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Xìng 姓: Lù 陸
Míng 名: Yóu 游
Zì 字: Wùguàn 務觀
Hào 號: Fàngwēng 放翁
Archivo:Lu You Statue Nanji Hill.jpg

Statue in Fujian

Lu You (Plantilla:Zh-ts, 11251210), was a Chinese poet of the southern Song dynasty.


Early career[]

Lu You came from a family in which there were some government officials. At that time the southern Song dynasty was frequently invaded by the Jin Dynasty (金國). When he was one, Kaifeng (汴京 or 開封), the capital of Northern Song dynasty had been captured by the troops of Jin Dynasty. Lu You, who was still an infant, fled with his family. Because of the family influence and social turbulence in childhood, Lu You was committed to saving the nation by ousting the Jurchens (女真人).


Lu You's family gave him a good education, especially the education on patriotism, but his family --particularly his mother-- also brought misfortune to his marriage. He grew up with his cousin Tang Wan, who was quiet but good at literature. They fell deeply in love and got married when he was 20. But they didn't have any child, and his mother didn't like Tang Wan. Though they had lived happily together, his mother forced them to divorce in order to make him concentrate on studying and fulfilling his aspiration of saving the Song dynasty. In traditional Chinese culture, good children should be respectful and obedient to their parents. Lu You loved his mother and reluctantly divorced Tang Wan. Then, she married a nobleman Zhao Shi Cheng, and he married Ms. Wang (her first name eludes most researchers).

Lu You was very sad after his first marriage. One spring, at age 31, eight years after their divorce, he passed by Sheng's Garden and encountered Tang Wan and her husband by chance. Tang Wan asked her husband to let her send a glass of wine to Lu You. When her hands passed the wine to him, he saw her eyes brimmed with tears... His heart was broken, and he took the glass of bitter wine bottom up. He turned back and wrote down the poem “Phoenix Pin” on the wall of Sheng’s Garden within one breath. After this meeting with Tang Wan, he went up to the North against the Jin Dynasty and then turned down to the South Shu(Today’s Sichuan in China) to pursue his dream of unifying China as a whole nation.

Meanwhile, after Tang Wan read his poem, she immediately wrote one in the same form in response. In less than a year, she died. One year before Lu You’s death, at age 85, he still wrote another romantic loving poem “Sheng’s Garden” to commemorate his first love.

Official career[]

He passed the civil service examination, but was unsuccessful in his official career: he adopted a patriotic stance, advocating the expulsion of the Jurchen (女真) from northern China, but this position was out of tune with the times. He retired to Shaoxing (紹興) in frustration. His wife died in 1197.


Lu You wrote over ten thousand poems, in both the shi (詩) and ci (詞) forms, plus a number of prose works. In his poetry he continues to articulate the beliefs which cost him his official career, calling for reconquest of the north. Watson identifies these works as part of the legacy of Du Fu (杜甫). Watson compares a second body of work, poems on country life and growing old, to those of Bai Juyi (白居易) and Tao Qian (陶潛). Lu You had written a lot of poems in his whole life, more than 10000, still having 9300 after erasing some of them himself. His style can be divided into three periods.

First Period[]

The first Period of Lu You’s works is from his teenage years to age 46. This period lasts the longest, but keeps the least of his works, about two hundred poems, because he eliminated his early works through selection.

Second Period[]

Second Period runs from age 46 to 54, leaving approximately more than 2400 works of the shi and ci. During this period, he joined the military and was affected by that experience. Therefore the main style of this period's works becomes liberal, forthright, and splendid; his patriotic spirit heightens into another level. The maturity and richness presented in this period’s works establishes the sublime position among Chinese Literature ancestors.

Third Period[]

The third Period starts from moving back to his hometown until death. Because he didn't have enough time to eliminate his works through selection, abounding works, six thousand five hundred, live from this period. During this period, because he was old, lived with farmers, and had gone through ups and downs in the military and governmental office, his work in this period represents peaceful pastoral images, as well as the desolation and bleakness of human life.

Though his style changes through periods, his works are fully packed with furiously enthusiastic patriotism. This is the most important nature of his works, and the greatest reason they have been eulogized for almost a thousand years.


Lu You was born on a boat floating in the Wei Water River in an early rainy morning of October 17th, 1125 (Chinese calendar). That was the time the Song dynasty was frequently invaded by the Jin Dynasty. One year after his birth, the troops of the Jin Dynasty conquered the capital of Northern Song dynasty; his family fled from home while he was still an infant. Under such an influence, he determined to expel the Jurchen (女真) from the North and bring a United Song dynasty back even when he was very little.

