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The statue of Xin Qiji, located in Changsha, Hunan, China.

Xin Qiji (28 May 1140 – 3 Oct 1207) was a great Chinese poet and military leader during the Southern Song dynasty.

Xin Qiji
Traditional Chinese辛棄疾
Simplified Chinese辛弃疾
(courtesy name)
(art name)
Traditional Chinese稼軒
Simplified Chinese稼轩



During Xin's lifetime, northern China was occupied during the Jin–Song Wars by the Jurchens of the Jin dynasty, a nomadic people from what is now north-east China then regarded as barbarians. Only southern China was ruled by the Han Chinese Southern Song dynasty. Xin was born in the modern city of Jinan in Shandong Province. In his childhood his grandfather told him about the time when the Han Chinese ruled the north and told him to be an honorable man and seek revenge against the barbarian for the nation. It was then when he developed his patriotic feelings. His grandfather named him after a legendary military commander from the Western Han, Huo Qubing. Both "Qubing" and "Qiji" mean to deliver oneself from diseases.[1]

Xin started his military career at the age of twenty-two. He commanded an insurrection group of fifty men and fought the Jurchen alongside Geng Jing's much larger army that consisted of tens of thousands of men. Although they had some small-scale victories, in 1161, because the Jurchen were becoming more united internally, Xin persuaded Geng Jing to join forces with the Southern Song army in order to fight the Jurchen more effectively. Geng Jing agreed but just as Xin finished a meeting with the Southern Song Emperor, who endorsed Geng Jing's troops, Xin learned that Geng Jing had been assassinated by their former friend-turned-traitor, Zhang Anguo (张安国/張安國). With merely fifty men, Xin fought his way through the Jurchen camp and captured Zhang Anguo. Xin then led his men safely back across the border and had Zhang Anguo decapitated by the emperor.[2]

Xin's victory gained him a place in the Southern Song court. However, because the emperor was surrounded by people who supported "an appeasement policy"[3] rather than open warfare with the Jin, Xin was sidelined. From 1161 to 1181, he held a series of minor posts that never amounted to anything momentous. Although during the same period, he tried to offer the emperor his treatises on how to manage the invasions by the Jin as well as other state affairs, he was never taken seriously. Finally he resolved to do things on his own. He improved the irrigation systems in his district, relocated poverty-struck peasants and trained his own troops. His ambition soon aroused suspicion against him. In 1181, he was forced to resign. He left for Jiangxi where he then stayed and perfected his famous ci form of poetry for ten depressing years.[4]

In 1192, Xin was recalled to the Song court to take up another minor post because the previous incumbent had died. This job did not last long because once he completed the requirements of his job, he started training men for military purposes again. He was soon discharged.[5]

In 1203, as the Jin began pressing harder against the Southern Song border, Han Tuozhou, the consul of the Southern Song court, in need of militarists, took Xin under his wing. However, Han Tuozhou disregarded Xin's sincere advice for effective military moves, and he removed Xin from his team the next year, accusing Xin of being lubricious, avaricious, and many other non-existent faults. The crucial moment came in 1207 when the Jin defiantly asked for Han Tuozhou's head for a peace treaty. It was then that Han realized that he needed Xin again. Xin did not hesitate in responding to Han's call for help; unfortunately, he died of old age soon afterwards.[6]


Some six hundred and twenty of Xin's poems survive today, all were written after he moved to the south.[7]


Scholars consider Xin equally talented in ci as Su Shi. Their difference, however, is that the content of Xin's poetry spans an even greater range of topics. Xin is also famous for employing many allusions in his poems.[8]

Some of the most quoted lines from his poetry (with accompanying translations) are shown below.



But in the crowd once and again

I look for her in vain.

When all at once I turn my head,

I find her there where lantern light is dimly shed.



"少年不識愁滋味,愛上層樓。 愛上層樓,為賦新詞強說愁。 而今識盡愁滋味,欲說還休。 欲說還休,卻道天涼好個秋。"

The rendition by Lin Yutang (with an ABBA, CDDC rhyme scheme) is:

"In my young days,

I had tasted only gladness

But loved to mount the top floor,

But loved to mount the top floor,

To write a song pretending sadness.

And now I have tasted Sorrow’s flavours, bitter and sour,

And can’t find a word,

And can’t find a word.

But merely say, “What a golden autumn hour!”

Another rendition is:

When young I never did know the taste of woe or sorrow,

Up to the top floor, I loved to go;

Up to the top floor, I loved to go,

For to compose new verses, I feigned my sorrow and woe.

Yet now that I've known the taste of woe, sorrow and bitterness,

I hesitate to mention it.

Hesitate to mention it,

What a beautifully chilly autumn! I say, after all.

In the last line, there is a sudden transition (leap) from Xin's personal understanding of melancholy to the season that he's experiencing. This leap probably presents itself as a formidable psychological and cultural obstacle for a non-Chinese speaker. The autumn carries many meanings in Chinese literature.

Deeper understanding of the last line is full of sadness :

The true sorrow can't be expressed by words;

or repeating the sorrow is another deep hurt;

or even you can find the words to show your bitterness , but no one understands it;

or even you can find people who understand your bitterness, but things have happened and nothing will be changed.

Same meaning was also expressed in others poems, for example, one by Fang Yue, "Life is full of disappointments, hardly any can we confide in others.” 宋人方岳诗:“不如意事常八九,可与人言无二三。”(《别才子方令》

The merit of this poem is talking about melancholy in a mild and subtle way with using autumn. This is one reason people love this poem and quote it ever so often today.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  2. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  3. ^ Lo.
  4. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  5. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  6. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  7. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  8. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  9. ^ translated by Xu Yuanchong(许渊冲), XU Ming(许明)

Liu, Zhongmei, Ed. Xin Qiji. Beijing: Wuzhou Chuanbo Chubenshe, 2005.

Lo, Irving Yucheng. Hsin Ch'i-chi. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971.

Further readingEdit

  • Deng, Guangming (2007). Biography of Xin Qiji (辛弃疾传) & Chronicle of Xin Qiji’s Life (辛稼轩年谱) (in Chinese). Sdx Joint Publishing Company. ISBN 978-7-108-02647-7.
  • Deng, Guangming (1993). Annotated Papers of Xin Qiji (稼轩词编年笺注) (in Chinese). Shanghai Antiquarian Press. ISBN 978-7-5325-1469-4.

External linksEdit