Plum blossom stands for spirit of China
Tune: Song of Divination
Ode to the Mume Blossom
Beside the broken bridge and outside the post hall,
A flower is blooming forlorn.
Saddened by her solitude at nightfall,
By wind and rain she’s further torn.
Let other flowers their envy pour.
To spring she lays no claim.
Fallen in mud and ground to dust, she seems no more.
But her fragrance is still the same.
(Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
The plum blossom has long been a spiritual symbol in Chinese culture and a common image in paintings and works of literature. Together with the orchid (兰花), bamboo and chrysanthemum (菊花), the plum blossom was named one of the “four gentlemen” among plants, which were considered to have noble qualities – low-key but firm, peaceful but resilient (不屈的).
Just like a plum blossom standing alone against the cold winter, Lu You himself lived an eventful life. He devoted himself to the country, and yet his efforts weren’t always appreciated. But this didn’t affect his devotion, as we can tell from the last line of the poem: Even though the plum blossom has almost worn away, its spirit is still strong.
A lot of people have written poems by the name Tune: Song of Divination, Ode to the Mume Blossom, and two of them stand out – Lu You’s and another by Chairman Mao. Scholars often compare the two versions to see how they portray the plum blossom differently. While Lu depicted the flower in a melancholic (忧郁的) tone, Mao gave it a more positive vibe (氛围). In Mao’s version, the plum blossom isn’t a victim, but a fighter. It doesn’t strive for attention like other flowers, but it still enjoys its fair share of the spring. Now, let’s take a look at Mao’s version: