Category Archives: Chinese poetry

DSM 5 drafted, Kill Ugly Radio and Friends

In what has to be considered a bold move, the APA has posted the draft of the DSM 5 on the web and made it available for reading and comment here. A variety of changes and non-changes are already attracting attention. One of my favorite blog authors, at Furious Seasons, has inspected enough of it to raise some concerns.

You can see for yourself (please), but here are the things I noticed browsing through the current draft in order of appearance:

Disorders usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood, adolescence

I am especially concerned with the labeling of children with psychiatric disorders. For the most part, kids don’t “misbehave” because they are crazy. More likely explanations are that their behavior is a natural and even positive coping mechanism for dealing with seriously wrong family environment issues. Other common reasons for “odd” behavior in children are food or environmental allergies and medical or metabolic problems. Regardless of what the behaviorists might say, the reason why people act the way they do is sometimes very important and is often their best response they can have to biological, social and traumatic factors in their lives.

Temper dysregulation with dysphoria is proposed with the parameters available here. The positive side of this potentially stigmatizing new diagnosis for kids is that it is not the Child Bi-Polar Disorder that has been promoted by both the FDA and the friendly shrinks at Harvard. Of course any diagnosis invites the possibility of medicating the behavior but at least it won’t be an automatic road to a jumbo list of potentially dangerous mind altering chemical restraints. So, no doubt, they will have to develop a new list for this new diagnosis.

Another new diagnosis for kids, a conduct disorder, is labeled Callous and Unemotional Specifier for Conduct Disorder. This was not in the previous DSM. The jury is out how this might be suppressed with drugs.

Non Suicidal Self Injury has been added as a diagnosis for kids. I can hardly wait for the good folks at GSK or Lilly to bring out a new pill for this one. Since self-injurious behavior is often a normal response to severe trauma, it might be good if someone looked behind the curtain before attaching the label.

Some old/DSM 4 disorders for kids are being removed or subsumed under the heading of other existing disorder categories including Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS, all of which will be under the general heading of Autism Spectrum Disorder. (That Child Disintegrative thing sounds very dangerous.)

For grownups

We now have Psychotic Risk Disorder. There are plenty of subjective, unscientific criteria for this one. Like this phrase- “but of sufficient severity and/or frequency so as to be beyond normal“- I suppose you have to go to school to know what normal is. Just sop you won’t confuse it with other disorders they say “characteristic attenuated psychotic symptoms are not better explained by another DSM-V diagnosis“. That’s a relief.

Several types of Schizophrenia are being removed- paranoid type, catatonic type, disorganized type etc. I suppose they are all going to be under the general heading of Schizophrenia. Another to be removed is something called “Shared Psychotic Disorder”.  I need to look that up- sounds like a friendly sort of illness. Misery loves company but psychosis no longer does in the new DSM.

Mindfreedom News/ lazy blogger

Off the subject (really) but related, there is a good collection of news from Mindfreedom here about the impact of the mental health consumer movement in Lane County, Oregon. Two news items of interest to Oregonians and others originated from Lane County today:

** Eugene Weekly newspaper covers alternatives to psychiatric drugs.
MindFreedom activists are quoted several times.

** Now you can compare Lane County’s ‘guidelines’ for empowerment of
mental health clients, with a stronger version recommended by Lane
County Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Council.

So check it out at the link above.

Kill Ugly Radio-

Check out the archived show celebrating famous people who died in 2009. There is not much more to say.

Everything else

Dao de jing, T. Chilcott

limitlesslifesutra

Tunes-unto-the-Infinite

WilliamPennReGeorgeFox

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Rootabaga Stories

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Filed under Chinese poetry, CS/X movement, Free E-Books, Friends, Mental Hell Treatment, mindfreedom news, Music, silly, sound bite, Spirituality

Mixed Buddhist Poetry

Mostly a collection of poems that I find to be inspirational. Let ‘er rip!

Hui Yung (332-414 )

71meterbudha-chinaTranslating Sutras

We go on unwinding the woof
from the web of their meaning :
words of the Sutras
day by day leap forth .
Head on we’ve
chased the miracle
of Dharma :
here are no mere scholars .
Moon Sitting
High mountain cascades froth .
This wild temple owns few lamps .
Sit facing the glitter
of the moon: out of season
heart of ice .

Wind and Waterblue-sun

a steady wind scours the autumn moon

from a stagnant pool, from the crystal spring

every place pure now . . . just as it is .

why, then, does karma yet coil and bind?

Hui K’o (4th-5th Century)
No me : Dharmas all empty

Death, Life, small
difference .
Heart of mystery’ s
transformation:
know, and see.
The Truth cries out
where the arrow strikes the target .

The Absolute

selfless dharmas are all empty
life and death about alike
the transformed heart knows it all at a glance
truth is in the middle of things .

518873437_f32b4e5d2c_o

Seng Ts’an (d 606)
Verses on the Faith-Mind

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences .
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised .
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart .
If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness .
Be serene in the oneness of thing s
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves .
When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity .
As long as you remain in one extreme or the othe r
you will never know Oneness .
Those who do not live in the single Way
fail in both activity and passivity ,
assertion and denial.
To deny the reality of thing s
is to miss their reality ;
to assert the emptiness of things
is to miss their reality .

*

The more you talk and think about it ,
the further astray you wander from the truth .
Stop talking and thinking ,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know .
To return to the root is to find the meaning ,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source .
At the moment of inner enlightenment
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness .
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance .
Do not search for the truth ;
only cease to cherish opinions .
Do not remain in the dualistic state ;
avoid such pursuits carefully .
If there is even a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong ,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion .
Although all dualities come from the One ,
do not be attached even to this One .
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way ,
nothing in the world can offend ,
and when a thing can no longer offend ,
it ceases to exist in the old way .
When no discriminating thoughts arise ,
the old mind ceases to exist .
When thought objects vanish ,
the thinking-subject vanishes,
as when the mind vanishes, objects vanish .
Things are objects because of the subject [mind] ;
the mind [subject] is such because of things [objects] .
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality : the unity of emptiness .
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

*

If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discrimination,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence .
To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state.
Consider movement stationary
and the stationary in motion,
both movement and rest disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
no law or description applies.
For the unified mnd in accord with the Way
all self-centered striving ceases .
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and life in true faith is possible .
With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty, clear, self-illuminating
with no exertion of the mind’s power.
Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination
are of no value.
In this world of Suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self .
To come directly into harmony with this reality
just simply say when doubt arises, `Not two. ‘
In this `not two ‘ nothing is separate,
nothing is excluded.
No matter when or where,
enlightenment means entering this truth .

Shill Te (Legendarv, c . 730)

Since I came to this T ‘ien T ‘ai temple
how many Winters and Springs have passed
Otto draws goji 1885the mountains and the waters are unchanged
the man’s grown older
how many other men will watch those mountains stand
see the moon’s bright blaze of light
a shining lamp, above the world
full glistening and hanging in vast void
that brilliant jewel, its brightness, through the mist
some people say it waxes, wanes
their’s may but mine remains
as steady as the Mani Pearl
this light knows neither day or night
sermons there are, must be a million
too many to read in a hurry
if you want a friend just come to T’ien T’ai mountain
sit deep among the crags
we’ll talk about the Principle s
and chat about dark Mysterie s
if you don’t come to my mountain
your view will be blocke d
by the others

green Island

why sympathize with men like these?
I can remember the taste of that dirt.
cloudy mountains, fold on fold,
how many thousands of them?
shady valley road runs deep, all trace of man is gone
green torrents, pure clear flow, no place more full of beauty
and time, and time, birds sing
my own heart’s harmony .
if you want to be happy
there’s no other way than the hermit’ s
flowers in the grove, endless brocade
every single season’s colors new
just sit beside the chasm
turn your head, as the moon rolls by
yet though I ought to be at joyous ease
I can’t stop thinking of the others.
far, far, the mountain path is steep
thousands of feet up, the pass is dangerous and narrow
on the stone bridge the moss and lichen green
from time to time, a sliver of cloud flying
cascades hang like skeins of silk
image of the moon from the deep pool shining
once more to the top of Flowering Peak

Shih Shu (c . 1703 )

sch_g_tao
the human body is a little universe
its chill tears, so much windblown sleet
beneath our skins, mountains bulge, brooks flow,
within our chests lurk lost cities, hidden tribes.
wisdom quarters itself in our tiny hearts.
liver and gall peer out, scrutinize a thousand miles.
follow the path back to its source, or else be
a house vacant save for swallows in the eave.
as flowing waters disappear into the mist
we lose all track of their passage.
every heart is its own Buddha;
to become a saint, do nothing.
enlightenment: the world is a mote of dust ,
you can look right through heaven’s round mirror
slip past all form, all shape
and sit side by side with nothing, save Tao.

Hsu Yun (1940-195~ )

Sound of the Wind in the Pine s
an Afternoon and Night on Mount Lu
1 .
Courtyard-covering white dew
Moistens hidden orchids .
Leaves fade; a few flower s
Half retain their scent .
The cold Moon hangs alone ;
Nothing happening with people.
Pine wind blows right through :
Night waves cold .
II .
Swell after swell of pinewin d
Comb like waves at sea :
Beat after beat of heavenly musi c
Strummed on cloudy strings .
Midnight, Tao folk
Purify their hearing
And rise alone to burn incense:
Moon full
Just overhead.
Zen heart peaceful and stil l
Inside white clouds .
Autumn floods and spring mountains
Aren’t the same yet .
It’s just the pine wind
Whistles another tune .
Deep night white moon ,
Drizzling already .
Iv.
The mountain is empty ; flute still .
Thought uninvolved.
A pine wind circling the cabin
Calls right through the ear.
Here’s a monk with a talking habit ;
Midnight, the eternal teaching
Preaching `No Birth .’
Brooks in torrent untiring ;
People’s words more and more rare .
Where schemes calm heart ?
Sitting in the lotus,
Wrapped in robes of Zen .
At a Thatched Hut on the Flower Peak of Mount T’ien-t’a i
Sitting with Dharma Master Jung Ching During a Long Rai n
Hard rain, our gathered firewood scant;
Lamp frozen, glimmers not at night .
In the cave, wind blows stones and mud .
Moss engravings weatherstrip rickety door .

outlaw
Written for the Zen Man Te-jun
at the Great Assembly at Fo-yen

Days long ago do you remember
Making circuits of the Buddha halls?
How could we know the age of Earth,
The Boundless steppes of Heaven?
Chariots of wind I have ridden
And caught tigers on cloud-sprung feet.
Undersea I snared a dragon,
Moonlight streaming through the window.
Outside of time, flowers of wonder bloom,
Stamens touching space.
At sky’s edge moon trees
Breathe laurel perfume.
Again I walk the pure, cool, earth;
Form-taking life thrives in the web,
Upholding the Dharma-king.
Feelings on Remembering the Day
I First Produced the Mind
Drawn some sixty years ago by karma
I turned life upside down
And climbed straight on to lofty summits .
Between my eyes a hanging sword,
The Triple World is pure.
Empty-handed, I hold a hoe, clearing a galaxy.
As the `Ocean of Knowing-mind’ dries up,
Pearls shine forth by themselves;
Space smashed to dust, a moon hangs independent.
I threw my net through Heaven,
Caught the dragon and the phoenix;
Alone I walk through the cosmos,
Connecting the past and its people .

sometrees

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Poems of the Tang Dynasty, Part 7 (or so)

I think this brings me just about right up to the 350-400 poems I said I would post.

Anyway, it’s close enough. It is getting harder for me to be sure I’m not re-posting ones I’ve already done. So, this’ll be it. Unless I decide to do a few more sometime, which could happen.

Before that happens, though, I’ll be working on putting all the previous postings in this category and making a Word .doc file out of them, all in one place. Not today, though, not today.

Without further ado (always click images for full size):

tanghorses

Meng Jiao

A SONG OF A PURE-HEARTED GIRL


Lakka-trees ripen two by two
And mandarin-ducks die side by side.
If a true-hearted girl will love only her husband,
In a life as faithfully lived as theirs,
What troubling wave can arrive to vex
A spirit like water in a timeless well?

Meng Jiao

A TRAVELLER’S SONG


The thread in the hands of a fond-hearted mother
Makes clothes for the body of her wayward boy;
Carefully she sews and thoroughly she mends,
Dreading the delays that will keep him late from home.
But how much love has the inch-long grass
For three spring months of the light of the sun?

Chen Ziang

ON A GATE-TOWER AT YUZHOU


Where, before me, are the ages that have gone?
And where, behind me, are the coming generations?
I think of heaven and earth, without limit, without end,
And I am all alone and my tears fall down.

Li Qi

AN OLD AIR


There once was a man, sent on military missions,
A wanderer, from youth, on the You and Yan frontiers.
Under the horses’ hoofs he would meet his foes
And, recklessly risking his seven-foot body,
Would slay whoever dared confront
Those moustaches that bristled like porcupinequills.
…There were dark clouds below the hills, there were white clouds above them,
But before a man has served full time, how can he go back?
In eastern Liao a girl was waiting, a girl of fifteen years,
Deft with a guitar, expert in dance and song.
…She seems to be fluting, even now, a reed-song of home,
Filling every soldier’s eyes with homesick tears.

Li Qi

A FAREWELL TO MY FRIEND CHEN ZHANGFU


In the Fourth-month the south wind blows plains of yellow barley,
Date-flowers have not faded yet and lakka-leaves are long.
The green peak that we left at dawn we still can see at evening,
While our horses whinny on the road, eager to turn homeward.
…Chen, my friend, you have always been a great and good man,
With your dragon’s moustache, tiger’s eyebrows and your massive forehead.
In your bosom you have shelved away ten thousand volumes.
You have held your head high, never bowed it in the dust.
…After buying us wine and pledging us, here at the eastern gate,
And taking things as lightly as a wildgoose feather,
Flat you lie, tipsy, forgetting the white sun;
But now and then you open your eyes and gaze at a high lone cloud.
…The tide-head of the lone river joins the darkening sky.
The ferryman beaches his boat. It has grown too late to sail.
And people on their way from Cheng cannot go home,
And people from Loyang sigh with disappointment.
…I have heard about the many friends around your wood land dwelling.
Yesterday you were dismissed. Are they your friends today?

Li Qi

A LUTE SONG


Our host, providing abundant wine to make the night mellow,
Asks his guest from Yangzhou to play for us on the lute.
Toward the moon that whitens the city-wall, black crows are flying,
Frost is on ten thousand trees, and the wind blows through our clothes;
But a copper stove has added its light to that of flowery candles,
And the lute plays The Green Water, and then The Queen of Chu.
Once it has begun to play, there is no other sound:
A spell is on the banquet, while the stars grow thin….
But three hundred miles from here, in Huai, official duties await him,
And so it’s farewell, and the road again, under cloudy mountains.

Li Qi

ON HEARING DONG PLAY THE FLAGEOLET
A POEM TO PALACE-ATTENDANT FANG


When this melody for the flageolet was made by Lady Cai,
When long ago one by one she sang its eighteen stanzas,
Even the Tartars were shedding tears into the border grasses,
And the envoy of China was heart-broken, turning back home with his escort.
…Cold fires now of old battles are grey on ancient forts,
And the wilderness is shadowed with white new-flying snow.
…When the player first brushes the Shang string and the Jue and then the Yu,
Autumn-leaves in all four quarters are shaken with a murmur.
Dong, the master,
Must have been taught in heaven.
Demons come from the deep pine-wood and stealthily listen
To music slow, then quick, following his hand,
Now far away, now near again, according to his heart.
A hundred birds from an empty mountain scatter and return;
Three thousand miles of floating clouds darken and lighten;
A wildgoose fledgling, left behind, cries for its flock,
And a Tartar child for the mother he loves.
Then river waves are calmed
And birds are mute that were singing,
And Wuzu tribes are homesick for their distant land,
And out of the dust of Siberian steppes rises a plaintive sorrow.
…Suddenly the low sound leaps to a freer tune,
Like a long wind swaying a forest, a downpour breaking tiles,
A cascade through the air, flying over tree-tops.
…A wild deer calls to his fellows. He is running among the mansions
In the corner of the capital by the Eastern Palace wall….
Phoenix Lake lies opposite the Gate of Green Jade;
But how can fame and profit concern a man of genius?
Day and night I long for him to bring his lute again.

Li Qi

ON HEARING AN WANSHAN PLAY THE REED-PIPE


Bamboo from the southern hills was used to make this pipe.
And its music, that was introduced from Persia first of all,
Has taken on new magic through later use in China.
And now the Tartar from Liangzhou, blowing it for me,
Drawing a sigh from whosoever hears it,
Is bringing to a wanderer’s eyes homesick tears….
Many like to listen; but few understand.
To and fro at will there’s a long wind flying,
Dry mulberry-trees, old cypresses, trembling in its chill.
There are nine baby phoenixes, outcrying one another;
A dragon and a tiger spring up at the same moment;
Then in a hundred waterfalls ten thousand songs of autumn
Are suddenly changing to The Yuyang Lament;
And when yellow clouds grow thin and the white sun darkens,
They are changing still again to Spring in the Willow Trees.
Like Imperial Garden flowers, brightening the eye with beauty,
Are the high-hall candles we have lighted this cold night,
And with every cup of wine goes another round of music.

Meng Haoran

RETURNING AT NIGHT TO LUMEN MOUNTAIN


A bell in the mountain-temple sounds the coming of night.
I hear people at the fishing-town stumble aboard the ferry,
While others follow the sand-bank to their homes along the river.
…I also take a boat and am bound for Lumen Mountain —
And soon the Lumen moonlight is piercing misty trees.
I have come, before I know it, upon an ancient hermitage,
The thatch door, the piney path, the solitude, the quiet,
Where a hermit lives and moves, never needing a companion.


Li Bai

A SONG OF LU MOUNTAIN TO CENSOR LU XUZHOU


I am the madman of the Chu country
Who sang a mad song disputing Confucius.
…Holding in my hand a staff of green jade,
I have crossed, since morning at the Yellow Crane Terrace,
All five Holy Mountains, without a thought of distance,
According to the one constant habit of my life.
Lu Mountain stands beside the Southern Dipper
In clouds reaching silken like a nine-panelled screen,
With its shadows in a crystal lake deepening the green water.
The Golden Gate opens into two mountain-ranges.
A silver stream is hanging down to three stone bridges
Within sight of the mighty Tripod Falls.
Ledges of cliff and winding trails lead to blue sky
And a flush of cloud in the morning sun,
Whence no flight of birds could be blown into Wu.
…I climb to the top. I survey the whole world.
I see the long river that runs beyond return,
Yellow clouds that winds have driven hundreds of miles
And a snow-peak whitely circled by the swirl of a ninefold stream.
And so I am singing a song of Lu Mountain,
A song that is born of the breath of Lu Mountain.
…Where the Stone Mirror makes the heart’s purity purer
And green moss has buried the footsteps of Xie,
I have eaten the immortal pellet and, rid of the world’s troubles,
Before the lute’s third playing have achieved my element.
Far away I watch the angels riding coloured clouds
Toward heaven’s Jade City, with hibiscus in their hands.
And so, when I have traversed the nine sections of the world,
I will follow Saint Luao up the Great Purity.

Li Bai

TIANMU MOUNTAIN ASCENDED IN A DREAM


A seafaring visitor will talk about Japan,
Which waters and mists conceal beyond approach;
But Yueh people talk about Heavenly Mother Mountain,
Still seen through its varying deeps of cloud.
In a straight line to heaven, its summit enters heaven,
Tops the five Holy Peaks, and casts a shadow through China
With the hundred-mile length of the Heavenly Terrace Range,
Which, just at this point, begins turning southeast.
…My heart and my dreams are in Wu and Yueh
And they cross Mirror Lake all night in the moon.
And the moon lights my shadow
And me to Yan River —
With the hermitage of Xie still there
And the monkeys calling clearly over ripples of green water.
I wear his pegged boots
Up a ladder of blue cloud,
Sunny ocean half-way,
Holy cock-crow in space,
Myriad peaks and more valleys and nowhere a road.
Flowers lure me, rocks ease me. Day suddenly ends.
Bears, dragons, tempestuous on mountain and river,
Startle the forest and make the heights tremble.
Clouds darken with darkness of rain,
Streams pale with pallor of mist.
The Gods of Thunder and Lightning
Shatter the whole range.
The stone gate breaks asunder
Venting in the pit of heaven,
An impenetrable shadow.
…But now the sun and moon illumine a gold and silver terrace,
And, clad in rainbow garments, riding on the wind,
Come the queens of all the clouds, descending one by one,
With tigers for their lute-players and phoenixes for dancers.
Row upon row, like fields of hemp, range the fairy figures.
I move, my soul goes flying,
I wake with a long sigh,
My pillow and my matting
Are the lost clouds I was in.
…And this is the way it always is with human joy:
Ten thousand things run for ever like water toward the east.
And so I take my leave of you, not knowing for how long.
…But let me, on my green slope, raise a white deer
And ride to you, great mountain, when I have need of you.
Oh, how can I gravely bow and scrape to men of high rank and men of high office
Who never will suffer being shown an honest-hearted face!

Li Bai

PARTING AT A WINE-SHOP IN NANJING


A wind, bringing willow-cotton, sweetens the shop,
And a girl from Wu, pouring wine, urges me to share it
With my comrades of the city who are here to see me off;
And as each of them drains his cup, I say to him in parting,
Oh, go and ask this river running to the east
If it can travel farther than a friend’s love!

Li Bai

A FAREWELL TO SECRETARY SHUYUN
AT THE XIETIAO VILLA IN XUANZHOU


Since yesterday had to throw me and bolt,
Today has hurt my heart even more.
The autumn wildgeese have a long wind for escort
As I face them from this villa, drinking my wine.
The bones of great writers are your brushes, in the School of Heaven,
And I am a Lesser Xie growing up by your side.
We both are exalted to distant thought,
Aspiring to the sky and the bright moon.
But since water still flows, though we cut it with our swords,
And sorrows return, though we drown them with wine,
Since the world can in no way answer our craving,
I will loosen my hair tomorrow and take to a fishingboat.

