Ts'ao Sung

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Ts'ao Sung (c. 830910) was a Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty. His poem A Protest in the Sixth Year of Ch'ien Fu (AD 879) is considered "the most widely-known short antiwar poem in Chinese literature" (Ray & Ray , 1984).

Quotes[edit]

A Protest in the Sixth Year of Qianfu (A.D. 879)[edit]

  • 泽国江山入战图,
    生民何计乐樵苏;
    凭君莫话封侯事,
    一将功成万骨枯。
    • The hills and rivers of the lowland country
      You have made your battle ground.
      How do you suppose the people who live there
      Will procure firewood and hay?
      Do not let me hear you talking together
      About titles and promotions;
      For a single general’s reputation
      Is made out of ten thousand corpses.
    • Variant translations:
      • Rich hills and fields that war despoiled.
        Their people how could they live?
        Sing me no more of epics — some Man gained
        Eternal fame on skeletons.
        • Shi ci yi xuan: Poems from China (1950), p. 35
      • Lowland hills and rivers dragged on to the war map
        O lowlands lowlands O!
        Those groaning people! how can they live?
        A turnip or two grubbed up
        Don't talk to me about titles promotions all that slop
        One general pulling out a victory
        leaves ten thousand corpses to rot!
        • Translated by Rewi Alley, in Peace Through the Ages: Translations from the Poets of China (1954), p. 109
      • The submerged country, river and hill, is a battle-ground.
        How can the common people enjoy their wood-cutting and their fuel-gathering?
        I charge thee, sir, not to talk of high honours;
        A single general achieves fame on the rotting bones of ten thousand.
        • Albert Richard Davis, The Penguin Book of Chinese Verse (1962), p. 28
      • The hills and rivers of the Lowland country
        You have made your battle ground
        How do you think the people that live there
        Will gather hay and firewood?
        Do not let me hear you speaking together
        About titles and honors,
        For a single general’s celebrity
        Is founded on ten thousand corpses.

Quotes about Sung[edit]

Mural commemorating victory of Zhang Yichao over the Tibetans, Late Tang.
A 10th century mural painting in the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang showing monastic architecture from Mount Wutai, Tang Dynasty. Outside the wall of the monastery larger fires are pictured.
  • The years of the Tang Dynasty were the golden age of Chinese poetry. Nearly fifty thousand poems written during these 300 years are still extant. ...Up to 755 A.D. the Tang Dynasty was in the heyday of its political and military power and its emperors waged a whole series of aggressive wars against China's neighbours. Many were the soldiers who died on the frontiers in these wars, and many were the widowed! Numerous poems were written about the frontier war:s and about women lamenting their soldier husbands.
    Many of the verses composed in the Tang Dynasty and frequently on the lips of the people bitterly exposed the effects of unjust wars on different classes and types of men. For example:
    .........
    For already I have learned, that a general's fame
    stands on a pile of dry bones
    Of what were once the people
    .
    - Tsao Sung: War
The rulers gained riches and fame by war: in their eyes the bleached bones of the people were worthless means to an end. Alt they cared for was to indulge in a luxurious life and pursue their greedy desires. The poets bitingly pictured the contrast between the rulers and the ruled, the victor and his victims.
  • Yu Kuan-ying, "Peace Through the Ages" (Book Review) in People's China (July 16, 1954), no. 14, p. 36; the poem was translated by Rewi Alley.
  • Ts'ao is noted for finally passing his chin-shih examination when he was over seventy along with four other septuagenarians. In his poetry he took Chia Tao as his model.
    • Albert Richard Davis, in The Penguin Book of Chinese Verse (1962), p. xvii

External links[edit]

  • Original poem by Ts'ao Sung in Chinese accessible online, with English translations by Arthur Waley.