Monday, May 29, 2017

Qingyuan, Lantern Festival

Qingyuan, Lantern Festival
     --after Xin Qiji

The east wind of a single night
brings flowers to a thousand trees,
brings star glow down the streets,
brings fragrant coursers and carved cabs.
Flutes coo like phoenixes.
Flashing jade lanterns turn, turn.
Fish and dragon lanterns dance.

She in her gold and willow threads
giggles then melts into the throng.
I hunt, hunt for her in vain
then a glimpse in dim lantern light.

--tr. Duane Vorhees


1 comment:

  1. The nomadic Jurchen of Manchuria (the Jin dynasty) defeated the Liao dynasty of northern China in 1127, driving the Liao west, and then began a century-long war against the Southern Song dynasty continued to rule southern China. In 1140, Xin Qiji was born, named by his grandfather in honor of the legendary 2nd-century BCE general Huo Qubing who had defeated the barbarian Xiongnu. ("Qubing" and "Qiji" mean "to deliver oneself from diseases.") His military career against the Jurchen began when he was 22 and led to an inconsequential career at court until 1181, when he was forced out of office. He spent the next decade writing "ci" poetry, which used a set of poetic meters derived from a base set of about 800 patterns, in fixed-rhythm, fixed-tone, and variable line-length formal types. (Ci was also known as changduanju ("lines of irregular lengths") and shiyu ("that which is beside poetry.") About 620 of his poems survive.In 1192 he was briefly recalled to court but was soon discharged again. Emperor Ningzong's chancellor Han Tuozhou finally recruited Xin and other militarists to organize against the Jurchen in 1203, but Han disregarded Xin's military advice and discharged him a year later. In 1207 the Jurchen demanded Ha n's head in exchange for peace; in desperation, Han recalled Xin, who died before he could be of any use, and Han was bludgeoned to death and beheaded; in some accounts, the Jurchen gave Han an honorable burial.In 1234 Jin succumbed to Mongol conquest; the Song survived until 1279.
    Qingyuan is in northern Guangdong, on the banks of the Bei (North) river.
    The Lantern Festival (yuan xiao) is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, the year's first full moon, the last day of the new year celebration. In the early days, young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples. The brightest lanterns were symbolic of good luck and hope.During the Song Dynasty the festival was celebrated for five days and the activities began to spread to many of the big cities; colorful glass and even jade were used to make lanterns, with figures from folk tales painted on the lanterns. The Taoists associated the day with the "Official of Light,"the god responsible for good fortune. Beginning with Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, the date was chosen to worship Taiyi, the God of Heaven, who controlled the destiny of the human world: He had 16 dragons at his command, and he decided when to inflict drought, storms, famine, or pestilence, so the emperor would ask Taiyi to bring favorable weather and good health to him and his people. During the succeeding Han dynasty, the festival was connected to Ti Yin, the deity of the North Star; in 104 BCE Wudi of the Han Dynasty proclaimed it one of the most important celebrations and decreed that it would last throughout the night. A beautiful crane, the Jade Emperor's favorite, flew down to earth aqnd was hunted and killed by some villagers, provoking the Jade Emperor to vow to destroy the village in a storm of fire on the 15th lunar day. The villagers hung red lanterns around their houses, set up bonfires on the streets, and exploded firecrackers, so when the Jade Emperor's troops saw that the village was already ablaze, it was spared further destruction.


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