Chinese Puzzle Box

Explorations in and about China

Translation: Liu Zong Yuan : At One with the River Apes

Taiwan Gorge
The river road is long and winding.
The mournful apes won’t cease from howling.
My eyes run dry from too much weeping
In vain the sounds of my heart breaking

The English connotations of the words “ape” and “monkey” are very pejorative. Is it the same in Chinese? When the poet says he has joined with the river apes, howling in the wilderness, he vividly shows his sense of exile and alienation.

The original poem translates word for word into the passive tense, and the implied narrator is referred to in the third person as “chen” which translates to “subject of the ruler” or “vassal”. There is no rhyme. In translating, I used the half-rhyme “ing” ending to help the flow and link the images, and introduced “I” as the protagonist to eliminate the awkward passive tense.

The original poem is below in simplified Chinese characters, Pinyin, word for word translation, and free line by line translation.

入 溪 猿
ru4 xi1 yuan2
At one with the river apes

brook road ten thousand li / a long distance bend
The river road is long and winding

ai1yuan2he2chu3 ming2
mourning ape where cry of animals
The mournful howls of apes fill the air

gu1 chen2lei4 yi3 jin4
isolated ruler’s subject tears cease exhausted
The tears of the vassal are exhausted

xu1 zuo4duan4chang2 sheng1
In vain make heart-broken noise
In vain are the sounds of heartbreak


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One thought on “Translation: Liu Zong Yuan : At One with the River Apes

  1. Pingback: Alone with the River Apes – Liu ZongYuan | Chinese Puzzle Box

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