Pity the Farmer 憫農 by Li Shen 李紳 (translation)

This is my translation of a Tang Dynasty poem, written by Li Shen (772-846)a politician who sighed on witnessing the toil of peasants.  Words, words, words…





One grain of corn sown in Spring

Ten thousand grains in Autumn brings

No field lies fellow within the four seas

Still the farmers fell from starvation

Translated by Mary Tang (c) 2016


From his position of great wealth and power the poet wrote these words that are repeated to this day.  However as a politician he made no changes to the system.  The rich continued to get richer until the poor rebelled.  It was no wonder that the Communist Party succeeded in China – yet, the cycle is repeating.

About Mary Tang

An urban orchardist everyday, a volunteer regularly, a poet sometimes and a blogger since March 2015. I travel when I can. Food is a constant.
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15 Responses to Pity the Farmer 憫農 by Li Shen 李紳 (translation)

  1. Dalo 2013 says:

    Boy, this is a powerful, powerful, powerful poem. Relevant to the world today, everywhere…and considering this poem was written in the Tang Dynasty, the sadness is things simply do not change. I think you have just introduced me to one of my favorite poems (top 5 for sure…). An ode to farmers everywhere. An ode to the blue-collar workers everywhere who make the world go round.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. angela1313 says:

    I enjoyed that I could follow the poem and your translation. I remember my reading in university about “speak bitterness” meetings where the cadres would come into a village and ask the common people what their complaints were. It is not just China where this cycle repeats, unfortunately, it seems to be a world phenomenon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An interesting insight, Mary. When we hear so much about the burgeoning Chinese economy


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