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"Outside the Eastern Gate"


The following poem is from the Shih Ching. It is the the 93rd poem appearing in Mao's ordering of the Shih Ching, but is often numbered 36th in English versions of that anthology.

Outside the Eastern gate

Are girls many as the clouds;

But though they are many as clouds

There is none on whom my heart dwells.

White jacket and grey scarf 1

Alone could cure my woe.

 

Beyond the Gate Tower

Are girls lovely as rush-wool;

But though they are lovely as rush-wool

There is none with whom my heart bides.

White jacket and madder skirt

Alone could bring me joy.

1.White jacket and grey scarf are the conventional garb of a humble lover. See Arthur Waley, The Book of Songs: The Ancient Chinese Classic of Poetry, page 43, note 2.

Questions:

  1. Why is the speaker unhappy even though he is surrounded by pretty girls?
  2. Why might clouds and rush-wool be considered suitable metaphors for the beauty of women?
  3. What does this poem imply about the traits that make for a happy relationship or an ideal lover? How is this similar to or different from Western ideas of what makes for a passionate romance?

 

     

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Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2017. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated January 5, 2017. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.