Ode to the Red Cliff (赤壁賦)


Dublin Core


Ode to the Red Cliff (赤壁賦)


Ancient Calligraphy
Chinese Calligraphy
Calligraphy Masterpiece
Famous Calligraphy
Regular Script (楷書)
Song Dynasty (宋朝)
Su Shi (蘇軾)


Su Shi (蘇軾) and his friends was traveling to Red Nose Cliff (赤鼻磯) in the west of Huangzhou (黃州). Su then wrote these two poems called "Ode to the Red Cliff (赤壁賦)" to recall the Battle of Red Cliff (Battle of Chibi 赤壁之戰) back in 208 CE. depicted the bravery of great historical figures, hypocritical nature of people and his philosophical views. Later, the place was known as "Dongpo's Red Cliff".


Su Shi (蘇軾)


Song Dynasty (宋朝)


Fu Yaoyu (傅堯俞)


National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院), Taipei (臺北市)


The Cold Food Observance (寒食帖)


Ink on paper
23.9 x 258 cm
Regular script (楷書)







Spatial Coverage

The poem describes Su Shi and friends' trip to the Red Nose Cliff (赤鼻磯) west of the town Huangzhou (黃州).

Calligraphy Item Type Metadata


壬戌之秋,七月既望,蘇子與客泛舟遊於赤壁之下。清風徐來,水波不興。舉酒屬客,誦明月之詩,歌窈窕之章。少焉,月出於東山之上,徘徊於鬥牛之間。白露橫江,水光接天。 縱一葦之所如,陵萬頃之茫然。浩浩乎如馮虛禦風,而不知其所止;飄飄乎如遺世獨立,羽化而登仙。
於是飲酒樂甚,扣舷而歌之。歌曰:“桂棹兮蘭槳,擊空明兮溯流光。渺渺兮余懷,望美人兮天一方。”客有吹洞簫者,倚歌而和之。其聲嗚嗚然,如怨如慕,如泣如訴,余音嫋嫋,不絕如縷。 舞幽壑之潛蛟,泣孤舟之嫠婦。 
蘇子愀然,正襟危坐,而問客曰:“何為其然也?”客曰:“‘月明星稀,烏鵲南飛’,此非曹孟德之詩乎?西望夏口,東望武昌。山川相繆,郁乎蒼蒼,此非孟德之困於周郎者乎? 方其破荊州,下江陵,順流而東也, 艫千裏,旌旗蔽空,釃酒臨江,橫槊賦詩,固一世之雄也,而今安在哉?況吾與子漁樵於江渚之上,侶魚蝦而友麋鹿,駕一葉之扁舟,舉匏樽以相屬。 寄蜉蝣於天地,渺浮海之一粟。哀吾生之須臾,羨長江之無窮。挾飛仙以遨遊,抱明月而長終。知不可乎驟得,托遺響於悲風。” 
蘇子曰:“客亦知夫水與月乎?逝者如斯,而未嘗往也;盈虛者如彼,而卒莫消長也。蓋將自其變者而觀之,則天地曾不能以一瞬;自其不變者而觀之,則物與我皆無盡也,而又何羨乎? 且夫天地之間,物各有主,茍非吾之所有,雖一毫而莫取。惟江上之清風,與山間之明月,耳得之而為聲,目遇之而成色,取之無禁,用之不竭,是造物者之無盡藏也,而吾與子之所共食。”


It was the 7th month in the autumn of the year Ren Xu when the full moon was just a little on the wane, I, Su Shi, went boating with my friends in the river near the Red Cliff.
A fresh cool breeze was blowing, too gentle to ripple the water. Raising my cup, I toasted my friends, recited and chanted the verses on the Bright Moon from Classic of Poetry (Shijing 詩經).
A little later, the moon rose from behind the eastern mountain and began to roam between the Southern Dipper and the Ox (Altair). White mist heaped up across the river, and the moonlight stretched far into the horizon to merge with the hues of the sky.
Like a piece of reed, our boat drifted on a boundless expanse of water, so vast that we felt as if we were riding in the wind, not knowing when to come to a halt. We felt so ethereal as if we were ascending into heaven and becoming winged immortal.
“Oh, the oars and paddles made from the timber of Artocarpus (桂木) and Magnolia (玉蘭), splashing in the clear water, and the boat sailing up the moonlit river. Unbound is my mind, longing for the virtuous man in my heart who is beyond the remote horizon.”
A Xiao (flute) player among the friends accompanied the verse. The music kept streaming out and lingering in the air, so melancholic that it sounds like a continuous sigh of sorrow or like a ceaseless weep with grief. The lingering sound was as unbroken as silk, capable of enticing a dragon perched in a deep abyss to rise and dance, or making a widow in a solitary boat to weep.
Sitting up, I, Su Shi in a serious tone, asked the player, “Why is the music so sombrely stirring”
The friend replied, “‘The moon is bright, the stars are sparse, the crows are flying south.” Isn’t this the poem of Cao Mengde? The place we have now reached faces Xiakou to the West and Wuchang to the East, and is heavily enshrouded by verdant mountains and stretching water. Isn’t this where Cao Mengde was besieged by Zhou Yu?
At that time Cao took Jingzhou, seized Jiangling, and then rolled eastward down the Yangtze River in warships chained up for over a thousand miles, with flags and pennant flaunting in defiance of the vast open skies. Cao drank with pleasure before the river and composed his poems with his lance resting on his lap. Cao was indeed a hero for his generation but where is he now?
You and I are fishing in the river, gathering firewood in the islet, with fish and shrimp as our companions and milu (deer) as our friends, and riding a boat while drinking from our simple gourd cups.
We are like mayflies wandering in this terrestrial world or a grain of millet drifting on a deep ocean. What a short life span we have, yet how endless the Yangtze River is!
I wish we could travel with flying immortals in heaven or hold the bright moon in my arms through eternity. I know this is not something easily obtainable and therefore I can only leave the melancholy (flute) music to the desolate (autumn) wind.”
I, Su Shi commented, “Do you happen to know the nature of water or the moon? Water is always on the run like this, but never lost in its course; the moon always waxes and wanes like that, but never out of its sphere.
When viewed from a changing perspective, the universe can hardly be the same even within a blink of an eye,
But when looked at from an unchanging perspective, everything conserves itself, and so do we. Therefore, what’s in them to be admired?
Besides, in this universe, everything has its rightful owner. If something does not belong to you, then you shall not even have a bit of it.
Only the refreshing breeze on the river and the bright moon over the hills are an exception. If you can hear it, it is a sound to you; if you can see it, it is a view to you.
It never ends and is never exhausted. It is the infinite treasure granted to us by our Creator for both of us to enjoy.”
My friends were gladdened and smiled. We had our cups rinsed and refilled. Soon all the dishes and fruits were gone With plates and cups left scattered all over, we leaned against each other and felt asleep right in the boat, unaware that it was dawning in the east.
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