Cen Can

A SONG OF RUNNING-HORSE RIVER IN FAREWELL
TO GENERAL FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION


Look how swift to the snowy sea races Running-Horse River! —
And sand, up from the desert, flies yellow into heaven.
This Ninth-month night is blowing cold at Wheel Tower,
And valleys, like peck measures, fill with the broken boulders
That downward, headlong, follow the wind.
…In spite of grey grasses, Tartar horses are plump;
West of the Hill of Gold, smoke and dust gather.
O General of the Chinese troops, start your campaign!
Keep your iron armour on all night long,
Send your soldiers forward with a clattering of weapons!
…While the sharp wind’s point cuts the face like a knife,
And snowy sweat steams on the horses’ backs,
Freezing a pattern of five-flower coins,
Your challenge from camp, from an inkstand of ice,
Has chilled the barbarian chieftain’s heart.
You will have no more need of an actual battle! —
We await the news of victory, here at the western pass!

Cen Can

A SONG OF WHEEL TOWER IN FAREWELL TO GENERAL
FENG OF THE WESTERN EXPEDITION


On Wheel Tower parapets night-bugles are blowing,
Though the flag at the northern end hangs limp.
Scouts, in the darkness, are passing Quli,
Where, west of the Hill of Gold, the Tartar chieftain has halted
We can see, from the look-out, the dust and black smoke
Where Chinese troops are camping, north of Wheel Tower.
…Our flags now beckon the General farther west-
With bugles in the dawn he rouses his Grand Army;
Drums like a tempest pound on four sides
And the Yin Mountains shake with the shouts of ten thousand;
Clouds and the war-wind whirl up in a point
Over fields where grass-roots will tighten around white bones;
In the Dagger River mist, through a biting wind,
Horseshoes, at the Sand Mouth line, break on icy boulders.
…Our General endures every pain, every hardship,
Commanded to settle the dust along the border.
We have read, in the Green Books, tales of old days-
But here we behold a living man, mightier than the dead.

undertree

Cen Can

A SONG OF WHITE SNOW IN FAREWELL
TO FIELD-CLERK WU GOING HOME


The north wind rolls the white grasses and breaks them;
And the Eighth-month snow across the Tartar sky
Is like a spring gale, come up in the night,
Blowing open the petals of ten thousand peartrees.
It enters the pearl blinds, it wets the silk curtains;
A fur coat feels cold, a cotton mat flimsy;
Bows become rigid, can hardly be drawn
And the metal of armour congeals on the men;
The sand-sea deepens with fathomless ice,
And darkness masses its endless clouds;
But we drink to our guest bound home from camp,
And play him barbarian lutes, guitars, harps;
Till at dusk, when the drifts are crushing our tents
And our frozen red flags cannot flutter in the wind,
We watch him through Wheel-Tower Gate going eastward.
Into the snow-mounds of Heaven-Peak Road….
And then he disappears at the turn of the pass,
Leaving behind him only hoof-prints.

yangzi

Du Fu

A DRAWING OF A HORSE BY GENERAL CAO
AT SECRETARY WEI FENG’S HOUSE


Throughout this dynasty no one had painted horses
Like the master-spirit, Prince Jiangdu —
And then to General Cao through his thirty years of fame
The world’s gaze turned, for royal steeds.
He painted the late Emperor’s luminous white horse.
For ten days the thunder flew over Dragon Lake,
And a pink-agate plate was sent him from the palace-
The talk of the court-ladies, the marvel of all eyes.
The General danced, receiving it in his honoured home
After this rare gift, followed rapidly fine silks
From many of the nobles, requesting that his art
Lend a new lustre to their screens.
…First came the curly-maned horse of Emperor Taizong,
Then, for the Guos, a lion-spotted horse….
But now in this painting I see two horses,
A sobering sight for whosoever knew them.
They are war- horses. Either could face ten thousand.
They make the white silk stretch away into a vast desert.
And the seven others with them are almost as noble
Mist and snow are moving across a cold sky,
And hoofs are cleaving snow-drifts under great trees-
With here a group of officers and there a group of servants.
See how these nine horses all vie with one another-
The high clear glance, the deep firm breath.
…Who understands distinction? Who really cares for art?
You, Wei Feng, have followed Cao; Zhidun preceded him.
…I remember when the late Emperor came toward his Summer Palace,
The procession, in green-feathered rows, swept from the eastern sky —
Thirty thousand horses, prancing, galloping,
Fashioned, every one of them, like the horses in this picture….
But now the Imperial Ghost receives secret jade from the River God,
For the Emperor hunts crocodiles no longer by the streams.
Where you see his Great Gold Tomb, you may hear among the pines
A bird grieving in the wind that the Emperor’s horses are gone.

Du Fu

A SONG OF A PAINTING TO GENERAL CAO


O General, descended from Wei’s Emperor Wu,
You are nobler now than when a noble….
Conquerors and their velour perish,
But masters of beauty live forever.
…With your brush-work learned from Lady Wei
And second only to Wang Xizhi’s,
Faithful to your art, you know no age,
Letting wealth and fame drift by like clouds.
…In the years of Kaiyuan you were much with the Emperor,
Accompanied him often to the Court of the South Wind.
When the spirit left great statesmen, on walls of the Hall of Fame
The point of your brush preserved their living faces.
You crowned all the premiers with coronets of office;
You fitted all commanders with arrows at their girdles;
You made the founders of this dynasty, with every hair alive,
Seem to be just back from the fierceness of a battle.
…The late Emperor had a horse, known as Jade Flower,
Whom artists had copied in various poses.
They led him one day to the red marble stairs
With his eyes toward the palace in the deepening air.
Then, General, commanded to proceed with your work,
You centred all your being on a piece of silk.
And later, when your dragon-horse, born of the sky,
Had banished earthly horses for ten thousand generations,
There was one Jade Flower standing on the dais
And another by the steps, and they marvelled at each other….
The Emperor rewarded you with smiles and with gifts,
While officers and men of the stud hung about and stared.
…Han Gan, your follower, has likewise grown proficient
At representing horses in all their attitudes;
But picturing the flesh, he fails to draw the bone-
So that even the finest are deprived of their spirit.
You, beyond the mere skill, used your art divinely-
And expressed, not only horses, but the life of a good man….
Yet here you are, wandering in a world of disorder
And sketching from time to time some petty passerby
People note your case with the whites of their eyes.
There’s nobody purer, there’s nobody poorer.
…Read in the records, from earliest times,
How hard it is to be a great artist.

Liu Zongyuan

AN OLD FISHERMAN


An old fisherman spent the night here, under the western cliff;
He dipped up water from the pure Hsiang and made a bamboo fire;
And then, at sunrise, he went his way through the cloven mist,
With only the creak of his paddle left, in the greenness of mountain and river.
…I turn and see the waves moving as from heaven,
And clouds above the cliffs coming idly, one by one.


Bai Juyi

A SONG OF UNENDING SORROW


China’s Emperor, craving beauty that might shake an empire,
Was on the throne for many years, searching, never finding,
Till a little child of the Yang clan, hardly even grown,
Bred in an inner chamber, with no one knowing her,
But with graces granted by heaven and not to be concealed,
At last one day was chosen for the imperial household.
If she but turned her head and smiled, there were cast a hundred spells,
And the powder and paint of the Six Palaces faded into nothing.
…It was early spring. They bathed her in the FlowerPure Pool,
Which warmed and smoothed the creamy-tinted crystal of her skin,
And, because of her languor, a maid was lifting her
When first the Emperor noticed her and chose her for his bride.
The cloud of her hair, petal of her cheek, gold ripples of her crown when she moved,
Were sheltered on spring evenings by warm hibiscus curtains;
But nights of spring were short and the sun arose too soon,
And the Emperor, from that time forth, forsook his early hearings
And lavished all his time on her with feasts and revelry,
His mistress of the spring, his despot of the night.
There were other ladies in his court, three thousand of rare beauty,
But his favours to three thousand were concentered in one body.
By the time she was dressed in her Golden Chamber, it would be almost evening;
And when tables were cleared in the Tower of Jade, she would loiter, slow with wine.
Her sisters and her brothers all were given titles;
And, because she so illumined and glorified her clan,
She brought to every father, every mother through the empire,
Happiness when a girl was born rather than a boy.
…High rose Li Palace, entering blue clouds,
And far and wide the breezes carried magical notes
Of soft song and slow dance, of string and bamboo music.
The Emperor’s eyes could never gaze on her enough-
Till war-drums, booming from Yuyang, shocked the whole earth
And broke the tunes of The Rainbow Skirt and the Feathered Coat.
The Forbidden City, the nine-tiered palace, loomed in the dust
From thousands of horses and chariots headed southwest.
The imperial flag opened the way, now moving and now pausing- –
But thirty miles from the capital, beyond the western gate,
The men of the army stopped, not one of them would stir
Till under their horses’ hoofs they might trample those moth- eyebrows….
Flowery hairpins fell to the ground, no one picked them up,
And a green and white jade hair-tassel and a yellowgold hair- bird.
The Emperor could not save her, he could only cover his face.
And later when he turned to look, the place of blood and tears
Was hidden in a yellow dust blown by a cold wind.
… At the cleft of the Dagger-Tower Trail they crisscrossed through a cloud-line
Under Omei Mountain. The last few came.
Flags and banners lost their colour in the fading sunlight….
But as waters of Shu are always green and its mountains always blue,
So changeless was His Majesty’s love and deeper than the days.
He stared at the desolate moon from his temporary palace.
He heard bell-notes in the evening rain, cutting at his breast.
And when heaven and earth resumed their round and the dragon car faced home,
The Emperor clung to the spot and would not turn away
From the soil along the Mawei slope, under which was buried
That memory, that anguish. Where was her jade-white face?
Ruler and lords, when eyes would meet, wept upon their coats
As they rode, with loose rein, slowly eastward, back to the capital.
…The pools, the gardens, the palace, all were just as before,
The Lake Taiye hibiscus, the Weiyang Palace willows;
But a petal was like her face and a willow-leaf her eyebrow —
And what could he do but cry whenever he looked at them?
…Peach-trees and plum-trees blossomed, in the winds of spring;
Wutong-foliage fell to the ground, after autumn rains;
The Western and Southern Palaces were littered with late grasses,
And the steps were mounded with red leaves that no one swept away.
Her Pear-Garden Players became white-haired
And the eunuchs thin-eyebrowed in her Court of PepperTrees;
Over the throne flew fire-flies, while he brooded in the twilight.
He would lengthen the lamp-wick to its end and still could never sleep.
Bell and drum would slowly toll the dragging nighthours
And the River of Stars grow sharp in the sky, just before dawn,
And the porcelain mandarin-ducks on the roof grow thick with morning frost
And his covers of kingfisher-blue feel lonelier and colder
With the distance between life and death year after year;
And yet no beloved spirit ever visited his dreams.
…At Lingqiong lived a Taoist priest who was a guest of heaven,
Able to summon spirits by his concentrated mind.
And people were so moved by the Emperor’s constant brooding
That they besought the Taoist priest to see if he could find her.
He opened his way in space and clove the ether like lightning,
Up to heaven, under the earth, looking everywhere.
Above, he searched the Green Void, below, the Yellow Spring;
But he failed, in either place, to find the one he looked for.
And then he heard accounts of an enchanted isle at sea,
A part of the intangible and incorporeal world,
With pavilions and fine towers in the five-coloured air,
And of exquisite immortals moving to and fro,
And of one among them-whom they called The Ever True-
With a face of snow and flowers resembling hers he sought.
So he went to the West Hall’s gate of gold and knocked at the jasper door
And asked a girl, called Morsel-of-Jade, to tell The Doubly- Perfect.
And the lady, at news of an envoy from the Emperor of China,
Was startled out of dreams in her nine-flowered, canopy.
She pushed aside her pillow, dressed, shook away sleep,
And opened the pearly shade and then the silver screen.
Her cloudy hair-dress hung on one side because of her great haste,
And her flower-cap was loose when she came along the terrace,
While a light wind filled her cloak and fluttered with her motion
As though she danced The Rainbow Skirt and the Feathered Coat.
And the tear-drops drifting down her sad white face
Were like a rain in spring on the blossom of the pear.
But love glowed deep within her eyes when she bade him thank her liege,
Whose form and voice had been strange to her ever since their parting —
Since happiness had ended at the Court of the Bright Sun,
And moons and dawns had become long in Fairy-Mountain Palace.
But when she turned her face and looked down toward the earth
And tried to see the capital, there were only fog and dust.
So she took out, with emotion, the pledges he had given
And, through his envoy, sent him back a shell box and gold hairpin,
But kept one branch of the hairpin and one side of the box,
Breaking the gold of the hairpin, breaking the shell of the box;
“Our souls belong together,” she said, ” like this gold and this shell —
Somewhere, sometime, on earth or in heaven, we shall surely
And she sent him, by his messenger, a sentence reminding him
Of vows which had been known only to their two hearts:
“On the seventh day of the Seventh-month, in the Palace of Long Life,
We told each other secretly in the quiet midnight world
That we wished to fly in heaven, two birds with the wings of one,
And to grow together on the earth, two branches of one tree.”
Earth endures, heaven endures; some time both shall end,
While this unending sorrow goes on and on for ever.


Bai Chuyi

THE SONG OF A GUITAR


In the tenth year of Yuanhe I was banished and demoted to be assistant official in Jiujiang. In the summer of the next year I was seeing a friend leave Penpu and heard in the midnight from a neighbouring boat a guitar played in the manner of the capital. Upon inquiry, I found that the player had formerly been a dancing-girl there and in her maturity had been married to a merchant. I invited her to my boat to have her play for us. She told me her story, heyday and then unhappiness. Since my departure from the capital I had not felt sad; but that night, after I left her, I began to realize my banishment. And I wrote this long poem — six hundred and twelve characters.


I was bidding a guest farewell, at night on the Xunyang River,
Where maple-leaves and full-grown rushes rustled in the autumn.
I, the host, had dismounted, my guest had boarded his boat,
And we raised our cups and wished to drink-but, alas, there was no music.
For all we had drunk we felt no joy and were parting from each other,
When the river widened mysteriously toward the full moon —
We had heard a sudden sound, a guitar across the water.
Host forgot to turn back home, and guest to go his way.
We followed where the melody led and asked the player’s name.
The sound broke off…then reluctantly she answered.
We moved our boat near hers, invited her to join us,
Summoned more wine and lanterns to recommence our banquet.
Yet we called and urged a thousand times before she started toward us,
Still hiding half her face from us behind her guitar.
…She turned the tuning-pegs and tested several strings;
We could feel what she was feeling, even before she played:
Each string a meditation, each note a deep thought,
As if she were telling us the ache of her whole life.
She knit her brows, flexed her fingers, then began her music,
Little by little letting her heart share everything with ours.
She brushed the strings, twisted them slow, swept them, plucked them —
First the air of The Rainbow Skirt, then The Six Little Ones.
The large strings hummed like rain,
The small strings whispered like a secret,
Hummed, whispered-and then were intermingled
Like a pouring of large and small pearls into a plate of jade.
We heard an oriole, liquid, hidden among flowers.
We heard a brook bitterly sob along a bank of sand…
By the checking of its cold touch, the very string seemed broken
As though it could not pass; and the notes, dying away
Into a depth of sorrow and concealment of lament,
Told even more in silence than they had told in sound….
A silver vase abruptly broke with a gush of water,
And out leapt armored horses and weapons that clashed and smote —
And, before she laid her pick down, she ended with one stroke,
And all four strings made one sound, as of rending silk
There was quiet in the east boat and quiet in the west,
And we saw the white autumnal moon enter the river’s heart.
…When she had slowly placed the pick back among the strings,
She rose and smoothed her clothing and, formal, courteous,
Told us how she had spent her girlhood at the capital,
Living in her parents’ house under the Mount of Toads,
And had mastered the guitar at the age of thirteen,
With her name recorded first in the class-roll of musicians,
Her art the admiration even of experts,
Her beauty the envy of all the leading dancers,
How noble youths of Wuling had lavishly competed
And numberless red rolls of silk been given for one song,
And silver combs with shell inlay been snapped by her rhythms,
And skirts the colour of blood been spoiled with stains of wine….
Season after season, joy had followed joy,
Autumn moons and spring winds had passed without her heeding,
Till first her brother left for the war, and then her aunt died,
And evenings went and evenings came, and her beauty faded —
With ever fewer chariots and horses at her door;
So that finally she gave herself as wife to a merchant
Who, prizing money first, careless how he left her,
Had gone, a month before, to Fuliang to buy tea.
And she had been tending an empty boat at the river’s mouth,
No company but the bright moon and the cold water.
And sometimes in the deep of night she would dream of her triumphs
And be wakened from her dreams by the scalding of her tears.
Her very first guitar-note had started me sighing;
Now, having heard her story, I was sadder still.
“We are both unhappy — to the sky’s end.
We meet. We understand. What does acquaintance matter?
I came, a year ago, away from the capital
And am now a sick exile here in Jiujiang —
And so remote is Jiujiang that I have heard no music,
Neither string nor bamboo, for a whole year.
My quarters, near the River Town, are low and damp,
With bitter reeds and yellowed rushes all about the house.
And what is to be heard here, morning and evening? —
The bleeding cry of cuckoos, the whimpering of apes.
On flowery spring mornings and moonlit autumn nights
I have often taken wine up and drunk it all alone,
Of course there are the mountain songs and the village pipes,
But they are crude and-strident, and grate on my ears.
And tonight, when I heard you playing your guitar,
I felt as if my hearing were bright with fairymusic.
Do not leave us. Come, sit down. Play for us again.
And I will write a long song concerning a guitar.”
…Moved by what I said, she stood there for a moment,
Then sat again to her strings-and they sounded even sadder,
Although the tunes were different from those she had played before….
The feasters, all listening, covered their faces.
But who of them all was crying the most?
This Jiujiang official. My blue sleeve was wet.

Li Shangyin

THE HAN MONUMENT


The Son of Heaven in Yuanhe times was martial as a god
And might be likened only to the Emperors Xuan and Xi.
He took an oath to reassert the glory of the empire,
And tribute was brought to his palace from all four quarters.
Western Huai for fifty years had been a bandit country,
Wolves becoming lynxes, lynxes becoming bears.
They assailed the mountains and rivers, rising from the plains,
With their long spears and sharp lances aimed at the Sun.
But the Emperor had a wise premier, by the name of Du,
Who, guarded by spirits against assassination,
Hong at his girdle the seal of state, and accepted chief command,
While these savage winds were harrying the flags of the Ruler of Heaven.
Generals Suo, Wu, Gu, and Tong became his paws and claws;
Civil and military experts brought their writingbrushes,
And his recording adviser was wise and resolute.
A hundred and forty thousand soldiers, fighting like lions and tigers,
Captured the bandit chieftains for the Imperial Temple.
So complete a victory was a supreme event;
And the Emperor said: “To you, Du, should go the highest honour,
And your secretary, Yu, should write a record of it.”
When Yu had bowed his head, he leapt and danced, saying:
“Historical writings on stone and metal are my especial art;
And, since I know the finest brush-work of the old masters,
My duty in this instance is more than merely official,
And I should be at fault if I modestly declined.”
The Emperor, on hearing this, nodded many times.
And Yu retired and fasted and, in a narrow workroom,
His great brush thick with ink as with drops of rain,
Chose characters like those in the Canons of Yao and Xun,
And a style as in the ancient poems Qingmiao and Shengmin.
And soon the description was ready, on a sheet of paper.
In the morning he laid it, with a bow, on the purple stairs.
He memorialized the throne: “I, unworthy,
Have dared to record this exploit, for a monument.”
The tablet was thirty feet high, the characters large as dippers;
It was set on a sacred tortoise, its columns flanked with ragons….
The phrases were strange with deep words that few could understand;
And jealousy entered and malice and reached the Emperor —
So that a rope a hundred feet long pulled the tablet down
And coarse sand and small stones ground away its face.
But literature endures, like the universal spirit,
And its breath becomes a part of the vitals of all men.
The Tang plate, the Confucian tripod, are eternal things,
Not because of their forms, but because of their inscriptions….
Sagacious is our sovereign and wise his minister,
And high their successes and prosperous their reign;
But unless it be recorded by a writing such as this,
How may they hope to rival the three and five good rulers?
I wish I could write ten thousand copies to read ten thousand times,
Till spittle ran from my lips and calluses hardened my fingers,
And still could hand them down, through seventy-two generations,
As corner-stones for Rooms of Great Deeds on the Sacred Mountains.

Gao Shi

A SONG OF THE YAN COUNTRY


In the sixth year of Kaiyuan, a friend returned from the border and showed me the Yan Song. Moved by what he told me of the expedition, I have written this poem to the same rhymes.


The northeastern border of China was dark with smoke and dust.
To repel the savage invaders, our generals, leaving their families,
Strode forth together, looking as heroes should look;
And having received from the Emperor his most gracious favour,
They marched to the beat of gong and drum through the Elm Pass.
They circled the Stone Tablet with a line of waving flags,
Till their captains over the Sea of Sand were twanging feathered orders.
The Tartar chieftain’s hunting-fires glimmered along Wolf Mountain,
And heights and rivers were cold and bleak there at the outer border;
But soon the barbarians’ horses were plunging through wind and rain.
Half of our men at the front were killed, but the other half are living,
And still at the camp beautiful girls dance for them and sing.
…As autumn ends in the grey sand, with the grasses all withered,
The few surviving watchers by the lonely wall at sunset,
Serving in a good cause, hold life and the foeman lightly.
And yet, for all that they have done, Elm Pass is still unsafe.
Still at the front, iron armour is worn and battered thin,
And here at home food-sticks are made of jade tears.
Still in this southern city young wives’ hearts are breaking,
While soldiers at the northern border vainly look toward home.
The fury of the wind cuts our men’s advance
In a place of death and blue void, with nothingness ahead.
Three times a day a cloud of slaughter rises over the camp;
And all night long the hour-drums shake their chilly booming,
Until white swords can be seen again, spattered with red blood.
…When death becomes a duty, who stops to think of fame?
Yet in speaking of the rigours of warfare on the desert
We name to this day Li, the great General, who lived long ago.

