If she turned and asked, would her parrot say why she is sad?
The Tang poet, Bi Juyi (白居易, 772–846) gives us this image in Spring of a girl standing on the porch outside her bedroom. The flowers in the trees are blooming, but furrowed eyebrows show the sorrow in her heart. As far back as the Shang dynasty (1600 – 1046 BCE), archaeologists unearthed 21 parrot-shaped jade objects in a grave of an imperial consort.
Flowers bloom in the trees by her little bedroom
Spring, why in her eyes and her heart is their gloom
Leaning on the railing her back to her parrot
Wondering, should she look back
Chūn cíBai Juyi
Dī huā shù yìng xiǎo zhuāng lóu, chūn rù méi xīn liǎng diǎn chóu.
Xié yǐ lángān bèi yīngwǔ, sīliang héshì bù huítóu.
Other articles state that this poem was written in 829. If correct, this was at a time when Bai Juyi became governor of Henan in which Luoyang, the eastern capital of the Tang dynasty, is located. About this time, his first son was born, though he died the next year. Whether this sadness inspired the poem is not known.
Chun ci 春詞, Spring Poem, the title of the poem. Chun means Spring. Ci, literally meaning verse, word, or speech. Ci has come to mean Classical Chinese poetry of fixed rhyme and meter. In this instance, Bai Juyi rhymes each line – lou, chou, yingwu, huitou.
Zhauang lou 妝樓, a woman’s bedroom, boudoir.
Ru mei 入眉, eyebrows. During the Tang dynasty, eyebrows were an important part of a woman’s makeup.
Yingwu 鸚鵡, parrots. American author and poet Maya Angelou creates a similar sentiment in her autobiographical book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Langan 欄杆, the railing or parapet, of the bedroom overlooking the flowering trees. The cage in which she lives.
Silang 思量, turning over in one’s mind, wondering.
Heshi 何事, suitable or fit
Bu huitou 不回頭, bu a negative; huitou, to turn back or around.