I Love You at the Ex­pense of My Own Life

Beijing (English) - - POEM - Trans­lated by Feng Tiejun Edited by Justin Davis

The Book of Songs is a collection of an­cient sto­ries. Its de­scrip­tion of love and mar­riage opens a unique win­dow for later gen­er­a­tions to take a glimpse into the pri­vate lives of those who lived long ago. Through this win­dow, one can see laugh­ter, ad­mi­ra­tion and sad­ness. Some of the love sto­ries move read­ers to tears. “Bei Feng • Zhong Feng” de­picts the sen­ti­ments of an­cient Chi­nese women re­gard­ing love.

The gust blows strongly and he smiles at me; he flirted with me wildly and I feel fright­ened and an­noyed.

The gust raises dust and I don’t know whether he will come as I wish; it’s hard to get to­gether af­ter we say good­bye to each other and I feel sad think­ing about him.

The gust blocks the sight of the sky and the sun can’t be seen; It is hard to fall asleep all night and miss­ing him makes me sneeze.

The sky is dark and thun­der be­gins to ram­ble. It’s hard to fall asleep all night and I hope he misses me too.

“Zhong Feng” was orig­i­nally a folk bal­lad. Modern schol­ars be­lieve that it is a sad story that hap­pened 2,500 years ago. A woman was aban­doned by her lover, who she thought would never leave her af­ter he flirted with her.

The man in “Zhong Feng” smiled at the woman when he first saw her. He talked to her amus­ingly, but she could not tell him how up­set she was. She thought of love as a se­ri­ous mat­ter, be­liev­ing that even a lively per­son could be­come se­ri­ous when he fell in love and would treat it as an im­por­tant part of his life. De­spite his an­tics, she could see a life with him.

“Zhong Feng” is fa­mil­iar to read­ers. Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal records, there was a man named Qiu Hu in the Spring and Au­tumn Pe­riod (770–476 BC). He flirted with his wife, but he never thought that his flir­ta­tion would make his wife leave him. On the fifth day af­ter his mar­riage, Qiu went to the State of Chen and be­gan work­ing as an of­fi­cial there. He was very busy for the next five years. He hur­ried all the way back home on his horse af­ter this. Be­fore ar­riv­ing home, Qiu saw a beau­ti­ful woman in the field from a dis­tance. She was pick­ing mul­berry leaves in a grace­ful man­ner. He stared at her for a few mo­ments and then walked up to her, flirt­ing with her with amus­ing words. How­ever, the woman turned him down bluntly. Af­ter see­ing that words could not move her, he tried giv­ing her some money be­cause he be­lieved money would make the mare go. Un­for­tu­nately, the woman would not change her mind. Fi­nally, Qiu stopped and went home. Upon ar­riv­ing home, he found that the woman he had just flirted with was his wife. It was like a bolt out of the blue for him. His wife’s blunt re­fusal con­trasted with his flip­pancy. Qiu re­gret­ted his be­hav­ior and his wife was com­pletely dis­heart­ened. She may have even run out of the house and threw her­self into the river. It is said that many peo­ple wit­nessed the tragedy. To­day, some peo­ple may think that Qiu’s wife is piti­ful and that her at­ti­tude is stupid. She died in mourn­ing for their pass­ing love rather than de­fend­ing her values though.

The poem “Zhong Feng” does not men­tion what hap­pened at the end. Peo­ple can read be­tween the lines and make in­fer­ences about what came next, how­ever.

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