Li Qi

AN OLD WAR-SONG


Through the bright day up the mountain, we scan the sky for a war-torch;
At yellow dusk we water our horses in the boundaryriver;
And when the throb of watch-drums hangs in the sandy wind,
We hear the guitar of the Chinese Princess telling her endless woe….
Three thousand miles without a town, nothing but camps,
Till the heavy sky joins the wide desert in snow.
With their plaintive calls, barbarian wildgeese fly from night to night,
And children of the Tartars have many tears to shed;
But we hear that the Jade Pass is still under siege,
And soon we stake our lives upon our light warchariots.
Each year we bury in the desert bones unnumbered,
Yet we only watch for grape-vines coming into China.


Wang Wei

A SONG OF A GIRL FROM LOYANG


There’s a girl from Loyang in the door across the street,
She looks fifteen, she may be a little older.
…While her master rides his rapid horse with jade bit an bridle,
Her handmaid brings her cod-fish in a golden plate.
On her painted pavilions, facing red towers,
Cornices are pink and green with peach-bloom and with willow,
Canopies of silk awn her seven-scented chair,
And rare fans shade her, home to her nine-flowered curtains.
Her lord, with rank and wealth and in the bud of life,
Exceeds in munificence the richest men of old.
He favours this girl of lowly birth, he has her taught to dance;
And he gives away his coral-trees to almost anyone.
The wind of dawn just stirs when his nine soft lights go out,
Those nine soft lights like petals in a flying chain of flowers.
Between dances she has barely time for singing over the songs;
No sooner is she dressed again than incense burns before her.
Those she knows in town are only the rich and the lavish,
And day and night she is visiting the hosts of the gayest mansions.
…Who notices the girl from Yue with a face of white jade,
Humble, poor, alone, by the river, washing silk?

Wang Wei

SONG OF AN OLD GENERAL


When he was a youth of fifteen or twenty,
He chased a wild horse, he caught him and rode him,
He shot the white-browed mountain tiger,
He defied the yellow-bristled Horseman of Ye.
Fighting single- handed for a thousand miles,
With his naked dagger he could hold a multitude.
…Granted that the troops of China were as swift as heaven’s thunder
And that Tartar soldiers perished in pitfalls fanged with iron,
General Wei Qing’s victory was only a thing of chance.
And General Li Guang’s thwarted effort was his fate, not his fault.
Since this man’s retirement he is looking old and worn:
Experience of the world has hastened his white hairs.
Though once his quick dart never missed the right eye of a bird,
Now knotted veins and tendons make his left arm like an osier.
He is sometimes at the road-side selling melons from his garden,
He is sometimes planting willows round his hermitage.
His lonely lane is shut away by a dense grove,
His vacant window looks upon the far cold mountains
But, if he prayed, the waters would come gushing for his men
And never would he wanton his cause away with wine.
…War-clouds are spreading, under the Helan Range;
Back and forth, day and night, go feathered messages;
In the three River Provinces, the governors call young men —
And five imperial edicts have summoned the old general.
So he dusts his iron coat and shines it like snow-
Waves his dagger from its jade hilt in a dance of starry steel.
He is ready with his strong northern bow to smite the Tartar chieftain —
That never a foreign war-dress may affront the Emperor.
…There once was an aged Prefect, forgotten and far away,
Who still could manage triumph with a single stroke.

Wang Wei

A SONG OF PEACH-BLOSSOM RIVER


A fisherman is drifting, enjoying the spring mountains,
And the peach-trees on both banks lead him to an ancient source.
Watching the fresh-coloured trees, he never thinks of distance
Till he comes to the end of the blue stream and suddenly- strange men!
It’s a cave-with a mouth so narrow that he has to crawl through;
But then it opens wide again on a broad and level path —
And far beyond he faces clouds crowning a reach of trees,
And thousands of houses shadowed round with flowers and bamboos….
Woodsmen tell him their names in the ancient speech of Han;
And clothes of the Qin Dynasty are worn by all these people
Living on the uplands, above the Wuling River,
On farms and in gardens that are like a world apart,
Their dwellings at peace under pines in the clear moon,
Until sunrise fills the low sky with crowing and barking.
…At news of a stranger the people all assemble,
And each of them invites him home and asks him where he was born.
Alleys and paths are cleared for him of petals in the morning,
And fishermen and farmers bring him their loads at dusk….
They had left the world long ago, they had come here seeking refuge;
They have lived like angels ever since, blessedly far away,
No one in the cave knowing anything outside,
Outsiders viewing only empty mountains and thick clouds.
…The fisherman, unaware of his great good fortune,
Begins to think of country, of home, of worldly ties,
Finds his way out of the cave again, past mountains and past rivers,
Intending some time to return, when he has told his kin.
He studies every step he takes, fixes it well in mind,
And forgets that cliffs and peaks may vary their appearance.
…It is certain that to enter through the deepness of the mountain,
A green river leads you, into a misty wood.
But now, with spring-floods everywhere and floating peachpetals —
Which is the way to go, to find that hidden source?

Meng Haoran

A MESSAGE FROM LAKE DONGTIN
TO PREMIER ZHANG


Here in the Eighth-month the waters of the lake
Are of a single air with heaven,
And a mist from the Yun and Meng valleys
Has beleaguered the city of Youzhou.
I should like to cross, but I can find no boat.
…How ashamed I am to be idler than you statesmen,
As I sit here and watch a fisherman casting
And emptily envy him his catch.


Meng Haoran

ON CLIMBING YAN MOUNTAIN WITH FRIENDS


While worldly matters take their turn,
Ancient, modern, to and fro,
Rivers and mountains are changeless in their glory
And still to be witnessed from this trail.
Where a fisher-boat dips by a waterfall,
Where the air grows colder, deep in the valley,
The monument of Yang remains;
And we have wept, reading the words.

tangbirds

Meng Haoran

AT A BANQUET IN THE HOUSE
OF THE TAOIST PRIEST MEI


In my bed among the woods, grieving that spring must end,
I lifted up the curtain on a pathway of flowers,
And a flashing bluebird bade me come
To the dwelling-place of the Red Pine Genie.
…What a flame for his golden crucible —
Peach-trees magical with buds ! —
And for holding boyhood in his face,
The rosy-flowing wine of clouds!

Meng Haoran

ON RETURNING AT THE YEAR’S END TO
ZHONGNAN MOUNTAIN


I petition no more at the north palace-gate.
…To this tumble-down hut on Zhongnan Mountain
I was banished for my blunders, by a wise ruler.
I have been sick so long I see none of my friends.
My white hairs hasten my decline,
Like pale beams ending the old year.
Therefore I lie awake and ponder
On the pine-shadowed moonlight in my empty window.

Meng Haoran

STOPPING AT A FRIEND’S FARM-HOUSE


Preparing me chicken and rice, old friend,
You entertain me at your farm.
We watch the green trees that circle your village
And the pale blue of outlying mountains.
We open your window over garden and field,
To talk mulberry and hemp with our cups in our hands.
…Wait till the Mountain Holiday —
I am coming again in chrysanthemum time.

Meng Haoran

FROM QIN COUNTRY TO THE BUDDHIST PRIEST YUAN


How gladly I would seek a mountain
If I had enough means to live as a recluse!
For I turn at last from serving the State
To the Eastern Woods Temple and to you, my master.
…Like ashes of gold in a cinnamon-flame,
My youthful desires have been burnt with the years-
And tonight in the chilling sunset-wind
A cicada, singing, weighs on my heart.

Meng Haoran

FROM A MOORING ON THE TONGLU
TO A FRIEND IN YANGZHOU


With monkeys whimpering on the shadowy mountain,
And the river rushing through the night,
And a wind in the leaves along both banks,
And the moon athwart my solitary sail,
I, a stranger in this inland district,
Homesick for my Yangzhou friends,
Send eastward two long streams of tears
To find the nearest touch of the sea.

Meng Haoran

TAKING LEAVE OF WANG WEI


Slow and reluctant, I have waited
Day after day, till now I must go.
How sweet the road-side flowers might be
If they did not mean good-bye, old friend.
The Lords of the Realm are harsh to us
And men of affairs are not our kind.
I will turn back home, I will say no more,
I will close the gate of my old garden.

Meng Haoran

MEMORIES IN EARLY WINTER


South go the wildgesse, for leaves are now falling,
And the water is cold with a wind from the north.
I remember my home; but the Xiang River’s curves
Are walled by the clouds of this southern country.
I go forward. I weep till my tears are spent.
I see a sail in the far sky.
Where is the ferry? Will somebody tell me?
It’s growing rough. It’s growing dark.

Liu Changqing

CLIMBING IN AUTUMN FOR A VIEW FROM THE TEMPLE
ON THE TERRACE OF GENERAL WU


So autumn breaks my homesick heart….
Few pilgrims venture climbing to a temple so wild,
Up from the lake, in the mountain clouds.
…Sunset clings in the old defences,
A stone gong shivers through the empty woods.
…Of the Southern Dynasty, what remains?
Nothing but the great River.


Li Shangyin

TO THE MOON GODDESS


Now that a candle-shadow stands on the screen of carven marble
And the River of Heaven slants and the morning stars are low,
Are you sorry for having stolen the potion that has set you
Over purple seas and blue skies, to brood through the long nights?

Li Shangyin

JIASHENG


When the Emperor sought guidance from wise men, from exiles,
He found no calmer wisdom than that of young Jia
And assigned him the foremost council-seat at midnight,
Yet asked him about gods, instead of about people.

Wen Tingyun

SHE SIGHS ON HER JADE LUTE


A cool-matted silvery bed; but no dreams….
An evening sky as green as water, shadowed with tender clouds;
But far off over the southern rivers the calling of a wildgoose,
And here a twelve-story building, lonely under the moon.

Zheng Tian

ON MAWEI SLOPE


When the Emperor came back from his ride they had murdered Lady Yang —
That passion unforgettable through all the suns and moons
They had led him to forsake her by reminding him
Of an emperor slain with his lady once, in a well at Jingyang Palace.

china-tang-large

Han Wu

COOLER WEATHER


Her jade-green alcove curtained thick with silk,
Her vermilion screen with its pattern of flowers,
Her eight- foot dragon-beard mat and her quilt brocaded in squares
Are ready now for nights that are neither warm nor cold.

Seven-character-quatrain

Wei Zhuang

A NANJING LANDSCAPE


Though a shower bends the river-grass, a bird is singing,
While ghosts of the Six Dynasties pass like a dream
Around the Forbidden City, under weeping willows
Which loom still for three miles along the misty moat.


Chen Tao

TURKESTAN


Thinking only of their vow that they would crush the Tartars- –
On the desert, clad in sable and silk, five thousand of them fell….
But arisen from their crumbling bones on the banks of the river at the border,
Dreams of them enter, like men alive, into rooms where their loves lie sleeping.

Zhang Bi

A MESSAGE


I go in a dream to the house of Xie
Through a zigzag porch with arching rails
To a court where the spring moon lights for ever
Phantom flowers and a single figure.

Wumingshi

THE DAY OF NO FIRE


As the holiday approaches, and grasses are bright after rain,
And the causeway gleams with willows, and wheatfields wave in the wind,
We are thinking of our kinsfolk, far away from us.
O cuckoo, why do you follow us, why do you call us home?

horse

Wang Wei

A SONG AT WEICHENG


A morning-rain has settled the dust in Weicheng;
Willows are green again in the tavern dooryard….
Wait till we empty one more cup —
West of Yang Gate there’ll be no old friends.


Wang Wei

A SONG OF AN AUTUMN NIGHT


Under the crescent moon a light autumn dew
Has chilled the robe she will not change —
And she touches a silver lute all night,
Afraid to go back to her empty room.

Wang Changling

A SIGH IN THE COURT OF PERPETUAL FAITH


She brings a broom at dawn to the Golden Palace doorway
And dusts the hall from end to end with her round fan,
And, for all her jade-whiteness, she envies a crow
Whose cold wings are kindled in the Court of the Bright Sun.

Wang Changling

OVER THE BORDER


The moon goes back to the time of Qin, the wall to the time of Han,
And the road our troops are travelling goes back three hundred miles….
Oh, for the Winged General at the Dragon City —
That never a Tartar horseman might cross the Yin Mountains!

Wang Zhihuan

BEYOND THE BORDER


Where a yellow river climbs to the white clouds,
Near the one city-wall among ten-thousand-foot mountains,
A Tartar under the willows is lamenting on his flute
That spring never blows to him through the Jade Pass

Li Bai

A SONG OF PURE HAPPINESS I


Her robe is a cloud, her face a flower;
Her balcony, glimmering with the bright spring dew,
Is either the tip of earth’s Jade Mountain
Or a moon- edged roof of paradise.

Li Bai

A SONG OF PURE HAPPINESS II


There’s a perfume stealing moist from a shaft of red blossom,
And a mist, through the heart, from the magical Hill of Wu- –
The palaces of China have never known such beauty-
Not even Flying Swallow with all her glittering garments.

Li Bai

A SONG OF PURE HAPPINESS III


Lovely now together, his lady and his flowers
Lighten for ever the Emperor’s eye,
As he listens to the sighing of the far spring wind
Where she leans on a railing in the Aloe Pavilion.

Du Qiuniang

THE GOLD-THREADED ROBE


Covet not a gold-threaded robe,
Cherish only your young days!
If a bud open, gather it —
Lest you but wait for an empty bough.

Li Shangyin

TO ONE UNNAMED V


There are many curtains in your care-free house,
Where rapture lasts the whole night long.
…What are the lives of angels but dreams
If they take no lovers into their rooms?
…Storms are ravishing the nut-horns,
Moon- dew sweetening cinnamon-leaves
I know well enough naught can come of this union,
Yet how it serves to ease my heart!

Wen Tingyun

NEAR THE LIZHOU FERRY


The sun has set in the water’s clear void,
And little blue islands are one with the sky.
On the bank a horse neighs. A boat goes by.
People gather at a willow- clump and wait for the ferry.
Down by the sand-bushes sea-gulls are circling,
Over the wide river-lands flies an egret.
…Can you guess why I sail, like an ancient wise lover,
Through the misty Five Lakes, forgetting words?

Wen Tingyun

THE TEMPLE OF SU WU


Though our envoy, Su Wu, is gone, body and soul,
This temple survives, these trees endure….
Wildgeese through the clouds are still calling to the moon there
And hill-sheep unshepherded graze along the border.
…Returning, he found his country changed
Since with youthful cap and sword he had left it.
His bitter adventures had won him no title….
Autumn-waves endlessly sob in the river.

Xue Feng

A PALACE POEM


In twelve chambers the ladies, decked for the day,
Peer afar for their lord from their Fairy-View Lodge;
The golden toad guards the lock on the door-chain,
And the bronze-dragon water-clock drips through the morning
Till one of them, tilting a mirror, combs her cloud of hair
And chooses new scent and a change of silk raiment;
For she sees, between screen-panels, deep in the palace,
Eunuchs in court-dress preparing a bed.

Qin Taoyu

A POOR GIRL


Living under a thatch roof, never wearing fragrant silk,
She longs to arrange a marriage, but how could she dare?
Who would know her simple face the loveliest of them all
When we choose for worldliness, not for worth?
Her fingers embroider beyond compare,
But she cannot vie with painted brows;
And year after year she has sewn gold thread
On bridal robes for other girls.

Shen Quanqi

BEYOND SEEING


A girl of the Lu clan who lives in Golden-Wood Hall,
Where swallows perch in pairs on beams of tortoiseshell,
Hears the washing-mallets’ cold beat shake the leaves down.
…The Liaoyang expedition will be gone ten years,
And messages are lost in the White Wolf River.
…Here in the City of the Red Phoenix autumn nights are long,
Where one who is heart-sick to see beyond seeing,
Sees only moonlight on the yellow-silk wave of her loom.

Wang Wei

DEER-PARK HERMITAGE


There seems to be no one on the empty mountain….
And yet I think I hear a voice,
Where sunlight, entering a grove,
Shines back to me from the green moss.

Wang Wei

IN A RETREAT AMONG BAMBOOS


Leaning alone in the close bamboos,
I am playing my lute and humming a song
Too softly for anyone to hear —
Except my comrade, the bright moon.

Wang Wei

A PARTING


Friend, I have watched you down the mountain
Till now in the dark I close my thatch door….
Grasses return again green in the spring,
But O my Prince of Friends, do you?

Wang Wei

ONE-HEARTED


When those red berries come in springtime,
Flushing on your southland branches,
Take home an armful, for my sake,
As a symbol of our love.


He Zhizhang

COMING HOME


I left home young. I return old;
Speaking as then, but with hair grown thin;
And my children, meeting me, do not know me.
They smile and say: “Stranger, where do you come from?”

from-the-painting-e2809cbanquets-at-a-frontier-fortresse2809d-the-painting-is-currently-housed-in-beijing-forbidden-city-museum

Zhang Xu

PEACH-BLOSSOM RIVER


A bridge flies away through a wild mist,
Yet here are the rocks and the fisherman’s boat.
Oh, if only this river of floating peach-petals
Might lead me at last to the mythical cave!

Wang Wei

ON THE MOUNTAIN HOLIDAY
THINKING OF MY BROTHERS IN SHANDONG


All alone in a foreign land,
I am twice as homesick on this day
When brothers carry dogwood up the mountain,
Each of them a branch-and my branch missing.

Wang Changling

AT HIBISCUS INN
PARTING WITH XIN JIAN


With this cold night-rain hiding the river, you have come into Wu.
In the level dawn, all alone, you will be starting for the mountains of Chu.
Answer, if they ask of me at Loyang:
“One-hearted as ice in a crystal vase.”

Wang Changling

IN HER QUIET WINDOW


Too young to have learned what sorrow means,
Attired for spring, she climbs to her high chamber….
The new green of the street-willows is wounding her heart —
Just for a title she sent him to war.

Wang Changling

A SONG OF THE SPRING PALACE


Last night, while a gust blew peach-petals open
And the moon shone high on the Palace Beyond Time,
The Emperor gave Pingyang, for her dancing,
Brocades against the cold spring-wind.

greatwall

Wang Han

A SONG OF LIANGZHOU


They sing, they drain their cups of jade,
They strum on horseback their guitars.
…Why laugh when they fall asleep drunk on the sand ? —
How many soldiers ever come home?

Li Bai

A FAREWELL TO MENG HAORAN
ON HIS WAY TO YANGZHOU


You have left me behind, old friend, at the Yellow Crane Terrace,
On your way to visit Yangzhou in the misty month of flowers;
Your sail, a single shadow, becomes one with the blue sky,
Till now I see only the river, on its way to heaven.

Li Bai

THROUGH THE YANGZI GORGES


From the walls of Baidi high in the coloured dawn
To Jiangling by night-fall is three hundred miles,
Yet monkeys are still calling on both banks behind me
To my boat these ten thousand mountains away.

Cen Can

ON MEETING A MESSENGER TO THE CAPITAL


It’s a long way home, a long way east.
I am old and my sleeve is wet with tears.
We meet on horseback. I have no means of writing.
Tell them three words: “He is safe.”

Du Fu

ON MEETING LI GUINIAN DOWN THE RIVER


I met you often when you were visiting princes
And when you were playing in noblemen’s halls.
…Spring passes…. Far down the river now,
I find you alone under falling petals.

Wei Yingwu

AT CHUZHOU ON THE WESTERN STREAM


Where tender grasses rim the stream
And deep boughs trill with mango-birds,
On the spring flood of last night’s rain
The ferry-boat moves as though someone were poling.

Zhang Ji

A NIGHT-MOORING NEAR MAPLE BRIDGE


While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;
Under the shadows of maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;
And I hear, from beyond Suzhou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,
Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell.

Han Hong

AFTER THE DAY OF NO FIRE


Petals of spring fly all through the city
From the wind in the willows of the Imperial River.
And at dusk, from the palace, candles are given out
To light first the mansions of the Five Great Lords.

Liu Fangping

A MOONLIGHT NIGHT


When the moon has coloured half the house,
With the North Star at its height and the South Star setting,
I can fed the first motions of the warm air of spring
In the singing of an insect at my green-silk window.

Liu Fangping

SPRING HEART-BREAK


With twilight passing her silken window,
She weeps alone in her chamber of gold
For spring is departing from a desolate garden,
And a drift of pear-petals is closing a door.

Liu Zhongyong

A TROOPER’S BURDEN


For years, to guard the Jade Pass and the River of Gold,
With our hands on our horse-whips and our swordhilts,
We have watched the green graves change to snow
And the Yellow Stream ring the Black Mountain forever.

Gu Kuang

A PALACE POEM


High above, from a jade chamber, songs float half-way to heaven,
The palace-girls’ gay voices are mingled with the wind —
But now they are still, and you hear a water-clock drip in the Court of the Moon….
They have opened the curtain wide, they are facing the River of Stars.

chinese-painting-in-the-forbidden-city-of-beijing

Li Yi

ON HEARING A FLUTE AT NIGHT
FROM THE WALL OF SHOUXIANG


The sand below the border-mountain lies like snow,
And the moon like frost beyond the city-wall,
And someone somewhere, playing a flute,
Has made the soldiers homesick all night long.

Liu Yuxi

BLACKTAIL ROW


Grass has run wild now by the Bridge of Red-Birds;
And swallows’ wings, at sunset, in Blacktail Row
Where once they visited great homes,
Dip among doorways of the poor.

