Yellow Crane Tower
YELLOW CRANE TOWER
Huáng Hè Lóu
Xï rén yî chéng huáng hè qù
Cî dì köng yú huáng hè lóu
Huáng hè yï qù bú fù fân
Bái yún qiän zâi köng yöu yöu
Qíng chuän lì lì hàn yáng shù
Fäng câo qï qï yïng wû zhöu
Rì mù xiäng guän hé chù shì
Yän bö jiäng shàng shî rén chóu
YELLOW CRANE TOWER
*translated by Thiếu Khanh
Some one has taken the yellow crane flying away
Only the Yellow Crane Tower here now to stay
Once gone the crane would never return
For a thousand years white clouds’ re in a drifting pattern
In fine weather Hanyang trees appear on the water distinctly
On the Yingwu islet fragrant grass shows its tender beauty
In late afternoon I don’t know where’s my homeland
Smoke and waves on the river make my sorrow expand
Yellow Crane Tower
Yellow Crane Tower is located on Snake Hill in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Enjoying the fame of 'The First Scenery under Heaven', it is one of the most renowned towers south of the Yangtze River. Its cultural significance led to its being made the symbol of Wuhan City.
According to legend, Yellow Crane Tower was built by the family of an old pothouse owner living in Wuhan City long ago, named Old Xin. One day, a shabbily dressed Taoist priest came to the pothouse and asked for some wine. Old Xin paid no attention to him, but his son was very kind and gave the Taoist some wine without asking for money. The Taoist priest visited the pothouse regularly for half a year when one day the Taoist said to the son that in order to repay his kindness, he would like to draw a crane on the wall of the pothouse, which would dance at his request. When people in the city heard of this, they flocked to the pothouse to see the dancing crane. The Xin family soon became rich and they built the Yellow Crane Tower as a symbol of gratitude to the Taoist priest.
The Yellow Crane Tower has a very long and complicated history. It was first built in 223, during the Three Kingdoms Period (220 - 280). Due to the ideal location, it was built by Sun Quan (182 - 252, King of Wu) as a watchtower for his army. After hundreds of years, its military function was gradually forgotten and the tower was enjoyed mainly as a picturesque location.
During the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), many popular poems were written in praise of the Yellow Crane Tower. It was these poems that made the Tower so renowned and induced for people to visit. During the following centuries, it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. During the Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) Dynasties alone the tower was destroyed seven times and rebuilt seven times. In 1884, it was completely destroyed in a fire and was not rebuilt until 1981.
The tower had different architectural features in different dynasties. However the tower which stands today is based on the one designed during the Qing Dynasty. It stands 51.4 meters (about 168 feet) high and has five floors. The appearance of the tower is the same regardless of the direction it is viewed from. The roof is covered by 100,000 yellow glazed tiles. With yellow upturned eaves, each floor seems to have been designed to resemble a yellow crane spreading its wings to fly.
The Yellow Crane Tower offers visitors an abundance of things to see.
The exhibit on each floor has a theme, for example, the theme of the first floor is about legend.
On the wall, there is a nine-meter (about 30 feet) long and six-meter (about 20 feet)
wide painted porcelain picture which depicts clouds, rivers and cranes to represent a romantic mood
in the heaven. The third floor mainly shows poems written to praise the tower in different dynasties.
On top of the tower, visitors are treated to a fabulous panoramic view of the Yangtze River,
its bridge and the surrounding buildings in Wuhan City. Outside the tower, there are bronze yellow cranes,
memorial gateways and pavilions.
*In English, translated by Herbert Allen Giles (1845 –1935)
Here a mortal once sailed up to Heaven on a crane,
And the Yellow-Crane Kiosque will for ever remain;
But the bird flew away and will come back no more
Though the white clouds are there as the white clouds of yore
Away to the east lie fair forests of trees,
From the flowers on the west comes a scent-laden breeze,
Yet my eyes daily turn to their far-away home,
Beyond the broad River, its waves, and its foam.
(Chinese Poetry in English Verse, 1898)
*In French, translated by Paul Demiéville (1894-1979):
Le Pavillon de la Grue Jaune
Monté sur une grue jaune, jadis, un homme s'en alla pour toujours;
Il ne resta ici que le Pavillon de la Grue Jaune
La grue jaune, une fois partie, n'est jamais revenue;
Depuis mille ans les nuages blancs flottent au ciel, à perte de vue
Par temps clair, sur le Fleuve, on distingue les arbres de Han Yang;
Sur l'Ile des Perroquets, les herbes parfumées forment d'épais massifs.
Voici le soir qui tombẹ Où donc est mon pays natal ?
Que la brume et les vagues sont tristes sur le Fleuve!
(Anthologie de la Poésie Chinoise Classique, 1962)
*In German, translated by Guenther Debons (1921 – 2005):
Der Turm zum Gelben Kranich
Auf seinem gelben Kranich flog der Weise vorseiten fort.
Der Turm zum gelben Kranich blieb allein am leeren Ort.
Und ist der Kranich einmal fortgeflogen, bleibt er uns weit.
Die Wolken aber fluten still dahin in Ewigkeit.
Dort überm Strom, ganz klar, sieht man die Bäume von Han-yang blühn;
Und auf dem Papageiensand der Gräser duftendes Grün.
Die Sonne sinkt hinab. Sag mir, wo liegt der Heimat Erde ?
Das Nebelwogen auf dem Strome macht, daß ich beklommen werde.
(Lyrik des Ostens : China, 1962)
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