Top 10 Classic Chinese Love Poems | ChinaWhisper (2023)

Poetry has been a favorite literary genre in China for thousands of years. And many of theChinese poems are about love. Here I compiled a number of well-known love poems from China’s long literary history, though some of them were written by unknown author, all these poems remain alive and on people s lips since they were written.

1. Song of River City 《江城子•记梦》by Su Shi (Song Dynasty)

十年生死两茫茫,不思量,自难忘。
千里孤坟,无处话凄凉。
纵使相逢应不识,尘满面,鬓如霜。
夜来幽梦忽还乡,小轩窗,正梳妆。
相顾无言,惟有泪千行。
料得年年肠断处,明月夜,短松冈。

Ten years, dead and living dim and draw apart.
I don’t try to remember,
But forgetting is hard.
Lonely grave a thousand miles off,
Cold thoughts, where can I talk them out?

Even if we met, you wouldn’t know me,
Dust on my face,
Hair like frost.

In a dream last night suddenly I was home.
By the window of the little room,
You were combing your hair and making up.

You turned and looked, not speaking,
Only lines of tears coursing down.

Year after year will it break my heart?
The moonlit grave,
The stubby pines.

The poem was written around 1075, when the poetSu Shi dreamed about his wife.Hemarried his wife Wang Fu in 1054 at her fifteen. Unfortunately his wifedied in 1065, 11 years after they get married. The next year he took her bodyback to his homeland Sichuan and buried it in the family graveyard, planting some pines around the tomb. He loved his wife so much and composed this poem to express his feelings.

2. Song of Divination 《卜算子》by Li Zhiyi

我住长江头,
君住长江尾。
日日思君不见君,
共饮长江水。
此水几时休,
此恨何时已。
只愿君心似我心,
定不负相思意。

I live upstream and you downstream,
From night to night of you I dream.
Unlike the stream you are not in view,
Though both we drink from River Blue.
When will the river no more flow?
When will my grief no more grow?
I wish your heart will be like mine,
Then not in vain for you I pine.

Li Zhiyi is one of Su Shi’s disciples and a member of the literati group “Yuanyou poetic style”. This poem surrounds the Yangtze River to express men and women’s sentiment of lovesickness.

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3. Beating the Drum《诗经.邶风.击鼓》 (Spring & Autumn Period)

击鼓其镗,踊跃用兵。
土国城漕,我独南行。

从孙子仲,平陈与宋。
不我以归,忧心有忡。

爰居爰处,爰丧其马,
于以求之,于林之下。

死生契阔,与子成说。
执子之手,与子偕老。

于嗟阔兮,不我活兮。
于嗟洵兮,不我信兮。

The drums are booming out;
We’re busy all about,
Building walls high and low.
Alone I southward go.

I follow Sun Zizhong
To fight with Chen and Song.
I cannot homeward go;
My heart is full of woe.

Where stops and stays our force?
I’ve lost my battle horse.
O where can it be found?
It’s buried underground.

“Meet or part, live or die,
We’ve made oath, you and I.
Give me your hand I’ll hold,
And live with me till old!”

With my wife I’ve long parted.
Can I live broken-hearted?
Alas! the oath we swore
Can be fulfilled no more.

This poem expresses homesick mood of officers and soldiers in the battlefields. The verse “Give me your hand I’ll hold, And live with me till old!” has becomethe best love oath for later generationlovers.

4. God! 《上邪》(Han Dynasty)

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我欲与君相知,
长命无绝衰。
山无陵,
江水为竭,
冬雷震震,
夏雨雪 ,
天地合,
乃敢与君绝!

I want to be your love for ever and ever,
Without break or decay.
When the hills are all flat,
The rivers are all dry.
When it thunders in winter,
When it snows in summer
When heaven and earth mingle,
Not till then will I part from you.

The poem comes from Yuefu folk poems of Han Dynasty. The hero takes an oaththat: Even if the seas go dry and rocks crumble, her loveremains firm. The poemis a woman`s warm confession to her lover.

5. On And On, Going On And On《行行重行行》 (Eastern Han Dynasty)

行行重行行,
与君生别离。

相去万余里,
各在天一涯。

道路阻且长,
会面安可知。

胡马依北风,
越鸟巢南枝。

相去日已远,
衣带日已缓。

浮云蔽白日,
游子不顾返。

思君令人老,
岁月忽已晚。

弃捐勿复道,
努力加餐饭。

On and on, going on and on,
Away from you to live apart.

Ten thousand miles and more between us,
Each at opposite ends of the sky.

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The road I travel is steep and long;
who knows when we meet again?

The Hu horse leans into the north wind,
The bird nests in southern branches.

Day by day our parting grows more distant,
Day by day robe and belt dangle looser.

