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Held in the Lonely Castle (Chp 3 Part 6)

Chapter 3: Pointlessly Missing Another Chance

Part 6 – Composing Poetry (填词)

Translator: Nyamachi
Translation assistant: Petrified
Translation checker: Nyamachi
English proofreader: 247Reader

In the past, there would always be voices raised in opposition on occasions when the Emperor had directly issued a proclamation without first consulting with his ministers. 

Normally, the ministers would be split into two groups, with one group agreeing with the motion and the other opposing. 

There was also another situation – when both groups would come together in opposition. 

However, when it came to the issue of selecting the Princess Consort, unprecedentedly, all of the ministers were unanimous in their opinion. 

Practically everyone resolutely praised His Majesty’s brilliance and moral rectitude. Even the Imperial Censors, who would normally criticize the Emperor’s slightest fault, showed their approval and congratulated the Emperor, saying that His Majesty’s choice of Li Wei for the position bestowed favour and glory to his maternal uncle’s family and repaid Empress Dowager Zhang’yi’s kindness in raising him up. 

“The whole realm under heaven will hear; all will sigh with sorrow and advise each other to be filial [following the Emperor’s example].” [1]This was the Chinese: “天下闻之,莫不感叹凄恻,相劝以孝”。Please let us know if you have a better translation. 

Consequently, the Emperor was even more firmly resolved to proceed with this match. 

He did not permit the inner palace to discuss the matter, but perhaps to pacify Zhao’rong Miao, he promoted her to the Principal Second Rank, Third Seat position of Shu’yi. [2]淑仪 (shūyí) Lady of Gentle Deportment. One of the ranks within the tier of imperial concubine (嫔 pín) in the Song Dynasty. Learn more about Ancient Ranks and Titles~ 

Not long after, he also promoted her good friend Jie’yu Yu to the position of Chong’yi. [3]充仪 (chōngyí) Lady of Satisfying Deportment. Another one of the ranks within the tier of imperial concubine (嫔 pín) during the Song Dynasty. Jie’yu Yu was promoted one tier~ Learn more about Ancient Ranks and Titles~ 

Naturally, the Princess also knew that her father had already decided on a Princess Consort for her. Nevertheless, no one would mention Li Wei when in her presence. I also didn’t tell her that Li Wei was the “Silly Rabbit” that she had met that day. 

Moreover, the ‘her’ at present still didn’t understand the concept of marriage. It seemed as if she thought that a Princess Consort was merely the manager in charge of the residence outside the palace where she would live in the future. 

So, one day, she asked her mother, “Elder Sister, when I descend, [4]出降 (chūjiàng) is the Chinese character used here, meaning to surrender, fall, or descend. It refers to when an Imperial Princess is married ‘out’ and ‘descends’ in rank to match her husband’s family. can you come live with me outside of the palace?” This was the question she was most concerned about.

Shu’yi Miao sadly replied: “I cannot. Elder Sister is your Daddy’s wife and is not allowed to live outside of the palace anymore.” 

Seeing that the Princess was utterly disappointed, she smiled and hugged the Princess close, comforting her: “But your nursemaid and Jiaqing Plums, Smiling Dumplings, and the rest of your maids can go with you. Your lifestyle will not change too much.”

“Can Huaiji come with me?” asked the Princess.

Shu’yi Miao stared blankly for a moment but quickly smiled again. “Oh, of course. Of course, Huaiji will be able to go with you.”

The Princess smiled with relief. She nestled against her mother for a while, thinking, and then asked: “Then how long can I still stay by Elder Sister’s side?”

Faced with this question, Shu’yi Miao gave an uncertain reply: “This depends on your Daddy’s intentions… until you grow up, I suppose.” 

The Princess asked again: “What age is considered ‘grown up’?”

Shu’yi Miao said: “Fifteen or sixteen years old.”

“Then when I’m fifteen or sixteen years old, do I have to descend?”

“Not necessarily. If your Daddy agrees to keep you, then you can wait a little longer.” Shu’yi Miao stroked her daughter’s cheek and sighed: “But, you could be delayed, at most, until your twentieth birthday… After twenty, you would be an old maid who had missed the best time for marriage.” 

“Twenty…” The princess calculated the remaining time she could stay at her mother’s side. The conclusion made her give a very satisfied smile: “Then there’s still ten more years. That’s a very long time! With that much time, I could live my life from the beginning all over again!”

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As the days went on, gossip related to the Princess Consort reached her ears. Once in a while, she would also feel a little worried. 

“I heard that Li Wei isn’t very good-looking and that he is also especially stupid,” she told me. 

When speaking of the Princess Consort whom her father had selected for her, she would always call him directly by name, with no concern whatsoever for taboo. [5]TL Team: We are not sure why calling his name directly is considered taboo.

“He is thirteen years old but he’s still reading the {Thousand Character Classic}. He is truly an idiot!”

I hoped that she could think more positively. “The Princess Consort has surely read many more books by now.”

