Bai Juyi: Gathering the Dihuang Plants

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Gathering the Dihuang Plants

采 地 黄 者
麦 死 春 不 雨
禾 损 秋 早 霜。
岁 晏 无 口 食
田 中 采 地 黄。
采 之 将 何 用?
持 以 易 粮 粮。
凌 晨 荷 插 去
薄 暮 不 盈 筐。
携 来 朱 门 家
卖 与 白 面 郎。
与 君 啖 肥 马
可 使 照 地 光。
愿 易 马 残 粟
救 此 苦 饥 肠。
Cai Di Huang Zhe

Mai si chun bu Yu
He sun qiu zao shuang.
Sui yan wu kou shi
Tian zhong cai di huang.

Cai zhi jiang he yong?
Chi yi yi liang liang.
Ling chen he cha qu
Bo mu bu ying kuang.

Xie lai zhu men jia
Mai yu bai mian lang.
Yu jun dan fei ma
Ke shi zhao di guang.
Yuan yi ma can su
Jiu ci ku ji chang.

 

Gathering the Dihuang Plants

Grains die with no spring rain
Standing rice damaged with an early autumn frost.
Late in the year more mouths than food
Amid the fields they gather dihuang.

Why do they gather this, and for what reason?
It can be bartered as animal feed to get human food.
Wear lotus leaf hats before entering the fields
Early sunset and their baskets not filled.

At the wealthier households they arrive
Barter their dihuang to the young officials.
They give it to their already plump horses
It turns their coats into light earth tones
In exchange the farmers receive leftover horse millet
This will rescue their insides from the pains of hunger.

 

Notes:

Dihuang: (Rehmannia Glutinous) The dried roots are one of the fifty fundamental herbs used in Chinese traditional medicine. Also known as “Chinese Foxglove“, the farmers in this poem have gleaned their fields to use dihuang as barter with the wealthy horse owners to get food for the family.

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