This very day last year, oh, at this very place,
A pretty face outshone the flowers of peach trees.
I do not know today where shines the pretty face;
Only the pretty flowers still smile in vernal breeze.
This is a famous narrative poem which tells a true experience of the poet. On his Qingming Festival outing, the poet walked to the dooryard of a village house. In the yard peach trees were in full blossom. The poet was thirsty and knocked on the door for water. A pretty girl came out and entertained him. Both the peach blossoms and the girl had left a deep impression on the poet. On the next Qingming Festival he came again. Peach trees in the yard were in full blossom as before, while the door was closed and there was nobody. Not seeing the girl he had been missing, the poet felt so much disappointed that he wrote this poem on the door.
Though short, the poem describes two scenes, one of the last year and one of this year; two objects, the girl and the peach-blossoms. The blossoms and the yard of the two scenes are alike but time is different. So the poet’s feeling is completely different from that of the last year because the girl is not there. It shows that the beautiful scene is less important than the longing for the girl, and no matter how enchanting the scene is, it’ll be insignificant without that person. The girl in the poem is very pretty, but the poet doesn’t directly tell how beautiful she is. He uses peach-blossoms as a foil. The poet can’t tell which is more beautiful, the flowers or the girl, implying that the girl is as beautiful as flowers. Now that the girl is gone, the flowers have reminded the poet of his memory of her. The girl’s beauty and the poet’s strong attachment to her are both expressed by the flowers.
So later generations often describe a young woman’s beauty with a phrase “as beautiful as peach flowers”. They also use the allusion “her pretty face and the pretty peach- blossoms” to express the sad mood of not having seen the old friend while revisiting a once familiar place.