Xi Peilan: Crossing the Yangtze (From Chinese)

Another Chinese woman, from the tail end of the 18th century. Just in case you've forgotten what a geek I am, I've also added a recording in a reconstruction of pre-modern guānhuà (i.e. the language of "Mandarin" officialdom) as it was likely pronounced during the mid Qing dynasty in southeastern Jiangsu (where Xi Peilan was from) based on data gathered and analyzed recently in the work of W. South Coblin. If you know modern standard Mandarin pronunciation (which slowly came into being as the basis for the standard shifted to Beijing) it offers a startling picture of just how radically linguistic standards can change over a couple centuries.

Crossing the Yangtze
By Xi Peilan
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in a reconstruction of mid-Qing guanhua pronunciation

And suddenly our boat is like a leaf, 
 whirled over waves' terrain and up from rest.
The bleary sky
  now stretches from high to low.
 The blanked expanse  confuses east and west.
Our ferry-launch  is plunged in the paling clouds,
 The heart of waves  is bathing the reddening sun.
Kept ladylike indoors1, could I ever see this?
 My sight-seeing spirit's manhood has begun2.

1-she's talking about the 深閨 shēnguī or "Innermost Quarters," which is the section, inside a palace or main building of an estate, wherein wealthy men could hide their women, since it would be foolish to just leave valuable property lying around.
2-in its time, this line would have carried overtones of the debate that raged during Xi Peilan's lifetime over whether it was permissible for a woman to develop literary talent, as it might get them in the habit of saying things other than "yes, sir" pollute their virtue. Xi Peilan herself was the most well-known pupil of Yuan Mei, a male scholar who had become infamous or famous (your mileage may vary) among the literate classes for not only stating the obvious that women who showed literary talent should be taught the skills of verse-making, but for actually taking on female pupils himself. The following embarrassment to the Y-chromosome fulmination, penned by the historian  Zhang Xuecheng, is an example of the phallocratic insecurity ire Yuan Mei provoked among conservatively-minded men:
Lately a certain wanton imbecile, basking in his own licentiousness, has gone about poisoning the minds of young men and women, hoodwinking everyone by engaging actors and putting on plays about heroes and damsels. South of the Yangtze, many women from noteworthy families have been taken in by him. He has even gussied up his own reputation by collecting their verse and publishing their compositions! He has quite simply lost all appreciation for the differences between men and women, practically to the point of ignoring their biological sex! 
(translation mine)

The Original, with transcriptions:

Han Characters 


Mid-Qing Guānhuà 

tú kjāŋ 
sɪʔ pʰʊ́jlân 

twǽn kyɛʔ tʂə̄w ʐŷ jɛʔ 
pʰjāuʐɛ̂n wánkʰɪ̀ŋ tʂʊ̄ŋ 
xwǽn mâŋ ljɛ̂n ʂáŋxjá 
kʰʊ̄ŋ kʰwɔʔ ʂɪʔ sītʊ̄ŋ 
túkʰǝ̀u tʂʰɪ̂n ŷn pəʔ 
pɔ̄ sīn jʊʔ ʐɪʔ xʊ̂ŋ 
ʂɪ̄nkʊ̄j tsʰæ̂ŋ wí kjɛ́n 
fáŋŋjɛ̀n tàn ký xjʊ̂ŋ 
Modern Standard Chinese 

Dù jiāng 
Xí pèilán 

Dùn jué zhōu rú yè 
Piāorán wànqǐng zhōng 
Hùn máng lián shàngxià 
Kōng kuò shī xīdōng 
Dùkǒu chén yún bái 
Bō xīn yù rì hóng 
Shēnguī céng wèi jiàn 
Fàngyǎn dǎn jù xióng 

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