»  Du Mu's "Pure Brightness Festival"


Pure Brightness Festival

by Du Mu  (a.d. 803-852)


•  Background

For full background on the poet Du Mu ("Tu Mu" in the older transcription) see my reading of his poem "Garden of the Golden Valley."

•  Notes

Pure Brightness (in Chinese 清明, Qīng Míng) is the most important traditional Chinese festival determined by the Sun, not the Moon. That puts it approximately in sync with Western calendars, which are mainly solar.

So Pure Brightness falls on our April 4th or 5th every year. The lunar New Year, by contrast, may begin on any date in our calendar between January 21st and February 20th.


•  Play the reading


•  Text of the poem




My prose translation:

    Pure Brightness Festival

It's the feast of Pure Brightness, rain swirling round. A weary traveler on the road, spirit almost gone, politely asks: "Where may an inn be found?" The peasant lad points to Apricot Blossom village in the distance.

An utterly literal, word-for-word, translation goes like this:

    Pure Brightness

Pure brightness festival rain wild wild,
Road-on traveller almost broken spirit.
May-I-ask inn what place have?
Herd boy far point Apricot Blossom village.