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Mao Zedong's poetry

Mao Zedong's poetry  Masterpiece



The poetry of Mao Zedong (1893-1976) embodies the uplifting principles of the Communist Party and the great spirit of the Chinese nation. The 68 published poems written by Mao Zedong embrace the Chinese revolution through half a century and possess profound ideological meanings -- extolling the heroic revolutionary life led by the proletariat; reflecting a great revolutionary's lofty ideals, remarkable vision and courage; expressing friendship and love under revolutionary conditions.

Mao's poetry exhibits a spirit of boldness and power, weaving together history, reality and commitment, and going beyond the limitations of time and space. When writing about history, he kept his sights on reality and lets history encompass the sequence of events; writing about reality, he posited the possibility of a better world in the future; and when writing about ideology, he based it on facts and deployed myth and imagination within a framework of realism. Mao Zedong advocated a method of literary composition that combines revolutionary realism and revolutionary romanticism, and his poetry was a synthesis of his theory and practice.

Bold transformation of myth and literary quotations are a distinct feature of Mao's poetry. His poetry also radiates sweeping and colorful derivation, like in Spring in a Pleasure Garden(Snow), which described grand and beautiful imagery, and The Moon over the Qin Bower (the Loushan Pass), which was meant to portray a brutal battle scene. What people garner from the poem, however, is a fig with deep colors and elegant structure. The use of colors in poems not only made tangible the poet's feelings but also deepened the reader's grasp of the poem. Mao was good at using simile and "evocation" in his poetry, as when he compared a hawk's acumen and vigor to a revolutionary's keen insight and generosity, or, a plum blossom to the common people's nobility. 

Mao's poems are in the classical Chinese verse style, rather than the newer Modern Chinese poetry style. Like most Chinese intellectuals of his generation, Mao immersed himself in Chinese classical literature. His style was deeply influenced by the "Three Lis" of the Tang Dynasty: poets Li Bai, Li Shangyin, and Li He. He is considered to be a romantic poet, in contrast to the realist poets represented by Du Fu.

Mao Zedong's poetry has been translated into English, Russian, French, German, Japanese, etc., exerting a far-reaching influence in the world.





Tune:"Spring in a pleasure garden"

December 1925


In autumn cold alone stand I,

Of Orange Islet at the head,

Where River Xiang northward goes by.

I see hill on hill all in red

And wood on wood in a deep dye,

The river green down to the bed,

In speed a hundred barges vie.

Far and wide eagles cleave the blue,

Up and down fish in shallows glide:

All creatures strive for freedom under frosty skies.

Lost in immensityI wonder who

Upon this boundless earthdecide

All beings’ fall and rise?


With many friends I oft came here.

How thick with salient days the bygone times appear!

When,students in the flower of our age,

Our spirit bright was at its height,

Full of the schlar's noble rage,

We criticized with all our might.

Pointing to stream and hill,

Writing in blame or praise,

We treat'd like dirt all mighty lords of olden days.

Do you remember still,

Swimming mid-stream, we struck waves to impede

That boats which passed at flying speed?






Spring 1927


Wide, wide through the land flow nine streams full to the brim;

Long, long from south to north threads one line deep and dim.

Shrouded in grizzling mist and drizzling rain,

Tortoise and Snake hold the River in chain.

Where is the yellow crane in flight,

Leaving for visitors a site?

I pledge with wine the endless flood;

With rolling waves upsurges my blood.




The autumn harvest uprising

Tune:"The moon over the west river"

September 1927


Our Army rose for proletarian revolution;

A hammer and a sickle mark our banners red.

From the Lu Mountains we marched with resolution;

To Rivers Xiao and Xiang we fought our way ahead.

The landlords piling up oppressions thick and high;

The peasants bearing common hatred one and all.

The evening clouds look heavy in the autumn sky,

The revolt breaks out as a thunderbolt does fall.




Mount Jinggang

Tune:"The moon over the west river"

Autumn 1928


Flags and banners in sight below,

Drum-beats mingle atop with bugle-blast.

Surrounded ring on ring by the foe,

Aloft we still stand fast.

Our ranks as firm as rock,

Our wills form a new wall.

The cannon roared at Huangyang Block,

The foe fled at night-fall.




The double ninth

Tune:"picking mulberries"

October 1929


Nature does not grow old as fast as man;

Each year the Double Ninth comes round.

And now the Double Ninth comes round.

How sweet are yellow flowers on the battleground!

See autumn reign with heavy winds once every year,

Unlike springtime.

Far more sublime,

The boundless sky and waters blend with endless rime.




New Year's Day

Tune:"Like a dream"

January 1930


Ninghua, Qingliu, Guihua:

Deep forests, slippery moss and narrow paths.

Where are we bound today?

Straight below.

Mount Wuyi we go our way.



The wind unrolls

Red flags like scrolls.




Against the first "encirclement"campaign

Tune:"Pride of fishermen"

Sping 1931


Under a frosty sky all woods in gorgeous red,

The wrath of godlike warriors strikes the sky overhead.

Mist shrouds Longgang and dims the thousand peaks about.

All voices shout:

"Ah! Zhang Huizan is captured by our men ahead!"


