杂诗 Miscellaneous Poem
无名氏 （Author: Anonymous, Tang Dynasty）
近寒食雨草萋萋，close cold food rain grass luxuriant luxuriant
著麦苗风柳映堤。blow wheat seedling wind willow shine embankment
等是有家归未得，equal is have family return not can
杜鹃休向耳边啼。cuckoo no towards ear beside cry
It’s almost Sweep the Graves Day, and the rain has made the grass grow thick.
The wheat seedlings tremble in the wind, and the river mirrors the willow trees.
Why can’t I return to my family?
Cuckoo bird, don’t make your mournful cry where I can hear you.
In the first couplet of the poem, the name of the festival is the “Cold Food Festival,” if translated literally. It is a traditional Chinese holiday which originated from the commemoration of the death of a nobleman during the Spring and Autumn period (around 7th century BC). It gradually evolved into an occasion for the Chinese to worship their ancestors. During the Tang dynasty, ancestral observance became a single-day event that is now the “Sweep the Graves Day,” which is how we translated it. We assume that most American readers wouldn’t know what “Cold Food Festival” is but that “sweep the graves” would convey the meaning. Whether we call it cold food festival or sweep the graves day, it is a time for returning to your home town and being with family.
This poem reflects the nostalgia of a traveler who was unable to return home. The second couplet of the poem was quoted by a Chinese netizen showing her sympathy towards those overseas Chinese who were unable to return to China due to the tough border controls imposed by the Chinese government to deal with COVID.
Since the COVID breakout, it is increasingly difficult for Chinese living abroad to travel to China due to frequent flight cancellations, skyrocketing ticket prices, and the strict pre-departure COVID testing requirements. Some were complaining that nowadays, travelling to China is as if they were purchasing “a lottery ticket”.