Li Bai: Seeing a Friend Off (From Chinese)

Li Bai wrote this poem in 754 while saying goodbye to a good friend in Xuanzheng. The Shuiyang River still encircles what remains of the city's east wall.

Seeing a Friend Off
By Li Bai
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Beyond the north wall  dark green mountains stretch  
 Round the east city  the clear white river flows1
Once we two  have parted in this place
 Lone tumbleweed  has thousands of miles to blow
A drifting cloud: the mind of a traveler      
 Sinking sun: the mood of old friends going
We wave our hands taking leave from here 
 Our hesitant horses  in parting neigh and moan

1- Chinese cities were usually protected by two sets of walls: an inner one, made of stone, and an outer rampart made of rammed earth. Kept between these two was enough farmland to keep the town supplied with food in the event of a siege. It was customary for friends to say their goodbyes at the outer rampart.

The Original:

Han Characters 


Medieval Chinese 

sùng1b ghóu3b nyen3b
3d beik2a

tsheing4 sran2b ghweing2a pek1 kwak1     
beik2a sywí3c nyàu3 tung1b dzyeing3b
tshí3b drì3c et3by ghwi3bx bat3bx
kuo1 bung1b màn3a3d tsyeing3b
bou3b ghwen3a you3b tsí3d ì3d
lak1 nyet3b kùo1 nyen3b dzeing3b
hwi3a syóu3b dzì3c tsi3d khùo3b
sau4 sau4 pan2a2 meing3a
Modern Chinese 

Sòng yǒurén  

Qīngshān héng běi guō,  
Báishuǐ rào dōngchéng,  
Cǐdì yī wéi bié,  
Gū péng wàn lǐ zhēng;  
Fúyún yóuzǐ yì,  
Luòrì gùrén qíng,  
Huīshǒu zì zī qù,  
Xiāoxiāo bān mǎmíng.  

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