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Palace Poetry 1
From A Small Compendium, First Folio 2
Ming Ningxian Prince [Zhu] Quan

Mountain folk cannot sail boats; seafarers cannot ride horses -- these are not their domain. Generally speaking the composing of palace poems comes from the speech of emperors, princes and court women. If I devote attention to matters which I have personally seen, then the narrative will achieve reality.

I have spent much of my life within the palaces. How could there be nothing to tell? Although I cannot entirely describe the essence of the beauty, the color of my writing will convey the true ideas. The things which here resemble [truth] could be said to be like taking a mirror and looking at oneself: is it not also an ugly woman?

So I have used 100 [poems] to describe these matters. I don't know what knowledgeable people will think of this.

[Written in] the wuzi year of Yongle (1408] by the Emaciated Immortal


Peace has the music of Xiang; the times are harmonious.
The sound of the soldier's cooking pot ends; there is a night beacon.
From this palace there is nothing to do in the day.
Only play
Nan Feng on the Five String Wood [qin].


The turning Milky Way and Big Dipper hang on the old window lattice.
The kingfisher on the window screen, the night has not ended.
Three times the qin plays Da Ya,
The screen and the bright moon arrive at the center of the palace.


Press the coverlet, pull aside the pillow, hide the sad heart,
Get up, sit in front of the window and play the jade qin.
Repeatedly cause the lord very much to commiserate,
In the musical piece it seems to sketch Chant of the Gray Hair3


The tall, courtly trees clumped together create a deep shade.
The night is cool, clear talk, sit by a pillar.
For no particular reason emotions rise up, leisure anxious thoughts.
Play until the tune Plum Blossom, and moonlight fills the qin.


Gold and jade surrounding screen opens its different faces.
Qins and books cover small tables arranged on the flat terrace.
In the cool evening stealthily take up the jade xiao and play.
Suddenly chariot bells report that the sages ride up.

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Palace Poetry (宮詞 Gong Ci)
Published in: 借月山房彙鈔 (Jieyueshanfang Huichao), 函十二, part of 百部業書集成之四十八 (藝文印書館印行)

2. A Small Compendium, First Folio (小纂,卷上)
This volume, compiled by 張海鵬 Zhang Haipeng (1755-1816; Bio/1293 mentions Jieyueshanfang Huichao), has 70 gongci; the collection originally contained 107. Translated here are Zhu Quan's preface and the poems which have reference to the guqin or to guqin melodies.

3. Chant of the Gray Hair (白頭吟 Baitou Yin)
Lyrics (other translations include White Hair Intonation) attributed to Zhuo Wenjun.

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