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A Cold Food Feast at Zhang’s Home
by Meng Haoran
A lucky first snow falling a full foot,
Evening eases in and just at midnight’s nigh,
Mats arrayed, we wine companions beg
To cut the candle to a poem’s verse length.
Warmed by the fragrant golden ashes of the stove,
Her jaded fingers clearly pluck the lute strings,
Just when, befuddled, I wish to fall asleep,
Surprised, I am awakened by the cock’s crow.


(A Cold Evening’s Feast at Zhang Ming’s Home)

瑞 雪 初 盈 尺
閑 霄 始 半 更
列 筵 邀 酒 伴
刻 燭 限 詩 成
香 灰 金 爐 暖
嬌 絃 玉 指 清
醉 來 方 欲 臥
不 覺 曉 雞 鳴


Hánshí zhāng míng fǔ zhái yàn

ruìxuě chū yíng chǐ
xián xiāo shǐ bàn gèng
liè yán yāo jiǔ bàn
kè zhú xiàn shī chéng
xiānghuī jīn lú nuǎn
jiāo xián yù zhǐ qīng
zuì lái fāng yù wò
bù jué xiǎo jī míng

Notes on Meng’s Poem

Meng’s title refers to 寒食, which is the Cold Food or Hanshi Festival. This ancient Chinese holiday developed from the commemoration of the death of the Jin nobleman Jie Zhitui in the 7th century BC. It is usually celebrated the 105th day after the winter solstice.

Zhang Ming, meaning the illustrious Zhang, refers to Zhang Jiuling.

The Morning After at Zhang Ming
Morning is a distant light that
Reveals ghostly figures in the naked trees
I open the window and shout
Except for the cry of the cock
The snow still blows
Against Zhang Ming’s house
In go to the stove,
Where the silver white ashes are cold
And though I toss inside a sparrow’s nest and wood,
Then blow
No ember lights the flame

A cracked wine cup, an empty plate
Lie scattered on a wine stained mat
On the stool a silk scarf scented jasmine
The remains of
The girl whose face was white as snow
My companions gone
And when the cock-a-doodle-do
Fades to nothingness
I am alone

Dating Meng Haoran’s poem

Meng Haoran was at the Tang capital of Chang’an for about three years, arriving there when he was about 40 years of age. Recognized as a brilliant poet, Meng was given an introduction to the imperial court, and missed the opportunity, spending time with friends. This is the likely reason that he failed the civil examination. A friend then introduced him to the emperor and Meng composed a “failed exam” poem, explaining that the fault was his for not studying hard enough. The emperor did not take kindly to the tone of the poem and Meng’s “goose was cooked.”

Meng Haoran’s date of birth is given as 689 or 691, which means that he arrived in Chang’an sometime around 730 and left around 733. Meng composed the two poems above during this time.

Zhang Mingfu is not clearly identified in Meng’s poem. In another poem he references a Premier Zhang, A Message from Lake Dongtin to Premier Zhang.

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