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The following excerpt is from Ch'u Yuan's "Tien Wen" ("Heavenly Questions"). It appears in a larger compilation of poems known as the Ch'u Tz'u (Songs of the South), c. 100 BCE.

"Toward Evening"

Toward evening there was thunder and

Lightning. Why was the lady sad?

The high lord did not reveal his majesty

What was he seeking?

Like many Chinese poems, the surface is simplicity itself, but the depths speak of words left unsaid.The contrast of feminity (yin) and masculinity (yang) are implied in the gender of the two mentioned characters, but the roles have been reversed. The yang aspects of the "high lord" that one would expect to find--passion and energy--do not reveal themselves. ("Majesty" is in more vulgar poems given as a euphemism for the penis.) The speaker wonders why the wife is left ignored and depressed. Significantly, although there are atmospheric signs of disturbance in the storm imagery, there is no life-giving rain. Rainfall would be the normal and healthy outcome of yin elements (coolness and moisture) coming together with yang elements (heat and energy). The poem encapsulates in a few lines a dysfunctional marriage among the nobility and links it to the weather.





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Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2018. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated April 24, 2018. 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.