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Chinese Characters, Phrases, Classical Poems, and Quotes About Lost Love

This article brings together a collection of Chinese characters, phrases, idioms, poems, and quotes that reflect on the pain, heartbreak, and nostalgia of lost or unrequited love, exploring the feelings of sorrow and longing for what once was.

tree leaf

Chinese Phrases About Lost Love


  • 曲终人散: Music in performance ends, and audiences would leave, meaning everything will come to an end.

  • 劳燕分飞: Lanius and swallow fly in different directions, representing separated couples.

  • 鸾凤分飞: Phoenixes fly in different directions, representing apart couples.

  • 一拍两散: Decisive and clean breakup.

  • 各奔东西: Step on different paths.

  • 人去楼空: People left, and the building is empty, just like the feeling. ​

traditional chinese building
  • 一刀两断: A determined breakup that is clean as cut by a sharp knife.

  • 恩断义绝: Cut off all affections and love. 

  • 爱别离苦: The pain of losing loved ones.

  • 不欢而散: Unpleasant breakup.

  • 不辞而别: Left without saying goodbye.

  • 物是人非: Everything's the same but you.

Crystal Drum of the Ming Dynasty

Crystal Drum of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — Zhongxiang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

​Chinese Poems About Lost Love

  • 曾经沧海难为水,除却巫山不是云。Yuan Zhen (779 — 831)


No water is wide enough when you have crossed the sea; no cloud is beautiful but that which crowns the peak. (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)


  • 伤心桥下春波绿,曾是惊鸿照影来。 Lu You (1125 — 1210)

Water is still emerald and running under the bridge since our sorrowful apart; it was the place where your beauty stole my heart.

  • 此情可待成追忆,只是当时已惘然。Li Shangyin (about 813 — 858)


No need to wait until today to recall our love and beautiful moment; back then, I already felt cherished, confused, and lost. 


  • 一别两宽,各生欢喜。Divorce agreement of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907), unearthed from Mogao Caves of Dunhuang.


Once apart and two relieved, we shall be happy separately.

Panoramic of Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang

Panoramic of Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang

  • 山有木兮木有枝,心悦君兮君不知。Yuerenge, a folk song of the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC — 403 BC)

Trees in mountains and branches in the tree, you in my heart yet you never know. 

  • 人生若只如初见,何事秋风悲画扇。Nalan Xingde (1655 — 1685)

If everything were as beautiful as first sight, no one would feel the parting sorrow like a fan left abandoned in autumn's fading light.

Autumn fan symbolizes abandoned love, first used by Ban Jieyu (48 BC — 2 AD) after Emperor Liu Ao left her for Zhao Feiyan.  

  • 欲寄彩笺兼尺素,山长水阔知何处。Yan Shu (991 — 1055)


Wishing to send a greeting letter, but of the grand mountains and rivers, I don't know where you are.

  • 山盟虽在,锦书难托。钗头凤 Lu You (1125 — 1210)

Our love promise will forever remain; yet my longing letters have nowhere to convey.

Carved Lacquerware Writing Brush of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644)

Carved Lacquerware Writing Brush of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — Shanghai Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

  • 此时相望不相闻,愿逐月华流照君。Zhang Ruoxu  (about 670 — 730)


Seeing the same moon with you but cannot hear you, wishing I could follow the moonbeams and shine on you. 

  • 深知身在情长在,怅望江头江水声。Li Shangyin (about 813 — 858)


As I live, my love will last forever long; gazing wistfully at the river's flowing sound.


  • 在天愿作比翼鸟,在地愿为连理枝。天长地久有时尽,此恨绵绵无绝期。Bai Juyi  (772 — 846)

In the sky, wishing to be inseparable love birds; on the earth, wishing to be eternally intertwined branches. Heaven and earth may have their bounds, yet the regret of parting has no ends.  

This poem was about the love story of Emperor Li Longji (685 — 762) and Lady Yang (719 — 756). 

Inscriptions on Mount Tai, Written by Emperor Xuanzong of Tang

Inscriptions on Mount Tai, Written by Emperor Li Longji to Memorize the Grand Fengshan Ceremony (the Gold Characters on the Right), Which held to Eulogize his Exceptional Accomplishments.

  • 泪眼问花花不语,乱红飞过秋千去。Ouyang Xiu  (1007 — 1072)

Tears in my eyes ask flowers, silence in reply; over empty swings, aimlessly the petals fly.


  • 多情只有春庭月,犹为离人照落花。Zhang Bi of Five Dynasties (907 — 960)


Only the spring moon in the courtyard is most affectionate; still casting its light on fallen petals for the departed.

  • 花红易衰似郎意,水流无限似侬愁。Liu Yuxi (772 — 842)


Beautiful flowers are fragile as your love; endless river is everlasting as my sorrow.

  • 人面不知何处,绿波依旧东流。Yan Shu (991 — 1055)


The one in my heart is nowhere to find; only the emerald river still runs eastward.

flowers and river
  • 鱼沈雁杳天涯路,始信人间别离苦。Dai Shulun (732 — 789)


Until fish sunk and geese vanished on the distant road, I started to feel the bitterness of parting in this mortal world.


  • 春心莫共花争发,一寸相思一寸灰。Li Shangyin (about 813 — 858)


Shall not expect love like blooming flowers in spring; longings turn to ashes, inch by inch, they bring.

  • 如今俱是异乡人,相见更无因。Wei Zhuang (about 836 — 910)

Now all are strangers in a distant land; no more chance of meeting again.


  • 燕子楼中霜月夜,秋来只为一人长。Bai Juyi  (772 — 846)

In the building amid frosty moonlight, only I feel the cold autumn night is too long to stand.

  • 当时明月在,曾照彩云归。Yan Jidao (1037 — 1110)

The bright moon is still present, which once shone upon her leaving like a colorful cloud.


  • 桃花百媚如欲语,曾为无双今两身。Wen Tingyun  (about 812 — 866)

Blooming peach blossoms, smiling they seem; once unmatched charisma, now my lone silhouette in water's beam.

  • 枝上柳绵吹又少,天涯何处无芳草。Su Shi (1037 — 1101)


Fewer catkins on willow branches after breezes blow; no place in the world lacks fragrant grass to grow.

  • 从此无心爱良夜,任他明月下西楼。Li Yi (746 — 829)

I can no longer appreciate beautiful nights henceforth; let the bright moon shine upon the western tower as it pleases.

bright moon
  • 自从花颜去,秋水无芙蓉。Bai Juyi (772 — 846)

Since your flower-like face left the mirror, like autumn waters without lotus' glamour.

  • 鸿雁在云鱼在水,惆怅此情难寄。Yan Shu (991 — 1055)

Swan geese in clouds and fish in waters play; my melancholy feelings have no one to convey.


  • 世间无限丹青手,一片伤心画不成。Gao Chan of Tang Dynasty (618 — 907)

Countless artists in the world, no one can paint my heart's sorrow.

  • 离愁渐远渐无穷,迢迢不断如春水。Ouyang Xiu  (1007 — 1072)

The farther the more endless the parting sorrow, just like the spring river's unceasing flow.

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