Luo Yin Poem: The Yellow River – 罗隐《黄河》













[1] 阿(ē)胶:由驴皮熬制而成,具有药用价值。古时,阿胶以山东东阿县阿井水煎成,所以被称为阿胶。一般成块状,入水即溶,阿胶水近乎透明。

[2] 银汉:这里指银河。

[3] 昆仑:这里指昆仑山。郦道元《水经注》已经辩明“黄河发源于昆仑”一说,与昆仑的实际位置并不相符。但是诗人们仍然相信这种说法,李白就有“黄河西来绝昆仑,咆哮万里触龙门”的诗句。

[4] 高祖誓功衣带小:这里使用了汉高祖的典故,当年汉高祖刘邦平定天下,大封功臣时曾发下重誓说,“使河如带,泰山若砺”,汉代对功臣的分封才会失效。

[5] 客搓(chá):指登天的工具。汉代张骞曾经坐着木筏,误闯银河,当时的名士严君平夜观天象,说有“客星”闯入牵牛、织女星座,所以后人就称张骞所乘的木筏为“客搓”。

[6] 三千年:东晋王嘉《拾遗记·高辛》记栽:“黄河千年一清,至圣之君以为大瑞。”这里用黄河三千年一清夸张地表述时代的更替。

The Yellow River

Luo Yin

Don’t try to make the muddy Yellow River clean!

Could Heaven mirrored in the waves be clearly seen?

How could a winding stream go up the Milky Way?

Just out of Mount Kunlun, it is muddy like clay.

In vain the emperor swore to narrow it down;

Could a raft reach the Polar Star wearing a crown?

Who knows if it will clear up after three thousand years?

Why should you worry if clear or not it appears?

The poet satirizes the imperial government as the muddy Yellow River which could not be made clean, for it was muddy from its source.


“The Yellow River” is a seven-line poem written by Luo Yin, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. The first line of the poem uses the Yellow River as a metaphor for its inability to be clarified, implying the hypocrisy of the imperial examinations of the time. The first line of the poem uses the winding and turbid character of the Yellow River to express the accusation of the powerful and noble for using the imperial examinations for personal gain. The neck couplet uses allusions to further satirize the hold of the powerful families on titles and promotions. The last couplet, in a flirtatious tone, reveals the author’s disappointment with the imperial examinations and the officialdom. This poem is a representative poem of its kind, as it exposes and flays the chaotic and dark reality of the late Tang Dynasty.

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