Three Kingdoms Poetry: Cao Cao

Home | Forum | SimRTK | History | Games | Graphics | Writing | Products | Links | Site Map

Three Kingdoms Era Poetry by Cao Cao

Translators and Sources Credited Under Titles
Return to: Three Kingdoms Poetry
Translator Notes in Blue

Index of Poetry

To My Wine (對酒)

Author: Cao Cao
Translated by:


To my wine I sing
of the times of peace,
when officers shall not make calls at the door.
The ruler is bright and virtuous,
His ministers loyal and trustworthy.
Abiding by propriety and courtesy,
The people have no cause for lawsuits.

From three years of farming, nine years of stores,
The granaries overflow with grains –
While the elderly have no need to labour.
Rainfall is abundant and of proper time,
The myriad of crops a great harvest yields.
From the highways are pulled back mighty steeds,
Their manure used to fertilize the fields.

From dukes down to viscounts,
all love the common people,
demoting the unworthy, raising up the good –
As fathers and brothers they nurture the people.
Those who defy the law
are punished according to the severity;
though none is so selfish as to take roadside property.
The jails are all empty,
and on Solstice day (1) no sentences are pronounced.

1: During the Han dynasty, sentences for criminals were pronounced on Winter Solstice.

All live to eighty or ninety,
and pass away only of old age.
The ruler’s compassion touches all creatures equally.

Hao Li Xing (蒿里行) (2)

Author: Cao Cao
Translated by:

2: Originally the tune for a dirge song.


Gallant men there were, from the Eastern lands,
rallying against the nefarious ones.
At Mengjin, where the last Alliance met (3),
they vowed
to free the Capital from the evil shroud.

3: Referring to the alliance led by the ruler of the Zhou state that eventually overthrew the Shang dynasty (circa 1066 BD).

Though their forces were one, their minds
divided; hesitant they marched
like geese leaderless.
And not long after,
they fought
among themselves; for profit they sought.

The younger Yuan (4) himself an emperor made,
In the north the other (5) carved a seal of jade.

4: i.e. Yuan Shu.
5: i.e. Yuan Shao, who carved an imperial seal planning to make Liu Yu emperor instead.

When last did armour leave the soldiers’ frames?
Lice and fleas infest the long-worn metal.
From a myriad families people are lost
to untimely death, while
sun-blanched bones lie bare in fields
abandoned, nor a cock-crow heard for a thousand li.
Of a hundred men who live here now,
would even one be left
by the morrow?
That very thought breaks my heart with sorrow.

Mo Shang Sang (Mulberry on the Fields) (陌上桑) (6)

Author: Cao Cao
Translated by:

6: The name of a tune/poetic style.


Driving a rainbow,
Riding crimson clouds,
I ascend the Nine Peaks to the Gates of Jade.

Crossing Heaven’s River (7),
Reaching Mount Kunlun (8),
I meet the Western Goddess, pay my respects to the Sun.

7: The Milky Way is the river separating the immortal and mortal realms in Chinese mythology.
8: Kunlun Mountain: the legendary abode of immortals in the physical world.

Chisong’s (9) my companion,
With Xianmen (10) I am friends –
I learn to nurture my spirit with the Tao that transcends.

9: Chisong: an immortal in Chinese myths.
10: Xianmen: another immortal in myths.

My food’s the immortal’s lingzhi (11),
My drink’s from fragrant springs,
My staff is made of laurel, and on my head an orchid ring.

11: Lingzhi: traditionally considered to be an herb that gives immortality, this mushroom is considered food for the gods. Often known by its Japanese name, reishi.

No mortal affairs or troubles,
No limits to where I go,
As swift as the wind blows in the universe I travel.

Though the shadow has moved not,
A thousand miles I’ve passed –
Ageless as the mountains but forgetting not the past.

(Return to Poetry Home Page)
All listed poetry is copyright by respective translators