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January 30, 2011

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辛弃疾 Xin Qiji (1140-1207) - Lyric poet and patriot

Xin Qiji is widely considered one of the greatest writers of ci poems (lyric poems or poems written to existing music) during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Many say he was as talented as Su Shi (1027-1101), a very famous ci poet and versatile scholar.

Xin was born in today's Jinan, capital of Shandong Province in eastern China, more than a decade after troops of the Jin Kingdom invaded northern China and caused collapse of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

But during his childhood, Xin's parents and grandparents constantly told him about the invasion and encouraged him to study hard and help reunite the country under the Song Dynasty once he grew up.

Thus, when he was only 21, Xin organized an insurrection of more than 2,000 men and then joined forces with another rebel leader named Geng Jing to fight the invaders in the north.

They won a few small battles, but Xin soon realized they could not drive out the powerful invaders. So he talked to the Southern Song emperor and was allowed to join the imperial army.

Then rebel Geng was assassinated by a traitor who later surrendered to the Jin troops. In furry Xin led 50 men to charge the Jin barracks guarded by nearly 50,000 soldiers and captured the traitor. He then handed the traitor over to the emperor.

As a result, Xin was honored and served in the imperial court. But he opposed the current appeasement policy and still hoped to see the northern lands recaptured and the country reunited. In time he resigned but never gave up hope to see the country united - just as he never gave up writing ci poetry.

Xin was the chief representative of the haofang (bold and unconstrained) style of poems. He was the first to introduce both colloquial and classical terms that rendered verse more like prose.

Today, more than 600 poems have been preserved. Many are about fighting the Jin and many about his personal experiences and feelings. They are frequently quoted by scholars and poetry lovers. One poem, "Chou Nu Er," goes like this:

"When I was young, I didn't know the taste of melancholy,

But I loved to ascend the high towers.

I loved to ascend the high towers,

And mindlessly wrote new poems about melancholy.

Now I have had enough the taste of melancholy,

I wish to talk about melancholy, but give up.

I wish to talk about melancholy, but give up,

Instead, I simply say: Oh, it's such a cool autumn day."

Another notable ci poem is called "The Lantern Festival to the Tune of Green Jade Bowl." And last three lines are the most famous:

"In the crowd, I have looked for her more than a thousand times,

Then, suddenly, as I turn my head, I spot her,

Over there, where lights are few and dim."

In 1207, Xin died in what is today Shangrao, Jiangxi Province in eastern China, as a frustrated patriotic soldier, but a very successful poet.


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