Shifting clouds block the white sun,
The traveler does not look to return.

Thinking of you makes one old,
Years and months suddenly go by.

Abandoned, I will say no more,
but pluck up strength and eat my fill.

The poem is about solicitude, departure and scourge of war during the turmoil years of thelate Eastern Han Dynasty. The poem is full of awoman’s deep concern over her husband in the foreign land.

6. Immortals at the Magpie Bridge《鹊桥仙》by Qin Guan (Song Dynasty)

织云弄巧,
飞星传恨,
银汉迢迢暗度。
金风玉露一相逢,
便胜却人间无数。
柔情似水,
佳期如梦,
忍顾鹊桥归路。
两情若是久长时,
又岂在朝朝暮暮。

Clouds float like works of art,
Stars shoot with grief at heart,
Across the Milky Way the Cowherd meets the Maid.
When Autumn’s Golden Wind embraces Dew of Jade,
All the love scenes on earth, however many, fade.
Their tender love flows like a stream,
Their happy date seems but a dream,
How can they bear a separate homeward way?
If love between both sides can last for aye,
Why need they stay together night and day?

The poem name Immortals at the Magpie Bridge derives from the myth of the sincere love between the Cowboy (Niulang) and the Weaver (Zhinu), who are separated by the Heavenly Queen with the Milky Way and permitted to meet once a year at the bridge formed by the magpies. The poem borrows this traditional love story to express human‘s joys and sorrows.

7. The Tune of The Wild Geese’s Tomb《雁邱词》 by Yuan Haowen

问世间情是何物,直教生死相许。
天南地北双飞客,老翅几回寒暑。
欢乐趣,离别苦,就中更有痴儿女。
君应有语,渺万里层云,千山暮雪,只影向谁去。
横汾路,寂寞当年箫鼓,荒烟依旧平楚。
招魂楚些何嗟及,山鬼暗啼风雨。
天也妒,未信与,莺儿燕子俱黄土。
千秋万古,为留待骚人,狂歌痛饮,来访雁邱处。

Among the earthly mortals, I ask: what is Love
That engages couples through life and death?
This flying pair, travelling from south to north,
Had old wings, which survived several summers and winters.
Staying paired is happy,
But to sever, bitter: a trap in itself where devoted lovers
Still long to be trapped. He must have had a thought:
For whom shall I trail a forlorn shadow flying over
Ten thousand miles of grey clouds
And mountains of night snow?
On this road by Fen River, the old pipes and drums
Are gone. Only bleak smoke and vast woods are left.
Vain to evoke the ancient ghosts. The Mountain Spirit
Also wails in vain. Heaven envies the geese,
Not believing they’ll return to dust like orioles
And swallows. There they’ll remain, for a thousand
Autumns, awaiting the poets of later generations
Who are coming, rhapsodizing and quaffing
Just for a view of the wild geese’s tomb.

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In the fifth year of Taihe, Yuan Haowen went to Bingzhou to attend an imperial examination. On the way a bird hunter said to him that, he caught a wild goose and killed it. Its partner kept soaring, wailing above and finally killed itself by plunging on the ground. When hearing this touching thing, the poet buried the pair of geese beside theFen River and named it “The Wild Geese’s Tomb”, he then composed this poem to praise their loyal love.

8. I Was Not When You Were Born, You Were Old When I Was Born.《君生我未生,我生君已老》(Tang Dynasty) byan unknown writer

君生我未生,我生君已老。
君恨我生迟,我恨君生早。
君生我未生,我生君已老。
恨不生同时,日日与君好。
我生君未生,君生我已老。
我离君天涯,君隔我海角。
我生君未生,君生我已老。
化蝶去寻花,夜夜栖芳草。

I was not when you were born,
You were old when I was born.
You regret that I was late born,
I regret that you were early born.
I was not when you were born,
You were old when I was born.
I wished to have been born together,
We could enjoy our time together.
You were not when I was born,
I was old when you were born.
I was so far away from you,
You were so distant from me.
You were not when I was born,
I was old when you were born.
I’d become a flower-seeking butterfly,
And sleep on the fragrant grass every night.

The poem, with plain language, expresses the author`s pity and nostalgia to a much older lover.

9. Though On The Deceased Life《离思》by Yuan Zhen (Tang Dynasty)

曾经沧海难为水,
除却巫山不是云。
取次花丛懒回顾,
半缘修道半缘君。

Insignificant waters become,
When sailings to the oceans abound.
Misty clouds circle mount Wu around,
That’s the best scenery I have ever found.
Many a flower I pass by,
Second looks I bother not to try,
For pilgrimages as a monk I vie,
Still remember the lover I once had.

