A Song of Complaint at the Tall Pavilion

By: Jiang Kui

Translated by: Julian Preston

Julian Preston is a third-year student of literature, writing, and Chinese; their primary work consists in exploring themes of identity and loss through fiction, with a supporting focus on literature and language studies. They translate from Mandarin and literary Chinese.

Artist Statement: Jiang Kui (1155–1221), was a Song dynasty poet. The son of a minor official, he never obtained a government office, but spent much of his life traveling in the countryside. He is particularly well known for his cí, lyric poems written in literary Chinese but influenced by folk traditions, and intended to be sung to a particular musical tune; here, Jiang Kui appears to have composed the lines first, without adherence to poetic conventions, then composed music to accompany them (the original music has been lost, but a wonderful reconstructed performance by Yuan Jung Ping is available on vimeo and youtube). The pavilion of the poem’s title is actually a remote traveler’s inn; the poem is narrated from the perspective of an official whose post has separated him from his home. 

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