Translation: General Yu, a poem by Kong Pingzhong

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Translation: General Yu, a poem by Kong Pingzhong

Unread postby CaTigeReptile » Thu Aug 03, 2017 7:01 pm

A while ago, I found and tried to translate a poem about Yu Jin written by Kong Pingzhong, a Song Dynasty poet known for his prolificacy. I got about half of it wrong, of course, and Lady Wu majorly helped me fix it. It's very visual and I wasn't exactly sure how to post it in order to best reflect that, so I also stuck it at the end so you could see it together. I figured it would be best to post it in here but if it should go in a different subform, please move it for me.

Here goes:



General Yu, by Kong Pingzhong
长安遣兵百胜强,意气何有汉中王。

七军之心俱猛鸷,虎兕插羽将翱翔。

Chang’an sent an army of indomitable champions; what resolve does the King of Hanzhong have?

The Seven Armies all had hearts as fierce as falcons; tigers and rhinos would have feathers put on them, and high they would soar.

睥睨荆益可席卷,白帝城高如堵墙。

秣马蓐食朝欲战,雷声殷殷山之阳。

They looked with disdain upon Jing and Yi, they’d sweep it up as theirs; but the walls of Baidicheng make for a high barrier.

They got prepared, they were on guard for battle; then thunder boomed from south of the mountain.

沉阴苦雨十馀日,汉水溢出高腾骧。

苍黄不暇治步伍,攀缘蹙踏半死伤。

From the cloudy sky a heavy rain poured bitterly for more than ten days; the Han River flooded, waves crashing overhead.

In a flurried panic, there was no time for organized mobilization; in their frenzied climbing, half were trampled to death.

计穷岂不欲奔走,四望如海皆茫茫。

鼍鸣鱼跃尚恐惧,万一敌至谁敢当。

When out of ideas, would you not desire to escape?[?] But looking around, the sea was vast in all directions.

Even the turtles cried and the fish leapt about with fright; if the enemy arrived, who would dare fight?

遥观大船载旗鼓,闻说乃是关云长。

蒙冲直绕长堤下,劲弩强弓无敌者。

In the distance is seen a large ship carrying banners and drums; they heard tell it was Guan Yunchang.

The warship came straight around to the base of the embankment; in it were crossbows and bows of unparalleled might that could never be overcome.

虽有铁骑何所施,排空白浪如奔马。

将军拱手就絷缚,咋舌无声面深赭。

Even if they had elite cavalry, what use would they be? The white wavecrests billowed into the sky like galloping horses.

The General bowed with palm over fist, then was shackled and bound; silent in shame with his face a deep ochre.

捷书一日到锦城,只轮不返皆西行。

将军畴昔负朋友,若此昌豨犹得生。

The report of victory took one day to reach Jincheng; not even a chariot’s wheel returned, for they were all sent west.

Long ago, the General had betrayed a friend - had he treated Chang Xi in the same way, he would still be alive.

循环报复虽天意,壮士所惜惟功名。

曹瞒相知三十年,临危不及庞明贤。

Although divine retribution is the will of Heaven, heroic men all nevertheless hold their reputations dear.

Cao Cao’s dear companion of 30 years; in the moment of truth, he could not measure up to Pang [De]’s wisdom and judgement.

归来头白已憔悴,泣涕顿首尤可怜。

高陵画像何诡谲,乃令惭痛入九泉。

He returned with white hair, withered with exhaustion; that he wept while kowtowing is particularly worthy of pity.

At Gaoling, that treacherously humiliating painting! With shame and sorrow did it send him to the underworld.

淯水之师勇冠世,英雄成败皆偶然。

At the Yu River did he rise with peerless valor; a hero’s success or failure is all a matter of circumstance.


Obviously Wu and Guan Yu's defeat aren't mentioned because by this time Shu was already glorified, but I like this poem. It's nice to see a perspective on Yu Jin besides/before the SGYY "sniveling coward" narrative.

