such sorrow dwells;/ Remaining with me ever./ In the fields, our paths crossed;/ Your visit was so kind./ Together after our long parting,/ Your favors come to mind./ Clear the moon, few the stars;/ The crows in southward flight./ Circling three times round the tree,/ No branch where to alight./ What if the mountain is high,/ Or how deep the sea?/ When the Duke of Zhou greeted a guest,/ In his service all wished to be" (trans. Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang). 
 
Cao was not only a warlord during the final years of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220), but also an accomplished poet. His verses, unpretentious yet profound, helped to reshape the poetic style of his time. Cao and his two sons are known collectively as the "Three Caos." Their poetry helped develop the Jian'an style. The effects of civil strife on poetry towards the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty contributed to the development of a solemn and heart-stirring tone of lament for life's ephemeral nature during the period of Jian'an poetry. "A Song" is a poem of purpose. Cao was an ambitious warlord and he wrote this poem for people who had special talents and met the government's critical needs. The poem is full of allusion. "Blue, blue the scholar's robe" is an allusion to talented strategists who would be useful for Cao's political driving. The image of crows circling the trees represents displaced men of talent seeking a ruler or a patron. At the end of the poem, Cao used the illusion of Duke of Zhou, who was known for winning people's heart by treating them with great respect. 
Edited by REN GUANHONG