betel chewing
chewing a piece of areca palm nut and a leaf of the betel tree, smeared with lime past, the effect is mildly stimulating and narcotic
 
lustful monk
the title of one of Hô Xuân Huong’s poems
 
fortune scrolls
scrolled up piece of paper revealing the fortune of its owner
 
fishes and spiders
signs of good luck coming
 
samsara
is the beginning-less cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again
 
red dust
or worldly dust, refers to the perishable world or samsara
 
five realms
Buddhist cosmology typically identifies six realms of rebirth and existence: gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hells. Earlier Buddhist texts refer to five realms rather than six realms; when described as five realms, the god realm and demi-god realm constitute a single realm.
 
my dragons come here to die
the dragon is a symbolic creature, weather good or bad, in the folklore and mythology all around the world, at some point in our thinking we must overcome good and bad
 
form eats emptiness, space swallows form
is a play with the Heart Sutra, like form is emptiness, emptiness is form and emptiness is not form, form is not emptiness
 
around coin with square hole
old style coins were pierced with a square hole
 
áo dài
the áo dài is a Vietnamese traditional clothing, commonly worn by women, in its current form it is a long tight-fitting silk tunic worn over trousers. Áo translates as shirt. Dài means “long”.
 
long zither
or guzheng (古箏), also known as the Chinese zither, is a Chinese plucked string instrument with a more than 2,500-year history. It has 16 (or more) strings and movable bridges, the modern guzheng usually has 21 strings, the guzheng is ancestral to several other Asian zithers, such as the Viet- namese đàn tranh, the guzheng should not be confused with the guqin, another ancient Chinese zither but without moveable bridges
 
pear-shaped lute
or pipa (琵琶) is a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments, sometimes called the Chinese lute, the instrument has a pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12 to 26, the pipa is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for almost two thousand years in China, several related instruments in East and Southeast Asia are derived from the pipa; these include the Vietnamese đàn tỳ bà
 
đàn tranh
see long zither
 
speaking in six musical tones
in the Vietnamese language a word can hold six separate meanings depending on the tone, this way poetry and song are very close, but also a whole world of double meanings enter the play of poetry
 
tell the flower girls not to step on the grave of Hô Xuân Huong
referring to the lines of a famous poem written after Hô Xuân Huong death:
( … )
Tell the flower girls to pick some,
Not stepping on Hô Xuân Huong’s grave.
( … )
 
duyên
when a man and a woman have duyên, it not only means that they are right for each other, but that their love is actually fated, inevitable
 
western paradise
the Western Paradise (or Sukhāvatī) refers to the western pure land of Amitabha Buddha
 
the gate of great synthesis and the pond of heavenly clarity
can be found in Hanoi inside the Văn Miếu – Quốc Tử Giám or the Temple of Literature, the oldest university of Hanoi
 
compassion
compassion involves allowing ourselves to be moved by suffering and experiencing the motivation to help alleviate and prevent it, an act of compas- sion is defined by its helpfulness, the Dalai Lama has said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”
 
the boat of compassion
refers to the notion that only by practicing compassion we can travel to the other side or the western paradise
 
bring us to the other shore
is also a play with the Heart Sutra ‘the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore’ refers to the practise of compassion
 
wait for the grass to give light
the Vietnamese bodhisattva vow is ‘to refuse nirvana until even the grass is enlightened’
 
 

The beautiful Chinese translations are done by different translators:

Prologue / spring festival by Yuhan (玉函)
In a musical garden by Qiqi Lu (鲁奇琦)
The whitewash fragrance of flowers / spring afternoon in a boudoir by Ying Ma (麻莹)
Bedtime puppetry / epilogue by Yipu Wei (魏一璞)