If you think anything is wrong please point it out!

Here's the full Chinese together. Obviously, it would be vertical and right to left, but I think it at least kinda shows it:
长安遣兵百胜强,意气何有汉中王。

七军之心俱猛鸷,虎兕插羽将翱翔。


睥睨荆益可席卷,白帝城高如堵墙。

秣马蓐食朝欲战,雷声殷殷山之阳。


沉阴苦雨十馀日,汉水溢出高腾骧。

苍黄不暇治步伍,攀缘蹙踏半死伤。


计穷岂不欲奔走,四望如海皆茫茫。

鼍鸣鱼跃尚恐惧,万一敌至谁敢当。


遥观大船载旗鼓,闻说乃是关云长。

蒙冲直绕长堤下,劲弩强弓无敌者。


虽有铁骑何所施,排空白浪如奔马。

将军拱手就絷缚,咋舌无声面深赭。


捷书一日到锦城,只轮不返皆西行。

将军畴昔负朋友,若此昌豨犹得生。


循环报复虽天意,壮士所惜惟功名。

曹瞒相知三十年,临危不及庞明贤。


归来头白已憔悴,泣涕顿首尤可怜。

高陵画像何诡谲,乃令惭痛入九泉。


淯水之师勇冠世,英雄成败皆偶然。
Last edited by CaTigeReptile on Sun Aug 06, 2017 3:50 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Translation: General Yu, a poem by Kong Pingzhong

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sat Aug 05, 2017 7:54 pm

Thank you for sharing this with us CaTiRe! I found it a really interesting read :D.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
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Re: Translation: General Yu, a poem by Kong Pingzhong

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:41 am

Thank you for that, an intresting poem and your right, Pingzhong has a visual style in that poem
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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Re: Translation: General Yu, a poem by Kong Pingzhong

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sun Aug 06, 2017 10:58 am

What does the line below refer to?

Long ago, Yu Jin had betrayed a friend - had he treated Chang Xi in the same way, he would still be alive. [1]
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
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Re: Translation: General Yu, a poem by Kong Pingzhong

Unread postby CaTigeReptile » Sun Aug 06, 2017 3:49 pm

Sun Fin wrote:What does the line below refer to?

Long ago, Yu Jin had betrayed a friend - had he treated Chang Xi in the same way, he would still be alive. [1]


Chang Xi was a bandit from Taishan who caused a lot of trouble for Cao Cao, then in 201 was convinced by Zhang Liao to join Cao Cao (he's the guy who Zhang Liao went up the mountain alone to visit), and then rebelled again in 206. Yu Jin, Zang Ba and Xiahou Yuan surrounded him, and he surrendered. He happened to be Yu Jin's friend so went to Yu Jin. Everyone said "send him to Cao Cao," but apparently Cao Cao had a policy in place to have his generals execute anyone who surrendered only after being surrounded (which makes sense, that way Cao Cao could get rid of threats while still able to seem magnanimous), and Yu Jin, being Yu Jin, followed that policy (while ugly crying and exclaiming how he must obey his lord to retain his honor, etc).

In my humble opinion Chen Shou goes out of his way to portray this event as a testament to Yu Jin's honor and obedience, but Chinese history is really big on morals, so as you can see by a comment Pei Songzhi made on his biography, it makes a really good Reason for why Yu Jin's life ended so horribly.

(As opposed to Lu Meng, who executed a friend for stealing a hat or something, but his life didn't end horribly, so no moral to be seen there).

I first thought the translation was something like "The General had betrayed a friend - such that Chang Xi’s fate would befit him, as if brought back to life," but that's because I generally don't know what I'm doing.
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Re: Translation: General Yu, a poem by Kong Pingzhong

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sun Aug 06, 2017 7:08 pm

Thanks CaTiRe, I don't think I ever knew about that incident! Really interesting!
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
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