I’m attempting to translate one of the ci poems of Li Houzhu (937–78, real name Li Yu [李煜]), last ruler of the Southern Tang kingdom, one of the many kingdoms that emerged in China’s split upon the collapse of the Tang dynasty. This king had his kingdom taken away from him by Zhao Guangyin, founder of the Song dynasty, and he was led away from his capital as a captive with his family and put under house arrest at the Song capital in Kaifeng. The poems he wrote in this exile express regret for his lost kingdom and the pleasures it had brought him.
So I have at the poem, 相見歡 (of which Teresa Teng has sung an ill-fitted rendition):
With rougèd tears are men kept drunk –
But when again?
Surely man’s life is grievance long
And water eastward long.
Translation © Lue-Yee Tsang 2010.