Liu Yuxi

A SPRING SONG


In gala robes she comes down from her chamber
Into her courtyard, enclosure of spring….
When she tries from the centre to count the flowers,
On her hairpin of jade a dragon-fly poises.

Bai Juyi

A SONG OF THE PALACE


Her tears are spent, but no dreams come.
She can hear the others singing through the night.
She has lost his love. Alone with her beauty,
She leans till dawn on her incense-pillow.

Zhang Hu

OF ONE IN THE FORBIDDEN CITY


When the moonlight, reaching a tree by the gate,
Shows her a quiet bird on its nest,
She removes her jade hairpins and sits in the shadow
And puts out a flame where a moth was flying.

Forbidden City Painting

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Filed under Chinese poetry, Du Fu, Li Bai, pictures, poetry, Wang Wei

T’ang Poetry- Chapter 5?

I’m losing track of how many of these I’ve done. I just know that these are not included in the previous posts.

china_landscape

Li Bai
HARD ROADS IN SHU

Oh, but it is high and very dangerous!
Such travelling is harder than scaling the blue sky.
…Until two rulers of this region
Pushed their way through in the misty ages,
Forty-eight thousand years had passed
With nobody arriving across the Qin border.
And the Great White Mountain, westward, still has only a bird’s path
Up to the summit of Emei Peak —
Which was broken once by an earthquake and there were brave men lost,
Just finishing the stone rungs of their ladder toward heaven.
…High, as on a tall flag, six dragons drive the sun,
While the river, far below, lashes its twisted course.
Such height would be hard going for even a yellow crane,
So pity the poor monkeys who have only paws to use.
The Mountain of Green Clay is formed of many circles-
Each hundred steps, we have to turn nine turns among its mound —
Panting, we brush Orion and pass the Well Star,
Then, holding our chests with our hands and sinking to the ground with a groan,
We wonder if this westward trail will never have an end.
The formidable path ahead grows darker, darker still,
With nothing heard but the call of birds hemmed in by the ancient forest,
Male birds smoothly wheeling, following the females;
And there come to us the melancholy voices of the cuckoos
Out on the empty mountain, under the lonely moon….
Such travelling is harder than scaling the blue sky.
Even to hear of it turns the cheek pale,
With the highest crag barely a foot below heaven.
Dry pines hang, head down, from the face of the cliffs,
And a thousand plunging cataracts outroar one another
And send through ten thousand valleys a thunder of spinning stones.
With all this danger upon danger,
Why do people come here who live at a safe distance?
…Though Dagger-Tower Pass be firm and grim,
And while one man guards it
Ten thousand cannot force it,
What if he be not loyal,
But a wolf toward his fellows?
…There are ravenous tigers to fear in the day
And venomous reptiles in the night
With their teeth and their fangs ready
To cut people down like hemp.
Though the City of Silk be delectable, I would rather turn home quickly.
Such travelling is harder than scaling the blue sky….
But I still face westward with a dreary moan.

Li Bai
ENDLESS YEARNING I

“I am endlessly yearning
To be in Changan.
…Insects hum of autumn by the gold brim of the well;
A thin frost glistens like little mirrors on my cold mat;
The high lantern flickers; and. deeper grows my longing.
I lift the shade and, with many a sigh, gaze upon the moon,
Single as a flower, centred from the clouds.
Above, I see the blueness and deepness of sky.
Below, I see the greenness and the restlessness of water….
Heaven is high, earth wide; bitter between them flies my sorrow.
Can I dream through the gateway, over the mountain?
Endless longing
Breaks my heart.”

Li Bai
ENDLESS YEARNING II

“The sun has set, and a mist is in the flowers;
And the moon grows very white and people sad and sleepless.
A Zhao harp has just been laid mute on its phoenix holder,
And a Shu lute begins to sound its mandarin-duck strings….
Since nobody can bear to you the burden of my song,
Would that it might follow the spring wind to Yanran Mountain.
I think of you far away, beyond the blue sky,
And my eyes that once were sparkling
Are now a well of tears.
…Oh, if ever you should doubt this aching of my heart,
Here in my bright mirror come back and look at me!”

Li Bai
THE HARD ROAD

Pure wine costs, for the golden cup, ten thousand coppers a flagon,
And a jade plate of dainty food calls for a million coins.
I fling aside my food-sticks and cup, I cannot eat nor drink….
I pull out my dagger, I peer four ways in vain.
I would cross the Yellow River, but ice chokes the ferry;
I would climb the Taihang Mountains, but the sky is blind with snow….
I would sit and poise a fishing-pole, lazy by a brook —
But I suddenly dream of riding a boat, sailing for the sun….
Journeying is hard,
Journeying is hard.
There are many turnings —
Which am I to follow?….
I will mount a long wind some day and break the heavy waves
And set my cloudy sail straight and bridge the deep, deep sea.

Li Bai
HARD IS THE WAY OF THE WORLD II

The way is broad like the blue sky,
But no way out before my eye.
I am ashamed to follow those who have no guts,
Gambling on fighting cocks and dogs for pears and nuts.
Feng would go homeward way, having no fish to eat;
Zhou did not think to bow to noblemen was meet.
General Han was mocked in the market-place;
The brilliant scholar Jia was banished in disgrace.
Have you not heard of King of Yan in days gone by,
Who venerated talents and built Terrace high
On which he offered gold to gifted men
And stooped low and swept the floor to welcome them?
Grateful, Ju Xin and Yue Yi came then
And served him heart and soul, both full of stratagem.
The King’s bones were now buried,
who would sweep the floor of the Gold Terrace any more?
Hard is the way.
Go back without delay!

Li Bai
HARD IS THE WAY OF THE WORLD III

Don’t wash your ears on hearing something you dislike
Nor die of hunger like famous hermits on the Pike!
Living without a fame among the motley crowd,
Why should one be as lofty as the moon or cloud?
Of ancient talents who failed to retire, there’s none
But came to tragic ending after glory’s won.
The head of General Wu was hung o’er city gate;
In the river was drowned the poet laureate.
The highly talented scholar wished in vain
To preserve his life to hear the cry of the crane.
Minister Li regretted not to have retired
To hunt with falcon gray as he had long desired.
Have you not heard of Zhang Han who resigned, carefree,
To go home to eat his perch with high glee?
Enjoy a cup of wine while you’re alive!
Do not care if your fame will not survive!

Li Bai
BRINGING IN THE WINE

See how the Yellow River’s waters move out of heaven.
Entering the ocean, never to return.
See how lovely locks in bright mirrors in high chambers,
Though silken-black at morning, have changed by night to snow.
…Oh, let a man of spirit venture where he pleases
And never tip his golden cup empty toward the moon!
Since heaven gave the talent, let it be employed!
Spin a thousand pieces of silver, all of them come back!
Cook a sheep, kill a cow, whet the appetite,
And make me, of three hundred bowls, one long drink!
…To the old master, Cen,
And the young scholar, Danqiu,
Bring in the wine!
Let your cups never rest!
Let me sing you a song!
Let your ears attend!
What are bell and drum, rare dishes and treasure?
Let me be forever drunk and never come to reason!
Sober men of olden days and sages are forgotten,
And only the great drinkers are famous for all time.
…Prince Chen paid at a banquet in the Palace of Perfection
Ten thousand coins for a cask of wine, with many a laugh and quip.
Why say, my host, that your money is gone?
Go and buy wine and we’ll drink it together!
My flower-dappled horse,
My furs worth a thousand,
Hand them to the boy to exchange for good wine,
And we’ll drown away the woes of ten thousand generations!

Du Fu
A SONG OF WAR-CHARIOTS

The war-chariots rattle,
The war-horses whinny.
Each man of you has a bow and a quiver at his belt.
Father, mother, son, wife, stare at you going,
Till dust shall have buried the bridge beyond Changan.
They run with you, crying, they tug at your sleeves,
And the sound of their sorrow goes up to the clouds;
And every time a bystander asks you a question,
You can only say to him that you have to go.
…We remember others at fifteen sent north to guard the river
And at forty sent west to cultivate the campfarms.
The mayor wound their turbans for them when they started out.
With their turbaned hair white now, they are still at the border,
At the border where the blood of men spills like the sea —
And still the heart of Emperor Wu is beating for war.
…Do you know that, east of China’s mountains, in two hundred districts
And in thousands of villages, nothing grows but weeds,
And though strong women have bent to the ploughing,
East and west the furrows all are broken down?
…Men of China are able to face the stiffest battle,
But their officers drive them like chickens and dogs.
Whatever is asked of them,
Dare they complain?
For example, this winter
Held west of the gate,
Challenged for taxes,
How could they pay?
…We have learned that to have a son is bad luck-
It is very much better to have a daughter
Who can marry and live in the house of a neighbour,
While under the sod we bury our boys.
…Go to the Blue Sea, look along the shore
At all the old white bones forsaken —
New ghosts are wailing there now with the old,
Loudest in the dark sky of a stormy day.

Du Fu
A SONG OF FAIR WOMEN

On the third day of the Third-month in the freshening weather
Many beauties take the air by the Changan waterfront,
Receptive, aloof, sweet-mannered, sincere,
With soft fine skin and well-balanced bone.
Their embroidered silk robes in the spring sun are gleaming —
With a mass of golden peacocks and silver unicorns.
And hanging far down from their temples
Are blue leaves of delicate kingfisher feathers.
And following behind them
Is a pearl-laden train, rhythmic with bearers.
Some of them are kindred to the Royal House —
The titled Princesses Guo and Qin.
Red camel-humps are brought them from jade broilers,
And sweet fish is ordered them on crystal trays.
Though their food-sticks of unicorn-horn are lifted languidly
And the finely wrought phoenix carving-knife is very little used,
Fleet horses from the Yellow Gate, stirring no dust,
Bring precious dishes constantly from the imperial kitchen.
…While a solemn sound of flutes and drums invokes gods and spirits,
Guests and courtiers gather, all of high rank;
And finally, riding slow, a dignified horseman
Dismounts at the pavilion on an embroidered rug.
In a snow of flying willow-cotton whitening the duckweed,
Bluebirds find their way with vermilion handkerchiefs —
But power can be as hot as flame and burn people’s fingers.
Be wary of the Premier, watch for his frown.

Du Fu
A SONG OF SOBBING BY THE RIVER

I am only an old woodsman, whispering a sob,
As I steal like a spring-shadow down the Winding River.
…Since the palaces ashore are sealed by a thousand gates —
Fine willows, new rushes, for whom are you so green?
…I remember a cloud of flags that came from the South Garden,
And ten thousand colours, heightening one another,
And the Kingdom’s first Lady, from the Palace of the Bright Sun,
Attendant on the Emperor in his royal chariot,
And the horsemen before them, each with bow and arrows,
And the snowy horses, champing at bits of yellow gold,
And an archer, breast skyward, shooting through the clouds
And felling with one dart a pair of flying birds.
…Where are those perfect eyes, where are those pearly teeth?
A blood-stained spirit has no home, has nowhere to return.
And clear Wei waters running east, through the cleft on Dagger- Tower Trail,
Carry neither there nor here any news of her.
People, compassionate, are wishing with tears
That she were as eternal as the river and the flowers.
…Mounted Tartars, in the yellow twilight, cloud the town with dust.
I am fleeing south, but I linger-gazing northward toward the throne.

Du Fu
A SONG OF A PRINCE DEPOSED

Along the wall of the Capital a white-headed crow
Flies to the Gate where Autumn Enters and screams there in the night,
Then turns again and pecks among the roofs of a tall mansion
Whose lord, a mighty mandarin, has fled before the Tartars,
With his golden whip now broken, his nine war-horses dead
And his own flesh and bone scattered to the winds….
There’s a rare ring of green coral underneath the vest
Of a Prince at a street-corner, bitterly sobbing,
Who has to give a false name to anyone who asks him-
Just a poor fellow, hoping for employment.
A hundred days’ hiding in grasses and thorns
Show on his body from head to foot.
But, since their first Emperor, all with hooknoses,
These Dragons look different from ordinary men.
Wolves are in the palace now and Dragons are lost in the desert —
O Prince, be very careful of your most sacred person!
I dare not address you long, here by the open road,
Nor even to stand beside you for more than these few moments.
Last night with the spring-wind there came a smell of blood;
The old Capital is full of camels from the east.
Our northern warriors are sound enough of body and of hand —
Oh, why so brave in olden times and so craven now?
Our Emperor, we hear, has given his son the throne
And the southern border-chieftains are loyally inclined
And the Huamen and Limian tribes are gathering to avenge us.
But still be careful-keep yourself well hidden from the dagger.
Unhappy Prince, I beg you, be constantly on guard —
Till power blow to your aid from the Five Imperial Tombs.
090
Tang Xunzong
I PASS THROUGH THE LU DUKEDOM
WITH A SIGH AND A SACRIFICE FOR CONFUCIUS

O Master, how did the world repay
Your life of long solicitude? —
The Lords of Zou have misprized your land,
And your home has been used as the palace of Lu….
You foretold that when phoenixes vanished, your fortunes too would end,
You knew that the captured unicorn would be a sign of the dose of your teaching….
Can this sacrifice I watch, here between two temple pillars,
Be the selfsame omen of death you dreamed of long ago?

chinese_map-1418

Zhang Jiuling
LOOKING AT THE MOON
AND THINKING OF ONE FAR AWAY

The moon, grown full now over the sea,
Brightening the whole of heaven,
Brings to separated hearts
The long thoughtfulness of night….
It is no darker though I blow out my candle.
It is no warmer though I put on my coat.
So I leave my message with the moon
And turn to my bed, hoping for dreams.

Wang Bo
FAREWELL TO VICE-PREFECT DU
SETTING OUT FOR HIS OFFICIAL POST IN SHU

By this wall that surrounds the three Qin districts,
Through a mist that makes five rivers one,
We bid each other a sad farewell,
We two officials going opposite ways….
And yet, while China holds our friendship,
And heaven remains our neighbourhood,
Why should you linger at the fork of the road,
Wiping your eyes like a heart-broken child?

Lo Bingwang
A POLITICAL PRISONER LISTENING TO A CICADA

While the year sinks westward, I hear a cicada
Bid me to be resolute here in my cell,
Yet it needed the song of those black wings
To break a white-haired prisoner’s heart….
His flight is heavy through the fog,
His pure voice drowns in the windy world.
Who knows if he be singing still? – –
Who listens any more to me?

china_hills

Du Shenyan
ON A WALK IN THE EARLY SPRING
HARMONIZING A POEM BY MY FRIEND LU
STATIONED AT CHANGZHOU

Only to wanderers can come
Ever new the shock of beauty,
Of white cloud and red cloud dawning from the sea,
Of spring in the wild-plum and river-willow….
I watch a yellow oriole dart in the warm air,
And a green water- plant reflected by the sun.
Suddenly an old song fills
My heart with home, my eyes with tears.

Shen Quanqi
LINES

Against the City of the Yellow Dragon
Our troops were sent long years ago,
And girls here watch the same melancholy moon
That lights our Chinese warriors —
And young wives dream a dream of spring,
That last night their heroic husbands,
In a great attack, with flags and drums,
Captured the City of the Yellow Dragon.

Song Zhiwen
INSCRIBED ON THE WALL OF AN INN
NORTH OF DAYU MOUNTAIN

They say that wildgeese, flying southward,
Here turn back, this very month….
Shall my own southward journey
Ever be retraced, I wonder?
…The river is pausing at ebb-tide,
And the woods are thick with clinging mist —
But tomorrow morning, over the mountain,
Dawn will be white with the plum-trees of home.

Wang Wan
A MOORING UNDER NORTH FORT HILL

Under blue mountains we wound our way,
My boat and 1, along green water;
Until the banks at low tide widened,
With no wind stirring my lone sail.
…Night now yields to a sea of sun,
And the old year melts in freshets.
At last I can send my messengers —
Wildgeese, homing to Loyang.

Chang Jian
A BUDDHIST RETREAT BEHIND BROKEN-MOUNTAIN TEMPLE

In the pure morning, near the old temple,
Where early sunlight points the tree-tops,
My path has wound, through a sheltered hollow
Of boughs and flowers, to a Buddhist retreat.
Here birds are alive with mountain-light,
And the mind of man touches peace in a pool,
And a thousand sounds are quieted
By the breathing of a temple-bell.

Cen Can
A MESSAGE TO CENSOR Du Fu
AT HIS OFFICE IN THE LEFT COURT

Together we officials climbed vermilion steps,
To be parted by the purple walls….
Our procession, which entered the palace at dawn,
Leaves fragrant now at dusk with imperial incense.
…Grey heads may grieve for a fallen flower,
Or blue clouds envy a lilting bird;
But this reign is of heaven, nothing goes wrong,
There have been almost no petitions.

Li Bai
A MESSAGE TO MENG HAORAN

Master, I hail you from my heart,
And your fame arisen to the skies….
Renouncing in ruddy youth the importance of hat and chariot,
You chose pine-trees and clouds; and now, whitehaired,
Drunk with the moon, a sage of dreams,
Flower- bewitched, you are deaf to the Emperor….
High mountain, how I long to reach you,
Breathing your sweetness even here!

china_snow_leopards

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Poetry of the T’ang Dynasty, Part 6

Latest installment

Poems of the T’ang Dynasty, Part 6

Qiu Wei

AFTER MISSING THE RECLUSE
ON THE WESTERN MOUNTAIN


To your hermitage here on the top of the mountain
I have climbed, without stopping, these ten miles.
I have knocked at your door, and no one answered;
I have peeped into your room, at your seat beside the table.
Perhaps you are out riding in your canopied chair,
Or fishing, more likely, in some autumn pool.
Sorry though I am to be missing you,
You have become my meditation —
The beauty of your grasses, fresh with rain,
And close beside your window the music of your pines.
I take into my being all that I see and hear,
Soothing my senses, quieting my heart;
And though there be neither host nor guest,
Have I not reasoned a visit complete?
…After enough, I have gone down the mountain.
Why should I wait for you any longer?

Qiwu Qian

A BOAT IN SPRING ON RUOYA LAKE


Thoughtful elation has no end:
Onward I bear it to whatever come.
And my boat and I, before the evening breeze
Passing flowers, entering the lake,
Turn at nightfall toward the western valley,
Where I watch the south star over the mountain
And a mist that rises, hovering soft,
And the low moon slanting through the trees;
And I choose to put away from me every worldly matter
And only to be an old man with a fishing-pole.

tang-culture-b

Chang Jian

AT WANG CHANGLIN’ S RETREAT


Here, beside a clear deep lake,
You live accompanied by clouds;
Or soft through the pine the moon arrives
To be your own pure-hearted friend.
You rest under thatch in the shadow of your flowers,
Your dewy herbs flourish in their bed of moss.
Let me leave the world. Let me alight, like you,
On your western mountain with phoenixes and cranes.

tang_pottery

Cen Can

ASCENDING THE PAGODA AT THE TEMPLE OF KIND
FAVOUR WITH GAO SHI AND XUE JU


The pagoda, rising abruptly from earth,
Reaches to the very Palace of Heaven….
Climbing, we seem to have left the world behind us,
With the steps we look down on hung from space.
It overtops a holy land
And can only have been built by toil of the spirit.
Its four sides darken the bright sun,
Its seven stories cut the grey clouds;
Birds fly down beyond our sight,
And the rapid wind below our hearing;
Mountain-ranges, toward the east,
Appear to be curving and flowing like rivers;
Far green locust-trees line broad roads
Toward clustered palaces and mansions;
Colours of autumn, out of the west,
Enter advancing through the city;
And northward there lie, in five graveyards,
Calm forever under dewy green grass,
Those who know life’s final meaning
Which all humankind must learn.
…Henceforth I put my official hat aside.
To find the Eternal Way is the only happiness.


Yuan Jie

TO THE TAX-COLLECTORS
AFTER THE BANDITS RETREAT


In the year Kuimao the bandits from Xiyuan entered Daozhou, set fire, raided, killed, and looted. The whole district was almost ruined. The next year the bandits came again and, attacking the neighbouring prefecture, Yong, passed this one by. It was not because we were strong enough to defend ourselves, but, probably, because they pitied us. And how now can these commissioners bear to impose extra taxes? I have written this poem for the collectors’ information.


I still remember those days of peace —
Twenty years among mountains and forests,
The pure stream running past my yard,
The caves and valleys at my door.
Taxes were light and regular then,
And I could sleep soundly and late in the morning-
Till suddenly came a sorry change.
…For years now I have been serving in the army.
When I began here as an official,
The mountain bandits were rising again;
But the town was so small it was spared by the thieves,
And the people so poor and so pitiable
That all other districts were looted
And this one this time let alone.
…Do you imperial commissioners
Mean to be less kind than bandits?
The people you force to pay the poll
Are like creatures frying over a fire.
And how can you sacrifice human lives,
Just to be known as able collectors? —
…Oh, let me fling down my official seal,
Let me be a lone fisherman in a small boat
And support my family on fish and wheat
And content my old age with rivers and lakes!

Liu Zongyuan

READING BUDDHIST CLASSICS WITH ZHAO
AT HIS TEMPLE IN THE EARLY MORNING


I clean my teeth in water drawn from a cold well;
And while I brush my clothes, I purify my mind;
Then, slowly turning pages in the Tree-Leaf Book,
I recite, along the path to the eastern shelter.
…The world has forgotten the true fountain of this teaching
And people enslave themselves to miracles and fables.
Under the given words I want the essential meaning,
I look for the simplest way to sow and reap my nature.
Here in the quiet of the priest’s templecourtyard,
Mosses add their climbing colour to the thick bamboo;
And now comes the sun, out of mist and fog,
And pines that seem to be new-bathed;
And everything is gone from me, speech goes, and reading,
Leaving the single unison.

