Bai Juyi

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If the Fleeting World is but a long dream,
It does not matter whether one is young or old.

Bai Juyi (also Bo Juyi or Po Chü-i; Chinese: 白居易; 772–846) was a renowned Chinese poet.


  • I lay my harp on the curved table,
    Sitting there idly, filled only with emotions.
    Why should I trouble to play?
    A breeze will come and sweep the strings.
    • "The Harp", in The White Pony: An Anthology Of Chinese Poetry (1949), ed. Robert Payne, p. 220
  • 漠漠秋云起,稍稍夜寒生。
    • Autumn clouds, vague and obscure;
      The evening, lonely and chill.
      I felt the dampness on my garments,
      But saw no spot, and heard no sound of rain.
      • 《微雨夜行》, "Walking at Night in Fine Rain" as translated in Reginald Horace Blyth's Haiku: Eastern Culture, Vol. I (Hokuseidō Shoten, 1950), p. 56; quoted in Alan Watts's Nature, Man and Woman (1958).

Arthur Waley's translations

Quotes from Translations from the Chinese by Arthur Waley
  • For ten years I never left my books;
    I went up ... and won unmerited praise.
    My high place I do not much prize;
    The joy of my parents will first make me proud.
  • ... by virtue of what right
    Have I never once tended field or tree?
    My government-pay is three hundred tons;
    At the year's end I have still grain in hand.
    Thinking of this, secretly I grew ashamed.
  • When the Seasons' changes thus confront the mind
    What comfort can the Doctrine of Tao give?
    It will teach me to watch the days and months fly
    Without grieving that Youth slips away;
    If the Fleeting World is but a long dream,
    It does not matter whether one is young or old.
  • I was born in the Realms of Etiquette;
    In early years, unprotected and poor.
    Alone, I learnt to distinguish between Evil and Good;
    Untutored, I toiled at bitter tasks.
    The World's Law honours Learning and Fame;
    Scholars prize marriages and Caps.
    With these fetters I gyved my own hands;
    Truly I became a much-deceived man.
    At ten years old I learnt to read books;
    At fifteen, I knew how to write prose.
    At twenty I was made a Bachelor of Arts;
    At thirty I became a Censor at the Court.
    Above, the duty I owe to Prince and parents;
    Below, the ties that bind me to wife and child.
    The support of my family, the service of my country—
    For these tasks my nature is not apt.
  • In the depth of the night not daring to let any one know
    I secretly took a huge stone and dashed it against my arm.
    For drawing the bow and waving the banner now wholly unfit;
    I knew henceforward I should not be sent to fight in Yün-nan.
    Bones broken and sinews wounded could not fail to hurt;
    I was ready enough to bear pain, if only I got back home.
    My arm—broken ever since; it was sixty years ago.
    One limb, although destroyed,—whole body safe!
    But even now on winter nights when the wind and rain blow
    From evening on till day's dawn I cannot sleep for pain.
    Not sleeping for pain
    Is a small thing to bear,
    Compared with the joy of being alive...
  • I remember, when I was young,
    How easily my mood changed from sad to gay.
    ... But now that age comes,
    A moment of joy is harder and harder to get.
Original title: 『長恨歌』 [Ch'ang hen ko]
Translation from The Jade Mountain: A Chinese Anthology by Witter Bynner
  • 春寒賜浴華清池
    • ...It was early spring. They bathed her in the Flower-Pure Pool,
      Which warmed and smoothed the creamy-tinted crystal of her skin
  • 可憐光彩生門戸
    • And, because she so illumined and glorified her clan,
      She brought to every father, every mother through the empire,
      Happiness when a girl was born rather than a boy.
  • 在天願作比翼鳥
    • ...That we wished to fly in heaven, two birds with the wings of one,
      And to grow together on the earth, two branches of one tree.
      Earth endures, heaven endures; some time both shall end,
      While this unending sorrow goes on and on for ever.
    • The last four lines.


  • 琴詩酒友皆抛我 雪月花時最憶君
    • Friends on pipa, poetry and drinking all of them cast me away. When I see the snow, the moon or blossoms, I long for you deeply.
    • 「寄殷律協」[citation needed]

Quotes about Bai Juyi

  • Although there have been many wars in China, the natural outlook of the Chinese is very pacifistic. I do not know of any other country where a poet would have chosen, as Po-Chui did in one of the poems translated by Mr. Waley, called by him The Old Man with the Broken Arm, to make a hero of a recruit who maimed himself to escape military service.
  • The most striking characteristic of Po Chü-i's poetry is its verbal simplicity. There is a story that he was in the habit of reading his poems to an old peasant woman and altering any expression which she could not understand. The poems of his contemporaries were mere elegant diversions which enabled the scholar to display his erudition, or the literary juggler his dexterity. ... No poet in the world can ever have enjoyed greater contemporary popularity than Po.
    • Arthur Waley, A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems (1919), pp. 166 and 168
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