Thoughts on New Years Eve – Cui Tu

The Tang dynasty had lasted for over a quarter of a millennium when Cui Tu wrote this poem. The country was in the midst of rebellion and the end was near.

What will the new year bring?

Poet, Cui Tu (born 854) gives us his thoughts of travel in a distant land, far from family and home.

The road to Ba is a long, long way
Still, I am making this fearful journey of ten thousand li
In the melting snow beneath the jagged mountains at night
A stranger in a strange land
Alone, gradually growing distant from family and friends
Becoming closer to my companions instead
How does one bear moving from place to place,
What will the New Year bring?

Chinese New Year

The Chinese Lunar New Year will fall on Friday, February 16, 2018. So, I am ahead of myself if I am trying to keep pace with Cui Tu, but on track if one uses the Gregorian calendar.

State of Ba

Ba is an ancient state in eastern province of Sichuan, China. It borders the states of Pu, Chu, and Shu that figured prominently during the period of the Warring States.  During the Tang dynasty, Ba would have been known as remote province, consisting of various minorities who lived primarily by hunting and gathering. Sichuan was the home province of poet Du Fu.
During the earlier An Lushan Rebellion, after the capture of Chang’an by the rebels, the Tang emperor Xuanzong fled to Sichuan and the area that included the State of Ba.

Chinese mile, Li

The li is a Chinese unit of distance, about 500 meters or 1640 feet.

Other translations

No translation is ever exact and I have taken a liberty or two. American poet Witter Bynner included Thoughts on New Year’s Eve in his translation of Tang poetry, Heng-tʻang-tʻui-shih, The Jade Mountain: A Chinese Anthology (New York: Knopf, 1929.

Original Chinese text





Chúyè yǒu huái
tiáo dì sān bā lù
jī wēi wànlǐ shēn
luàn shān cánxuě
yè gūdú yì xiāng rén
jiàn yǔ gǔròu yuǎn
zhuǎn yú tóngpú qīn
nà kān zhǐ piāobó
míngrì suì huá xīn


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