Trump's granddaughter recites Tang poems

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Donald Trump's granddaughter (Ivanka Trump's daughter), Arabella Rose Kushner, does a remarkably good job at reciting two Tang poems.

The first poem is "Mǐn nóng 憫農" ("Pity for peasants") by Lǐ Shēn 李 (d. July 29, 846):

chú hé rì dāngwǔ 鋤禾日當午
hoeing grain under the noontime sun
hàn dī hé xià tǔ 汗滴禾下土
their sweat drips down and falls on the soil beneath the plants
shuí zhī pán zhōng cān 誰知盤中餐
who is aware that the meal on his plate —
lì lì jiē xīnkǔ 粒粒皆辛苦
each and every grain — is won through toil?

The next poem is "Yǒng é 詠鵝" ("Ode to a Goose") by Luò Bīnwáng 駱賓王 (ca. 619-684?):

é, é, é 鵝,鵝,鵝
goose, goose, goose
qū xiàng xiàng tiān gē 曲項向天歌
neck curving skyward, it sings
bái máo fú lǜ shuǐ 白毛浮綠水
white plumes floating on the green water
hóng zhǎng bō qīng bō 紅掌撥清波
red feet paddling in the clear waves

(she gets cut off after the first two lines)

In the next video, Arabella sings a children's ditty, "Xiǎo bái tù 小白兔" ("Little white rabbit"), and here she really shines, sounding almost like a Chinese toddler:

xiǎo bái tù bái yòu bái 小白兔白又白
little white rabbit, whiter than white

liǎng zhī ěrduǒ shù qǐlái 两只耳朵竖起来
its two ears stand straight up
ài chī luóbo ài chī cài 爱吃萝卜爱吃菜
it loves to eat carrots and loves to eat greens
pǎo qǐ lù lái zhēn jiào kuài 跑起路来真叫快
but when it runs it's really fast

Compare Arabella's version with that of the Chinese child in this video.

Story with videos in this Washington Post Article:

"China may be unsure about Trump, but a video of his granddaughter speaking Mandarin is a hit", by Simon Denyer (11/15/16)

Arabella was four when the first video was made (it earned 8.7 million views and 20,000 likes on Chinese social media this week), and she was apparently even younger when the second video was made.

I'm really impressed!

[h.t. Arif Dirlik; thanks to Yixue Yang and Fangyi Cheng]


  1. Eidolon said,

    November 15, 2016 @ 9:09 pm

    Ivanka Trump is a remarkable woman, and her daughter seems to be likewise. But you can't talk about the Trump family these days without wondering about the political significance of these actions. Why did Ivanka have her daughter learn Mandarin Chinese? Is it from a general belief in the future importance of China, or a more specific plan of interaction?

  2. Eidolon said,

    November 15, 2016 @ 9:20 pm

    I also can't help but notice the 口 poster in the second video. This is a fairly technical poster, which appears to capture the evolution of the character 口 from earlier versions of the script. It's not what you would use to teach a child Chinese but perhaps it was only used as a decoration; either way it signifies an impressive level of professional commitment.

  3. Bathrobe said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 12:27 am

    In the rabbit poem she actually says:

    'loves to eat carrots and greens'

  4. Rose Eneri said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 7:52 am

    These are wonderful poems. I'm now interested in Tang poetry!

  5. Daniel said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 8:18 am

    I agree that she's super cute.

    I noticed a difference between Arabella and the video in the pronunciation of 兔 tù.

    Arabella's is something like [tʊu], becoming more closed with time closer to English /u/, while the video's is more like [tuʊ], which opens up with centering off-glide.

  6. leoboiko said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 9:53 am

    This is a fairly technical poster, which appears to capture the evolution of the character 口 from earlier versions of the script. It's not what you would use to teach a child Chinese

    In my experience, illustrations of graphical evolution of pictographs are very common at the beginning stages of hànzì instruction for foreigners. It's an attempt to create interest by showing what these characters are, where did they come from, and how do they work. Sadly, the rebus principle and phonetic compounds seldomly get mentions, much less explanations. (The basic idea is very much teachable to children; indeed, rebus is often featured as a children's pasttime in crossword magazines and such.)

  7. Guy A said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 5:08 pm

    Arabella actually sings this version:
    Xiǎo bái tù bái yòu bái, liǎng zhī ěrduo shù qǐlai, ài chī luóbo hé qīngcài, bèngbèng tiàotiào zhēn kě'ài
    (she gets cut off again before the 真可愛 ).

  8. David Marjanović said,

    November 16, 2016 @ 5:59 pm

    Arabella sings a children's ditty

    That's not singing, that's speaking – but with beautiful tones! She has evidently grasped the concept of a tone language. :-)

  9. Bathrobe said,

    November 17, 2016 @ 12:35 am

    Hats off to Guy A!

  10. C said,

    November 17, 2016 @ 4:27 am

    Is she reciting – beautifully – a series of memorised sounds, or do you think she actually understands and "speaks" the language?

  11. Victor Mair said,

    November 17, 2016 @ 7:55 am

    …bèngbèng tiàotiào 蹦蹦跳跳 ("bouncing; hopping")

    That's what I thought she said too, but suspected that she was ad-libbing. In any event, Arabella really did hop forward and to the right (her left) out of the range of the camera.

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