This is our translation of Mian Chao Da Hai, Chun Nuan Hua Kai (面朝大海,春暖花开) by the famous Chinese modern poet Hai Zi (海子). Scroll down for more detailed notes on the poem and the process of translating it.


A VIEW OF THE OCEAN AS THE WARM SPRING BLOSSOMS (Hai Zi)

Tomorrow — be a happy man
Feed the horse, chop up firewood, travel the world
Tomorrow — concern myself with grain and vegetables
I have a house, it faces the ocean as the warm spring blossoms

Tomorrow — write to all the people at home
Tell them how happy I am
Everything that flash of joy tells me,
I shall tell them all.

Give every stream, every hill, a gentle name

Stranger, I give you my blessings too
May you you have a sparkling future
May you end up with the one you love
And find joy in this mortal world

All I want is to face the ocean as the warm spring blossoms


面朝大海,春暖花开 (海子

从明天起,做一个幸福的人
喂马、劈柴,周游世界
从明天起,关心粮食和蔬菜
我有一所房子,面朝大海,春暖花开

从明天起,和每一个亲人通信
告诉他们我的幸福
那幸福的闪电告诉我的
我将告诉每一个人

给每一条河每一座山取一个温暖的名字

陌生人,我也为你祝福
愿你有一个灿烂的前程
愿你有情人终成眷属
愿你在尘世获得幸福

我只愿面朝大海,春暖花开


Note on the poem

A View Of The Ocean As The Warm Spring Blossoms was written in 1989 by the famous Chinese modern poet Hai Zi (海子), also known as Zha Haisheng (查海生). For a poem so preoccupied with the idea of happiness – variants of “happy” appear no fewer than four times – it has an unmistakably melancholic quality. Perhaps it betrays how the poet was feeling at the time. That same year, Hai Zi killed himself by lying in the way of an oncoming train. He was only 25.

It is telling that the poem’s narrator says he will be happy – not today, but from the next day onwards. There is a Chinese saying “明日复明日,明日何其多” (“tomorrow after tomorrow, how many more tomorrows?”), which scoffs at people who put things off endlessly. Yet the narrator’s deferral of joy is not the result of laziness, but more likely a form of acedia or an erosion of the will to go on. When he speaks of having a house facing the sea, does he mean a home of brick and mortar or a final resting place?

We came up with our own translations of the verse before combining what we felt were the best parts of our respective attempts. The combined version is the one you see on this page. 

Some phrases that sparked discussion when we were trying to translate them:

  • 面朝大海, 春暖花开 (miàn cháo dà hǎi, chūn nuǎn huā kāi): Literally, “facing the ocean; spring warm flower blooms”. It is evocative, concise, and fiendishly hard to translate. We struggled to do it justice.
  • 大海 (dà hǎi) This could mean either the sea or ocean. We went with “ocean”, because it has a warmer, rounder sound and goes better with “blossoms”.
  • 幸福 (xìng fú): Translated here as “happy” and “joy”, but the Chinese word encompasses happiness as well as a deeper sense of fulfilment or bliss. There is no equivalent word in English.

What do you think? Leave a comment or drop us an email if you have any feedback or suggestions on how this translation might be improved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s