Li Yu: Breaking Waves Spray: (Old Fishermen)

Breaking Waves Spray: (Old Fishermen)

浪 有 意: 渔 父
浪 花 有 意 千 重 雪
桃 李 无 言 一 队 春。
一 壶 酒 , 一 竿 身
世 上 如 侬 有 几 人?
一 棹 春 风 一 叶 舟
一 纶 茧 缕 一 轻 钩。
花 满 渚,酒 满 瓯
万 顷 波 中 得 自 由。
Lang You Yi: (Yu Fu)

Lang hua you yi qian chong xue
Tao li wu yan yi dui chun.
Yi hu jiu, yi gan shen
Shi shang ru nong you ji ren?

Yi zhao chun feng yi ye zhou
Yi lun jian lu yi qing gou.
Hua man zhu, jiu man ou
Wan qing bo zhong de zi you.


Breaking Waves Spray: (Old Fishermen)

Breaking waves spray looks like a thousand layers of snow
One springtime row of peach and pear trees not saying a word.
One pot of wine, one fishing pole
How many people in society can have these things?

Row one boat in the spring breezes
One sinking silk fishing line, one small and light hook.
Blossoms fill one pond, one wine-filled cup
For many thousands of acres I am in the middle of a natural paradise.



Li Yu wrote this poem in order to convince his older brother, and second in line to the throne after their uncle, that he was not interested in being emperor or king. This older brother had already poisoned a younger brother who was ambitious for the throne.

To this end, and as a source of inspiration for writing a poem, Li found and used two books with large pictures and accompanying poems. The first book was called Shi Hua Zong Gui (诗话总龟). This title can be translated as: “A Slowly Assembled Collection of Vernacular Stories with Poems, Comments, and Pictures”. In this book Li found, and then studied, the poem with a picture entitled as “Old Man River Fishing in Spring”. The poem was written by a man from the Tang Dynasty, Zhang Zhihe (张志和 ). Zhang was a government official and Daoist scholar under Emperor Suzong. After displeasing the emperor, Zhang was banished into exile where he became a forest recluse. He called himself “The Old Fisherman of the Mists and Waters”. He became famous for being a fisherman who used no bait. Tang poet Lu Yu asked him why he liked to just roam about. Zhang replied that heaven was his home, moon his constant companion, and the Four Seas were his friend. When someone else offered him a comfortable house where he could live, Zhang refused the offer, preferring to live in his small and poor boat.

The second book was called Xuan He Hua Pu宣和画谱). It can be translated as “Book of Model Paintings on High Quality Paper”.   Here Li found another large picture called “Spring River Painting.”  With two sources of inspiration, Li Yu wrote his poem, which could be argued as saving his life.


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