Chinese & Art Classroom

Chinese Classical Poem 166 & Shirley Created Painting, Articel, Music & Poem Songs 166 for: Chile Chuan by Hu Lvjin June 8, 2014 in China /Feb 19, 2014 in USA

Listen to Shirley Singing the Poem in Chinese in the USA Feb 19, 2014
Listen to Shirley Singing the Poem in English in the USA Feb 19, 2014
Listen to Shirley Singing the Poem in Chinese & in English in USA Feb 19, 2014
Listen to Shirley Singing the Poem in English & China in the USA Feb 19, 2014

Listen to Shirley Explaining the Poem & Follow Me to Read It ( March 12,2012)
Follow Shirley to Read the New Words & the Poem ( March 12,2012)

Learn the Meaning of the Poem & It Created Background

See Shirley Created Paintings for the Poem in Beijing June 2- 8, 2014
See Shirley Created Paintings for the Poem in the USA Feb 18-19, 2014
See Shirley Created Paintings for the Poem May 31- June 3, 2012
See Shirley Created Paintings for the Poem Feb 26- March 1,2012
See Shirley Created Paintings for the Poem in Shenzhen, July 19,2010

The Main Meaning of the Poem and the Lyrics of the Song in English

Chi Le Song

Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 -589)
By Hu Lǜjin

Chile plain,
Lies at the foot of the Yinshan Mountains,
The sky is like domed yurt, enveloping the earth.
The dark-green heavens are vast, the wilds boundless.
When the wind blows the grass low,
The cattle & sheep appear there...

Chile plain,
Lies at the foot of the Yinshan Mountains,
The sky is like domed yurt, enveloping the earth.
The dark-green heavens are vast, the wilds boundless.
When the wind blows the grass low,
The cattle & sheep appear there...

The dark-green heavens are vast, the weald is boundless.
When the wind blows the grass low,
The cattle & sheep appear there...

Original Poem, Lyrics of the Song in Chinese and Pronunciations

You can click on any Chinese Character to open the New Character Board and see its Chinese pinyin, meaning, pronunciation and follow me to read it; you can also click on the links to enter the Vocal, Bilingual Poetry & Painting Series of Painting Column, or to enter the Classical Column of Chinese Language column.

敕勒歌 - Chì lèGē

南北朝 - nán běi cháo (420 -589)
斛律金 - HúLǜjīn

敕勒川 - Chì lè chuān,
阴山下 - yīn shāng xià。
天似穹庐 - tiān sì qióng lú,
笼盖四野 - lǒng gài sì yě 。

天苍苍 - Tiān cāng cāng,
野茫茫 - yě máng máng,
风吹草低见牛羊 - fēng chuī cǎo dī xiàn niú yáng。

About the Author & Background of the Poem

The poem 敕勒歌Chì lèGē -- Che Le Song   was created in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589).

It was first sung in the Xianbei Language in the Northern Dynasty (386-581, it includes the Northern Wei Dynasty, Northern Qi Dynasty, and Northern Zhou Dynasty) . and then it was translated into Chinese language.

There are two opinions about its author . One opinion is that it was created by an anonymous person; the other opinion has it created by a military officer under the first emperor Gao Hua of the Eastern Wei --   Hu Lǜ Jin in 546.

Chi Le, was called “Ting Ling”   in Han Dynasty (206 BC   --   221 ) and it was also known as Chi Le in Wei (220-265), Jin (265-420)and the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 -589).

Chi Le people were famous for creating vehicles with high wheels. The largest diameter of the wheels was 1.4 meters. The height of the vehicle was similar as a horse, higher than an ox. It could go across places covered with tall grass, thick snow or swamps. So, the southern people are also called Chi Le People " Gao Che --   High Vehicle".

In the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C. 206 BC ) and Han Dynasty (206 BC -- 221 AD) , the ancestors of the Chi Le lived in what today is referred to as the Baikal valley. At the end of the Han Dynasty ( 206 BC -- 220 AD) and the Southern and Northern Dynasties, most of Chi Le people migrated or were forced to move to the South.

