It’s cold, 已涼

Chinese woman in scarlet dress with fan

It’s Cold
Through her blue green door
Past the scarlet screen full of flowers and blossoms
Lies a brocaded quilt of an eight-foot dragon beard
It is cool but not yet cold

The poem’s meaning

It is autumn and that means falling leaves of red and gold, cold fronts and cool air. The first frost has not come, so that the flowers continue to bloom and the vegetables ripen. Remember when it was spring and love was new. Then summer and love was hot.

Now it is autumn, and our love has cooled (涼 yǐ ), but not yet cold (寒 hán). And we both know, it is time to say goodbye.

Dragon’s Beard

I could and will speculate on the dragon’s beard that Han Wo weaves into the bed spread. Surely, the beard of the dragon had some mythical property, now forgotten. It was also a popular candy confection, originating during the Han dynasty, similar to our cotton candy, and quite ephemeral, when the temperature was hot.

While I am at it, let’s talk numbers. Han Wo chose an eight-foot beard. Eight is a lucky number in Chinese, similar to the word ‘Fa’, which means to make a fortune, so maybe, Han Wo was hoping to get lucky that night.

Han Wo (Han Wu)

Han Wo (韩偓 Han Wu, 842–844 – 923) survived the end of the Tang dynasty (907); and, so, represents a closing bookend to poetry of the Tang dynasty. His father was acquainted with poet Li Shangyin, and it is said that Li recognized Han Wo’s poetic gift at an early age.

Original Chinese

已涼

碧闌干外繡簾垂
猩色屏風畫折枝
八尺龍鬚方錦褥
已涼天氣未寒時

Pinyin

Yǐ liáng

Bìlán gān wài xiù lián chuí
xīng sè píngfēng huà zhézhī
bā chǐ lóng xū fāng jǐn rù
yǐ liáng tiānqì wèi hán shí