Liu Zongyuan

DWELLING BY A STREAM


I had so long been troubled by official hat and robe
That I am glad to be an exile here in this wild southland.
I am a neighbour now of planters and reapers.
I am a guest of the mountains and woods.
I plough in the morning, turning dewy grasses,
And at evening tie my fisher-boat, breaking the quiet stream.
Back and forth I go, scarcely meeting anyone,
And sing a long poem and gaze at the blue sky.

china_landscape

Wang Changling

AT A BORDER-FORTRESS


Cicadas complain of thin mulberry-trees
In the Eighth-month chill at the frontier pass.
Through the gate and back again, all along the road,
There is nothing anywhere but yellow reeds and grasses
And the bones of soldiers from You and from Bing
Who have buried their lives in the dusty sand.
…Let never a cavalier stir you to envy
With boasts of his horse and his horsemanship

Wang Changling

UNDER A BORDER-FORTRESS


Drink, my horse, while we cross the autumn water!-
The stream is cold and the wind like a sword,
As we watch against the sunset on the sandy plain,
Far, far away, shadowy Lingtao.
Old battles, waged by those long walls,
Once were proud on all men’s tongues.
But antiquity now is a yellow dust,
Confusing in the grasses its ruins and white bones.

dufuzan1

Du Fu

A LETTER TO CENSOR HAN


I am sad. My thoughts are in Youzhou.
I would hurry there-but I am sick in bed.
…Beauty would be facing me across the autumn waters.
Oh, to wash my feet in Lake Dongting and see at its eight corners
Wildgeese flying high, sun and moon both white,
Green maples changing to red in the frosty sky,
Angels bound for the Capital of Heaven, near the North Star,
Riding, some of them phrenixes, and others unicorns,
With banners of hibiscus and with melodies of mist,
Their shadows dancing upside-down in the southern rivers,
Till the Queen of the Stars, drowsy with her nectar,
Would forget the winged men on either side of her!
…From the Wizard of the Red Pine this word has come for me:
That after his earlier follower he has now a new disciple
Who, formerly at the capital as Emperor Liu’s adviser,
In spite of great successes, never could be happy.
…What are a country’s rise and fall?
Can flesh-pots be as fragrant as mountain fruit?….
I grieve that he is lost far away in the south.
May the star of long life accord him its blessing!
…O purity, to seize you from beyond the autumn waters
And to place you as an offering in the Court of Imperial Jade.

Du Fu

A SONG OF AN OLD CYPRESS


Beside the Temple of the Great Premier stands an ancient cypress
With a trunk of green bronze and a root of stone.
The girth of its white bark would be the reach of forty men
And its tip of kingfish-blue is two thousand feet in heaven.
Dating from the days of a great ruler’s great statesman,
Their very tree is loved now and honoured by the people.
Clouds come to it from far away, from the Wu cliffs,
And the cold moon glistens on its peak of snow.
…East of the Silk Pavilion yesterday I found
The ancient ruler and wise statesman both worshipped in one temple,
Whose tree, with curious branches, ages the whole landscape
In spite of the fresh colours of the windows and the doors.
And so firm is the deep root, so established underground,
That its lone lofty boughs can dare the weight of winds,
Its only protection the Heavenly Power,
Its only endurance the art of its Creator.
Though oxen sway ten thousand heads, they cannot move a mountain.
…When beams are required to restore a great house,
Though a tree writes no memorial, yet people understand
That not unless they fell it can use be made of it….
Its bitter heart may be tenanted now by black and white ants,
But its odorous leaves were once the nest of phoenixes and pheasants.
…Let wise and hopeful men harbour no complaint.
The greater the timber, the tougher it is to use.

Du Fu

A SONG OF DAGGER-DANCING TO A GIRL-PUPIL
OF LADY GONGSUN


On the 19th of the Tenth-month in the second year of Dali, I saw, in the house of the Kueifu official Yuante, a girl named Li from Lingying dancing with a dagger. I admired her skill and asked who was her teacher. She named Lady Gongsun. I remembered that in the third year of Kaiyuan at Yancheng, when I was a little boy, I saw Lady Gongsun dance. She was the only one in the Imperial Theatre who could dance with this weapon. Now she is aged and unknown, and even her pupil has passed the heyday of beauty. I wrote this poem to express my wistfulness. The work of Zhang Xu of the Wu district, that great master of grassy writing, was improved by his having been present when Lady Gongsun danced in the Yeh district. From this may be judged the art of Gongsun.


There lived years ago the beautiful Gongsun,
Who, dancing with her dagger, drew from all four quarters
An audience like mountains lost among themselves.
Heaven and earth moved back and forth, following her motions,
Which were bright as when the Archer shot the nine suns down the sky
And rapid as angels before the wings of dragons.
She began like a thunderbolt, venting its anger,
And ended like the shining calm of rivers and the sea….
But vanished are those red lips and those pearly sleeves;
And none but this one pupil bears the perfume of her fame,
This beauty from Lingying, at the Town of the White God,
Dancing still and singing in the old blithe way.
And while we reply to each other’s questions,
We sigh together, saddened by changes that have come.
There were eight thousand ladies in the late Emperor’s court,
But none could dance the dagger-dance like Lady Gongsun.
…Fifty years have passed, like the turning of a palm;
Wind and dust, filling the world, obscure the Imperial House.
Instead of the Pear-Garden Players, who have blown by like a mist,
There are one or two girl-musicians now-trying to charm the cold Sun.
There are man-size trees by the Emperor’s Golden Tomb
I seem to hear dead grasses rattling on the cliffs of Qutang.
…The song is done, the slow string and quick pipe have ceased.
At the height of joy, sorrow comes with the eastern moon rising.
And I, a poor old man, not knowing where to go,
Must harden my feet on the lone hills, toward sickness and despair.

china_hills

Yuan Jie

A DRINKING SONG AT STONE-FISH LAKE


I have used grain from the public fields, for distilling wine. After my office hours I have the wine loaded on a boat and then I seat my friends on the bank of the lake. The little wine-boats come to each of us and supply us with wine. We seem to be drinking on Pa Islet in Lake Dongting. And I write this poem.


Stone-Fish Lake is like Lake Dongting —
When the top of Zun is green and the summer tide is rising.
…With the mountain for a table, and the lake a fount of wine,
The tipplers all are settled along the sandy shore.
Though a stiff wind for days has roughened the water,
Wine-boats constantly arrive….
I have a long-necked gourd and, happy on Ba Island,
I am pouring a drink in every direction doing away with care.

Han Yu

MOUNTAIN-STONES


Rough were the mountain-stones, and the path very narrow;
And when I reached the temple, bats were in the dusk.
I climbed to the hall, sat on the steps, and drank the rain- washed air
Among the round gardenia-pods and huge bananaleaves.
On the old wall, said the priest, were Buddhas finely painted,
And he brought a light and showed me, and I called them wonderful
He spread the bed, dusted the mats, and made my supper ready,
And, though the food was coarse, it satisfied my hunger.
At midnight, while I lay there not hearing even an insect,
The mountain moon with her pure light entered my door….
At dawn I left the mountain and, alone, lost my way:
In and out, up and down, while a heavy mist
Made brook and mountain green and purple, brightening everything.
I am passing sometimes pines and oaks, which ten men could not girdle,
I am treading pebbles barefoot in swift-running water —
Its ripples purify my ear, while a soft wind blows my garments….
These are the things which, in themselves, make life happy.
Why should we be hemmed about and hampered with people?
O chosen pupils, far behind me in my own country,
What if I spent my old age here and never went back home?

Han Yu

ON THE FESTIVAL OF THE MOON
TO SUB-OFFICIAL ZHANG


The fine clouds have opened and the River of Stars is gone,
A clear wind blows across the sky, and the moon widens its wave,
The sand is smooth, the water still, no sound and no shadow,
As I offer you a cup of wine, asking you to sing.
But so sad is this song of yours and so bitter your voice
That before I finish listening my tears have become a rain:
“Where Lake Dongting is joined to the sky by the lofty Nine-Doubt Mountain,
Dragons, crocodiles, rise and sink, apes, flying foxes, whimper….
At a ten to one risk of death, I have reached my official post,
Where lonely I live and hushed, as though I were in hiding.
I leave my bed, afraid of snakes; I eat, fearing poisons;
The air of the lake is putrid, breathing its evil odours….
Yesterday, by the district office, the great drum was announcing
The crowning of an emperor, a change in the realm.
The edict granting pardons runs three hundred miles a day,
All those who were to die have had their sentences commuted,
The unseated are promoted and exiles are recalled,
Corruptions are abolished, clean officers appointed.
My superior sent my name in but the governor would not listen
And has only transferred me to this barbaric place.
My rank is very low and useless to refer to;
They might punish me with lashes in the dust of the street.
Most of my fellow exiles are now returning home —
A journey which, to me, is a heaven beyond climbing.”
…Stop your song, I beg you, and listen to mine,
A song that is utterly different from yours:
“Tonight is the loveliest moon of the year.
All else is with fate, not ours to control;
But, refusing this wine, may we choose more tomorrow?”

250px-han_yu

Han Yu

STOPPING AT A TEMPLE ON HENG MOUNTAIN I
INSCRIBE THIS POEM IN THE GATE-TOWER


The five Holy Mountains have the rank of the Three Dukes.
The other four make a ring, with the Song Mountain midmost.
To this one, in the fire-ruled south, where evil signs are rife,
Heaven gave divine power, ordaining it a peer.
All the clouds and hazes are hidden in its girdle;
And its forehead is beholden only by a few.
…I came here in autumn, during the rainy season,
When the sky was overcast and the clear wind gone.
I quieted my mind and prayed, hoping for an answer;
For assuredly righteous thinking reaches to high heaven.
And soon all the mountain-peaks were showing me their faces;
I looked up at a pinnacle that held the clean blue sky:
The wide Purple-Canopy joined the Celestial Column;
The Stone Granary leapt, while the Fire God stood still.
Moved by this token, I dismounted to offer thanks.
A long path of pine and cypress led to the temple.
Its white walls and purple pillars shone, and the vivid colour
Of gods and devils filled the place with patterns of red and blue.
I climbed the steps and, bending down to sacrifice, besought
That my pure heart might be welcome, in spite of my humble offering.
The old priest professed to know the judgment of the God:
He was polite and reverent, making many bows.
He handed me divinity-cups, he showed me how to use them
And told me that my fortune was the very best of all.
Though exiled to a barbarous land, mine is a happy life.
Plain food and plain clothes are all I ever wanted.
To be prince, duke, premier, general, was never my desire;
And if the God would bless me, what better could he grant than this ? —
At night I lie down to sleep in the top of a high tower;
While moon and stars glimmer through the darkness of the clouds….
Apes call, a bell sounds. And ready for dawn
I see arise, far in the east the cold bright sun.


Han Yu

A POEM ON THE STONE DRUMS


Chang handed me this tracing, from the stone drums,
Beseeching me to write a poem on the stone drums.
Du Fu has gone. Li Bai is dead.
What can my poor talent do for the stone drums?
…When the Zhou power waned and China was bubbling,
Emperor Xuan, up in wrath, waved his holy spear:
And opened his Great Audience, receiving all the tributes
Of kings and lords who came to him with a tune of clanging weapons.
They held a hunt in Qiyang and proved their marksmanship:
Fallen birds and animals were strewn three thousand miles.
And the exploit was recorded, to inform new generations….
Cut out of jutting cliffs, these drums made of stone-
On which poets and artisans, all of the first order,
Had indited and chiselled-were set in the deep mountains
To be washed by rain, baked by sun, burned by wildfire,
Eyed by evil spirits; and protected by the gods.
…Where can he have found the tracing on this paper? —
True to the original, not altered by a hair,
The meaning deep, the phrases cryptic, difficult to read.
And the style of the characters neither square nor tadpole.
Time has not yet vanquished the beauty of these letters —
Looking like sharp daggers that pierce live crocodiles,
Like phoenix-mates dancing, like angels hovering down,
Like trees of jade and coral with interlocking branches,
Like golden cord and iron chain tied together tight,
Like incense-tripods flung in the sea, like dragons mounting heaven.
Historians, gathering ancient poems, forgot to gather these,
To make the two Books of Musical Song more colourful and striking;
Confucius journeyed in the west, but not to the Qin Kingdom,
He chose our planet and our stars but missed the sun and moon
I who am fond of antiquity, was born too late
And, thinking of these wonderful things, cannot hold back my tears….
I remember, when I was awarded my highest degree,
During the first year of Yuanho,
How a friend of mine, then at the western camp,
Offered to assist me in removing these old relics.
I bathed and changed, then made my plea to the college president
And urged on him the rareness of these most precious things.
They could be wrapped in rugs, be packed and sent in boxes
And carried on only a few camels: ten stone drums
To grace the Imperial Temple like the Incense-Pot of Gao —
Or their lustre and their value would increase a hundredfold,
If the monarch would present them to the university,
Where students could study them and doubtless decipher them,
And multitudes, attracted to the capital of culture
Prom all corners of the Empire, would be quick to gather.
We could scour the moss, pick out the dirt, restore the original surface,
And lodge them in a fitting and secure place for ever,
Covered by a massive building with wide eaves
Where nothing more might happen to them as it had before.
…But government officials grow fixed in their ways
And never will initiate beyond old precedent;
So herd- boys strike the drums for fire, cows polish horns on them,
With no one to handle them reverentially.
Still ageing and decaying, soon they may be effaced.
Six years I have sighed for them, chanting toward the west….
The familiar script of Wang Xizhi, beautiful though it was,
Could be had, several pages, just for a few white geese,
But now, eight dynasties after the Zhou, and all the wars over,
Why should there be nobody caring for these drums?
The Empire is at peace, the government free.
Poets again are honoured and Confucians and Mencians….
Oh, how may this petition be carried to the throne?
It needs indeed an eloquent flow, like a cataract-
But, alas, my voice has broken, in my song of the stone drums,
To a sound of supplication choked with its own tears.

li_bai_du_fu_images_22

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Dip deeply into the Dao, Soup Sippers of the Moon

An assortment of audio and doc format translations of the Tao Te Ching.

What more can I say?

It’s the way.

tao-2The Tao Te Ching

Translation by Gia Fu Feng & Jane English
Comments and layout by Thomas Knierim

E-Book, Doc Format, download here:

the-tao-te-ching

Audio Book download of the same translation, read by Jacob Needleman:

tao-te-ching-read-by-jacob-needleman

sch_g_taoMore well known, The James Legge version is next- this is the classic English translation

seen most often in quotes from Lao Tsu:

Download the E-Book, Doc format:

tao-te-ching-leggetrans

Here is the Audio Book, in chapters, of the James Legge version

read by Eric Piotrowski:

01-tao_teh_king_01-09_lao-tze

02-tao_teh_king_10-18_lao-tze

03-tao_teh_king_19-27_lao-tze

04-tao_teh_king_28-37_lao-tze

05-tao_teh_king_38-45_lao-tze

06-tao_teh_king_46-54_lao-tze

07-tao_teh_king_55-63_lao-tze

08-tao_teh_king_64-72_lao-tze

09-tao_teh_king_73-81_lao-tze

laozi

The Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

1
The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name. The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things. Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness. Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

2
When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad. Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other. Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

3
If you overesteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal. The Master leads
by emptying people’s minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know. Practice not-doing,
and everything will fall into place.

4
The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.
It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities. It is hidden but always present.
I don’t know who gave birth to it.

It is older than God.

5
The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn’t take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners. The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand. Hold on to the center.

6
The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds. It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want.

7
The Tao is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings. The Master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.

8
The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao. In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present. When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

9
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner. Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

10
Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?

Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.

11
We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move. We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want. We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable. We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.

12
Colors blind the eye.
Sounds deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind.
Desires wither the heart. The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.

13
Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear. What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
you position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance. What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don’t see the self as self,
what do we have to fear? See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.

14
Look, and it can’t be seen.
Listen, and it can’t be heard.
Reach, and it can’t be grasped. Above, it isn’t bright.
Below, it isn’t dark.
Seamless, unnamable,
it returns to the realm of nothing.

Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception. Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
You can’t know it, but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from:
this is the essence of wisdom.

15
The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance. They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water. Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself? The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.

16
Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return. Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity. If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

17
When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised. If you don’t trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy. The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, “Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!”

18
When the great Tao is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.

When the body’s intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When the country falls into chaos,
patriotism is born.

19
Throw away holiness and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice,
and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit,
and there won’t be any thieves. If these three aren’t enough,
just stay at the center of the circle
and let all things take their course.

20
Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous! Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don’t care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile. Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty. Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharper;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don’t know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind. I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother’s breasts.

21
The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao;
that is what gives her her radiance. The Tao is ungraspable.
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn’t cling to ideas. The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it. Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.

22
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.

If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up. The Master, by residing in the Tao,
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn’t display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn’t know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goad in mind,
everything he does succeeds. When the ancient Masters said,
“If you want to be given everything, give everything up,”
they weren’t using empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Tao can you be truly yourself.

23
Express yourself completely,
then keep quiet.
Be like the forces of nature:
when it blows, there is only wind;
when it rains, there is only rain;
when the clouds pass, the sun shines through. If you open yourself to the Tao,
you are at one with the Tao
and you can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are at one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are at one with loss
and you can accept it completely. Open yourself to the Tao,
then trust your natural responses;
and everything will fall into place.

24
He who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can’t know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can’t empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures. If you want to accord with the Tao, just do your job,
then let go.

25
There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.

It is serene. Empty.
Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Tao. It flows through all things,
inside and outside, and returns
to the origin of all things. The Tao is great.
The universe is great.
Earth is great.
Man is great.
These are the four great powers. Man follows the earth.
Earth follows the universe.
The universe follows the Tao.
The Tao follows only itself.

26
The heavy is the root of the light.
The unmoved is the source of all movement. Thus the Master travels all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the views,
she stays serenely in herself. Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.

27
A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is. Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light. What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.

28
Know the male,
yet keep to the female:
receive the world in your arms.
If you receive the world,
the Tao will never leave you
and you will be like a little child. Know the white,
yet keep to the black:
be a pattern for the world.
If you are a pattern for the world,
the Tao will be strong inside you
and there will be nothing you can’t do. Know the personal,
yet keep to the impersonal:

accept the world as it is.
If you accept the world,
the Tao will be luminous inside you
and you will return to your primal self. The world is formed from the void,
like utensils from a block of wood.
The Master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to the the block:
thus she can use all things.

29
Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done. The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it. There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger. The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.

30
Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn’t try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counterforce.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon oneself. The Master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.

31
Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them. Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.

He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men? He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.

32
The Tao can’t be perceived.
Smaller than an electron,
it contains uncountable galaxies. If powerful men and women
could remain centered in the Tao,
all things would be in harmony.
The world would become a paradise.
All people would be at peace,
and the law would be written in their hearts. When you have names and forms,
know that they are provisional.
When you have institutions,
know where their functions should end.
Knowing when to stop,
you can avoid any danger. All things end in the Tao
as rivers flow into the sea.

33
Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.

34
The great Tao flows everywhere.
All things are born from it,
yet it doesn’t create them.
It pours itself into its work,
yet it makes no claim.
It nourishes infinite worlds,
yet it doesn’t hold on to them.
Since it is merged with all things
and hidden in their hearts,
it can be called humble.
Since all things vanish into it
and it alone endures,
it can be called great.
It isn’t aware of its greatness;
thus it is truly great.

35
She who is centered in the Tao
can go where she wishes, without danger.
She perceives the universal harmony,
even amid great pain,
because she has found peace in her heart. Music or the smell of good cooking
may make people stop and enjoy.

But words that point to the Tao
seem monotonous and without flavor.
When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
When you use it, it is inexhaustible.

36
If you want to shrink something,
you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something,
you must first allow it to flourish.
If you want to take something,
you must first allow it to be given.
This is called the subtle perception
of the way things are. The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery.
Just show people the results.

37
The Tao never does anything,
yet through it all things are done. If powerful men and women
could venter themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire. When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.

38
The Master doesn’t try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough. The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done. The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force. When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos. Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.

39
In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,

the earth is solid and full,
all creature flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
endlessly renewed. When man interferes with the Tao,
the sky becomes filthy,
the earth becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
creatures become extinct. The Master views the parts with compassion,
because he understands the whole.
His constant practice is humility.
He doesn’t glitter like a jewel
but lets himself be shaped by the Tao,
as rugged and common as stone.

40
Return is the movement of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao. All things are born of being.
Being is born of non-being.

41
When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn’t laugh,
it wouldn’t be the Tao. Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,
the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true steadfastness seems changeable,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest are seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish. The Tao is nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and completes all things.

42
The Tao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to Two.
Two gives birth to Three.
Three gives birth to all things. All things have their backs to the female
and stand facing the male.
When male and female combine,
all things achieve harmony. Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the Master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness, realizing
he is one with the whole universe.

43
The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance

enters where there is no space.
This shows the value of non-action. Teaching without words,
performing without actions:
that is the Master’s way.

44
Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success of failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

45
True perfection seems imperfect,
yet it is perfectly itself.
True fullness seems empty,
yet it is fully present. True straightness seems crooked.
True wisdom seems foolish.
True art seems artless. The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.

46
When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities. There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy. Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.

47
Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao. The more you know,
the less you understand. The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.

48
In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone. True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can’t be gained by interfering.

49

The Master has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the people. She is good to people who are good.
She is also good to people who aren’t good.
This is true goodness. She trusts people who are trustworthy.
She also trusts people who aren’t trustworthy.
This is true trust. The Master’s mind is like space.
People don’t understand her.
They look to her and wait. She treats them like her own children.

50
The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and her has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.

51
Every being in the universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honors the Tao. The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Tao
is in the very nature of things.

52
In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it. To find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.
When you recognize the children
and find the mother,
you will be free of sorrow. If you close your mind in judgements
and traffic with desires,
your heart will be troubled.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren’t led by the senses,
your heart will find peace. Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.

This is called practicing eternity.