Her expression made it clear she wasn’t optimistic about this. 

“Even if he painstakingly finished memorizing the {Thousand Character Classic}, there’s still a massive pile of Confucian classics by Confucius and Mencius for him to go through. With his stupid brain, he’ll probably have to study for another twenty to thirty years.”

Flipping through a chapter of the poetry anthology I had brought over, she browsed the fine verses of the current dynasty’s famous scholars, Yan Shu, Fan Zhongyan, Ouyang Xiu, Su Shunqin, Mei Yao, etc., and heaved a worried sigh.

“The classics are already enough to torment him. Surely he wouldn’t have time to study poetic essays as well… It’s certain that he won’t be able to compose or recite poetry with me.”

I couldn’t help but laugh in spite of myself. I found the last sentence, which she had said with the utmost seriousness, to be very funny.

She knew why I was laughing, and glared at me. “Are you making fun of me because I can’t compose or recite poetry?”

“Not at all.” I hid my conscience and said: “Your poems and word choice are excellent.”

I suspect that my expression wasn’t quite sincere. 

“Present me with a topic,” she resolutely challenged. “I will compose a poem for you right away!”

Seeing her in such high spirits, I complied with her order. I selected a simple tune [6]简单 (cípái) Names of tunes to which poems are composed. People in this era matched poems with tunes to create songs. for her: “Then this humble servant requests that Your Highness fill in a stanza from {Recalling Jiangnan}. [7]《忆江南三首》is a set of 3 poems by Bai Juyi, a famous musician, poet, and politician from the Tang Dynasty. It vividly describes the beauty of the landscape, scenery, and women south of the Yangtze River. Check out the TL Thoughts section at the end of the chapter for the poem. There’s no need to fill in the entire poem. I will start and Your Highness can match two or three lines to my own, that would be enough.”

She nodded. I noticed that she was wearing a light pink gauze jacket, [8]衫 (shān) A jacket with open slits in place of sleeves. so I casually began the verse: “A thin jacket… Your Highness is free to select the tail rhyme.” [9]韵脚 (yùnjiǎo) Rhyming word ending a line of verse. Our best guess at the English equivalent was tail rhyme. Note – We are not poets! Please share your knowledge in the comments if this is incorrect!

“A thin jacket…” she repeated in a low mutter. Then she lowered her head as if she were calculating something, occasionally looking upwards, muttering to herself all the while. [10]念念有词 (niànniànyǒucí) To mumble or mutter to oneself.

I felt odd seeing this, so I asked her: “Princess, what are you counting?”

“Be quiet!” She was quite unhappy with me interrupting her thoughts. “I’m checking the tones for the next line of verse!” [11]平仄 (píngzè) Level and oblique tones – a technical term for Classical Chinese rhythmic poetry.

It would be a long wait, so I decided to sit down and leisurely began to boil some water for tea. 

“I got it!” 

As the first string of fish eye bubbles appeared in the water within the silver pot, she finally came up with a line of verse: “The sleeves block out the cold like a warm quilt… A thin jacket, the sleeves block out the cold like a warm quilt… How is it?”

The silver pot trembled with a sound like wind and rain. Using the teapot, I filled a small cup and warmed up the tea while giving an honest reply: “Only the cadence [12]格律 (gélǜ) Convention regarding a set number of words and lines, choice of tonal patterns and rhyme schemes for various types of Classical Chinese poetic composition. wasn’t bad, that’s all.” 

“Only not bad?” Her eyes darkened. After a moment of thought, she persevered, still wanting me to praise her. 

“You’ve often said one needs feeling in order to write verses. I really put my feelings into writing this! For these two lines, I was talking about the time on that very cold night when we chatted under the eaves. I only wore an inner robe, and it was so cold I needed to be wrapped in a quilt…”

I placed the freshly ground tea leaves into a cup. Hearing her mention these past events, my heart rippled and I paused slightly. My voice became slightly more gentle in tone as I replied: “Alright, this line is very good.”

She gave a delighted smile. “I’ve thought of the following line already… A sweet fragrance in the wind approaches the Pearl Pavilion. You need to pair this line.”

I poured a little bit of hot water into a cup and placed the kettle back onto the tea stove before whisking the tea. This moment made me remember the first quarter moon, and I thought of this phrase: “The moon illuminates the cloudy sky, casting shadows like a pair of wings.”

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Seeing this, I suggested to the Princess: “The last line only has five characters. Your Highness had better be the one to pair it.”

She also agreed, lowering her eyelashes in concentration. Then, very soon, steam began to rise from the kettle as the water boiled with bubbles like fish eyes and crab eyes. Right at that moment, she suddenly opened her eyes and stared at me, smiling as though she wanted to say something. 

I felt very suspicious about how quickly she thought of this couplet and interjected: “Princess, have you finished thinking? Even though these last lines are short, they’re the finishing touches for the poem {Recalling Jiangnan}. They must be concise yet deep.”

