The Qing dynasty scholar Wang Guowei wrote of poems falling into two categories: close by or remaining at a distance. The Chinese character he uses for distance is ge（隔）, whose ancient pictogram consists of three mounds, and a three legged urn. Shangyin’s poems often evoke a distance between the reader and the word, by referring to myth, allegories and ideas. Yet, in all his poems, there is always a delicious ambiguity. Ambiguity is a verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative versions to the same piece of language, according to the scholar W. Empson. The ambiguity of Li Shangyin’s poems is a core element of their beauty. Applying strict interpretations or translations to them is as useless as trying to trap a trembling moonbeam in a steel cage. Martin Luther’s Mighty Fortress becomes a sensual, inner palace of the mind, where doors and windows magically appear. In his best poems there is always -whether beyond the periphery of one’s vision, or on the boundary of other senses – the ghost of something tangible and beautiful, illicit and irreverent, passionate and enduring.
云母滤宫月，yún mǔ lǜ gōng yuè，
夜夜白于水。yè yè bái yú shuǐ。
赚得羊车来，zhuàn dé yáng chē lái，
低扇遮黄子。dī shàn;shān zhē huáng zǐ。
水精不觉冷，shuǐ jīng bù jué lěng，
自刻鸳鸯翅。zì kè yuān yāng chì。
蚕缕茜香浓，cán lǚ qiàn xiāng nóng，
正朝缠左臂。zhèng;zhēng cháo;zhāo chán zuǒ bì。
巴笺两三幅，bā lán;jiān liǎng sān fú，
满写承恩字。mǎn xiě chéng ēn zì。
欲得识青天，yù dé;děi;de shí qīng tiān，
昨夜苍龙是。zuó yè cāng lóng shì。
Moonlight rolls over the Palace’s mica screens
Through the night a virgin whiteness streams
At long last, the Ox Cart arrives
Lowered fans obscure its golden skin
Pearly sheets do not feel cold
Embracing, the mandarin ducks spread their wings.
The thick woven silk is blood red
A proof of love is tied about her left arm
Two or three notes are written on Sichuan paper
Happily describing one’s contentment
Let me understand Heaven’s mission
Yesterday was the night of the azure dragon.
Musical Interlude: Gymnopedie by Mark Obama Ndesandjo
I created this piece at a time when I had a severe angst, founded on the conceit that I must get beyond the preliminaries of my future.
I strive for a superlative to describe this prelude, recorded as the scent of jasmine filled night time Shenzhen, and a wet wind started to blow from the South China Sea.