Song of a Travelling Son

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we’d like to share with you a renowned Chinese poem composed by Meng Jiao(孟郊) in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It depicts a mother’s generous love, and has been passed down from generation to generation.


For your convenience, every line will be presented in this order: pinyin/Chinese characters/literal translation.

yóu zǐ yín
Song of a Travelling Son

cí mǔshǒu zhōng xiàn
A thread in the hands of a loving mother

yóu zǐshēn shàng yī
Is made into clothes for her departing son

lín xíng mì mì féng
Carefully she sews stitch by stitch

yì kǒng chíchíguī
dreading his delayed return

shuí yán cùn cǎo xīn
How can the tiny sprouting grass’s love

repay the kindness of the sun for three spring months?

注释 Notes:

游子: travelling son
吟: a kind of poetic/singing format
临行: to leave soon
意恐: be worried about, afraid
归: return
言: say
寸草: little grass (in this poem, it refers to the son)
报得: repay
三春晖: the light of the sun in the three spring months (in this poem, it refers to the mother’s generous love)