The rich southern area of the great desert became their nomadic place. As more and more Chi Le people gathered there, this place was called 敕勒川 Chì lè chuān -- Chi Le Plain.

As the Chi Le people moved into the Chi Le plain during the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the Northern area of the Yellow River of China was governed by another nomadic nation -- Xianbei. Eventually Chi Le and Xianbei people integrated together.

In 534 AD, North Wei was split into Eastern Wei and Western Wei. In 546, they went to war. The first emperor of the Eastern Wei -- Gao Huan led an army with 100,000 soldiers to fight with the Western Wei. After fighting for about 50 days, he lost 70,000 soldiers.   

During the retreat, a rumor said that Gao would die because he was hit by an arrow. Wounded and sick, Gao Huan gave his ministers a banquet in order to stabilize morale. To inspire enthusiasm, he ordered one of his military officers Hu Lǜjin to create a song that would express the hearts of both of Xianbei and Chile nations.

Then, Hu Lǜ Jin first sang Chi Le Song in Xianbei language. Gong Hua, his officers and all soldiers sang it with tears together, and at once, the army was inspired.

Since then, Chi Le Gong has been loved by Chinese people for 1478 years.

Enjoy the Poem

With just 27 simple Chinese characters, this poem expresses a huge artistic appeal, describs
how vast ,distant, wealthy and glorious the Chi Le Plain was, along with hints of the endless love of the Chi Le people have for the extensive grassland and their nomadic life.

The first two lines: 敕勒川 Chì lè chuān,阴山下 yīn shāng xià-- Le plain lies at the foot of the Yinshan Mountains.

敕勒 Chì lè, The nomadic Gaoche, also called Ding Ling, first appeared around Lake Baikal Valley and the basins of the Orkhon and Tura rivers. Then they settled down at the foot of the Yinshan Mountains, in today's Inner Mongolia, then it was also pointed the place that nomadic Gaoche lived. 川 chuān- plain, river; 阴山 yīn shāng -Yinshan Mountain; 下xià- down, below, here means at the foot of the Yinshan Mountains.

Yinshan Mountain is one of the ten largest mountains of China. It lies across the middle of the Inner Mongolia. The eastern part winds its way to the northwestern part of today’s Hebei Province, stretching about 1200 kilometers (about 1931 miles); the width from south to the north is 50 - 100 kilometers (80 - 160 miles). It is the northern borderline of the Yellow River valley, the boundary of monsoon and non-monsoon regions, and also forms the borderline between Chinese ancient nomadic culture and the agricultural culture / farm culture. A part of the Great Wall built in Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.) was just on the top of the Yinshan Mountains.

The first six simple but quite bright sound Chinese characters point out the geographical position and physical characteristics of the Chi Le Plain -- there is nothing to block people’s visual field .Only the endless plain stretches out as far as the foot of the Yinshan Mountains to meet readers’ eyes.

Behind the surface language, indirectly, we also see hints of something like the Chinese proverb :“一方水土养一方人 yī fāng shǔi tǔ yǎng yī fāng rén -    Each place has its own way of supporting its own inhabitants.” As a group of nomadic people, Chi Le People certainly have wide chests like the extensive grassland; they can live in the wilderness, they have certainly strong and brave national characters; the most important reason they love Chi Le Plain maybe not only for its beautiful view, but also that it is their source of livelihood.

So, I feel, the first two lines, tell us not only where the Chi Le is, but also, what Chi Le people were like and how they love this land.

The next two lines: 天似穹庐 tiān sì qióng lú, 笼盖四野 - lǒng gài sì yě -- Sky is just like a domed yurt covering/ enveloping the earth. 天tiāmeas sky, heaven ; 似 sìmeans like, 穹庐 qióng lúmeans   means    “domed yurt ”,    Today we call it    “ Meng Gu Bao - Mongolian yurt   ”. 笼盖lǒng gài means cover, 四野 sì yěmeans all around, here means earth.

You see: What a wonderful comparison that is to say the sky is like a domed yurt,! The size of a little yurt is just like the huge sky. The shape of the little yurt is also just like the huge sky. we can easily understand how Chi Le People were proud and loved their home and land.

