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Brocade Zither




Brocade Zither 

Li Shangyin

The brocade zither without reason has fifty strings; 
Each string has its bridge; one longs for the flowering years. 
Master Zhuang, in dawn dream, is lost in a butterfly; 
Emperor Wang's springtime heart is entrusted to the cuckoo. 
On the gray sea, the moon shines bright, and the pearl has tears; 
At Indigo Field, the sun is warm, and jade gives off smoke. 
This feeling, one can wait for it to become a recollection; 
Only at the time it was already bewildering. 


The White-Silk Maiden played on a fifty-string brocade zither for the sage-ruler Fuxi, and the sound was unbearably mournful. To find relief from this sound, Fuxi broke the zither in half, creating the latter-day twenty-five-string zither.

Every Zither string is supported by its bridge, and every element in that overwhelming mass of sound stirs the corresponding tones in memory.

Master Zhuang dreamed he was a butterfly, so vividly that, on waking, he could no longer feel sure whether he was really Zhuang Zhou or a butterfly.

Emperor Wang sent his minister Bie Ling to work on irrigation and flood control, and in Bie Ling's absence had an adulterous affair with Bie Ling's wife. 

On Bie Ling's return, Emperor Wang was overcome with shame. He departed, abdicating his throne to his minister Bie Ling and was transformed in to a cuckoo.

The unfaithful and carefree Cuckoo birds lay their eggs in other bird's nests and leave them to bring up the offspring. Emperor Wang was so ashamed that he keeps calling "cuckold" day and night ever since he died and transformed into the cuckoo birds. 

The faithful Purple Jade drowned herself to clear the name of her would-be lover, Han Zhong, of a charge of tomb robbery, and transformed herself into the ocean-dwelling mermaids who weeps pearl tears under the bright moonlight. 

While the Chang Hong was unjustly killed in Lantian the Indigo Fields, his blood turned into jade. The purple mist rises from the fine Jade of Lantian in the warmth of the sunshine.

This feeling, one can wait for it to become a recollection, only at the time it was already bewildering.