Kerson Huang's 'Rubaiyat'

I read somewhere or other online that Kerson Huang (黄克孙), better known as a physicist (and translator/commentator on the Yijing) had translated, while an undergraduate, Fitzgerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam into classical-style 七绝 qijue (seven-character regulated verse in end-stopped lines). His translation was apparently highly praised by Qian Zhongshu, himself no slouch when it came to polyglot literature.

I looked around online and found a few excerpts from the translation (which is/was published in Taiwan under the title 鲁拜集), but no complete text, and no stores carrying the book. I remember being really disappointed by Guo Moruo’s translation of (Fitzgerald’s translation of) the Rubaiyat a few years ago; Huang’s translation is something else entirely. (I’ve been disappointed by almost all of the English->Chinese poetry translation I’ve seen, actually, but that’s a post for another day.) Check this out:


A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

Guo Moruo’s translation:


Kerson Huang’s translation:


Can anybody think of any place – preferably in Beijing or online – that would be likely to carry this translation? It’s not listed on Dangdang, Joyo, or the pan-Chinese Yesasia, so I suspect that it may be either out of print or just plain rare. My boss suggested that 三联 might have it, as they generally have a fair number of Taiwanese books in stock, but I haven’t yet had the chance to go by and look.

UPDATE 8/9: Thanks to Matt for posting the ISBN number. I’ve ordered the book from 三民網絡書店 online, and with any luck it should arrive in a week or so. Cool thing about Sanmin’s online ordering process: if you live in Taiwan, instead of getting the book(s) delivered to your home or office, you can get them delivered to the nearest convenience store and then go and pick them up at your leisure. I submit that this is awesome.

Unfortunately, it’s only an option for 臺胞, so I can’t test it out myself, but what an awesomely awesome idea.

UPDATE 8/13: The book arrived on Friday morning, which was pretty awesome itself. I’m really enjoying the translations, which are extremely free, often to the point of not really being recognizable. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you – Fitzgerald’s poems don’t bear a whole lot of relation to the original Persian, after all. I was thinking that it might be fun to play translator ping-pong: get a few poetically minded translators together, hand them randomly selected snippets from Huang’s translated Rubaiyat, and have them translate the translations into rhyming English verse – then get Chinese friends to do the same in the opposite direction. Would anybody be up for this?

Oh – and here are some of Huang’s translations.

落落心懷久不開, 酒酣拔劍斷琴臺.
忍敎智慧成離婦, 新娶葡萄公主來.

You know, my friends, with what a great carouse
I made a second marriage in my house.
Divorc’d old barren Reason from my bed,
And took the daughter of the vine to spouse.

是非原在有無中, 竭想窮思總是空.
借問一心問所好, 滿盃春酒漾嬌紅.

For “Is” and “Is-not” though with Rule and Line,
And “Up-and-down” with Logic I define,
Of all that one should care to fathom, I
Was never deep in anything but — Wine.

碧落黃泉皆妄語, 三生因果盡荒唐.
濁醪以外無真理, 一謝花魂再不香.

Oh, threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain – This life flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The flower that once has blown forever dies.

冥冥有手寫天書, 彩筆無情揮不已.
流盡人間淚幾千, 不能洗去半行字.
The Moving Finger writes, and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

Comments (8)

  1. Prince Roy wrote::

    you want I should just find you a copy here?

    Tuesday, August 8, 2006 at 8:00 pm #
  2. Matt wrote::

    you might have some luck online searching with the isbn# 9575860004. i think some taiwanese sites had it but it was way to complicated for me to figure out…

    Tuesday, August 8, 2006 at 8:33 pm #
  3. Thanks, Matt – that’s a big help. It does seem to be available online; don’t know if any of these sites ship to the mainland.

    PR – will check and see if I can order it online first; if not, then I’d be much obliged.

    Wednesday, August 9, 2006 at 4:07 pm #
  4. John wrote::

    Even your brain farts have translations of literature in them.

    (Or could you be the victim of your own prescriptivist classification system?)

    ((Speaking of “prescriptivist,” you must read Dinosaur Comics from yesterday.))

    (((I apologize for the excessive digressing.)))

    Wednesday, August 9, 2006 at 11:23 pm #
  5. Matt wrote::


    Speaking of digressions, did you ever get that T-Rex picture I emailed?

    Thursday, August 10, 2006 at 9:12 pm #
  6. Absurdfool wrote::

    pretty good translations
    your pingpong proposition could be workable

    Friday, September 1, 2006 at 11:02 am #
  7. Ghazaleh wrote::

    i was also interested in purchasing the Rubayiat in the chinese traslation by Mr. Huang. what website should i order it from?…plz help me
    thank you
    p.s (i’m persian myself and i would like to buy this book for my chinese master…your fast response is appriciated…thank you)

    Friday, September 1, 2006 at 11:58 am #
  8. Hi, Ghazaleh —

    I wasn’t able to find the Huang translation on any mainland websites, so I ended up ordering it from . Shipping was fast and cheap.

    Sunday, September 3, 2006 at 4:45 pm #

Trackback/Pingback (1)

  1. 博客李淼 » 每一代人的偶像 on Saturday, November 10, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    […] 一位博客关于黄克孙翻译的《鲁拜集》的介绍 […]