Above the lofty mountains the western sky is red,
Below, the sun sets on the peaceful valley.
A sparrow chirps at the wicker gate,
I return from a trip of a thousand li.
My wife and children shocked to see me,
Then calm themselves and wipe their tears.
I drifted through this disordered life and,
By chance I have survived its ordeal.
The neighbors lean over the wall and,
They too cry and weep.
Late at night we bring out flickering candles and,
Face each other like in a dream.
This is the first poem in a series of three written by Du Fu (杜甫) at the age of 45. The poems were written in 757 in a Qiang village (羌村) where Du Fu had taken his family as a place of refuge during the troubles of the An Lushan Rebellion.
Tang China 757Under threat by the rebellious General An Lushan in 756, the Imperial court fled the capital of Chang’an for Sichuan. In January of 757 AD, An Lushan was killed by his own son An Qingxu. At the fortress of Suiyang, the Tang forces fought to the death. Though the rebels won, the tide had turned in the war against the rebels.
Du Fu like other poets of the period was caught up in the troubles of the An Lushan Rebellion. At the time the rebels captured Chang’an, Du Fu had luckily been away, but he was subsequently captured and taken to the rebel held Chang’an. In 757, he escaped and made his way south to the court in exile. In September he was granted leave to see his family and his new son, Du Zongwu (Baby Bear).
Qiang VillageDu Fu does not identify the Qiang village where his family lived. The Qiang people (羌族) generally refers to a small ethnic minority that lived in a mountainous region in northwestern Sichuan at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.
“Above the lofty mountains the western sky is red.” To the common people, red symbolizes good fortune and, it is believed, red lanterns ward off evil. Thus, our tiny Qiang village has the good fortune of being far from the war, but, as we shall see in poem 2, also suffers pain that accompanies war.
Chinese and Pinyin
qiāng cūn (yī)
zhēng róng chì yún xī
rì jiǎo xià píng dì
chái mén niǎo què zào
guī kè qiān lǐ zhì
qī nú guài wǒ zài
jīng dìng hái shì lèi
shì luàn zāo piāo dàng
shēng huán ǒu rán suì
lín rén mǎn qiáng tóu
gǎn tàn yì xū xī
yè lán gèng bǐng zhú
xiāng duì rú mèng mèi