The literai and their poems-The Plum Blossom (梅花)

According to dictionary.com (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/literati)

The word “Literai” is a plural noun, singular literatus [lit-uhrah-tuh s] (Show IPA)
and refers to

persons of scholarly or literary attainments; intellectuals.
In the past, the people who painted are roughly divided into two types of classes, those who are craftsmen and those who are the literati.
The scholars are not just good at calligraphy but also uses poems and paintings to express lofty aspirations and ideals.

Here is an example of a Tang Dynasty poet:唐诗人张谓的《早梅》

一树寒梅白玉条,迥临村路傍溪桥。
不知近水花先发,疑是经冬雪未销。

This is a four-line poem which shares about the beauty of Plum blossom in the setting of a stream in the midst of a village. The poet is greeted by the white blossoms amidst the traffic in the small village and saw them as white jade due to the many flowers that bloomed in winter. The poet thought that it was the winter snow that has not melted when he first saw the scene but on closer look he suspected that what he saw as snow is actually the signs of early(早梅)plum blossom peeking out in the midst of the harsh winter.

Plum blossom is favoured by many Chinese ink painters as it signifies strength in the midst of adversity. The Chinese view the 5 petals as signifying longevity, prosperity, health, virtue, and good living. In Japan, the plum blossom is known as “ume”.

The Plum blossoms typically have five petals, single- or multi-layered, with the colors pink/red, white, and yellow as common. The pink/red variety is used often for the ChineseSu Dongpo, also a celebrated Song Dynasty poet, is probably responsible for the style of art that focuses on portraying the inner spirit of nature, rather than its outer forms. He said, “The beauty of the plum goes beyond the sour taste of its fruit.” His idea of transcending the physical deeply influenced the painting of plum blossoms, especially in the style of “ink plum,” using only the black ink to paint the plum tree and blossoms.New Year in late January and early February.

The Chinese believed that the painting of the flowers require the painters to be noble (君子)people.

(Source: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1497107-the-plum-blossom-a-symbol-of-strength/)

(Source: http://www.gushiwen.org/mingju_1158.aspx)
  自古人以梅花入诗者不乏佳篇,有人咏梅的风姿,有人颂梅的神韵;这首咏梅诗,则侧重写一个“早”字。
首句既形容了寒梅的洁白如玉,又照应了“寒”字。写出了早梅凌寒独开的丰姿。第二句写这一树梅花远离人来车往的村路,临近溪水桥边。一个“迥”字,一个“傍”字,写出了“一树寒梅”独开的环境。这一句承上启下,是全诗发展必要的过渡,“溪桥”二字引出下句。第三句,说一树寒梅早发的原因是由于“近水”;第四句回应首句,是诗人把寒梅疑做是经冬而未消的白雪。一个“不知”加上一个“疑是”,写出诗人远望似雪非雪的迷离恍惚之境。最后定睛望去,才发现原来这是一树近水先发的寒梅,诗人的疑惑排除了,早梅之“早”也点出了。
梅与雪常常在诗人笔下结成不解之缘,如许浑《早梅》诗云:“素艳雪凝树”,这是形容梅花似雪,而张谓的诗句则是疑梅为雪,着意点是不同的。对寒梅花发,形色的似玉如雪,不少诗人也都产生过类似的疑真的错觉。宋代王安石有诗云:“遥知不是雪,为有暗香来”,也是先疑为雪,只因暗香袭来,才知是梅而非雪,和此篇意境可谓异曲同工。而张谓此诗,从似玉非雪、近水先发的梅花着笔,写出了早梅的形神,同时也写出了诗人探索寻觅的认识过程。并且透过表面,写出了诗人与寒梅在精神上的契合。读者透过转折交错、首尾照应的笔法,自可领略到诗中悠然的韵味和不尽的意蕴。

img20161203100928plumblossom

For further reading:

1.The plum blossom- A symbol of strength

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1497107-the-plum-blossom-a-symbol-of-strength/

2) 古诗文网

http://www.gushiwen.org/mingju_1158.aspx

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