River Snow

A popular winter poem by Liu Zong Yuan. Liu was born in 773, during the late Tang dynasty. Like many officials, he saw his star rise and fall. This poem is a favorite, expressing man’s loneliness in the world, indeed, in the universe. Liu’s relatively early death in 819 is not explained, but one suspects that he caught cold fishing alone, in a coat made of bamboo, on the river in the snow.



River Snow

On hundreds of mountains and thousands of trails,
Not a bird, not a track.
But in a single boat, in his bamboo coat,
On the river, an old man fishes in the snow.

柳宗元, Liu Zong Yuan (773 – 819)

Notes on Translation

One can of course play with word order (I have) and the translation of particular characters. Jiang Xue 江雪 is most often given as River Snow, a literal translation of the two characters. And Snowy River sounds fine, as does On the River in the Snow.

The rest of the poem is fairly straightforward, which likely explains its popularity.

River Snow, prior translations.

River Snow, 江雪, Jiang Xue

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