Lushi Verse

The lushi is a Chinese verse form that was popular during the Tang dynasty (618-907). It is an eight-line poem consisting of rhymed couplets with five or seven syllables per line. (Each line has a strict tonal pattern.) The first couplet is for exposition (qi) of the subject, the second and third couplets are for development (cheng) of the topic, and the fourth couplet is for conclusion (he) of the verse. The second and third couplets exhibit parallelism in construction. Various rhyme schemes are possible, for example AABBCCDD or ABABCDCD.

Tonal meter in lushi is a complex process in which the poet needs to alternate level and oblique tones both between and within lines, but these tonal and pitch features of Chinese poetry are impossible to achieve in English. Any meter will suffice, but a dactyl ( ˘ ˘ ) followed by a choriamb ( ˘ ˘ ) works well for me.

A Lushi Verse

Couplets of lushi should rhyme;
Each one contributes in time.
Qi means the subject's set forth;
Cheng then expounds to the fourth.
Syllable count isn't fixed...
Seven or five, but not mixed.
Rhyme schemes are supple and bend;
He brings the verse to an end.

Classical Lushi Verse

Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Day in Suzhou...
Respite from toil of the plow.
Gaze at the moon on this night;
Relish the beautiful sight.
Family members partake
Eating the unity cake.
Absences damper the cheer;
Where will we be in a year?


Keeping its rules within sight,
Lushi is easy to write.
Qi, cheng, and he comprise form;
Five beats, or seven, is norm.
Couplets of lushi should rhyme;
Patterns of pitch must align.
Poets from China attest
This form surpasses the rest.

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