She nodded repeatedly. “Of course, of course. The line I thought of can completely summarize the essence of that night. Compared with these lines, the ones before are complete rubbish.”

I carried the kettle and held the bamboo tea utensil, preparing to pour the water and pick out [any stray tea leaves]. [13]拂 (fú) means to flick or brush off. Inferring since there’s no mention of what the bamboo tea utensil is used for. 

Hearing her say this, I went along and agreed: “If so, this subject will listen with respectful attention.” [14]洗耳恭听 (xǐ’ěrgōngtīng) A polite request for someone to speak. Being all ears or willing to listen with respectful attention.

“A sweet fragrance in the wind approaches the Pearl Pavilion, the moon illuminates the cloudy sky, casting shadows like a pair of wings…” She repeated the earlier lines to get a feel for the language, then proudly announced what she had thought of for the finishing touch: “Taro spheres under the eaves!”

My hand trembled and several drops of boiling water splashed over the ground. I couldn’t help it and simply pushed away the tea set, giving a hearty laugh. 

Seeing my reaction, she pouted indignantly and slapped the table. “How brazen! You dare to ridicule this Princess?! I remembered the taro from that day and inserted it into a poem, what’s wrong with that?”

I laughed for a while before controlling myself with great difficulty. 

Standing up, I bowed towards her with my hands clasped before me and put on a solemn expression, saying: “This subject doesn’t dare to ridicule Your Highness; this one merely thought that the taro wasn’t round.”

“That was only because it had to rhyme…” she explained, as she continued to earnestly ponder it over. “Maybe, I could change the word… What other words pair well with taro?” She looked at me and carefully probed, “Sweet?… Salty?… Sour?” [15]Here, Huirou is trying to find a word to replace the last word of the verse, 圆 (yuán) – round, and thinks of 甜 (tián) – sweet; 咸/鹹 (xián) – salty; and 酸 (suān) – sour.

Forcefully suppressing the laughter that was rushing to burst out of me, I still gave a proper reply: “Replying to Your Highness, if a round taro and a sour taro cannot coexist, this subject would rather part with the sour taro and choose the round one.”

She happily exclaimed: “Didn’t I say so? A taro that one can casually hold in one’s hands is still better!”

Despite a faint feeling of longing, I still did my best to keep my composure. I half rose out of my chair and said to her: “This subject still has something to report, may Your Highness grant your approval.”

She magnanimously waved a hand. “Speak freely.”

“This subject… would like to laugh…” After these words were out I had already fallen back to my seat, bent over while laughing heartily. 

She seemed somewhat angry and pounced on me, starting to hit me. After hitting me twice neither gently nor forcefully, however, she couldn’t help but laugh herself. She tugged on my sleeve to cover her face, giggling incessantly. 

Just like this, I watched her talk and smile sweetly every day. 

I wished that these days could go on, the years quietly passing by. It seemed as if this carefree life had no end. 

Sometimes I would also recall her engagement, thinking that her descent could be the end of those beautiful days. 

However, in those times, I felt the same as she did, always thinking that ten years was an endless timespan.

It seemed as if that day would never come. 


TL Team Thoughts:

Hello dear readers,

Happy Spooky Day!! We hope you enjoyed the chapter and thank you for reading ^^

We have an extra note below in case anyone is interested in the poems in this chapter.
As well, here are two videos explaining Chinese Tea Ceremony – this might help you to picture how Huaiji is preparing tea while chatting with Huirou. We are also learning as we go!

We are still looking for someone to join our team as a translation checker for this series. If you’d like to help speed up translations, please contact Nyamachi :3

Until next time,

The Nyanovels Translation Team

Nyanovels’ Translation of {Three Poems Recalling Jiangnan} by Bai Juyi


Jiangnan is splendid, the landscape is familiar:
At sunrise, the river flowers are bathed in a fiery glow,
When spring comes, the river water becomes a greenish blue.
How can it be possible to forget Jiangnan?


Recalling Jiangnan, the most memorable is Hangzhou:
In the temple atop the mountain, one can search for Osmanthus seeds under the moonlight,
In the county pavilion, one can see a damp head sharing the same pillow.
When can we roam there even more?


Recalling Jiangnan, the next place one remembers is Wu Palace [in Suzhou]:
Wu wine is a cup of Spring Bamboo Leaves,
A pair of Wu beauties gave an intoxicating dance like the scent of Hibiscus flowers.
Someday [I] hope to return and meet them again

Baidu’s page explains all three poems in more detail. We also found Irelder’s English translation of the first poem! Their site features more translated Chinese poetry if you’re interested!


Last but not least, here is the stanza Huiru and Huaiji composed together that follows the same structure:

单衫薄, 双袖拥衾寒

A thin jacket, the sleeves block out the cold like a warm quilt.
A sweet fragrance in the wind approaches the Pearl Pavilion.
The moon illuminates the cloudy sky casting shadows like a pair of wings.
Taro spheres under the eaves.


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