Two hundred thousand troops invade Jiangxi again,

Raising a cloud of dust sky-high like hurricane.

Arouse a million workers and serfs to take the gun,

United as one,

How wild below Mount Pillar our red flags will run!




Tune:Ching Ping Yue
Summer 1934

Soon dawn will break in the east.
Do not say "You start too early";
Crossing these blue hills adds nothing to one's years,
The landscape here is beyond compare.

Straight from the walls of Huichang lofty peaks,
Range after range, extend to the eastern seas.
Our soldiers point southward to Kwangtung
Looming lusher and greener in the distance.




Three poems of sixteen words





Whipping the steed without dismounting, I

Look back surprised

To be three-foot-three off the sky.




Turbulent sea with monstrous breakers white,

Or galloping steeds

In the heat of the fight.




Piercing the blue without blunting the blade,

The sky would fall

But for this colonnade.




The pass of mount Lou

Tune:"Dream of a maid of honor"

February 1935


The wild west wind blows strong;

The morming moon shivers at the wild geese's song.

On frosty morn

Steeds trot with hooves outworn

And bugles blow forlorn.

Fear not the strong pass iron-clad on all sides!

The summit's now surmounted with big strides.

Surmounted with big strides,

Green mountains like the tide,

The sunken sun blood-dyed.




The long march

October 1935


Of the trying long march the Red Army makes light:

thousands of rivers and mountains are barriers slight.

The five serpentine Ridges outspread like rippling rills;

The pompous Wumeng peaks tower but like mole-hills.

Against warm cloudy cliffs beat waves of Golden Sand;

With cold iron-chain Bridge River Dadu is spanned.

Glad to see the Min Range snow-clad for miles and miles.

Our warriors who have crossed it break into broad smiles.




Spiral mountain

Tune:"Pure serene music"

October 1935


The sky is high, the clouds are light,

The wild geese flying south are out of sight.

We are not heroes unless we reach the Great Wall;

Counting up, we've done twenty thousand li in all.

Of Spiral Mountain at the crest,

Red flags wave in wanton winds from the west.

With the long cord in hand today,

When shall we bind the Dragon Gray?





Tune:"Spring in a pleasure garden"

February 1936


See what the northern countries show:

Hundreds of leagues ice-bound go

Thousands of leagues flies snow.

Behold! Within and without the Great Wall

The boundless land is clad in white,

And up and down the Yellow River, all

The endless waves are lost to sight.

Mountains like silver serpents dancing,

Highlands like waxy elephants advancing,

All try to match the sky in height.

Wait till the day is fine

And see the fair bask in sparkling sunshine,

What an enchanting sight!


Our motherland so rich in beauty

Has made countless heroes vie to pay her their duty.

But alas! Qin Huang and Han Wu

In culture not well bred,

And Tang Zong and Song Zu

In letters not wide read.

And Genghis Khan, proud son of Heaven for a day,

Knew only shooting eagles by bending his bows.

They have all passed away

Brilliant heroes are those

Whom we will see today!




Capture of Nanjing by the People's Liberation Army

April 1949


Over the Purple Mountains sweeps a storm headlong:

Our troops have crossed the great river, a million strong.

The Tiger girt with Dragon outshines days gone by;

Heaven and earth o'erturned, our spirits ne'er so high!

With our courage unspent pursue the foe o'erthrown!

Do not fish like the Herculean King for renown!

Heaven would have grown old were it moved to emotions;

The world goes on with changes in the fields and oceans.




Reply to Mr. Liu Yazi

April 1949


I cannot forget our tea-drinking at Canton,

Nor our verse exchanged 'neath yellow leaves in Chongqing.

After thirty-one years, back in the ancient town,

I read your fine verse 'mid falling blooms in late spring.

Do not grumble too much for fear your heart should break;

Try to take longer views in judging anything.

Do not complain too shallow is the Kunming Lake.

For watching fish, it's better than River Rich-Spring.




Reply to Mr. Liu Yazi

Tune:"Sand of silk-washing stream"

October 1950


Dawn came late to Crimson Land drowned in long, long night:

Demons and monsters danced for ages in great delight,

Five hundred million people yearned to reunite.

At the cock's clairon call the world sees broad daylight:

Music plays far and near,

songs from Yutian come here,

Our poets' verve attains an unprecedented height.





Tune:"Prelude to the melody of water"

June 1956


Having relished a cup of Changsha water

And then a dish

Of Wuchang fish,

I swim across the thousand-mile long river,

And as far as can reach the eye,

I find the wide, wide Southern sky.

Braving wild winds and waves, I feel more pleasure

Than strolling in a yard at leisure:

What freedom I enjoy today!

The Master on a stream did say:"Thus pass all things away!"


Sails in the wind go past,

Tortoise and Snake stand fast;

Great works are on the make:

A bridge will fly from north to south o'er there,

Turning the chasm into a thoroughfare.

Stone walls will stand across the river in the west

To hold back clouds and rains o'er Mount Witch's crest

Until between steep cliffs emerges a placid lake.

Mount Goddess standing still as before

Would feel surprised to find no more

The world of yore.




