Old Poem Saturday – The Red Cockatoo – Chü-i

TheRedCockatooPo Chü-i (also known as Bai Juyi, depending on the system of translating Chinese to English) was a mid-level government official who survived the turbulent politics of his day and became known for writing poems about his career and daily life. He doesn’t mince words in this short poem, “The Red Cockatoo” (Annam was a province in southern China in Po Chü-i’s day). Thanks to the translator Arthur Waley (1889 – 1966), Po Chü-i’s work has been accessible to western audiences for nearly 100 years now. Photo collage and composition by me. Have a great weekend!


  1. The military satire that follows draws attention to the joy of being alive and the futile waste of human beings in war; while the next poem notes how precious time is when one is old. The short satires on philosophy and on the valuation of learning are examples of his humor.


    1. Agreed! Waley said that he decided to preserve meaning over style in his translations for modern western readers – so it is possible it is even more succinct in Chinese!

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