Chinese Puzzle Box

Explorations in and about China

Inviting Liu (#19) – Bai Juyi


Green foam on fresh-brewed beer –
Small red clay stove aglow-
The sky at dusk bodes snow.
Come chug a mug of cheer?


wen4 Liu2 (shi2 jiu3)

绿 螘新醅酒
lu4 y3i xin1 pei1 jiu3
hong2 ni4 xiao3 huo3 lu2
wan3 lai2 tian1 yu4 xue3
neng2 yin4 yi1 bei1 wu2

Green ant* new unstrained beer/wine
Red clay small fire stove
Evening come sky almost snow
Can drink one cup not?

Green foam on beer that’s newly brewed,
A little stove of red clay burns.
As evening comes, the sky’s about to snow,
Can you drink one cup with me?


I love this little vignette of warmth and informal hospitality.  I took the liberty of imagining newly-brewed beer instead of rice wine, as being more likely to foam, and fitting the informal tone of the poem.

The current usage of 螘 in the fist line is simply “ant” but some internet research reveals that “green ant”  was also used as a slang term to describe the foamy skim of newly-brewed rice wine.

饮  in   the  fourth line has the meaning of “give drink to animals” so I am assuming some slangy equivalent of “drink” would carry the original tone best.





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