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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Today is 清明节, a time for people to honor their ancestors. This reminded me of a little poem written by 杜牧 of Tang dynasty:


One thing is interesting is that the above punctuation is modern western punctuation. When the poet wrote this poem, such kind of punctuation did not exist in Chinese literary works. So this is where the fun is. If we play around with the punctuations in this poem, we will make the poem to yield different meanings.

Version #1
清明时节,雨纷纷。路上,行人欲断魂。借问:“酒家何处有?” 牧童遥指:“杏花村。”

Version #2
清明,时节雨。纷纷路上行。人欲断魂。借问酒家:“何处有牧童?” 遥指:“杏花村。”

Version #3

Of course, this kind of playing really does not do justice to a great literary work, and twists the original meaning. And also I vaguely remember that I read something like this long ago.