For MotherWen Tianxiang (1236-1283)
This noble wife and mother’s time has come
To rise for heaven in the gods’ embrace;
Her grave forever near the hare and fox,
With tears that feel like hail upon my face.
Mǔ Dì Yī Bǎi Sì Shí Yī
Hé shí tài fū rén
Shàng tiān huí āi juàn
Mù jiǔ hú tù lín
Wū hū lèi rú xiàn
Transliteration and Notes
Mother Number One Hundred Four Ten One
What time wife husband person
Go-up heaven return console care-for
Grave long-time fox rabbit neighbor
Crying wailing tears like soft-hail
This is the 141st poem written about his mother, probably during the period of mourning. “Wife husband person” means “old dowager” or the mother of a noble or official. “Go-up heaven” means to pass away. The character for “console” could also be Ai, sixth of the legendary Flame Emperors from 2000 B.C. Some Vietnamese stories consider Emperor Ai to be the father of Au Co, a beautiful and immortal mountain fairy who gave birth to one hundred children who became the ancestors of the Vietnamese people. If the character here refers to Emperor Ai, then the line means his mother’s going up to heaven to be under his care.
The rabbit symbolizes the moon and longevity. In Chinese mythology, the Jade Rabbit lives on the moon, accompanying the Moon Goddess, constantly pounding medicine for the elixir of life. The fox symbolizes the afterlife and a fox sighting is seen as a sign from the spirit of the deceased.