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Poems of Li Yu (Li Houzhu) — Chinese-English Bilingual Edition

Translated by Jiann I. Lin & David Young

Edited by Richard K. Kent

From prince to prisoner, Li Yu (937-978) ruled briefly over his family’s Southern Tang kingdom before he was taken prisoner by the powerful and warlike Northern Song dynasty. This vivid arc, from rule to ruin, is reflected in his poetry. Ineffectual as a ruler, he loved and celebrated court life, with its parties, dancing, drinking, and trysts. Later, having lost his kingdom, he came to know sorrow, homesickness, and the need to reconcile his melancholy with the passage of seasons and the fragility of life.

Jade trees rise in front of the inner court;

fragrant herbs are at the makeup mirror.


Last year’s flowers still haven’t faded;

this year’s moon is round and bright.


Don’t let favoritism rule you;

make sure you harmonize the flowers and the moon.


Then heaven will let you enjoy your youth

for a long, long time.

(Poem 11: To the tune Flowers of the Inner Court)



David Young, Longman Emeritus Professor of English and Creative Writing at Oberlin College, is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently Field of Light and Shadow: Selected and New Poems. He served as editor of Oberlin College Press and FIELD: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics for over 50 years. He has also published many volumes of literary criticism and translation, including books by Miroslav Holub, Petrarch, Du Fu, Rilke, Neruda, and Paul Celan.


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Jiann I. Lin was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1963. He served for 38 years in the Oberlin College Library as an East Asian Specialist Librarian. With David Young, he translated previous collections by Yu Xuanji, Du Mu, and Su Dongpo. He completed work on this volume shortly before his death in the spring of 2023.

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