Before the Duke of Zhou
Yu Xin (513-581)
One dawn I had a home; today it’s gone,
An orchid rooted out and set to burn.
As one would tell a tale of long lost friends
I live my life to watch the world turn.
Jí Zhōu Gōng Chǔ (Lián Jù Shī)
Shì zhāo yī zhāo biàn
Lán ài běn tóng fén
Gù rén xiāng jiè wèn
Píng shēng rú suǒ wén
Transliteration and Notes
Assemble Zhou Duke Place (Connected Verse Poem)
Town dynasty one morning change
Orchid artemisia root same burn
Old friend each-other may ask
All life like places heard
“Connected Verse” (連句 a.k.a. renga in Japanese) means collaborative verse with pieces written by different poets. “Zhou Duke” refers to the 11th century B.C. Duke of Zhou, who played an important role in founding the Western Zhou state. He was also known as the “God of Dreams” and important in developing the “mandate of heaven,” which allows the overthrow of dynasties when they lose this “mandate.” Zhou is also credited with writing parts of the classics I Ching and the Book of Poetry (Shijing). This historical allusion probably relates to author’s life.
Yu Xin was a poet of the Liang and Northern Zhou dynasties (557-581). He came from a wealthy, aristocratic family of the Liang dynasty and was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Western Wei, which failed, and was taken captive. When the Western Wei became the Northern Zhou and took over Liang, they took Yu captive and executed three of his children.