Anybody know what my Chinese friend is saying about Zhuangzi's "butterfly dream"?

I recently shared Zhuangzi’s “Butterfly Dream” story on Facebook. A Chinese friend of mine responded with what I think is a phrase but I don’t know what it means.

My friend’s response:


Here was my post:

Once upon a time I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering here and there, for all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, I didn’t know that I was Zhou. Soon I woke up, and there I was, really just myself again. Now I don’t know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. --My friend Zhuangzi (Zhuang Zhou) around 2300 years ago.

Thanks in advance!

I got curious and looked it up. Here’s what I found.

It is from a 9th century Chinese poem by Li Shangyin (李商隱) titled “锦瑟” (Jin Se - “The Adorned Zither”).
In his poem, Li quotes Zhuangzi’s butterfly dream story, 庄生晓梦迷蝴蝶.
So it looks like your friend answered your famous old Chinese quote with another of a kind.

From what I gathered, it may be interpreted as follows (I don’t know which one’s right for the latter clause).

庄生(Zhuangzi) 晓梦(dreams) 迷 (get lost with) 蝴蝶 (a butterfly)
→ Master Zhuangzi was dazzled by the butterfly in his dream

望帝(Emperor Wang) 春心(spring sentiments) 托(put in someone’s care) 杜鹃 (a beautiful kind of cuckoo)
→ Emperor Wang felt his feelings of spring through cuckoo’s calls ??
→ Emperor Wang sent his spring sentiments to a cuckoo ??
→ Emperor Wang’s kindness was spread in spring by cuckoos scream ??

(some lines above are from

This is classical Chinese not easily accessible for most people.

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Thank you for finding that, I appreciate it! : )

This phrase is well known in Japan.
I wonder if you have a time machine. If one of your Chinese friends were still alive, he would be around 2,300 years old.



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Haha Yutaka, sometimes we find friends who lived long ago from what they’ve written down for us. :slight_smile: