Gao Pian – A Summer Day at a Mountain Pavilion

夏日山居

Staying at a Mountain on a Summer Day (夏日山居, 하일산거) by Hua Yan (華喦, 화암, 1682-1756) (Source)

Gao Pian (高騈, 고병, ?-887) was a late Tang dynasty period (唐, 당, 618-907) military general. He was born in Youzhou (幽州, 유주) in what is now Hebei Province (河北省, 하북성); and his courtesy name (字, 자) was Qianli (千里, 천리). He began his military career as a royal guard (禁軍, 금군) and initially gained fame for military campaigns in southwestern China against the Nanzhao (南詔, 남조). During the reign of Emperor Xizong of Tang (唐僖宗, 당 희종, 862-888, r. 873-888), Gao Pian was successively appointed as the Regional Military Governor (使, 절도사) of Tianping (天平, 천평), Zhenhai (鎭海, 진해), and then Huainan (淮南, 회남). When an affluent commoner named Huang Chao (黃巢, 황소, ?-884) started a rebellion in 875, Gao Pian was made Commanding General of All Circuits (諸統, 제도행영도총) and began a long campaign against the rebellion. Around this time, he became acquainted with the Shilla-born scholar Choe Chiwon (崔致遠, 최치원, 857-?) and made him an attendant (從事官, 종사관) for his campaign. (Choe Chiwon became renowned for penning A Manifesto Condemning Huang Chao (討文, 토황소격문) on behalf of Gao Pian.) Though Huang Chao’s rebellion was eventually quashed by 884 by Gao Pian and other Tang dynasty generals, it heavily destabilized the central government, as these very military generals effectively ruled the subdued territories by themselves. Gao Pian himself controlled the area in and around Yangzhou (陽州, 양주). In 887, Bi Shiduo (畢師鐸, 필사탁, ?-888), a military official who had assisted Gao Pian in quashing the rebellion, rose up against him, took the city, and had him executed. 

He was also an accomplished poet, and some of his poems appear in the anthology Complete Tang Dynasty Poems (全唐詩, 전당시). In the poem below, Gao Pian describes the mountain scenery on a summer day. Traditionally, the Start of Summer (立夏, 입하) was marked by the days when the Sun is between the celestial longitudes of 45 and 60 degrees. As a solar term, this date is fixed to May 6 on the Western Gregorian Calendar, but varies on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The day also marked the day that “Leopard frogs croaked, earthworms crawled out, and melons started growing” (螻蟈鳴, 丘螾出, 王瓜生 – 뇌괵명, 구인출, 왕과생).

夏日山亭 하일산정

綠樹濃陰夏日長 록수농음하일장 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)
樓臺倒影入池塘 루대도영입지당 平平仄仄仄平平(韻)
水晶簾動微風起 수정렴동미풍기 平平平仄平平仄
滿架薔薇一院香 만가장미일원향 仄仄平平仄仄平(韻)

Green trees thicken the shade; the summer day is long.
A tower’s inverted shadow enters the pond.
The crystal-beaded curtain sways, with the light breeze arising.
Filling the trellis are roses and the entire garden’s fragrance.

Definitions:

Green • trees • dense • shade • summer • day • long
Tower • platform • invert • shadow • enter • pond • pond
Water • crystal • screens • sway • little • wind • arise
Fill • rack • roses • roses • all • garden • fragrance

Notes:

  • Heptasyllabic truncated verse (七言絶句, 칠언절구). Riming character (韻, 운) is 陽(양). The poem generally complies with the rules of recent style poetry (近體詩, 근체시). A very minor deviation, called “transgressing the rime scheme” (冒韻, 모운), can be seen in the fourth line, as 薔(장) is of the same rime as the riming character, but it is not the last character of the line.
  • Korean translation available here.
6 comments
  1. Sean L. said:

    I’m a newbie at Classical Chinese so I may be wrong about these.

    East Asian languages don’t really have plurals but I think he might mean a more general “summer days are long” rather than that specific day.

    Putting 滿 before words can mean “the whole” so 滿架薔薇 could mean “the whole shelf(s) (is) roses”
    Naver Hanja has quite a few examples that I like:
    滿場一致, 滿目愁慘, 滿山紅葉, 滿心歡喜, 滿壁書畫, 滿面喜色, 滿城風雨, and 滿庭桃花
    http://hanja.naver.com/search/idiom?query=%E6%BB%BF

    • 歸源 said:

      These are certainly valid, well thought out points. I played around with different translations before picking the one you see here.

      – When I first saw this, I thought it was referring to plural (days) as well. However, people even then knew that the days got longer after the winter solstice. I also noticed that a single shade is thickening (濃).
      So, I changed from “as the summer days lengthen” to what it is now.
      – I opted for a slightly less-literal translation. I originally had “Filling the shelves with roses, the entire garden becomes fragrant.”

  2. I would use “lattice” instead of shelf for 架. “Lattice full of roses fills a garden with fragrance.” Also another bit of triviality, 水晶簾 are strands of crystals/beads that makes up the curtain. “Screen” is quite misleading.

    • 歸源 said:

      Thank you for your comments: they are always insightful. I’ve made the changes with regards to 水晶簾.

  3. Hello, Kuiwon and everybody! 架 is probably a trellis– these are climbing roses, and 滿架 suggests that they are in luxuriant bloom, covering the whole trellis as well as filling the entire garden with their scent. 水晶簾 is, I’m pretty sure, a curtain made up of strings of small beads made of crystal, a very common boudoir decoration in the late Tang period. No offence to Sean L., but I’m with Kuiwon in reading 夏日 in the singular– the poet is talking about this one summer’s day, and the experience he evokes is quite specific.

    • 歸源 said:

      Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them. I have made changes with regards to 架 and 水晶簾.

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