The Tang Dynasty poet Yuan Zhen composed this poem for his lover Cui Yingying. The line “Insignificant waters become, when sailings to the oceans abound. Misty clouds circle mount Wu around, that’s the best scenery I have ever found.” expresses that the poet will ever fall in love with other woman except for Yingying.

10. Butterflies in Love with Flowers《蝶恋花》by Liu Yong (Northern Song Dynasty)

伫倚危楼风细细,
望极春愁,
黯黯生天际。
草色烟光残照里,
无言谁会凭栏意。
拟把疏狂图一醉,
对酒当歌,
强乐还无味。
衣带渐宽终不悔,
为伊消得人憔悴。

While I lean against the banister of a tall tower,
The breeze gently blows.
As I look into the distance,
The end of Spring arouses melancholy in my mind.
Surrounded by dewy grass at sunset,
I wonder who is able to understand my longing.
I would rather drink to intoxication.
One should sing when one has wine in hand,
But drinking to escape offers no reprieve.
I do not mind that my clothes are getting looser.
My lover is worthy of desire.

The poem cleverly combines lonely feelings in a foreign land with yearning for the lover, showing the hero’s determined character and persistent attitude, successfully portrays the image of a woman who misses her lover far away.

FAQs

Who is the most famous Chinese poetry? ›

Li Bai, also spelled Li Bo, Wade-Giles romanization Li Pai or Li Po, courtesy name (zi) Taibai, literary name (hao) Qinglian Jushi, (born 701, Jiangyou, Sichuan province, China—died 762, Dangtu, Anhui province), Chinese poet who rivaled Du Fu for the title of China's greatest poet.

Who is one of the greatest Chinese romantic poets? ›

Li Bai is known as a famous Romantic Poet in ancient China. He was lived during the Tang Dynasty. Along with writing romantic poems about women, he romanticized nature. Li Bai apparently led a wild life.

Who are the three 3 greatest Chinese poets? ›

Responding differently to their common times, Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu crystallize the immense variety of China and the Chinese poetic tradition and, across a distance of twelve hundred years, move the reader as it is rare for even poetry to do.

What are China's four greatest poets? ›

The greatest poets are thought to have lived a thousand years ago or more during the Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279) and Han (206 BC – 220 AD) dynastic eras. Du Fu, Li Bai and Su Shi are considered among the best ancient poets, and there are five major kinds of major ancient poetic styles called Shi, Ci, Ge, Qu and Fu.

Who is the greatest Chinese poet of all time? ›

Known as the “Immortal Poet,” Li Bai (701–762) is often considered the greatest Chinese poet of all time. He was the epitome of the classic Tang Dynasty poetry (tang shi).

Why is Du Fu important? ›

Du Fu or Tu Fu (712–770) was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty. Along with Li Bai (Li Po), he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His own greatest ambition was to help his country by becoming a successful civil servant, but he proved unable to make the necessary accommodations.

What is Li Bai's most famous poem? ›

Since its conception during the Tang Dynasty, "Quiet Night Thought" remains one of Li Bai's most famous and memorable poems.

What does Du Fu mean in squid? ›

[VIP 3] “Good rain knows the best time to fall.” Du Fu. [rain pouring]

What does Du Fu mean in English? ›

"sage of poetry", epithet of Du Fu 杜甫[Du4 Fu3]

What are the 4 classics of Chinese literature? ›

Chinese literature contains four masterpieces known as the Four Great Classical Novels (四大名著). Journey to the West, Outlaws of the Marsh, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Dream of the Red Chamber were written during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Who are considered to be the greatest Chinese poets? ›

Generally considered to be the country's greatest poets, Du Fu and Li Bai were contemporaries during the Tang dynasty, an era which has since become known as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry.

What is a Chinese poem called? ›

There is also a traditional Chinese literary form called fu (賦/赋), which defies categorization into English more than the other terms, but perhaps can best be described as a kind of prose-poem. During the modern period, there also has developed free verse in Western style.

Who were Li Bai and Du Fu? ›

Du Fu and Li Bai, widely regarded as the two greatest poets in Chinese history, are still quoted by dictators and businessmen, students and dissidents. Lines from their verses have been embedded in the Chinese language for more than a millennium.

Why is China called the Land of the Red Dragon? ›

China – The Red Dragon

But why is it called the “Red” Dragon? This is likely due to China being a communist country, but it also stems from the fact that red has always been the traditional colour associated with the Chinese emperor.

What does Du Fu mean in Chinese? ›

Du Fu (Chinese: 杜甫; Wade–Giles: Tu Fu; 712–770) was a Chinese poet and politician of the Tang dynasty. Along with his elder contemporary and friend Li Bai (Li Po), he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets.

