Today is Tomb-Sweeping Day, a traditional Chinese festival that has moments of solemnity during tomb-sweeping and ancestor worship, yet it is a joyful occasion for parents and children as they can get close to nature amongst the greenery and enjoy spring together. Tomb-Sweeping Day falls around April 5th of the Gregorian calendar. This time of the year, everything is vibrant, Yin energy declines, while everything exhales the old and inhales the new. Since the earth blooms into spring from the bright weather, it is the perfect time to venture to the suburbs for an outing as well as to mourn the deceased.
Since age-old times, there have been many poems describing the Qingming Festival in which the ancients put their thoughts about their deceased friends and relatives into poems to express their longing. Most Chinese students can recite these poems because learning poems is very helpful for Chinese learning. Juveniles, not only learn the knowledge of Chinese literature but also learn the philosophy of expressing themselves.
Let’s appreciate 2 of the most famous Qingming poems.
Qīnɡmínɡ shíjié yǔ fēnfēn, lùshànɡ xínɡrén yù duàn hún.
清明 时节 雨 纷纷， 路上 行人 欲 断 魂。
During the Qingming season, it is a time of drizzling rain, and all the pedestrians on the road are desolate and broken.
Jièwèn jiǔjiā héchù yǒu, mùtónɡ yáo zhǐ xìnɡhuācūn.
借问 酒家 何处 有，牧童 遥 指 杏花村。
May I ask where to buy wine to drown the sorrows? The shepherd boy smiles and does not answer, but points to the apricot blossom village.
This is a late Tang Dynasty poem that most Chinese kids are familiar with. The whole piece is written in simple words with the utmost ease and without any trace of manipulation. The syllables are very harmonious and complete, and the scenes are so fresh and vivid, yet beautiful and exciting. The poem is also very natural in terms of the method of writing, which is sequential as well. The first line gives an account of the atmosphere, which is the “beginning”; the second line is the “inheritance”, which introduces the characters and shows their state of mind which is misery and confusion; the third line is a “turn”, but it also suggests how to get out of this state of mind; and this directly leads to the fourth line, which is the highlight of the whole piece – the “harmony”. Artistically, this is a technique of gradually rising from low to high, with the climax at the end. The so-called climax is not a glimpse of the end, but a long and intriguing aftertaste. These are the poet’s brilliant points, which are worth learning from.
Qīnɡmínɡ yè -Báijūyì
清明 夜 -白居易
Qingming Night – Bai Juyi
Hǎo fēnɡ lónɡyuè qīnɡmínɡ yè, bì qì hónɡ xuān cìshǐ jiā.
好 风 胧月 清明 夜，碧 砌 红 轩 刺史 家。
Qingming night is breezy, moonlight is hazy, there are bluestone steps, red railings, this is the governor’s mansion.
Dú rào huílánɡ xínɡ fù xiē, yáo tīnɡ xián ɡuǎn àn kàn huā.
独 绕 回廊 行 复 歇，遥 听 弦 管 暗 看 花。
I was alone in the echoing corridor, wandering and listening to the distant sound of string orchestra music and silently admiring the flowers blooming in the courtyard.
This poem is written by Bai Juyi about the night scene of going out in the greenery on the day of Qingming. Bai Juyi was a great realist poet of the Tang Dynasty and one of the three great poets in Chinese history.
The whole poem is wonderful in that it is not about the chilly night of Qingming, but has a deeper meaning. The beautiful moonlight makes the poet enchanted by the night of Qingming, and the description of the environment sets off the poet’s love for the beautiful scenery and also shows the poet’s leisurely feelings; this poem also shows the poet’s subtle psychology of lingering on the beautiful scenery and fearing that spring will go away.
The language used in Chinese poems is very delicate and by appreciating these poems students can accumulate language-learning material. This is especially true for middle school students who can learn by reciting ancient poems and can also effectively improve their writing ability as well.