53
The great Way is easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
Be aware when things are out of balance.
Stay centered within the Tao. When rich speculators prosper
While farmers lose their land;
when government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible
while the poor have nowhere to turn-
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Tao.

54
Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation. Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country
and your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the universe
and the universe will sing. How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.

55
He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.
It doesn’t know about the union
of male and female,
yet its penis can stand erect,
so intense is its vital power.
It can scream its head off all day,
yet it never becomes hoarse,
so complete is its harmony. The Master’s power is like this.
He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.

56
Those who know don’t talk.
Those who talk don’t know. Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,

soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity. Be like the Tao.
It can’t be approached or withdrawn from,
benefited or harmed,
honored or brought into disgrace.
It gives itself up continually.
That is why it endures.

57
If you want to be a great leader,
you must learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself. The more prohibitions you have,
the less virtuous people will be.
The more weapons you have,
the less secure people will be.
The more subsidies you have,
the less self-reliant people will be. Therefore the Master says:
I let go of the law,
and people become honest.
I let go of economics,
and people become prosperous.
I let go of religion,
and people become serene.
I let go of all desire for the common good,
and the good becomes common as grass.

58
If a country is governed with tolerance,
the people are comfortable and honest.
If a country is governed with repression,
the people are depressed and crafty. When the will to power is in charge,
the higher the ideals, the lower the results.
Try to make people happy,
and you lay the groundwork for misery.
Try to make people moral,
and you lay the groundwork for vice. Thus the Master is content
to serve as an example
and not to impose her will.
She is pointed, but doesn’t pierce.
Straightforward, but supple.
Radiant, but easy on the eyes.

59
For governing a country well
there is nothing better than moderation. The mark of a moderate man
is freedom from his own ideas.
Tolerant like the sky,
all-pervading like sunlight,
firm like a mountain,
supple like a tree in the wind,
he has no destination in view
and makes use of anything
life happens to bring his way. Nothing is impossible for him.
Because he has let go,

he can care for the people’s welfare
as a mother cares for her child.

60
Governing a large country
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it with too much poking. Center your country in the Tao
and evil will have no power.
Not that it isn’t there,
but you’ll be able to step out of its way. Give evil nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.

61
When a country obtains great power,
it becomes like the sea:
all streams run downward into it.
The more powerful it grows,
the greater the need for humility.
Humility means trusting the Tao,
thus never needing to be defensive. A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts. If a nation is centered in the Tao,
if it nourishes its own people
and doesn’t meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world.

62
The Tao is the center of the universe,
the good man’s treasure,
the bad man’s refuge. Honors can be bought with fine words,
respect can be won with good deeds;
but the Tao is beyond all value,
and no one can achieve it. Thus, when a new leader is chosen,
don’t offer to help him
with your wealth or your expertise.
Offer instead
to teach him about the Tao. Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao?
Because, being one with the Tao,
when you seek, you find;
and when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
That is why everybody loves it.

63
Act without doing;
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts. The Master never reaches for the great;
thus she achieves greatness.

When she runs into a difficulty,
she stops and gives herself to it.
She doesn’t cling to her own comfort;
thus problems are no problem for her.

64
What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter. Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet. Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe. Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.

65
The ancient Masters
didn’t try to educate the people,
but kindly taught them to not-know. When they think that they know the answers,
people are difficult to guide.
When they know that they don’t know,
people can find their own way. If you want to learn how to govern,
avoid being clever or rich.
The simplest pattern is the clearest.
Content with an ordinary life,
you can show all people the way
back to their own true nature.

66
All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power. If you want to govern the people,
you must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead the people,
you must learn how to follow them. The Master is above the people,
and no one feels oppressed.
She goes ahead of the people,
and no one feels manipulated.
The whole world is grateful to her.
Because she competes with no one,
no one can compete with her.

67
Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep. I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

68
The best athlete
wants his opponent at his best.
The best general
enters the mind of his enemy.
The best businessman
serves the communal good.
The best leader
follows the will of the people. All of the embody
the virtue of non-competition.
Not that they don’t love to compete,
but they do it in the spirit of play.
In this they are like children
and in harmony with the Tao.

69
The generals have a saying:
“Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.” This is called
going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons. There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself. When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.

70
My teachings are easy to understand
and easy to put into practice.
Yet your intellect will never grasp them,
and if you try to practice them, you’ll fail. My teachings are older than the world.
How can you grasp their meaning? If you want to know me,
look inside your heart.

71
Not-knowing is true knowledge.

Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health. The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.

72
When they lose their sense of awe,
people turn to religion.
When they no longer trust themselves,
they begin to depend upon authority. Therefore the Master steps back
so that people won’t be confused.
He teaches without a teaching,
so that people will have nothing to learn.

73
The Tao is always at ease.
It overcomes without competing,
answers without speaking a word,
arrives without being summoned,
accomplishes without a plan. Its net covers the whole universe.
And though its meshes are wide,
it doesn’t let a thing slip through.

74
If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve. Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the master carpenter’s tools, chances are that you’ll cut your hand.

75
When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit. Act for the people’s benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.

76
Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plats are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.

77
As it acts in the world, the Tao
is like the bending of a bow.
The top is bent downward;
the bottom is bent up.
It adjusts excess and deficiency
so that there is perfect balance.
It takes from what is too much
and give to what isn’t enough. Those who try to control,

who use force to protect their power,
go against the direction of the Tao.
They take from those who don’t have enough
and give to those who have far too much. The Master can keep giving
because there is no end to her wealth.
She acts without expectation,
succeeds without taking credit,
and doesn’t think that she is better
than anyone else.

78
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it. The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice. Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is people’s greatest help. True words seem paradoxical.

79
Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame. Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.

80
If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don’t waste time inventing
labor-saving machines.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren’t interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don’t go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.

81
True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;

men who need to prove their point aren’t wise. The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is. The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.

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Tang Dynasty Poems, Part 4

4th in projected set of 10

This week’s edition, short but sweet,

will be selections from Wei Yingwu and Li Bai.

1os-00654

Wei Yingwu

ENTERTAINING LITERARY MEN IN MY
OFFICIAL RESIDENCE ON A RAINY DAY


Outside are insignia, shown in state;
But here are sweet incense-clouds, quietly ours.
Wind and rain, coming in from sea,
Have cooled this pavilion above the lake
And driven the feverish heat away
From where my eminent guests are gathered.
…Ashamed though I am of my high position
While people lead unhappy lives,
Let us reasonably banish care
And just be friends, enjoying nature.
Though we have to go without fish and meat,
There are fruits and vegetables aplenty.
…We bow, we take our cups of wine,
We give our attention to beautiful poems.
When the mind is exalted, the body is lightened
And feels as if it could float in the wind.
…Suzhou is famed as a centre of letters;
And all you writers, coming here,
Prove that the name of a great land
Is made by better things than wealth.

 

Wei Yingwu

SETTING SAIL ON THE YANGZI waterlilies
TO SECRETARY YUAN


Wistful, away from my friends and kin,
Through mist and fog I float and float
With the sail that bears me toward Loyang.
In Yangzhou trees linger bell-notes of evening,
Marking the day and the place of our parting….
When shall we meet again and where?
…Destiny is a boat on the waves,
Borne to and fro, beyond our will.

Wei Yingwu

A POEM TO A TAOIST HERMIT
CHUANJIAO MOUNTAIN


My office has grown cold today;
And I suddenly think of my mountain friend
Gathering firewood down in the valley
Or boiling white stones for potatoes in his hut….
I wish I might take him a cup of wine
To cheer him through the evening storm;
But in fallen leaves that have heaped the bare slopes,
How should I ever find his footprints!

 

Wei Yingwu

ON MEETING MY FRIEND FENG ZHU
IN THE CAPITAL


Out of the east you visit me,
With the rain of Baling still on your clothes,
I ask you what you have come here for;
You say: “To buy an ax for cutting wood in the mountains”
…Hidden deep in a haze of blossom,
Swallow fledglings chirp at ease
As they did when we parted, a year ago….
How grey our temples have grown since them!

Wei Yingwu

MOORING AT TWILIGHT IN YUYI DISTRICT


Furling my sail near the town of Huai,
I find for harbour a little cove
Where a sudden breeze whips up the waves.
The sun is growing dim now and sinks in the dusk.
People are coming home. The bright mountain-peak darkens.
Wildgeese fly down to an island of white weeds.
…At midnight I think of a northern city-gate,
And I hear a bell tolling between me and sleep. 517-149x567

 

Wei Yingwu

EAST OF THE TOWN


From office confinement all year long,
I have come out of town to be free this morning
Where willows harmonize the wind
And green hills lighten the cares of the world.
I lean by a tree and rest myself
Or wander up and down a stream.
…Mists have wet the fragrant meadows;
A spring dove calls from some hidden place.
…With quiet surroundings, the mind is at peace,
But beset with affairs, it grows restless again….
Here I shall finally build me a cabin,
As Tao Qian built one long ago.

 

Wei Yingwu

TO MY DAUGHTER
ON HER MARRIAGE INTO THE YANG FAMILY


My heart has been heavy all day long
Because you have so far to go.
The marriage of a girl, away from her parents,
Is the launching of a little boat on a great river.
…You were very young when your mother died,
Which made me the more tender of you.
Your elder sister has looked out for you,
And now you are both crying and cannot part.
This makes my grief the harder to bear;
Yet it is right that you should go.
…Having had from childhood no mother to guide you,
How will you honour your mother-in-law?
It’s an excellent family; they will be kind to you,
They will forgive you your mistakes —
Although ours has been so pure and poor
That you can take them no great dowry.
Be gentle and respectful, as a woman should be,
Careful of word and look, observant of good example.
…After this morning we separate,
There’s no knowing for how long….
I always try to hide my feelings —
They are suddenly too much for me,
When I turn and see my younger daughter
With the tears running down her cheek.

 

Li Bai

THE MOON AT THE FORTIFIED PASS


The bright moon lifts from the Mountain of Heaven
In an infinite haze of cloud and sea,
And the wind, that has come a thousand miles,
Beats at the Jade Pass battlements….
China marches its men down Baideng Road
While Tartar troops peer across blue waters of the bay….
And since not one battle famous in history
Sent all its fighters back again,
The soldiers turn round, looking toward the border,
And think of home, with wistful eyes,
And of those tonight in the upper chambers
Who toss and sigh and cannot rest.

Li Bai

BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: SPRING


The lovely Lo Fo of the western land
Plucks mulberry leaves by the waterside.
Across the green boughs stretches out her white hand;
In golden sunshine her rosy robe is dyed.
“my silkworms are hungry, I cannot stay.
Tarry not with your five-horse cab, I pray.”

 

Li Bai

BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: SUMMER


On Mirror Lake outspread for miles and miles,
The lotus lilies in full blossom teem.
In fifth moon Xi Shi gathers them with smiles,
Watchers o’erwhelm the bank of Yuoye Stream.
Her boat turns back without waiting moonrise
To yoyal house amid amorous sighs.

 

Li Bai

A SONG OF AN AUTUMN MIDNIGHT


A slip of the moon hangs over the capital;
Ten thousand washing-mallets are pounding;
And the autumn wind is blowing my heart
For ever and ever toward the Jade Pass….
Oh, when will the Tartar troops be conquered,
And my husband come back from the long campaign!

1-10-120

Li Bai

BALLADS OF FOUR SEASONS: WINTER


The courier will depart next day, she’s told.
She sews a warrior’s gown all night.
Her fingers feel the needle cold.
How can she hold the scissors tight?
The work is done, she sends it far away.
When will it reach the town where warriors stay?

 

 

Li Bai

A SONG OF CHANGGAN


My hair had hardly covered my forehead.
I was picking flowers, paying by my door,
When you, my lover, on a bamboo horse,
Came trotting in circles and throwing green plums.
We lived near together on a lane in Ch’ang-kan,
Both of us young and happy-hearted.
…At fourteen I became your wife,
So bashful that I dared not smile,
And I lowered my head toward a dark corner
And would not turn to your thousand calls;
But at fifteen I straightened my brows and laughed,
Learning that no dust could ever seal our love,
That even unto death I would await you by my post
And would never lose heart in the tower of silent watching.
…Then when I was sixteen, you left on a long journey
Through the Gorges of Ch’u-t’ang, of rock and whirling water.
And then came the Fifth-month, more than I could bear,
And I tried to hear the monkeys in your lofty far-off sky.
Your footprints by our door, where I had watched you go,
Were hidden, every one of them, under green moss,
Hidden under moss too deep to sweep away.
And the first autumn wind added fallen leaves.
And now, in the Eighth-month, yellowing butterflies
Hover, two by two, in our west-garden grasses
And, because of all this, my heart is breaking
And I fear for my bright cheeks, lest they fade.
…Oh, at last, when you return through the three Pa districts,
Send me a message home ahead!
And I will come and meet you and will never mind the distance,
All the way to Chang-feng Sha.

 

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Part 3- Poems of the T’ang Dynasty (Han Shan)

I’ve talked myself into doing chunks of this that  have some commonality. Today I’ve culled poems attributed to Han Shan, poet-mystic of the early T’ang. First, excerpts from the wikipedia article about Han Shan (for the full article go here):

Hanshan (Chinese: 寒山; pinyin: Hánshān; literally “Cold Mountain”, fl. 9th century) was a legendary figure associated with a collection of poems from the Chinese Tang Dynasty in the Taoist and Chan tradition. He is honored as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva -figure Manjusri in Zen lore. In Japanese and Chinese paintings he is often depicted together with his sidekick ShideFenggan another monk with legendary attributes.

The collection of poems attributed to Hanshan may span the entire Tang Dynasty as Edwin G. Pulleyblank asserts in his study Linguistic Evidence for the Date of Hanshan.[1] identifies him as the monk Chiyan (智岩, 577 – 654), but that has been disputed by Paul Demiéville among others. The Encyclopedia of China gives his date as around 712 and after 793. Jia Jinhua came to the conclusion, after a study of Chan phrases in some 50 of the poems, that this particular group of poems may be attributable to the Chan monk Caoshan Benji (840-901).

Personally, I think a great place to start is the collection of Cold Mountain Poems by Gary Snyder, one of the great beatnik era poets often associated with other poets and writers of that cultural phenomenon. Snyder was a very complimentary voice to bring Han Shan to America. Without further ado, I’ll just insert the Snyder Cold Mountain Poems here:

HAN SHAN, THE COLD MOUNTAIN POEMS, tr. Gary Snyder

Preface to the Poems of Han-shan

by Lu Ch’iu-yin, Governor of T’ai Prefecture

No one knows what sort of man Han-shan was. There are old people who knew him: they say he was a poor man, a crazy character. He lived alone seventy Li (23 miles) west of the T’ang-hsing district of T’ien-t’ai at a place called Cold Mountain. He often went down to the Kuo-ch’ing Temple. At the temple lived Shih’te, who ran the dining hall. He sometimes saved leftovers for Han-shan, hiding them in a bamboo tube. Han-shan would come and carry it away; walking the long veranda, calling and shouting happily, talking and laughing to himself. Once the monks followed him, caught him, and made fun of him. He stopped, clapped his hands, and laughed greatly – Ha Ha! – for a spell, then left.

He looked like a tramp. His body and face were old and beat. Yet in every word he breathed was a meaning in line with the subtle principles of things, if only you thought of it deeply. Everything he said had a feeling of Tao in it, profound and arcane secrets. His hat was made of birch bark, his clothes were ragged and worn out, and his shoes were wood. Thus men who have made it hide their tracks: unifying categories and interpenetrating things. On that long veranda calling and singing, in his words of reply Ha Ha! – the three worlds revolve. Sometimes at the villages and farms he laughed and sang with cowherds. Sometimes intractable, sometimes agreeable, his nature was happy of itself. But how could a person without wisdom recognize him?

I once received a position as a petty official at Tan-ch’iu. The day I was to depart, I had a bad headache. I called a doctor, but he couldn’t cure me and it turned worse. Then I met a Buddhist Master named Feng-kan, who said he came from the Kuo-ch’ing Temple of T’ien-t’ai especially to visit me. I asked him to rescue me from my illness. He smiled and said, “The four realms are within the body; sickness comes from illusion. If you want to do away with it, you need pure water.” Someone brought water to the Master, who spat it on me. In a moment the disease was rooted out. He then said, “There are miasmas in T’ai prefecture, when you get there take care of yourself.” I asked him, “Are there any wise men in your area I could look on as Master?” He replied, “When you see him you don’t recognize him, when you recognize him you don’t see him. If you want to see him, you can’t rely on appearances. Then you can see him. Han-shan is a Manjusri (one who has attained enlightenment and, in a future incarnation, will become Buddha) hiding at Kuo-sh’ing. Shih-te is a Samantabbhadra (Bodhisattva of love). They look like poor fellows and act like madmen. Sometimes they go and sometimes they come. They work in the kitchen of the Kuo-ch’ing dining hall, tending the fire.” When he was done talking he left.

I proceeded on my journey to my job at T’ai-chou, not forgetting this affair. I arrived three days later, immediately went to a temple, and questioned an old monk. It seemed the Master had been truthful, so I gave orders to see if T’ang-hsing really contained a Han-shan and Shih-te. The District Magistrate reported to me: “In this district, seventy li west, is a mountain. People used to see a poor man heading from the cliffs to stay awhile at Kuo-ch’ing. At the temple dining hall is a similar man named Shih-te.” I made a bow, and went to Kuo-ch’ing. I asked some people around the temple, “There used to be a Master named Feng-kan here, Where is his place? And where can Han-shan and Shih-te be seen?” A monk named T’ao-ch’iao spoke up: “Feng-kan the Master lived in back of the library. Nowadays nobody lives there; a tiger often comes and roars. Han-shan and Shih-te are in the kitchen.” The monk led me to Feng-kan’s yard. Then he opened the gate: all we saw was tiger tracks. I asked the monks Tao-ch’iao and Pao-te, “When Feng-kan was here, what was his job?” The monks said, :He pounded and hulled rice. At night he sang songs to amuse himself.” Then we went to the kitchen, before the stoves. Two men were facing the fire, laughing loudly. I made a bow. The two shouted Ho! at me. They struck their hands together -Ha Ha! – great laughter. They shouted. Then they said, “Feng-kan – loose-tounged, loose-tounged. You don’t recognize Amitabha, (the Bodhisattva of mercy) why be courteous to us?” The monks gathered round, surprise going through them. “”Why has a big official bowed to a pair of clowns?” The two men grabbed hands and ran out of the temple. I cried, “Catch them” – but they quickly ran away. Han-shan returned to Cold Mountain. I asked the monks, “Would those two men be willing to settle down at this temple?” I ordered them to find a house, and to ask Han-shan and Shih-te to return and live at the temple.

I returned to my district and had two sets of clean clothes made, got some incense and such, and sent it to the temple – but the two men didn’t return. So I had it carried up to Cold Mountain. The packer saw Han-shan, who called in a loud voice, “Thief! Thief!” and retreated into a mountain cave. He shouted, “I tell you man, strive hard” – entered the cave and was gone. The cave closed of itself and they weren’t able to follow. Shih-te’s tracks disappeared completely..

I ordered Tao-ch’iao and the other monks to find out how they had lived, to hunt up the poems written on bamboo, wood, stones, and cliffs – and also to collect those written on the walls of people’s houses. There were more than three hundred. On the wall of the Earth-shrine Shih-te had written some gatha (Buddhist verse or song). It was all brought together and made into a book.

I hold to the principle of the Buddha-mind. It is fortunate to meet with men of Tao, so I have made this eulogy.

song-ma-yuen-1
(big picture- click for full size)

THE COLD MOUNTAIN POEMS, tr. Gary Snyder

1

The path to Han-shan’s place is laughable,

A path, but no sign of cart or horse.

Converging gorges – hard to trace their twists

Jumbled cliffs – unbelievably rugged.

A thousand grasses bend with dew,

A hill of pines hums in the wind.

And now I’ve lost the shortcut home,

Body asking shadow, how do you keep up?

2

In a tangle of cliffs, I chose a place –

Bird paths, but no trails for me.

What’s beyond the yard?

White clouds clinging to vague rocks.

Now I’ve lived here – how many years –

Again and again, spring and winter pass.

Go tell families with silverware and cars

“What’s the use of all that noise and money?”

3

In the mountains it’s cold.

Always been cold, not just this year.

Jagged scarps forever snowed in

Woods in the dark ravines spitting mist.

Grass is still sprouting at the end of June,

Leaves begin to fall in early August.

And here I am, high on mountains,

Peering and peering, but I can’t even see the sky.

4

I spur my horse through the wrecked town,

The wrecked town sinks my spirit.

High, low, old parapet walls

Big, small, the aging tombs.

I waggle my shadow, all alone;

Not even the crack of a shrinking coffin is heard.

I pity all those ordinary bones,

In the books of the Immortals they are nameless.

5

I wanted a good place to settle:

Cold Mountain would be safe.

Light wind in a hidden pine –

Listen close – the sound gets better.

Under it a gray haired man

Mumbles along reading Huang and Lao.

For ten years I havn’t gone back home

I’ve even forgotten the way by which I came.

6

Men ask the way to Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain: there’s no through trail.

In summer, ice doesn’t melt

The rising sun blurs in swirling fog.

How did I make it?

My heart’s not the same as yours.

If your heart was like mine

You’d get it and be right here.

7

I settled at Cold Mountain long ago,

Already it seems like years and years.

Freely drifting, I prowl the woods and streams

And linger watching things themselves.

Men don’t get this far into the mountains,

White clouds gather and billow.

Thin grass does for a mattress,

The blue sky makes a good quilt.

Happy with a stone under head

Let heaven and earth go about their changes.

8

Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,

The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:

The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,

The wide creek, the mist blurred grass.

The moss is slippery, though there’s been no rain

The pine sings, but there’s no wind.

Who can leap the word’s ties

And sit with me among the white clouds?

9

Rough and dark – the Cold Mountain trail,

Sharp cobbles – the icy creek bank.