Farewell to the God of Plague

July 1958



To what avail were all these streams green and hills blue?

A little germ defied the best physician's skill.

Hundreds of hamlets saw men waste where weeds o'ergrew;

Thousands of dreary homes heard vampires sing their fill.

Riding the earth, one goes eight myriad li a day;

Ranging the sky, one sees Milky Ways from afar.

If the Cowherd inquired about the Plague God, say:

"His joy is washed away just as our sorrows are."



The vernal wind awakens myriads of willows;

Six hundred million are masters of wisest sort.

Crimson rain, as we wish, turns into fertile billows;

Green mountains, if we will, to bridges give support.

On five sky-scraping Ridges fell our mattocks silver-bright;

O'er the land with three streams our iron arms hold sway.

May we ask the Plague God whither he would take flight?

Burn paper boats with tapers to light his skyward way!




Shaoshan revisited

June 1959


I curse the bygone days which dim as dreams appear:

Thirty-two years ago when I left my homeland,

Red flags aroused the peasants to take up the spear,

While local tyrants brandished high the whip in hand.

More minds grow stronger for the martyrs' sacrifice,

Daring to move the sun and the moon to new skies.

Happy I see now wave on wave of corn and rice;

Here and there heroes come home at dusk as smokes rise.




Up Mount Lu

July 1959


A mountain stands in mid-air by the riverside;

Four hundred twists and turns lead to its crest green-dyed.

Cold looks may be cast on the world beyond the sea;

Warm winds sprinkle raindrops on mirrors of the sky.

Clouds cluster o'er nine streams where the yellow crane flies;

Waves roll down three eastern valleys whence smokes rise.

Were the poet Tao still in the Peach-Blossom Village,

Would he not find the fertile land there good for tillage?




Militia women----Inscription on a photo

February 1961


So bright and brave, with rifles five feet long,

At early dawn they shine on drilling place.

Most Chinese daughters have desire so strong

To face the powder, not powder the face.




Reply to A friend



Amid sailing white clouds Nine Mysterious Peaks tower;

Riding the wind,two Queens come down from the Green Bower.

Their bamboo canes specked with a thousand tears they shed;

Their pleated dresses made of myriad clouds rose-red.

Dongting's waves surge like snow to level sky and lake;

Long Isle overflows with songs to make the earth shake.

On wings of songs I soar into the wildest dreams

To see a Lotus land bathed in morning sunbeams.





The Fairy Cave

Inscription on a Picture Taken by Comrade Li Jin

September 1961


A sturdy pine, as viewed in twilight dim and low,

Remains at ease while riotous clouds come and go.

The Fairy Cave's a wonder wrought by Nature's hand,

The view from perilous peak is sublime and grand.




Ode to The Plum Blossom

Tune:"Pu Suan Tzu"

December 1961


Then spring departed in wind and rain,

With flying snow it's back again.

Though icicles from beetling cliffs still hang miles long,

One flower sweet and fair is there among.

Though sweet and fair, with other flowers she won't rival,

But only heralds spring's arrival.

When mountain flowers run riot for miles and miles.

Among them she will be all smiles.




Winter clouds

December 1962


Like cotton fluff fly winter clouds hard pressed by snow,

All flowers fallen now, for a time few still blow.

In the steep sky cold waves are swiftly sweeping by,

On the vast earth warm winds gradually growing high.

Only heroes can hunt tigers and leopards down,

No brave man will be scared by wild bears black or brown.

Even mume blossoms welcome a skyful of snow,

No wonder flies are frozen to death down below.




Reply to comrade Guo Moruo

Tune:"The river all red"

January 1963


Upon this globe so small

A few flies are running against the wall.

They hum and squeak,

With pain they shriek,

With spasms they squall.

An ant on a locust would boast 't was a big country;

A pismire could not find it easy to shake one tree.

At Chang'an the west wind is blowing off leaves dying,

Whistling arrows are flying.


Many deeds should be done

At the earliest date.

The earth turns round the sun,

For no man will time wait.

We cannot bear ten thousand years' delay.

Seize but the day!

The four seas are stirred up by angry clouds and waves,

The five continents convulsed by the storm which raves.

So many deeds Bear no delay. Sun and earth turn; Time flies away.

Ten thousand years are too long. Seize but the day! )

Sweep all vermins away,

Invincible for aye!




Ode to the eighth company

August 1963


Company Eight, Known far and near.

Well known for what? For its firm will.

Serving the people, Many a year,

Amid corruptions, Unstained still.

So it is called, Company good.

Our people's army, Learn from it you should.

All ranks and files, Be self-reliant!

Of all oppressions, Be e'er defiant!

You should not fear, Or sword or spear!

Fear nor the ghosts, Nor the vampires,

Nor the enemy,Nor the empires!

Ye sons are fine, Like cold-proof pine

Which pierces skies, And snow defies.

Well disciplined, Firm as a wall,

You're brave and fast,Like thunder blast,

Putting politics,First,above all,

Good at thinking,Analyse you could.

Analysis,Will do much good.

What good at length? Union is strength.

Army and people united as one,We are unrivaled 'neath the sun.