3 Beautiful Chinese Poems Inspired by Autumn
When a wisp of cool wind blows gently over the colourful treetops and the sky is cloudless, the quiet, distant autumn beckons with its mature, calm charm.
We often find the season in the evocative scenery painted by nature at harvest time—in the red leaves that cover the mountains, in the bright moon shining in the dark sky, and even in the poems left to us by history.
Chinese poems about autumn have particularly rich traditions. Between the leisurely landscapes and rivers, their heart-warming verses leave behind a lingering feeling of harmony and beauty.
Here we discover three beautiful Chinese poems about autumn.
By Zhu Xi (1130–1200)
A clear stream passes by the green-clad mountain;
The clear sky and water melt in the autumn hue.
Far, far away from the unclean, tumultuous world,
White clouds and red leaves move leisurely.
Zhu Xi watched the green hills as the clear stream flowed and the night sky brought a serene autumn scenery. Experiencing this dream-like beauty of floating white clouds and swaying red leaves gave the poet the chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the social world.
While Zhu dedicates his poem to the moon, he doesn’t mention the word ‘yue’ (moon) in his verses. He nonetheless evokes the bright, soft moonlight as he reflects on autumn’s clear and refreshing presence.
Zhu lived during the Southern Song Dynasty, a period when the emperor’s power was relatively weak. The poet contributed many political ideas to the court, but they weren’t adopted. Instead, he devoted himself to academic education and research. He later became a Confucian scholar, subsequently influencing the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties with his writings.
In this poem, Zhu uses images of the mountain stream under the autumn moon, the tranquil night sky, and the lingering white clouds to express his detached and relaxed state of mind.
His verses lead us to reflect on the importance of stepping back from our troubles and worries to look at the world with fresh eyes.
Song of Autumn
By Liu Yuxi (772–842)
Since olden days we feel sad and drear in autumn,
But I say spring cannot compete with autumn.
On a fine day a crane cleaves the clouds and soars high;
It leads the poet’s lofty mind to the azure sky.
Since ancient times, whenever autumn comes and plants wither, people often lament and grieve about the passing of time. Liu Yuxi was an exception, however, favouring poems about autumn in his works.
Liu wrote the poem Song of Autumn after experiencing difficult times, yet we can see that he was an open-minded and optimistic man. Although he had significant trials in his life, he could still write lofty verses about nature, simplicity, and virtue. The magnificent image of ‘a crane flying over the clouds’ in the poem is the portrayal of Liu’s open-mindedness and lofty goals.
His self-confidence and poetic sentiment soar into the blue sky, sweeping away the desolation and sadness of autumn (and his life), leaving future generations with heroic, free, and noble verses to reference when facing adversity.
Liu’s wisdom is also seen in his famous poem, Inscription for My Humble Hut, which he wrote when exiled to a remote area, “Mountains are not only about height: they only have fame if immortals live there. Waters are not only about depth: they only have spirit if a dragon lives in them. This is my simple hut, with only the fragrance of my own virtue.”
Autumn Evening in the Mountains
Wang Wei (699–759)
After fresh rain in the bare mountains,
Autumn permeates the evening air.
Among pine trees bright moonbeams peer;
Over crystal stones flows water clear.
Bamboos whisper of washer-maids;
Lotus stirs when boat fishing wades.
Though fragrant spring may pass away,
Still here’s the place for you to stay.
Wang Wei was among the greatest poets in Chinese history, known for his landscape poems. Wang’s verses are fresh, natural, and refined, bringing ethereal and quiet beauty with them.
The poem Autumn Evening In The Mountains is one of his representative works. It describes the scenery Wang saw after an autumn rain while living in seclusion in the mountains. At sunset, the mountain rain stopped while the empty mountains became exceptionally quiet and pleasant.
The rising moon spread bright moonlight among the pine trees while spring water murmured among the rocks. The washer-maids walked through the bamboo while the fishermen docked their boats among the lotus leaves. Although the fragrance of spring was gone, the beauty of the autumn scenery was enough to make the poet linger there.
Wang spent most of his life as a court official, and his easygoing personality and ability to detach from worldly affairs became the best strategy to survive the trials of officialdom. His devotion to Buddhism also shaped his character, encouraging him to live a virtuous life.
Wang’s legacy lives on in the images of the mountains, night rain, and streams we encounter in his poems, enveloping us in freshness and tranquility.
We hope you have enjoyed these ancient Chinese poems about autumn and hope that the season inspires you to compose your own.