What are Du Fu's poems about? ›

Du Fu is often described as a poet-historian, and his works convey the emotional impact and import of political and social issues and register a range of private concerns, trials, and dramas. His poems are remarkable for their range of moods as well as contents.

Was Du Fu exiled? ›

Then came a rebellion led by a general, An Lushan, and eight years of civil war. Du Fu fled the Tang capital, Xian, only to be captured and then to wander as a refugee and exile until the rebel general was assassinated by his own son, and everyone could go home.

What are Du Fu's ideals? ›

Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China, Du Fu's loyalty to the state and concern for the poor have been interpreted as embryonic nationalism and socialism, and he has been praised for his use of simple, "people's language" (Chou, 66).

What is known as the oldest collection of Chinese poetry? ›

The Classic of Poetry, also Shijing or Shih-ching, translated variously as the Book of Songs, Book of Odes, or simply known as the Odes or Poetry (詩; Shī), is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BCE.

Who is commonly considered the greatest Chinese writer of the 20th century *? ›

Lu Xun (or Lu Hsun, pronounced "Lu Shun"; 1881-1936) has been considered China's greatest modern writer for most of the 20th century.

Who is the famous poet in ancient Chinese history? ›

Du Fu, Wade-Giles romanization Tu Fu, also called Du Gongbu or Du Shaoling, courtesy name (zi) Zimei, (born 712, Gongxian, Henan province, China—died 770, on a riverboat between Danzhou [now Changsha] and Yueyang, Hunan province), Chinese poet, considered by many literary critics to be the greatest of all time.

What is a Chinese poem called? ›

There is also a traditional Chinese literary form called fu (賦/赋), which defies categorization into English more than the other terms, but perhaps can best be described as a kind of prose-poem. During the modern period, there also has developed free verse in Western style.

Why is Chinese poetry important? ›

Poetry had a very important role in the Chinese world of morality and governing. It was the most revered form of writing. It was not about the individual but a direct reaction to the world and a “vessel of shared emotion”.

How many Chinese poems are there? ›

More than 50,000 poems written by 2,200 poets during these 300 years are still known today. Li Bai (701-762), "the Immortal", and Du Fu (712-770), "the sage", are the twin pinnacles of Chinese poetry.

What are the 4 classics of Chinese literature? ›

Chinese literature contains four masterpieces known as the Four Great Classical Novels (四大名著). Journey to the West, Outlaws of the Marsh, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Dream of the Red Chamber were written during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

What is Li Bai's most famous poem? ›

Since its conception during the Tang Dynasty, "Quiet Night Thought" remains one of Li Bai's most famous and memorable poems.

What are the two 2 classics of Chinese literature? ›

Water Margin, Journey to the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dream of the Red Chamber; these four novels form the core of Chinese classical literature and still inform modern culture.

Who are considered to be the greatest Chinese poets? ›

Generally considered to be the country's greatest poets, Du Fu and Li Bai were contemporaries during the Tang dynasty, an era which has since become known as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry.

What did Du Fu often write about? ›

In these years, Du Fu led an itinerant life, writing poetry about the events he witnessed and endured—famine, political unrest, and personal tragedy.

What is the Tang Dynasty best known for? ›

The Tang Dynasty is well remembered for the era's contributions to poetry, partly the result of Xuanzong's creation of an academy for poets, which helped preserve over 48,900 poems written by well over 2,000 poets of the era. One of the best remembered is Li Bai, born in 701 A.D.

What is the oldest collection of Chinese poetry? ›

The Classic of Poetry, also Shijing or Shih-ching, translated variously as the Book of Songs, Book of Odes, or simply known as the Odes or Poetry (詩; Shī), is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BCE.

How is Chinese poetry different from English? ›

In this respect, Chinese poetry is all about the poet, the 'meaning' for the poet and not what is happening 'around' the poet. In contrast modern English poetry places a focus on 'what is happening' around the poet.

What is the most prominent in the Han Dynasty literature? ›

One of the most important Han era contributions to poetry is the compilation of the Chuci anthology of poetry, which preserves many poems attributed to Qu Yuan and Song Yu from the Warring States period (ended 221 BC), though about half of the poems seem to have been in fact composed during the Han Dynasty.

What is a five character poem? ›

Also known as the Five-character-quatrain, this form of regulated verse is characterized by four lines of five characters each.

When was the Ode of Mulan written? ›

The poem that l choose is Ode of Mulan. This ballad was written during the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) where northern China was controlled by nomadic invaders. This poetry talks about a young woman who goes to war to save her country and family.

Who wrote the first 7 character poem? ›

Wen Zhengming's (1470—1559) original name was Bi; however, his courtesy name had been more widely circulated, and he changed his courtesy name into Zhengzhong, literary name Hengshan. He was from Changzhou (today's Suzhou, Jiangsu Province).

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