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
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.