Poem of the Week – The Li Family’s Daughter-in-Law



Inside the fortress, the mountain is white with the bones of the dead;
Outside the fortress, the waters are red with the blood of the dead.
The murdered number one million and four hundred thousand.
Within the new fortress and the old fortress, how many men are alive?
First stanza.

Just as the wife faces the mirror,
Her husband’s head has already fallen.
With the bloody sword having entered its sheath,
The red faced woman is pulled and taken away.
The west house’s miss,
The east house’s wife,
And the Li family’s daughter-in-law,
Altogether have fallen into the hands of the aggressive and raven.
Second stanza.

Pulling and dragging her with their hands,
They speak bar-bar-bar.
Amid the blowing of the reed pipe,
As the round and circular sun sets,
They return and bring all the women with round eyes and silkworm-like brows.
Only the Li family’s daughter-in-law,
Was not interred within the arched tent’s depository.
Third stanza.
Why do you not have a sharp sword
To lacerate the skins of others?
Turning around anger for bliss,
The mind ponders about those pretty women.
Those pretty women number very many,
But their countenances are not like hers.
Fourth stanza.

Why do you covet life?
The husband, yesterday, scattered and dispersed.
It is not known whether whether he still exists or has perished.
To be a woman’s partner, how good is it?
Emitting grace and wearing fragrance,
With sweet words, she comes to coax the Li family’s daughter-in-law.
Fifth stanza.

The Li family’s daughter-in-law,
Her entrails fallen and pulled out,
Lashed, beaten, struck, and mutilated,
As if a gem had been made into ash,
Sorrowfully worries about tying her clothes’ belt.
Tied thousand times, tied ten-thousand times, it does not come undone.
Sixth stanza.

The Li family’s daughter-in-law,
Sits among the soldiers.
Though the night grows deep, she stands gazing,
But does not see her deceased husband,
And instead only hears the horses sighing in the melancholy wind.
She again gazes at the moon upon Han’gou (邗溝, 한구);
The pure luster drifts and roams, illuminating the heart and mind.

An order to stop the killing of the remaining living was made.
Outside the fortalice, people came.
A voice uniquely similar to an uncle-in-law,
Said, “O her deceased husband,
His body succumbed to the mayhem of the soldiers’ swords.”
In grief, she fell down, and facing the ground,
She sadly bewailed to the blue autumn skies.
Eighth stanza.

With the husband already dead,
For what will the wife again hope?
Her skull and brains were given to the wall;
Her heart and innards were given to the enemy.
They did not hesitate in slicing her stomach and cutting off her head.
Those who were forced to watch were quivering and trembling as if they were lambs or oxen.
Ninth stanza.

Like lambs and like oxen, who were these people?
If the west house’s wife,
And the east house’s miss,
In the coming days, gather at the military camp and leave north,
They will be briskly and hurriedly taken away in agony and torment.
Wild geese and swans fly above in the sky;
But the group of rabbits cannot flee from the earth.
The knoll in the village reminisce about the Li family’s daughter-in-law.
On the backs of camels, their cries will be like the rain.
Tenth stanza.

-Wu Jiaji (1618–1684)

More about the poet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Jiaji

Source: https://kuiwon.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/wu-jiaji-li-familys-daughter-in-law/

More about Classical Chinese poetry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbNicsSCNao

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/lhalcreative/art-oriental-china-japan-korea/




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