At age 12, Lu You was already excellent in writing, mastered the skill of sword fighting, and delved deeply into war strategy. At age 19, he took the civil service examination, but didn't pass. Ten years later, he took it again; this time he not only passed it, he was the first winner in the region Lin Ann. But this triumph did not bring him any luck; oppositely, it brought big trouble to him. Qin Sun, who was the grand son of Qin Hiu (a notorious traitor to China and tremendous powerful aristocrat in the Song Dynasty), also took this exam, and Lu You's winning threatened Qin Sun's position, because Lu You was likely to be the first winner in the next year's national examination. In fact, not only Lu You, but all the potential winners of the next year's nation-wide competition got excluded, even some of the examination officers.

After Qin Hiu's death, he started his official career in government. Because he avidly proposed fighting against the Jin Dynasty and didn’t follow the mainstream, he was dismissed from his job. In 1172, he was hired to create strategic planning in the military. Military life opened his eyes and mind widely; he found his hope to fulfill his aspiration -- bringing broken China back to a whole nation. He wrote out plenty of unrestrained, untrammeled poems to express his passionate patriotism. But the Song Dynasty was so corrupt at that time; most officers just wanted to make a nice living; he couldn’t get the opportunity to deploy his talent.

In 1175, Fan Dia Cheng asked him to join his party. They had used to share similar interests via writing, and now behaved casual in the governmental society. Plus, because Lu You always felt there was no place for him to use his talent and ambitions to save the Song Dynasty, he started to become self-indulgent, enjoying drinking to forget his lack of success in personal life and career pursuit. He gave himself a nickname "Freed guy"(放翁), and was sarcastic to himself in his poems.

After several promotions and demotions in his governmental career, in 1190, he retired and lived in seclusion at his hometown Shaoxing (紹興), a rural area. He started to enjoy keeping in good health and like eating pearl barley and wooden ears. This habit kept his vision and hearing keen until death. Though during this period, he still ardently proposed fighting against the Jin Dynasty, but always got disputes and rejections. Finally on December 29, 1209(Chinese calendar), he died with the biggest regret – the Northern China was still in the control of the Jurchen (女真) – at age 86.


  • 《劍南詩稿》
  • 《渭南文集》
  • 《放翁逸稿》
  • 《南唐書》
  • 《老學庵筆記》
  • 《放翁家訓》
  • 《家世舊文》



  • To Son (示儿)

Lu You wrote many poems. One of his most famous is "To Son" (<<示儿>>). This is how it goes:





All turns to dust in my dying eyes,

only hatred is that a unified land is not seen.

When the day of the emperor's troops sweeping the North comes,

you must not forget to tell me before my tombstone.

This poem was composed by him when he was about to die.

What this poem means is that he doesn't mind not being able to take anything with him when he dies (死去原知万事空), but he is upset to see that China is not united as a nation (但悲不见九州同). He is telling his son that if this day ever comes (王师北定中原日), his family must not forget to go to his grave and tell him there (家祭无忘告乃翁。).

  • Rainstorm on Nov. 4 (十一月四日风雨大作)

僵卧孤村不自哀,尚思为国戍轮台。 夜阑卧听风吹雨,铁马冰河入梦来。

I slept stiff and alone in a lonely village without feeling self-pity. I am still thinking of fighting for my country. Deep into the night I lie down and hear the wind blowing the rain. The armored horses and the ice river came into my dream.

This poem was written when Lu was retired and old, but it shines with his patriotism and vivid depiction of the fighting scenes in the North.

  • Phoenix Pin (釵頭鳳)





Lily hands, rippling wine,

The town is filled with Spring like willows waving by.

Biting east wind, happiness thin,

a chest full of sorrow, years of separation.

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!

Spring is like before; the girl is pale and thin in vain.

Through the sheer silks, it’s the tearful eyes brimming.

Peach blossoms falling, glimmering pound freezing,

Paramount promise is still, glorious book hard to sustain.

Moan, moan, moan!

This poem is the tear of his real love story (see his marriage). In this poem, "Biting east wind" is a metaphor for traditional Chinese view about women. This view breaks his first marriage. "Glorious book" is another metaphor for his ambition of unifying China. But he doesn't seem to be successful in either of them (marriage and career). He also uses antithesis, which is very popular in Chinese poetry. It matches both sound and sense in two poetic lines, like "a chest of sorrow" pairing "years of separation" and "paramount promise" pairing "glorious book". The sounds are perfectly matching each other in Chinese. This poem falls in the first period of his works.

  • Mei Flower (卜運算元-詠梅)









Near the broken bridge outside the fortress, I am lonely and dis-oriented. It is dusk and I am worried alone, especially when the wind and rain start to blow. I do not intend to contest for the glory of Spring. I would rather be alone and envied by other excellent people. I would fall to become earth and be pressed to dust. My glory will be same as before.

Further reading[]

  • Burton Watson (ed.) (1984), The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry, Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-05683-4.
  • Burton Watson (trans.) (1994) The old man who does as he pleases, Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-10155-4.

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