5 Most Beautiful Chinese Winter Solstice Poems

Winter Solstice is the most important solar term and festival in winter in China. Ancient Chinese regarded it as an auspicious day, because the days would get longer after that day. Families reunited and worshipped gods and ancestors on the day in ancient times. For these reasons, there are many Winter Solstice poems being handed down. Here are five of the most beautiful Winter Solstice poems to appreciate.

 

1. The Most Famous Love Poem on Winter Solstice

冬至夜怀湘灵 Missing Xiangling on Winter Solstice Night

Author: Bai Juyi (772-846 AD during Tang Dynasty)

艳质无由见,寒衾不可亲。
I can’t see my lover, and quilt is too cold to touch.

何堪最长夜,俱作独眠人。    
Both of us sleep alone; how can we spend the longest night?

Xiangling was the author’s first lover, who grew up with the author as a neighbor. They fell in love but were not allowed to meet because their families were not matched in social status. Later, Bai Juyi went to Chang’an, capital city of that time and nowadays Xi’an, to pursue his study and career. Later, he wrote many poems to praise and mourn Xiangling.

Bai Juyi lay on the bed and could not sleep, especially on the Winter Solstice when other families reunited to celebrate the festival. Given that, he felt lonely and missed his lover much more. It is the most famous Winter Solstice poem about love.

 

2. Homesick Poem on the Festival

邯郸冬至夜思家 Homesick Winter Solstice Night in Handan

Author: Bai Juyi (772-846 AD during Tang Dynasty)

邯郸驿里逢冬至,抱膝灯前影伴身。
At the courier station of Handan on Winter Solstice night, my arms clasping my knees, only my shadow is accompanying me.

想得家中夜深坐,还应说着远行人。
My family might sit for a long time, talking about me now at this moment.

This Winter Solstice poem is a vivid description of being homesick. The author was in the courier station in Handan and he cannot get home for the family reunion on the Winter Solstice. The weather was so cold, making him feel even lonelier and he clasped his arms around his knees to keep warm physically and mentally. Missing his family, he expected that they might stay up late to miss and talk about him far away.

 

3. Nostalgic Poem from an Old Soul

冬至 Winter Solstice

Author: Du Fu (712-770 AD during Tang Dynasty)

年年至日长为客,忽忽穷愁泥杀人。
Far from my hometown on Winter Solstice every year, I’m in such sorrow for my poverty.

江上形容吾独老,天边风俗自相亲。
Gaunt on the river far away from home, I miss my family so much.

杖藜雪后临丹壑,鸣玉朝来散紫宸。
Facing the valley with a stick, I think of old glorious days in the palace.

心折此时无一寸,路迷何处见三秦。
Every time at this moment, I feel lost and upset.

The author Du Fu is a famous poet in history, but his life had always been difficult. He had great ambitions to help people live a better life. However, he had not been given an important position in the government to achieve what he wanted to do for his beloved people, and he ended as a wanderer in his late life.

This Winter Solstice poem was written by Du Fu in his late years, when he had been living a wandering life for many years. On the Winter Solstice, he was poor and stood at the valley’s edge with a stick, while others reunited with families to celebrate the festival happily. He can’t help missing his family and cherishing the memory of old days in the imperial palace. Each time when he thought of these and compared with his present life, he was quite upset and felt lost.

 

4. Ode to Longer Daytime after Winter Solstice

减字木兰花 Shortened Magnolia Flowers Tune (a kind of poem pattern)

Author: Ruan Yue (in the late Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD))

晓云舒瑞,寒影初回长日至。
Clouds fell away at this dawn; day would be longer since then.

罗袜新成,更有何人继后尘。
The socks for elders are newly woven; the custom should be handed down.

绮窗寒浅,尽道朝来添一线。
Warmer and warmer, shadow would also be shorter.

秉烛须游,已减铜壶昨夜筹。
As night turns to be shorter, weights for timing should also be reduced.

The author recorded that day time would be longer and longer, night time would be shorter and shorter, the weather would be warmer and warmer, and the shadows would be shorter and shorter since that day. In addition, this Winter Solstice poem recorded an important custom. On this day, the young generations should send socks to the elders, in order to keep them warm as well as to send good wishes.

 

5. The Most Optimistic Poem on Winter Solstice

满江红.冬至 Azolla Tune (a kind of poem pattern)

Author: Fan Chengda (1126-1193 AD during Song Dynasty)

寒谷春生,熏叶气、玉筒吹谷。
Spring sprouts in the cold winter; the aroma of new vanilla leaves fills in the valley.

新阳后、便占新岁,吉云清穆。
After the sunrise tomorrow, it would be a new wonderful year.

休把心情关药裹,但逢节序添诗轴。
Don’t be thinking about medicines all the time; write a new poem at the solar term.

笑强颜、风物岂非痴,终非俗。
It’s not a forced smile; I merely revel in fantastic nature.

清昼永,佳眠熟。门外事,何时足。
The day is long and I slept well. But when will things outside be satisfactory?

且团栾同社,笑歌相属。
It would be better to gather with like-minded friends to have a great time on this day.

著意调停云露酿,从头检举梅花曲。
We make good wine and study the ancient musical notations.

纵不能、将醉作生涯,休拘束。
Even though I can’t be drunk all the time, I am free at the moment.

Different from other Winter Solstice poems, this poem is free from traditions. The author didn’t follow the festival customs, but spent his Winter Solstice with like-minded friends to enjoy his time in wine, music, poetry, painting, etc. He wouldn’t be trapped with mortal things, and he was free. It is more like a festival to celebrate. His optimistic spirit influences everyone who reads this poem.

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- Last modified on Jun. 19, 2020 -
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