[This poem is the best-known long poem in the Chinese language. It was written more than a thousand years ago about the Tang dynasty emperor Xuanzong, who lost his empire over a woman, Yang Guifei ("Imperial Concubine" Yang; her real name was Yuhuan, Jade Bracelet). When a rebellious protegé of Yang Guifei's seized the capital, the emperor and his army were forced to flee over the mountains. But the soldiers stopped and refused to go farther unless Yang Guifei died. She was garroted with a silken cord at the Mawei Pass. The rebellion cost between 13 and 36 million lives and was one of the most deadly wars in human history. The emperor recovered his kingdom after years of disaster, but he never got over his loss. The Tang dynasty also never recovered.]
At dusk in the palace halls the fireflies shine,
and his thoughts are sad,
alone with the lamp till it burns out,
still not able to sleep.
Slow, slow the bell and drum from the beginning to the end of the night,
Bright, bright the Milky Way as he wishes it were dawn.
The happy-marriage tiles are cold,
the frost-flowers are heavy,
the kingfisher-blue quilt is cold
with no one to share it.
Long and sad, the parting of death as the years pass,
and the soul never once comes into his dreams.
[The emperor called up many magicians to try to talk with Yang Guifei beyond the tomb. A Taoist monk succeeds in bringing her to see him, and she says:]
In the seventh day on the seventh day
in Long-Life Palace Hall,
at midnight with no one around
we told each other privately
that we wanted to fly into the sky
like a bird, with wings,
that on earth we wanted to be linked
Heaven is vast, earth is ancient, but some day they will be gone;
this anguish will go on and on
without ever ending.
--Bai Juyi (白居易) (772-846), one of the greatest poets of China. He is said to have read all his poems to an old peasant woman to be sure she understood them.