Zhang Jiuling’s title for this poem 感 遇 (gǎn yù) means a sigh, a lament in gratitude for good fortune, and not, as it is given, Orchid and Orange. There is an orange tree in the poem and a peach and a plum, but no orchid, so go figure.
I cannot argue with a thousand years of tradition, but I think the title should be, Gratitude for Good Fortune. A few other notes can await a reading of Zhang’s poem.
Gratitude for Good Fortune, 2
Here, in Jiangnan, grows a red orange tree.
Through the winter its leaves are green,
Could it be the soil is warm?
Or perhaps because it has a heart that’s cold
Can you suggest my honorable guest
Why this is so profound?
One’s fate is only chance
And an endless circle is not what we should seek
It is to no avail, I say, to plant your peach tree or your plum
And forget these trees are hidden by the shade
Chinese and Pinyin
Jiāngnán yǒu dān jú,
jīng dōng yóu lùlín
qǐ yī dì qì nuǎn?
Zì yǒu suì hánxīn
kěyǐ jiàn jiā kè,
nàihé zǔ zhòng shēn?
Yùn mìng wéi suǒ yù,
xúnhuán bùkě xún
tú yán shù táolǐ,
cǐ mù qǐ wú yīn
One wonders whether the orange, the peach and the plum are diminished or nourished by the taller trees.
Line one is beautifully phonetic, Jiāngnán yǒu dān jú, a slight play on words for, in Jiangnan, one is lucky and wealthy as the color red is a symbol of wealth. One cannot miss the phonetic similarity between the poet’s name Zhang Jiuling and Jiāngnán yǒu dān jú.
Zhang is lucky. Unfortunately, his luck would change and he would fall out of favor with the emperor. Alas, fate is only chance.
A couple of other points.
Line one states that the author is in Jiangnan. Literally, this is South of the River. In China it is a specific place name. The river is the mighty Yangtze and the place is Jiangnan, which includes several provinces and the city of Shanghai and Zhenjiang. Here the people are wealthy, the weather warm.
For the New Year, one plants an orange before your door. Recall, in Chinese, the word for orange, 橘 jú, sound like the word for luck 吉 jí. The plum and peach are also symbolic. The plum is winter’s friend, the peach a symbol of immortality, together they represent youth.