Yammering, chirping – always birds

Bleak, alone, not even a lone hiker.

Whip, whip – the wind slaps my face

Whirled and tumbled – snow piles on my back.

Morning after morning I don’t see the sun

Year after year, not a sign of spring.

10

I have lived at Cold Mountain

These thirty long years.

Yesterday I called on friends and family:

More than half had gone to the Yellow Springs.

Slowly consumed, like fire down a candle;

Forever flowing, like a passing river.

Now, morning, I face my lone shadow:

Suddenly my eyes are bleared with tears.

11

Spring water in the green creek is clear

Moonlight on Cold Mountain is white

Silent knowledge – the spirit is enlightened of itself

Contemplate the void: this world exceeds stillness.

12

In my first thirty years of life

I roamed hundreds and thousands of miles.

Walked by rivers through deep green grass

Entered cities of boiling red dust.

Tried drugs, but couldn’t make Immortal;

Read books and wrote poems on history.

Today I’m back at Cold Mountain:

I’ll sleep by the creek and purify my ears.

13

I can’t stand these bird songs

Now I’ll go rest in my straw shack.

The cherry flowers are scarlet

The willow shoots up feathery.

Morning sun drives over blue peaks

Bright clouds wash green ponds.

Who knows that I’m out of the dusty world

Climbing the southern slope of Cold Mountain?

14

Cold Mountain has many hidden wonders,

People who climb here are always getting scared.

When the moon shines, water sparkles clear

When the wind blows, grass swishes and rattles.

On the bare plum, flowers of snow

On the dead stump, leaves of mist.

At the touch of rain it all turns fresh and live

At the wrong season you can’t ford the creeks.

15

There’s a naked bug at Cold Mountain

With a white body and a black head.

His hand holds two book scrolls,

One the Way and one its Power.

His shack’s got no pots or oven,

He goes for a long walk with his shirt and pants askew.

But he always carries the sword of wisdom:

He means to cut down sensless craving.

16

Cold Mountain is a house

Without beans or walls.

The six doors left and right are open

The hall is sky blue.

The rooms all vacant and vague

The east wall beats on the west wall

At the center nothing.

Borrowers don’t bother me

In the cold I build a little fire

When I’m hungry I boil up some greens.

I’ve got no use for the kulak

With hs big barn and pasture –

He just sets uo a prison for himself.

Once in he can’t get out.

Think it over –

You know it might happen to you.

17

If I hide out at Cold Mountain

Living off mountain plants and berries –

All my lifetime, why worry?

One follows his karma through.

Days and months slip by like water,

Time is like sparks knocked off flint.

Go ahead and let the world change –

I’m happy to sit among these cliffs.

18

Most T’ien-t’ai men

Don’t know Han-shan

Don’t know his real thought

And call it silly talk.

19

Once at Cold Mountain, troubles cease –

No more tangled, hung up mind.

I idly scribble poems on the rock cliff,

Taking whatever comes, like a drifting boat.

20

Some critic tried to put me down –

“Your poems lack the Basic Truth of Tao.”

And I recall the old timers

Who were poor and didn’t care.

I have to laugh at him,

He misses the point entirely,

Men like that

Ought to stick to making money.

21

I’ve lived at Cold Mountain – how many autumns.

Alone, I hum a song – utterly without regret.

Hungry, I eat one grain of Immortal medicine

Mind solid and sharp; leaning on a stone.

22

On top of Cold Mountain the lone round moon

Lights the whole clear cloudless sky.

Honor this priceless natural treasure

Concealed in five shadows, sunk deep in the flesh.

23

My home was at Cold Mountain from the start,

Rambling among the hills, far from trouble.

Gone, and a million things leave no trace

Loosed, and it flows through galaxies

A fountain of light, into the very mind –

Not a thing, and yet it appears before me:

Now I know the pearl of the Buddha nature

Know its use: a boundless perfect sphere.

24

When men see Han-shan

They all say he’s crazy

And not much to look at –

Dressed in rags and hides.

They don’t get what I say

And I don’t talk their language.

All I can say to those I meet:

“Try and make it to Cold Mountain.”

snydergary

Next, here are some different translations, some have slight differences from the same ones translated by Snyder. You can decide what resonates the most for you. I’m not sure where I found these and can’t identify the translator. Maybe somebody will sue me and I’ll know then.

Introduction

Han-shan, the Master of Cold Mountain, and his friend Shi-te, lived in the late-eighth to early-ninth century AD, in the sacred T’ien-t’ai Mountains of Chekiang Province, south of the bay of Hangchow. The two laughing friends, holding hands, come and go, but mostly go, dashing into the wild, careless of others’ reality, secure in their own. As Han-shan himself says, his Zen is not in the poems. Zen is in the mind.


The Poems

1.

Don’t you know the poems of Han-shan?

They’re better for you than scripture-reading.

Cut them out and paste them on a screen,

Then you can gaze at them from time to time.

han-shan

2.

Where’s the trail to Cold Mountain?

Cold Mountain? There’s no clear way.

Ice, in summer, is still frozen.

Bright sun shines through thick fog.

You won’t get there following me.

Your heart and mine are not the same.

If your heart was like mine,

You’d have made it, and be there!

3.

Cold Mountain’s full of strange sights.

Men who go there end by being scared.

Water glints and gleams in the moon,

Grasses sigh and sing in the wind.

The bare plum blooms again with snow,

Naked branches have clouds for leaves.

When it rains, the mountain shines –

In bad weather you’ll not make this climb.

4.

A thousand clouds, ten thousand streams,

Here I live, an idle man,

Roaming green peaks by day,

Back to sleep by cliffs at night.

One by one, springs and autumns go,

Free of heat and dust, my mind.

Sweet to know there’s nothing I need,

Silent as the autumn river’s flood.

hanshan003

5.

High, high, the summit peak,

Boundless the world to sight!

No one knows I am here,

Lone moon in the freezing stream.

In the stream, where’s the moon?

The moon’s always in the sky.

I write this poem: and yet,

In this poem there is no Zen.

6

Thirty years in this world

I wandered ten thousand miles,

By rivers, buried deep in grass,

In borderlands, where red dust flies.

Tasted drugs, still not Immortal,

Read books, wrote histories.

Now I’m back at Cold Mountain,

Head in the stream, cleanse my ears.

7.

Bird-song drowns me in feeling.

Back to my shack of straw to sleep.

Cherry-branches burn with crimson flower,

Willow-boughs delicately trail.

Morning sun flares between blue peaks,

Bright clouds soak in green ponds.

Who guessed I’d leave that dusty world,

Climbing the south slope of Cold Mountain?

8.

I travelled to Cold Mountain:

Stayed here for thirty years.

Yesterday looked for family and friends.

More than half had gone to Yellow Springs.

Slow-burning, life dies like a flame,

Never resting, passes like a river.

Today I face my lone shadow.

Suddenly, the tears flow down.

coldmountain

9.

Alive in the mountains, not at rest,

My mind cries for passing years.

Gathering herbs to find long life,

Still I’ve not achieved Immortal.

My field’s deep, and veiled in cloud,

But the wood’s bright, the moon’s full.

Why am I here? Can’t I go?

Heart still tied to enchanted pines!

10.

If there’s something good, delight!

Seize the moment while it flies!

Though life can last a hundred years,

Who’s seen their thirty thousand days?

Just an instant then you’re gone.

Why sit whining over things?

When you’ve read the Classics through,

You’ll know quite enough of death.

11.

The peach petals would like to stay,

But moon and wind blow them on.

You won’t find those ancient men,

Those dynasties are dead and gone.

Day by day the blossoms fall,

Year by year the people go.

Where the dust blows through these heights,

There once shone a silent sea.

12.

Men who see the Master

Of Cold Mountain, say he’s mad.

A nothing face,

Body clothed in rags.

Who dare say what he says?

When he speaks we can’t understand.

Just one word to you who pass –

Take the trail to Cold Mountain!

upcoldmountain-hanshan

13.

Han-shan has his critics too:

‘Your poems, there’s nothing in them!’

I think of men of ancient times,

Poor, humble, but not ashamed.

Let him laugh at me and say:

‘It’s all foolishness, your work!’

Let him go on as he is,

All his life lost making money.

14.

Cold Mountain holds a naked bug,

Its body’s white, its head is black.

In its hands a pair of scrolls,

One the Way and one its Power.

It needs no pots or stove.

Without clothes it wanders on,

But it carries Wisdom’s blade,

To cut down mindless craving.

15.

I’m on the trail to Cold Mountain.

Cold Mountain trail never ends.

Long clefts thick with rock and stones,

Wide streams buried in dense grass.

Slippery moss, but there’s been no rain,

Pine trees sigh, but there’s no wind.

Who can leap the world’s net,

Sit here in the white clouds with me?

16.

Men ask the way through the clouds,

The cloud way’s dark, without a sign.

High summits are of naked rock.

In deep valleys sun never shines.

Behind you green peaks, and in front,

To east the white clouds, and to west –

Want to know where the cloud way lies?

It’s there, in the centre of the Void!

17.

Sitting alone by folded rocks,

Mist swirling even at noon,

Here, inside my room, it’s dark.

Mind is bright, clear of sound.

Through the shining gate in dream.

Back by the stone bridge, mind returns.

Where now the things that troubled me?

Wind-blown gourd rattling in the tree.

18.

Far-off is the place I chose to live.

High hills make for silent tongues.

Gibbons screech in valley cold

My gate of grass blends with the cliff.

A roof of thatch among the pines,

I dig a pool, feed it from the stream.

No time now to think about the world,

The years go by, shredding ferns.

19.

Level after level, falls and hills,

Blue-green mist clasped by clouds.

Fog wets my flimsy cap,

Dew soaks my coat of straw.

A pilgrim’s sandals on my feet,

An old stick grasped in my hand.

Gazing down towards the land of dust,

What is that world of dreams to me?

20.

What a road the Cold Mountain road!

Not a sign of horse or cart.

Winding gorges, tricky to trace.

Massive cliffs, who knows how high?

Where the thousand grasses drip with dew,

Where the pine trees hum in the wind.

Now the path’s lost, now it’s time

For body to ask shadow: ‘Which way home?’

21.

Always it’s cold on this mountain!

Every year, and not just this.

Dense peaks, thick with snow.

Black pine-trees breathing mist.

It’s summer before the grass grows,

Not yet autumn when the leaves fall.

Full of illusions, I roam here,

Gaze and gaze, but can’t see the sky.

22.

No knowing how far it is,

This place where I spend my days.

Tangled vines move without a breeze,

Bamboo in the light shows dark.

Streams down-valley sob for whom?

Mists cling together, who knows why?

Sitting in my hut at noon,

Suddenly, I see the sun has risen.

23.

The everyday mind: that is the way.

Buried in vines and rock-bound caves,

Here it’s wild, here I am free,

Idling with the white clouds, my friends.

Tracks here never reach the world;

No-mind, so what can shift my thought?

I sit the night through on a bed of stone,

While the moon climbs Cold Mountain.

24.

I was off to the Eastern Cliff.

Planned that trip for how long?

Dragged myself up by hanging vines,

Stopped halfway, by wind and fog.

Thorn snatched my arm on narrow tracks,

Moss so deep it drowned my feet,

So I stopped, under this red pine.

Head among the clouds, I’ll sleep.

25.

Bright water shimmers like crystal,

Translucent to the furthest depth.

Mind is free of every thought

Unmoved by the myriad things.

Since it can never be stirred

It will always stay like this.

Knowing, this way, you can see,

There is no within, no without.

fioredilotorosso

26.

Are you looking for a place to rest?

Cold Mountain’s good for many a day.

Wind sings here in the black pines,

Closer you are, the better it sounds.

There’s an old man sitting by a tree,

Muttering about the things of Tao.

Ten years now, it’s been so long

This one’s forgotten his way home.

27.

Cold rock, no one takes this road.

The deeper you go, the finer it is.

White clouds hang on high crags.

On Green Peak a lone gibbon’s cry.

What friends do I need?

I do what pleases me, and grow old.

Let face and body alter with the years,

I’ll hold to the bright path of mind.

A few more, various translators. I ask myself: What is the true heart of Han Shan? I studies Chinese to get a better idea but it only made me more confused. These other poets do a much better job of reading than I do.

Birth and Death. Day and Night.
Running water, stagnant pool.
Bud and fading flower.
Can I find the point at which they change
From one into the other?
Can my nostrils turn upwards?

When the mind keeps tumbling
How can vision be anything but blurred?
Stop the mind even for a moment
And all becomes transparently clear!
The moving mind is polishing mud bricks.
In stillness find the mirror!

–   Han Shan Te’-Ch’ing, 1600
Selected Poems by Han-Shan (Silly Mountain)

I laugh at my failing strength in old age,
Yet still dote on pines and crags, to wander there in solitude.
How I regret that in all these past years until today,
I’ve let things run their course like an unanchored boat.

–   Shih-te, 750
Translated by James Hargett

after late spring rain the falling petals swirl
weightlessly celestial scent covers my patched robe
a simple vacant mind has no place to go
resting on the peak I watch the clouds return

–  Han Shan Te’-Ch’ing, 1600
Translated by Red Pine
Echoes of Eternity

Thirty years ago I was born into the world.
A thousand, ten thousand miles I’ve roamed,
By rivers where the green grass lies thick,
Beyond the border where the red sands fly.
I brewed potions in a vain search for life everlasting,
I read books, I sang songs of history,
And today I’ve come home to Cold Mountain
To pillow my head on the stream and wash my ears.

–   Han Shan, 750
Translated by Burton Watson
Cold Mountain: One Hundred Poems

Mountains in China

I think of the past twenty years,
When I used to walk home quietly from the Kuo-ch’ing;
All the people in the Kuo-ch’ing monastery-
They say, “Han-shan is an idiot.”
“Am I really an idiot:” I reflect.
But my reflections fail to solve the question:
for I myself do not know who the self is,
And how can others know who I am?

–   Han Shan, 750
Translated by D. T. Suzuki
Essays in Zen Buddhism, Third Series, 1953

Great accomplishments are composed of minute details.
Those who succeed in attaining the Whole
have attended carefully to each tiny part.
Those who fail have ignored or taken too lightly
what they deemed to be insignificant.
The enlightened person overlooks nothing.

–   Han Shan Te’-ch’ing, 1600
The Maxims of Master Han Shan Te’-Ch’ing
Translated by Grandmaster Jy Din Shakya

Ha ha ha.
If I show joy and ease my troubled mind,
Worldly troubles into joy transform.
Worry for others–it does no good in the end.
The great Dao, all amid joy, is reborn.
In a joyous state, ruler and subject accord,
In a joyous home, father and son get along.
If brothers increase their joy, the world will flourish.
If husband and wife have joy, it’s worthy of song.
What guest and host can bear a lack of joy?
Both high and low, in joy, lose their woe before long.
Ha ha ha.

–   Han Shan, 750
Translated by Mary Jacob

outside my door
blue mountains bouquet
before the window
yellow leaves rustle
I sit in meditation
without the least word
and look back to see
my illusions completely gone

–   Han Shan Te’-Ch’ing, 1600
Translated by J. P. Seaton
Mountain Living

Hanshan came specially to see me,
Shihte too, a rare visitor.
We spoke unaffectedly and with without reserve
of the Mind,
How vast and free the Great Emptinesss,
How boundless the universe,
Each thing containing within itself all things.

–   Feng Kan (Big Stick), 750
Translated by R. H. Blyth
Zen and Zen Classics, p 131

This is my resting place;
Now that I know the best retreat.
The breeze blows through the pines,
Sounding better the nearer it is.
Under a tree I’m reading
Lao-tzu, quietly perusing.
Ten years not returning,
I forgot the way I had come.

–   Han Shan, 750
Translated by Katsuki Sekida

Kyozan asked a monk,
“Where are you from?”
“Cold Mountain,” answered the monk.
“Have you reached the Five Peaks of Cold Mountain?”
“No, not yet,” said the monk.
Kyozan said, “You are not from Cold Mountain.”

Later, Ummon said, “This talk of Kyozan was
falling into the weeds,
all out of kindness.”

Setcho’s Verse:

Falling or not falling, who can tell?
White clouds piling up,
Bright sun shining down,
Faultless the left, mature the right.
Don’t you know Han Shan?
He went very fast;
Ten years not returning,
He forgot the way he had come.

–   The Blue Cliff Records, Case 34
Two Zen Classics: Mumonkan and Hekiganroku (1977)
Translated by Katsuki Sekida

cm-hanshan_


good night


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Part 2, Poems of the Tang Dynasty

For introduction see Part 1. What? No illustrations. Maybe next time. I’ll throw in some unrelated pictures at the end for your consolation prize.

These are some of my favorites.

Li Bai

BIDDING A FRIEND FAREWELL AT JINGMEN FERRY


Sailing far off from Jingmen Ferry,
Soon you will be with people in the south,
Where the mountains end and the plains begin
And the river winds through wilderness….
The moon is lifted like a mirror,
Sea-clouds gleam like palaces,
And the water has brought you a touch of home
To draw your boat three hundred miles.

Li Bai

A FAREWELL TO A FRIEND


With a blue line of mountains north of the wall,
And east of the city a white curve of water,
Here you must leave me and drift away
Like a loosened water-plant hundreds of miles….
I shall think of you in a floating cloud;
So in the sunset think of me.
…We wave our hands to say good-bye,
And my horse is neighing again and again.

Li Bai

ON HEARING JUN THE BUDDHIST MONK
FROM SHU PLAY HIS LUTE


The monk from Shu with his green silk lute-case,
Walking west down Omei Mountain,
Has brought me by one touch of the strings
The breath of pines in a thousand valleys.
I hear him in the cleansing brook,
I hear him in the icy bells;
And I feel no change though the mountain darken
And cloudy autumn heaps the sky.

Li Bai

THOUGHTS OF OLD TIME FROM A NIGHT-MOORING
UNDER MOUNT NIU-ZHU


This night to the west of the river-brim
There is not one cloud in the whole blue sky,
As I watch from my deck the autumn moon,
Vainly remembering old General Xie….
I have poems; I can read;
He heard others, but not mine.
…Tomorrow I shall hoist my sail,
With fallen maple-leaves behind me.

Du Fu

ON A MOONLIGHT NIGHT


Far off in Fuzhou she is watching the moonlight,
Watching it alone from the window of her chamber-
For our boy and girl, poor little babes,
Are too young to know where the Capital is.
Her cloudy hair is sweet with mist,
Her jade-white shoulder is cold in the moon.
…When shall we lie again, with no more tears,
Watching this bright light on our screen?

Du Fu

A SPRING VIEW


Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
…After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
…I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

Du Fu

A NIGHT-VIGIL IN THE LEFT COURT OF THE PALACE


Flowers are shadowed, the palace darkens,
Birds twitter by for a place to perch;
Heaven’s ten thousand windows are twinkling,
And nine cloud-terraces are gleaming in the moonlight.
…While I wait for the golden lock to turn,
I hear jade pendants tinkling in the wind….
I have a petition to present in the morning,
All night I ask what time it is.

Du Fu

TAKING LEAVE OF FRIENDS ON MY WAY TO HUAZHOU


In the second year of Zhide, I escaped from the capital through the Gate of Golden Light and went to Fengxiang. In the first year of Qianyuan, I was appointed as official to Huazhou from my former post of Censor. Friends and relatives gathered and saw me leave by the same gate. And I wrote this poem.


This is the road by which I fled,
When the rebels had reached the west end of the city;
And terror, ever since, has clutched at my vitals
Lest some of my soul should never return.
…The court has come back now, filling the capital;
But the Emperor sends me away again.
Useless and old, I rein in my horse
For one last look at the thousand gates.

Du Fu

REMEMBERING MY BROTHERS ON A MOONLIGHT NIGHT


A wanderer hears drums portending battle.
By the first call of autumn from a wildgoose at the border,
He knows that the dews tonight will be frost.
…How much brighter the moonlight is at home!
O my brothers, lost and scattered,
What is life to me without you?
Yet if missives in time of peace go wrong —
What can I hope for during war?

Du Fu

TO LI BAI AT THE SKY SEND


A cold wind blows from the far sky….
What are you thinking of, old friend?
The wildgeese never answer me.
Rivers and lakes are flooded with rain.
…A poet should beware of prosperity,
Yet demons can haunt a wanderer.
Ask an unhappy ghost, throw poems to him
Where he drowned himself in the Milo River.

Du Fu

A FAREWELL AT FENGJI STATION TO GENERAL YAN


This is where your comrade must leave you,
Turning at the foot of these purple mountains….
When shall we lift our cups again, I wonder,
As we did last night and walk in the moon?
The region is murmuring farewell
To one who was honoured through three reigns;
And back I go now to my river-village,
Into the final solitude.

Du Fu

ON LEAVING THE TOMB OF PREMIER FANG


Having to travel back now from this far place,
I dismount beside your lonely tomb.
The ground where I stand is wet with my tears;
The sky is dark with broken clouds….
I who played chess with the great Premier
Am bringing to my lord the dagger he desired.
But I find only petals falling down,
I hear only linnets answering.

Du Fu

A NIGHT ABROAD


A light wind is rippling at the grassy shore….
Through the night, to my motionless tall mast,
The stars lean down from open space,
And the moon comes running up the river.
…If only my art might bring me fame
And free my sick old age from office! —
Flitting, flitting, what am I like
But a sand-snipe in the wide, wide world!

Du Fu

ON THE GATE-TOWER AT YOUZHOU


I had always heard of Lake Dongting —
And now at last I have climbed to this tower.
With Wu country to the east of me and Chu to the south,
I can see heaven and earth endlessly floating.
…But no word has reached me from kin or friends.
I am old and sick and alone with my boat.
North of this wall there are wars and mountains —
And here by the rail how can I help crying?

