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)

I can’t see my lover, and quilt is too cold to touch.

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)

At the courier station of Handan on Winter Solstice night, my arms clasping my knees, only my shadow is accompanying me.

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)

Far from my hometown on Winter Solstice every year, I’m in such sorrow for my poverty.

Gaunt on the river far away from home, I miss my family so much.

Facing the valley with a stick, I think of old glorious days in the palace.

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))

Clouds fell away at this dawn; day would be longer since then.

The socks for elders are newly woven; the custom should be handed down.

Warmer and warmer, shadow would also be shorter.

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)

Spring sprouts in the cold winter; the aroma of new vanilla leaves fills in the valley.

After the sunrise tomorrow, it would be a new wonderful year.

Don’t be thinking about medicines all the time; write a new poem at the solar term.

It’s not a forced smile; I merely revel in fantastic nature.

The day is long and I slept well. But when will things outside be satisfactory?

It would be better to gather with like-minded friends to have a great time on this day.

We make good wine and study the ancient musical notations.

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 updated on Jun. 19, 2020 -
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