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Chinese Idiom Chu Songs On Four Sides- sì miàn chǔ gē

2011-06-02 14:15 http://www.chinesestoryonline.com/ ChineseTime

 

 Chinese Idiom Chu Songs On Four Sides

 

  sì miàn chǔ gē

 

 四面楚歌

 

 

 

Background and Writer Comment:

      This Chinese idiom story is from "the Records of the Grand Historian (史记shǐ jì )".

      Later people derived the idioms of "Chu Songs On Four Sides--Si Mian Chu Ge" from this story. It refers to a helpless and critical situation.

 

        After the Qin Dynasty (221 - 206 BC) downfall, the State of Chu and the State of Han fought for control of China. In 202 B.C, Han forces led by Liu Bang, the king of Han, and the other two warlords, Han Xin and Peng Yue, attacked Chu from three sides and trapped the Chu king Xiang Yu in Gai Xia, which was called the Battle of Gaixia by later historians.

        To weaken Xiang Yu's forces before making a final assault, Han armies adopted the strategy of "Chu Songs On Four Sides", surrounding Chu forces on all sides, which soon put the latter in a difficult situation of lack of supplies. In addition, Liu Bang ordered some soldiers to sing folk songs from the Chu region, to lower the morale of Chu soldiers.

       At that chilling night, the Chu songs were being sung on all sides. The Chu soldiers cried out of homesickness and became worried about their families. They whispered: "Has Liu Bang occupied our homeland? How can he have drafted so many Chu people into his army?" Desperation and Panic quickly spread the Chu camps. Secret fleeing and surrendering happened everywhere.

       Even their king, Xiang Yu, also sank into a state of depression. Indulging himself in alcohol with his favorite concubine Consort Yu, he sang the famous Song of "Gai Xia《垓下歌》" to express his sorrow.

 

 

lì bá shān xī qì gài shì 。

力拔山兮气盖世。
My strength plucked up the hills,
My might shadowed the world; 

 

shí bú lì xī zhuī bú shì 。 
时不利兮骓不逝。 
But the times were against me,
And Dapple runs no more; 

 

zhuī bú shì xī kě nài hé !
骓不逝兮可奈何!
When Zhui (Xiang Yu's beloved war horse) runs no more,
What then can I do? 

 

yú xī yú xī nài ruò hé !
虞兮虞兮奈若何! 
Ah, Yu, my Yu,
What will your fate be?

 

        To prevent Xiang Yu from being distracted by his love for her, consort Yu committed suicide with Xiang Yu's sword after performing a sword dance for her husband for the last time. She was buried at Gaixia. The next morning, Xiang Yu led about 800 of his remaining elite cavalry on a desperate attempt to break out of the encirclement, with 5000 enemy troops hot on pursuit.

        When he retreated to Wu River, Xiang Yu lost all his men. The ferryman at the ford prepared a boat for him to cross the river, strongly encouraging him to do so because Xiang Yu still had the support of the people from his homeland in the south. Xiang said that he was too ashamed to return home and face his people because none of the first 8,000 young men from his homeland who followed him on his conquests managed to survive. He refused to cross and ordered his remaining men to dismount, asking the ferryman to take his war horse back home.

       Xiang Yu then dashed back to Han troops. After killing dozens of enemies, he suffered grave wounds. Before being captured, he committed suicide by slitting his throat with his sword.

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