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poems-about-hope-1

28 Ancient Chinese Poems About Hope and Beauty

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In Chinese history, there are many classical poems about hope that look for timeless beauty in nature and in life. The poets have empathetic hearts and heightened senses that allow us to get insights into the most beautiful aspects of our world. Traditional Chinese poems, however, are often subtle and reserved. Yet the more we read them, the more we can understand the inner meanings of the verses. 

Take a step back and travel back in time to absorb ancient wisdom, helping us to discover the hope and beauty around us.

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春有百花秋有月,夏有凉风冬有雪。

若无闲事挂心头,便是人间好时节。

With Spring flowers, Autumn moon,   

The Winter snow, and breezy Summer air

If in your heart there’s not a single care,

Any season will be the finest hour.

Wumen Huikai (1183-1260)

Follow the rhythm of nature. Every season has its unique beauty for us to discover—but only if we’re willing to see it.

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九层之台起于累土,千里之行始于足下

A nine-storied tower rises from a heap of earth;

A thousand miles journey starts with the first step.

Lao Tzu (571 BCE-)

Looking ahead we might be terrified by the stressful task we’re about to face. Let’s not worry and take a step forward. We’ll reach our destination through small cumulative steps.

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竹死不变节,花落有余香

Bamboos could die but the joints will stay

Flowers could fall but the fragrance will linger 

Shao Ye (~860)

Material things are constantly changing, yet their spirit will outlast them.

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 梅子熟时枙子香

When plums are ripe,

Jasmine sends out a refreshing fragrance. 

Monk Shiwu (~1644)

The past has gone and the future is yet to come. Take life as it comes, treasuring every moment. 

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车到山前必有路,船到桥头自然直

When the cart reaches the mountain, there must be a road 

When the boat reaches the bridge, it will naturally be straight 

Proverb

Facing an unknown future might seem scary and difficult, but there’s no need to worry. What must come will come. When it does, we must face the difficulty. We’ll be sure to find a solution.

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行到水穷处,坐看云起时。

Walk to where the waters end,

Sit and watch the clouds arise. 

Wang Wei (699-761)

When you walk to the end of the road, don’t hesitate or rush. Sitting down and watching the clouds float is also part of life. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to relax and enjoy the scenery.

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不识庐山真面目,只缘身在此山中。

Why can’t I tell the true shape of Mount Lu?

Because I myself am in the mountains.

Su Shi (1037-1101)

The poet wrote down this observation when he visited the famous Mount Lu. Oftentimes we fail to see matters clearly while amidst problems. Stepping out of the situation and looking at the bigger picture can lead us to find the solution. 

 

海上生明月,天涯共此时

Over the sea has risen the bright moon,

Being far apart we share this moment.

Zhang Jiuling (673-740)

The moon has always represented homesickness. No matter where we are, we can look up to the moon and know that, somewhere in the world, the one we’re longing for is looking at the same moon.

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难道春花开落,又是春风来去,便了却韶华?

花外春来路,芳草不曾遮

When the flowers bloom and fall

The spring wind will come and go

Is this the end of the best season?

The road for the arrival of spring

Was never concealed by the grass

Zhang Huiyan (1761-1802

Does spring end when flowers fall? The best times are always gone in the blink of an eye, yet the poet may be telling us that true spring is found in our hearts. When we can find the beauty inside ourselves, we’ll be in our best season forever.

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退一步海阔天空,忍一时风平浪静

Take one step back and see the boundless sea and sky

Endure one moment and calm the wind and seas

Proverb

When in an argument or conflict, if we can take a step back and endure the suffering, we might just discover that there’s room to exit the conflict in a graceful manner. 

 

乘风破浪会有时 直挂云帆济沧海

A time will come to ride the wind and cleave the waves,

I’ll set my cloud-white sail and cross the raving sea.

Li Bai (701-762)

These lines are written by one of the greatest poets in Chinese history. Thousands of years have passed since that time, yet the brave spirit of the poet continues to inspire courage and determination in readers.

 

人闲桂花落,夜静春山空。

月出惊山鸟,时鸣春涧中。

Osmanthus flowers fall alone; 

The blooming mountains are calm at night.

The moon ascends, alarming birds 

That chirp in spring on water white.

Wang Wei (699-761)

On the surface, this poem describes a mountain scene. But after careful reading, we can feel the author’s peaceful mind in his ability to hear flowers falling and to see birds startled by the rising moon.

 

莫等闲,白了少年头,空悲切

Never take time for granted, 

Once hair has greyed, 

There is only regret.

Yue Fei (1103-1142)

Time passes in the blink of an eye. Let’s make the best use of every moment. We may not have time to procrastinate.

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飞流直下三千尺,疑是银河落九天。

Flying waters rushing three thousand feet down,

Till I think the Milky Way has tumbled from the ninth level of Heaven.

Li Bai (701-762) 

Li Bai is renowned for his romantic descriptions. In this poem, he uses a grand and lofty metaphor to show us the magnificent waterfall of Mount Lu. 