Wang Wei

A MESSAGE FROM MY LODGE AT WANGCHUAN
TO PEI DI


The mountains are cold and blue now
And the autumn waters have run all day.
By my thatch door, leaning on my staff,
I listen to cicadas in the evening wind.
Sunset lingers at the ferry,
Supper-smoke floats up from the houses.
…Oh, when shall I pledge the great Hermit again
And sing a wild poem at Five Willows?

Wang Wei

AN AUTUMN EVENING IN THE MOUNTAINS


After rain the empty mountain
Stands autumnal in the evening,
Moonlight in its groves of pine,
Stones of crystal in its brooks.
Bamboos whisper of washer-girls bound home,
Lotus-leaves yield before a fisher-boat —
And what does it matter that springtime has gone,
While you are here, O Prince of Friends?

Wang Wei

BOUND HOME TO MOUNT SONG


The limpid river, past its bushes
Running slowly as my chariot,
Becomes a fellow voyager
Returning home with the evening birds.
A ruined city-wall overtops an old ferry,
Autumn sunset floods the peaks.
…Far away, beside Mount Song,
I shall close my door and be at peace.

Wang Wei

MOUNT ZHONGNAN


Its massive height near the City of Heaven
Joins a thousand mountains to the corner of the sea.
Clouds, when I look back, close behind me,
Mists, when I enter them, are gone.
A central peak divides the wilds
And weather into many valleys.
…Needing a place to spend the night,
I call to a wood-cutter over the river.

Wang Wei

ANSWERING VICE-PREFECT ZHANG


As the years go by, give me but peace,
Freedom from ten thousand matters.
I ask myself and always answer:
What can be better than coming home?
A wind from the pine-trees blows my sash,
And my lute is bright with the mountain moon.
You ask me about good and evil fortune?….
Hark, on the lake there’s a fisherman singing!

Wang Wei

TOWARD THE TEMPLE OF HEAPED FRAGRANCE


Not knowing the way to the Temple of Heaped Fragrance,
Under miles of mountain-cloud I have wandered
Through ancient woods without a human track;
But now on the height I hear a bell.
A rillet sings over winding rocks,
The sun is tempered by green pines….
And at twilight, close to an emptying pool,
Thought can conquer the Passion-Dragon.

Wang Wei

A MESSAGE TO COMMISSIONER LI AT ZIZHOU


From ten thousand valleys the trees touch heaven;
On a thousand peaks cuckoos are calling;
And, after a night of mountain rain,
From each summit come hundreds of silken cascades.
…If girls are asked in tribute the fibre they weave,
Or farmers quarrel over taro fields,
Preside as wisely as Wenweng did….
Is fame to be only for the ancients?

Wang Wei

A VIEW OF THE HAN RIVER


With its three southern branches reaching the Chu border,
And its nine streams touching the gateway of Jing,
This river runs beyond heaven and earth,
Where the colour of mountains both is and is not.
The dwellings of men seem floating along
On ripples of the distant sky —
These beautiful days here in Xiangyang
Make drunken my old mountain heart!

Wang Wei

MY RETREAT AT MOUNT ZHONGNAN


My heart in middle age found the Way.
And I came to dwell at the foot of this mountain.
When the spirit moves, I wander alone
Amid beauty that is all for me….
I will walk till the water checks my path,
Then sit and watch the rising clouds —
And some day meet an old wood-cutter
And talk and laugh and never return.

Unrelated pictures, as promised- click for full size or animation when appropriate.

mt-st-helens

cell-it-just-makes-sense

1910-cowgirl

cunning

ani-bad-day

justin_pillowdeath

eskimoburglar

tao_of_kitties

dodo

us-to-break-up

ferret-bath

poor_foke

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Poems of the Tang Dynasty, Part 1 of 10

I’ve set a little project for myself- I want to post a compilation of some of the best poems/ poets of the Chinese classical period. The Tang Dynasty produced many if not most of the greatest poets in all of Chinese literature. My interest in classical Chinese poetry goes wayyy back. My Bachelors degree (1977) was in Arts and letters with my primary coursework in Chinese poetry, Chinese language (so I could learn to read the poems in their original form) and the history of Chinese literature.

I’ve already drafted a list of the poems I want to include. The number will be between 275 and 350, depending on when I get tired of it. It is unfortunate that I’m ending up including only a few  each from some of my favorite poets. This is hard because some individuals wrote hundreds of poems that have survived and almost all of them are really good. But my purpose here is to present a collection that shows the depth and variety of poetry of that period. Maybe someday I will do a comprehensive collection of just Li Bai or Wang Wei or Du Fu.

When I’m done with Part 10 I will post a download of the entire collection in MS doc format. (Always click pictures for full size or animation when applicable.)

tang_pottery

First, Background, from Wikipedia, the source of many good things:

The Tang Dynasty (Chinese: 唐朝; pinyin: Táng Cháo; Middle Chinese: dhɑng)[1] (June 18, 618 – June 4, 907) was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li () family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire. The dynasty was interrupted briefly by the Second Zhou Dynasty (October 16, 690 – March 3, 705) when Empress Wu Zetian seized the throne, becoming the first and only Chinese empress regnant, ruling in her own right.

The Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), the most populous city in the world at the time, is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization—equal to or surpassing that of the earlier Han Dynasty—as well as a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han period, and rivaled that of the later Yuan Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. The enormous Grand Canal of China, built during the previous Sui Dynasty, facilitated the rise of new urban settlements along its route as well as increased trade between mainland Chinese markets. The canal is to this day the longest in the world. In two censuses of the 7th and 8th centuries, the Tang records stated that the population (by number of registered households) was about 50 million people.[2][3][4]a[›] However, even when the central government was breaking down and unable to compile an accurate census of the population in the 9th century, it is estimated that the population in that century had grown to the size of about 80 million people.[5][6] With its large population base, the dynasty was able to raise professional and conscripted armies of hundreds of thousands of troops to contend with nomadic powers in dominating Inner Asia and the lucrative trade routes along the Silk Road. Various kingdoms and states paid tribute to the Tang court, while the Tang also conquered or subdued several regions which it indirectly controlled through a protectorate system. Besides political hegemony, the Tang also exerted a powerful cultural influence over neighboring states such as those in Korea and Japan.

In Chinese history, the Tang Dynasty was largely a period of progress and stability, except during the An Shi Rebellion and the decline of central authority in the latter half of the dynasty. Like the previous Sui Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty maintained a civil service system by drafting officials through standardized examinations and recommendations to office. This civil order was undermined by the rise of regional military governors known as jiedushi during the 9th century. Chinese culture flourished and further matured during the Tang era; it is considered the greatest age for Chinese poetry.[7] Two of China’s most famous historical poets, Du Fu and Li Bai, belonged to this age, as well as the poets Meng Haoran, Du Mu, and Bai Juyi. Many famous visual artists lived during this era, such as the renowned painters Han Gan, Zhang Xuan, and Zhou Fang. There was a rich variety of historical literature compiled by scholars, as well as encyclopedias and books on geography. There were many notable innovations during the Tang, including the development of woodblock printing, the escapement mechanism in horology, the government compilations of materia medicas, improvements in cartography and the application of hydraulics to power air conditioning fans. The religious and philosophical ideology of Buddhism became a major aspect of Chinese culture, with native Chinese sects becoming the most prominent. However, Buddhism would eventually be persecuted by the state and would decline in influence. Although the dynasty and central government were in decline by the 9th century, art and culture continued to flourish. The weakened central government largely withdrew from managing the economy, but the country’s mercantile affairs stayed intact and commercial trade continued to thrive regardless.

The Tang period was a golden age of Chinese literature and art. There are over 48,900 poems penned by some 2,200 Tang authors that have survived until modern times.[183][184] Perfecting one’s skills in the composition of poetry became a required study for those wishing to pass imperial examinations,[185] while poetry was also heavily competitive; poetry contests amongst esteemed guests at banquets and courtiers of elite social gatherings was common in the Tang period.[186] Poetry styles that were popular in the Tang included gushi and jintishi, with the renowned Tang poet Li Bai (701–762) famous for the former style, and Tang poets like Wang Wei (701–761) and Cui Hao (704–754) famous for their use of the latter. Jintishi poetry, or regulated verse, is in the form of eight-line stanzas or seven characters per line with a fixed pattern of tones that required the second and third couplets to be antithetical (although the antithesis is often lost in translation to other languages).[187] Tang poems in particular remain the most popular out of every historical era of China. This great emulation of Tang era poetry began in the Song Dynasty period, as it was Yan Yu (active 1194–1245) who asserted that he was the first to designate the poetry of the High Tang (c. 713–766) era as the orthodox material with “canonical status within the classical poetic tradition.”[188] At the pinnacle of all the Tang poets, Yan Yu had reserved the position of highest esteem for that of Du Fu (712–770),[188] a man who would not be viewed as such in his own era of poetic competitors, and branded by his peers as an anti-traditional rebel.[189] Below is an example of Du Fu’s poetry, To My Retired Friend Wei (Chinese: 贈衛八處士). Like many other poems in the Tang it featured the theme of a long parting between friends, which was often due to officials being frequently transferred to the provinces:[183]

Written calligraphy of Emperor Taizong on a Tang stele

人生不相見, It is almost as hard for friends to meet

動如參與商。 As for the morning and evening stars.

今夕復何夕, Tonight then is a rare event,

共此燈燭光。 Joining, in the candlelight,

少壯能幾時, Two men who were young not long ago

鬢髮各已蒼。 But now are turning grey at the temples.

訪舊半為鬼, To find that half our friends are dead

驚呼熱中腸。 Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.

焉知二十載, We little guessed it would be twenty years

重上君子堂。 Before I could visit you again.

昔別君未婚, When I went away, you were still unmarried;

兒女忽成行。 But now these boys and girls in a row

怡然敬父執, Are very kind to their father’s old friend.

問我來何方。 They ask me where I have been on my journey;

問答乃未已, And then, when we have talked awhile,

兒女羅酒漿。 They bring and show me wines and dishes,

夜雨翦春韭, Spring chives cut in the night-rain

新炊間黃粱。 And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.

主稱會面難, My host proclaims it a festival,

一舉累十觴。 He urges me to drink ten cups –

十觴亦不醉, But what ten cups could make me as drunk

感子故意長。 As I always am with your love in my heart?

明日隔山嶽, Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;

世事兩茫茫。 After tomorrow – who can say?

Du Fu[190]


Zhang Jiuling

THOUGHTS I


A lonely swan from the sea flies,
To alight on puddles it does not deign.
Nesting in the poplar of pearls
It spies and questions green birds twain:
“Don’t you fear the threat of slings,
Perched on top of branches so high?
Nice clothes invite pointing fingers,
High climbers god’s good will defy.
Bird-hunters will crave me in vain,
For I roam the limitless sky.”

Zhang Jiuling

ORCHID AND ORANGE I


Tender orchid-leaves in spring
And cinnamon- blossoms bright in autumn
Are as self- contained as life is,
Which conforms them to the seasons.
Yet why will you think that a forest-hermit,
Allured by sweet winds and contented with beauty,
Would no more ask to-be transplanted
THan Would any other natural flower?

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Zhang Jiuling

THOUGHTS III


The hermit in his lone abode
Nurses his thoughts cleansed of care,
Them he projects to the wild goose
For it to his distant Sovereign to bear.
Who will be moved by the sincerity
Of my vain day-and-night prayer?
What comfort is for my loyalty
When fliers and sinkers can compare?

Zhang Jiuling

ORCHID AND ORANGE II


Here, south of the Yangzi, grows a red orangetree.
All winter long its leaves are green,
Not because of a warmer soil,
But because its’ nature is used to the cold.
Though it might serve your honourable guests,
You leave it here, far below mountain and river.
Circumstance governs destiny.
Cause and effect are an infinite cycle.
You plant your peach-trees and your plums,
You forget the shade from this other tree.

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Li Bai

DOWN ZHONGNAN MOUNTAIN
TO THE KIND PILLOW AND BOWL OF HUSI


Down the blue mountain in the evening,
Moonlight was my homeward escort.
Looking back, I saw my path
Lie in levels of deep shadow….
I was passing the farm-house of a friend,
When his children called from a gate of thorn
And led me twining through jade bamboos
Where green vines caught and held my clothes.
And I was glad of a chance to rest
And glad of a chance to drink with my friend….
We sang to the tune of the wind in the pines;
And we finished our songs as the stars went down,
When, I being drunk and my friend more than happy,
Between us we forgot the world.

Li Bai

DRINKING ALONE WITH THE MOON


From a pot of wine among the flowers
I drank alone. There was no one with me —
Till, raising my cup, I asked the bright moon
To bring me my shadow and make us three.
Alas, the moon was unable to drink
And my shadow tagged me vacantly;
But still for a while I had these friends
To cheer me through the end of spring….
I sang. The moon encouraged me.
I danced. My shadow tumbled after.
As long as I knew, we were boon companions.
And then I was drunk, and we lost one another.
…Shall goodwill ever be secure?
I watch the long road of the River of Stars.

 

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Li Bai

IN SPRING


Your grasses up north are as blue as jade,
Our mulberries here curve green-threaded branches;
And at last you think of returning home,
Now when my heart is almost broken….
O breeze of the spring, since I dare not know you,
Why part the silk curtains by my bed?

 


 

 

Du Fu

A VIEW OF TAISHAN


What shall I say of the Great Peak? —
The ancient dukedoms are everywhere green,
Inspired and stirred by the breath of creation,
With the Twin Forces balancing day and night.
…I bare my breast toward opening clouds,
I strain my sight after birds flying home.
When shall I reach the top and hold
All mountains in a single glance?

 

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Du Fu

TO MY RETIRED FRIEND WEI


It is almost as hard for friends to meet
As for the morning and evening stars.
Tonight then is a rare event,
Joining, in the candlelight,
Two men who were young not long ago
But now are turning grey at the temples.
…To find that half our friends are dead
Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief.
We little guessed it would be twenty years
Before I could visit you again.
When I went away, you were still unmarried;
But now these boys and girls in a row
Are very kind to their father’s old friend.
They ask me where I have been on my journey;
And then, when we have talked awhile,
They bring and show me wines and dishes,
Spring chives cut in the night-rain
And brown rice cooked freshly a special way.
…My host proclaims it a festival,
He urges me to drink ten cups —
But what ten cups could make me as drunk
As I always am with your love in my heart?
…Tomorrow the mountains will separate us;
After tomorrow-who can say?

Du Fu

ALONE IN HER BEAUTY


Who is lovelier than she?
Yet she lives alone in an empty valley.
She tells me she came from a good family
Which is humbled now into the dust.
…When trouble arose in the Kuan district,
Her brothers and close kin were killed.
What use were their high offices,
Not even shielding their own lives? —
The world has but scorn for adversity;
Hope goes out, like the light of a candle.
Her husband, with a vagrant heart,
Seeks a new face like a new piece of jade;
And when morning-glories furl at night
And mandarin-ducks lie side by side,
All he can see is the smile of the new love,
While the old love weeps unheard.
The brook was pure in its mountain source,
But away from the mountain its waters darken.
…Waiting for her maid to come from selling pearls
For straw to cover the roof again,
She picks a few flowers, no longer for her hair,
And lets pine-needles fall through her fingers,
And, forgetting her thin silk sleeve and the cold,
She leans in the sunset by a tall bamboo.

li_bai_du_fu_images_22

Du Fu

SEEING Li Bai IN A DREAM I


There are sobs when death is the cause of parting;
But life has its partings again and again.
…From the poisonous damps of the southern river
You had sent me not one sign from your exile —
Till you came to me last night in a dream,
Because I am always thinking of you.
I wondered if it were really you,
Venturing so long a journey.
You came to me through the green of a forest,
You disappeared by a shadowy fortress….
Yet out of the midmost mesh of your snare,
How could you lift your wings and use them?
…I woke, and the low moon’s glimmer on a rafter
Seemed to be your face, still floating in the air.
…There were waters to cross, they were wild and tossing;
If you fell, there were dragons and rivermonsters.

dufu

Du Fu

SEEING Li Bai IN A DREAM II


This cloud, that has drifted all day through the sky,
May, like a wanderer, never come back….
Three nights now I have dreamed of you —
As tender, intimate and real as though I were awake.
And then, abruptly rising to go,
You told me the perils of adventure
By river and lake-the storms, the wrecks,
The fears that are borne on a little boat;
And, here in my doorway, you rubbed your white head
As if there were something puzzling you.
…Our capital teems with officious people,
While you are alone and helpless and poor.
Who says that the heavenly net never fails?
It has brought you ill fortune, old as you are.
…A thousand years’ fame, ten thousand years’ fame-
What good, when you are dead and gone.


(This next poem, one of my favorites, I once spent a week in seclusion, writing it in the original form onto a delicate pressed leaf and gave it to a friend as a gift- he was leaving the state and I didn’t expect to see him again.)

Wang Wei

AT PARTING

247797071-395x400I dismount from my horse and I offer you wine,
And I ask you where you are going and why.
And you answer: “I am discontent
And would rest at the foot of the southern mountain.
So give me leave and ask me no questions.
White clouds pass there without end.”

 

Wang Wei

TO QIWU QIAN BOUND HOME
AFTER FAILING IN AN EXAMINATION


In a happy reign there should be no hermits;
The wise and able should consult together….
So you, a man of the eastern mountains,
Gave up your life of picking herbs
And came all the way to the Gate of Gold —
But you found your devotion unavailing.
…To spend the Day of No Fire on one of the southern rivers,
You have mended your spring clothes here in these northern cities.
I pour you the farewell wine as you set out from the capital —
Soon I shall be left behind here by my bosomfriend.
In your sail-boat of sweet cinnamon-wood
You will float again toward your own thatch door,
Led along by distant trees
To a sunset shining on a far-away town.
…What though your purpose happened to fail,
Doubt not that some of us can hear high music.

 

spring_villagesm_fsWang Wei

A GREEN STREAM


I have sailed the River of Yellow Flowers,
Borne by the channel of a green stream,
Rounding ten thousand turns through the mountains
On a journey of less than thirty miles….
Rapids hum over heaped rocks;
But where light grows dim in the thick pines,
The surface of an inlet sways with nut-horns
And weeds are lush along the banks.
…Down in my heart I have always been as pure
As this limpid water is….
Oh, to remain on a broad flat rock
And to cast a fishing-line forever!

Wang Wei

A FARM-HOUSE ON THE WEI RIVER


In the slant of the sun on the country-side,
Cattle and sheep trail home along the lane;
And a rugged old man in a thatch door
Leans on a staff and thinks of his son, the herdboy.
There are whirring pheasants? full wheat-ears,
Silk-worms asleep, pared mulberry-leaves.
And the farmers, returning with hoes on their shoulders,
Hail one another familiarly.
…No wonder I long for the simple life
And am sighing the old song, Oh, to go Back Again!

bamboo_grove_fsWang Wei

THE BEAUTIFUL XI SHI


Since beauty is honoured all over the Empire,
How could Xi Shi remain humbly at home? —
Washing clothes at dawn by a southern lake —
And that evening a great lady in a palace of the north:
Lowly one day, no different from the others,
The next day exalted, everyone praising her.
No more would her own hands powder her face
Or arrange on her shoulders a silken robe.
And the more the King loved her, the lovelier she looked,
Blinding him away from wisdom.
…Girls who had once washed silk beside her
Were kept at a distance from her chariot.
And none of the girls in her neighbours’ houses
By pursing their brows could copy her beauty.


Meng Haoran

ON CLIMBING ORCHID MOUNTAIN
IN THE AUTUMN TO ZHANG


On a northern peak among white clouds
You have found your hermitage of peace;
And now, as I climb this mountain to see you,
High with the wildgeese flies my heart.
The quiet dusk might seem a little sad
If this autumn weather were not so brisk and clear;
I look down at the river bank, with homeward-bound villagers
Resting on the sand till the ferry returns;
There are trees at the horizon like a row of grasses
And against the river’s rim an island like the moon
I hope that you will come and meet me, bringing a basket of wine —
And we’ll celebrate together the Mountain Holiday.

180px-meng_haoranMeng Haoran

IN SUMMER AT THE SOUTH PAVILION
THINKING OF XING

The mountain-light suddenly fails in the west,
In the east from the lake the slow moon rises.
I loosen my hair to enjoy the evening coolness
And open my window and lie down in peace.
The wind brings me odours of lotuses,
And bamboo-leaves drip with a music of dew….
I would take up my lute and I would play,
But, alas, who here would understand?
And so I think of you, old friend,
O troubler of my midnight dreams !

Meng Haoran

AT THE MOUNTAIN-LODGE

OF THE BUDDHIST PRIEST YE
WAITING IN VAIN FOR MY FRIEND DING


Now that the sun has set beyond the western range,
Valley after valley is shadowy and dim….
And now through pine-trees come the moon and the chill of evening,
And my ears feel pure with the sound of wind and water
Nearly all the woodsmen have reached home,
Birds have settled on their perches in the quiet mist….
And still — because you promised — I am waiting for you, waiting,
Playing lute under a wayside vine.

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Wang Changling

WITH MY BROTHER AT THE SOUTH STUDY
THINKING IN THE MOONLIGHT OF VICE-PREFECT
CUI IN SHANYIN


Lying on a high seat in the south study,
We have lifted the curtain-and we see the rising moon
Brighten with pure light the water and the grove
And flow like a wave on our window and our door.
It will move through the cycle, full moon and then crescent again,
Calmly, beyond our wisdom, altering new to old.
…Our chosen one, our friend, is now by a limpid river —
Singing, perhaps, a plaintive eastern song.
He is far, far away from us, three hundred miles away.
And yet a breath of orchids comes along the wind.

That’s it for this installment. I will post the other 9 at a rate of at least 1 per month. Check in- I may be faster sometimes.

Happy 2009! May it not suck so very badly!

2008tc3train7_elhassan

New Year’s Gifts for You- Mississippi John Hurt

candy-man

coffee-blues

goodnight-irene

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