Between the Hillocks

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After Yue Fei

“A gentleman does not part with his qin1 without good reason.” – The Book of Rites

Last night,
The air was ice, but crickets kept on chirping through the cold.
They woke me from one thousand li2 of dreams—
I saw the third watch moon.

Shivering, I stepped out to pace the silent courtyard, alone—
I could not see a soul.

The moon outside my curtains shone like silver—
“Silver is the mark of honor,” I thought.

Experience, ancient hills, old pines, bamboo—
These block my journey home.

I wish I could express my worries on the guqin, dear…
But these days my friends are few,
So who would listen to my broken strings?


1 A qin, or guqin, is a classic seven-string musical instrument often associated with Confucius and favored by ancient and medieval Chinese sages and scholars as refined and well-suited to convey subtle emotions. This instrument is plucked on the player’s lap.
2 A li is an ancient Chinese distance measurement equaling approximately one half of one kilometer or one third of one mile.



驚回千里夢 已三更
人悄悄 簾外月朧明
舊山松竹老 阻歸程
知音少 弦斷有誰聽


Chinese folk hero Yue Fei (AD 1103-1142) was a warrior poet — a master and founder of multiple martial arts, a studied Taoist, a great military strategist, a successful Song Dynasty general in the Jin-Song Wars, and a literary writer. Yue Fei fought a long campaign against the Jin Dynasty to recapture northern Song territory, but just before he retook the original Song Dynasty capital, his Emperor called him back for a peace treaty. In the name of preventing civil war and to avoid exile, Yue Fei returned to the new Song capital of Hangzhou, where the Emperor imprisoned and executed him on false charges. Amidst these troubles, Yue Fei wrote some of the Song Dynasty’s most memorable poems, including “Between the Hillocks” (“Siu Chong Shan”) and “Full River Red” (“Man Jiang Hong”) which is still beloved throughout China today.