 

结庐在人境 而无车马喧。

问君何能尔 心远地自偏。

I locate my hut in the secular world,

Yet I hear no traffic uproar.

You ask how it could be so?

A secluded heart secludes wherever you are.

Tao Yuanming (365-427) 

What truly matters is our own hearts, not the outside environment. Noise won’t reach us if our minds are at peace.

 

醉后不知天在水,满船清梦压星河

Drunk, he knows not the sky is afloat in the water;

A boat laden with sweet dreams weighs down the Milky Way.

Tang Gong (~1360)

It seems that the poet is sitting drunk and carefree under the stars, yet the word “weighs down” gives us a hint of the sadness within. Life is but a boat that carries our dreams. Yet how do we know where to sail to?

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欲穷千里目,更上一层楼

You can enjoy a grander sight,

By climbing to a greater height

Wang Zhihuan (688-742)

The poet came to this conclusion when he visited the famous Stork Tower. Indeed, we must continually climb higher to see greater scenery in our journey of life.

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众里寻他千百度。蓦然回首,

那人却在,灯火阑珊处。

Thousands of times I have been searching over the crowd

And all of a sudden when I turned my head around

He is right where the lights are few and dim.

Xin Qiji (1140-1207)

These are the final verses of a famous poem describing the Lantern Festival. For whom the poet was searching has been debated for thousands of years. He could have been looking for a loved one, faith, or the meaning of life. The idea is that the most precious people and things aren’t easy to find, but in the end, they’re not actually far away. 

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愿我如星君如月,夜夜流光相皎洁。

May I be like the stars and you the moon

Shining and brightening each other night after night

Fan Chengda (1126-1193) 

Quiet but constant, the stars and moon always go together and light the way for each other, just as two lovers accompany and support each other. 

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无可奈何花落去,

似曾相识燕归来。

Powerless are flowers that must wither and fall, 

It’s time for the return of the swallows I seem to have met before

Yan Shu (991-1055)

While we can’t stop the flowers from dying, there’s no need to dwell upon these moments with sadness. If we look at the whole picture, we might notice many more pleasant things around us, such as the return of the swallows.

 

人生如梦,一尊还酹江月

Life is a dream, 

Allow me to libate a drink to the river, the moon and its reflection.

Su Shi (1037-1101) 

The poet visited the Chibi, a famous battlefield during the Three Kingdom period, and lamented those great generals who have since turned into ashes and smoke. What remains of people in this world after they pass away?

 

零落成泥碾作尘,只有香如故

As blossoms fall to the ground and turn to dust, 

They leave their unchanging fragrances behind.

Lu You (1125-1210) 

This is an ode to the plum blossoms blooming in the coldest winter. When the flowers wither, their fragrances linger, as do their spirit and courage. 

 

道狭草木长,夕露沾我衣。

衣沾不足惜,但使愿无违。

The way is narrow, grass and shrubs are high,

My clothing is stained with evening dew;

For stains upon my clothes, I do not care,

If I am free to pursue my wishes.

Tao Yuanming (365-427) 

The poet would rather suffer and adhere to his values than live an affluent life without principles. Even though the outside environment is hard, he’ll be happy because he has followed the right path.

  

海内存知已,天涯若比邻。

To have a bosom friend within the seas,

The far end of the world is the same as your neighbour next door

Wang Bo (649-676)

True friends can’t be separated by distance. No matter whether our friend is on the other side of the world or next door, we can understand and support each other anywhere.

 

孤帆远影碧空尽,唯见长江天际流

His lessening sail is lost in the boundless blue sky; 

Where I see but the endless River rolling by.

Li Bai (701-762) 

The poet wrote these lines after saying farewell to his friend. Staring at the sailing boat until it disappeared into the horizon, the eternal river is like the poet’s endless yearning. Nothing is said about friendship, yet every single word expresses affection. 

 

大鹏一日同风起,扶摇直上九万里

The roc will one day rise up with the wind, 

Soaring ninety thousands miles up straight. 

Li Bai (701-762) 

Let’s imagine ourselves as the roc, the gigantic mythological bird, that can break every chain and manacle to soar freely into the sky.

 

人生如逆旅,我亦是行人。

Life is but a hotel, I too am a traveller.

Su Shi (1037-1101)

We’re all guests living in a hotel on this temporary journey of life. There’s no need to hold on to anything. 

 

回首向来萧瑟处,归去,也无风雨也无晴。

Looking back over the bleak passage survived,

The return in time 

Shall not be affected by windswept rain or shine.

Su Shi (1037-1101) 

The life of this poet was full of difficulties, yet he never complained, taking every hardship as it came. In life, we go through many difficulties, but when we look back on them, we may realize that they’re as temporary as the weather.  

From the excerpts of these timeless poems, we can see that if we’re willing to look at life with open minds and hearts, we’ll find that life is full of beauty. Every day is special and every moment is precious. Let’s embrace each moment, relax, enjoy the serenity within ourselves, and be delighted by every detail of our daily lives.

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Inspired for a Beautiful Life

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