Based on this background, the two lines paint out how extensive the sky and the land is and write out the most typical life character of Chi Le nation, and describe a great Northern landscape for us.

The fifth and sixth lines: 天苍苍 Tiān cāng cāng,
野茫茫 yě máng máng -- The heavens are dark green/blue and vast, the wilds is boundless “.

苍苍 cāng cāng means dark green and vast, describing   how the heavens are high and vast, so that the usual blue has been changed to be dark green. 野 yěmeans weald, wild; 茫茫 máng máng means endless, to describe the immense open wilds.

Repeating the same Chinese characters, emphasizes how wide and faraway the sky is and the vastness of the plain is, hinting as to how the Chi Le people would have the same vast chests, bold and uninhibited characteristics.

The last line: 风吹草低见牛羊 fēng chuī cǎo dī xiàn niú yáng -- When the wind blows the grass low, cattle and sheep appear there.”

风fēng, means wind, breeze; 吹chuī,means blow; 草cǎo, means grass; 低dī,means low 见 xiàn, means appear, also now this character is read: jian,means see, meet, but here, you have to read it xiàn.   牛 niú, means moo-cow, ox and cattle 羊yáng,means sheep, goat.

Because the grass is so plentiful and lush, everything was concealed inside. Now, the wind is blowing the grass low, and the flickering cattle and sheep appear everywhere.

Based on the macroscopic and static description in the first six lines, this line switches the writing to the other subject, with three verbs    “ 吹chuī - blow”, “ 低dī-- low” and “见 xiàn - appear” in a line that there is only 7 Chinese characters in it with so much passion, just like something from the beginning to the end without stopping,    this line pushes the poem from static state to the activity, from the entire description to the detailed statement, from the surface to the inside, reaching the climax. At once, the whole of the grassland is full of the vibrant with life.

In other words, the first 6 lines of this poem describes the plain, the great mountains, the sky and the wilds, creating a quite magnificently artistic conception, just like a play, the screen has been opened, we must see the actors or actress there, then the play can be started and go on. Therefore, there is the last line, to complete the poem -- all of the descriptions on the view are focused on a group or groups of cattle and sheep.

What a wonderful writing style, it is!   

Maybe you would like to ask, why do they sing high praise for Chi Le Plain as related to their life style?    The domed yurt is their living places, the grassland is the source of their food and clothes, they have certainly deep loving feeling to these things which are related to their life and fortune. Therefore, I would like to say, when they admire the plain and their cattle and sheep, they are just admiring their hometown.

For the same reason, this poem has a deeply strong national and local color.


Love is just the motivation. The deep love to the morthland of a soldier, helps him to give his life to protect his country; the love to a career of a person, helps him to give his time and energy to his work; the love to a wife or a husband, gives him or her endless power to do anything positive and helpful to the other...

As an eductor, maybe we have to help and train our students to have a couple of intelligent eyes, to love something or someone beautiful inside and outside, then to give themselves to help this earthe much more beautiful?
Even though this poem has been created for more than 1400 years already, every time I read it, I am touched by something beautiful inside. Therefore, after visiting my parents in Wuxi in Oct, 2005, on the airplane coming back to Shenzhen, when I   looked at   the vast and blue sky,   white floating clouds, thought of this was the first time, my mother saw and heard what I had created, this was the first time, she encouraged me to create my own music after she had been against me to learn painting and music since my teenager times, tears could not help flowing on my face silently, then took out of my notbook and wrote a piece of music to match this poem with so many tears on the airplan. Then I have also created 4 paintings to match the music and the poem since July 2010, the 4th one was painted in my 5th travel in the USA, Feb 20, 2014

I do hope that my effort will be of some help with your understanding of Chinese culture and learning Chinese language...

If you have any questions, comments and suggestions, please write to . You are welcome to publish your opinions in Message Board as well.

Shirley Yiping Zhang

Feb 23, 2014 in the USA/Oct 8, 2005 in China

comments powered by Disqus