Tag Archives: classical chinese poetry

Wang Wei

One of my top 3 favorite classical Chinese poets, Wang Wei lived in the Tang Dynasty, 8th century (701–761). He is sometimes referred to as the “Poet Buddha”.

Born to the upper class, from along line of bureaucrats, he passed the civil service entrance examination in 721 and had a successful civil service career, rising to become Chancellor in 758. During the An Lushan Rebellion he avoided actively serving the insurgents during the capital’s occupation by pretending to be deaf.

He spent ten years studying with Chán master Daoguang. After his wife’s death in 730, he did not remarry and established a monastery on part of his estate.

He was also an accomplished artist and his original work was often published along with his paintings related to the poetry. Few if any of these illustrations has survived. A few of his poems are rendered below.

Study

Light cloud pavilion light rain
Dark yard day weary open
Sit look green moss colour
About to on person clothes come
There’s light cloud, and drizzle round the pavilion,
In the dark yard, I wearily open a gate.
I sit and look at the colour of green moss,
Ready for people’s clothing to pick up.

Farewell


Down horse drink gentleman alcohol
Ask gentleman what place go
Gentleman say not achieve wish
Return lie south mountain near
Still go nothing more ask
White cloud not exhaust time
Dismounting, I offer my friend a cup of wine,
I ask what place he is headed to.
He says he has not achieved his aims,
Is retiring to the southern hills.
Now go, and ask me nothing more,
White clouds will drift on for all time.

(The above poem is special to me- I used to practice drawing Chinese characters writing the poems of Wang Wei. This particular poem I spent a week on the Oregon Coast in October writing and re-writing on leaves I had found. When I was finally satisfied, I put it in a frame and gave it to a friend who was going to another city to live. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again. Fifteen years later he came to visit. He still had the poem in the frame I gave him.)

Replying to Subprefect Zhang

Old age think good quiet
Everything not concern heart
Self attend without great plan
Empty know return old forest
Pine wind blow undo belt
Hill moon light pluck qin
Gentleman ask end open reason
Fisherman song enter riverbank deep
Now in old age, I know the value of silence,
The world’s affairs no longer stir my heart.
Turning to myself, I have no greater plan,
All I can do is return to the forest of old.
Wind from the pine trees blows my sash undone,
The moon shines through the hills; I pluck the qin.
You ask me why the world must rise and fall,
Fishermen sing on the steep banks of the river.

Returning to Songshan Mountain

Clear river belt long thin
Cart horse go idle idle
Flow water like have desire
Dusk birds another with return
Desolate town face old ferry
Set sun whole autumn hills
Far successively Song high down
Return come for now close shut
The limpid river runs between the bushes,
The horse and cart are moving idly on.
The water flows as if with a mind of its own,
At dusk, the birds return to perch together.
The desolate town is faced by an ancient ferry,
The setting sun now fills the autumn hills.
And far below high Songshan’s tumbling ridges,
Returning home, I close the door for now.

Temple Tree Path

Narrow path sunless temple locust tree
Deep dark much green moss
Should gate except meet sweep
In case have hill monk come
A narrow, sunless path to the temple tree,
Deep and dark; abundant green moss.
Wait by the gate when finished sweeping the yard,
In case a monk should come down from the hill.

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Filed under Chinese poetry, pictures, Wang Wei

Classical Chinese Poetry, #1

Today is for Li Po-

I will bring in some of my other favorites later (Du Fu, Wang Wei etc.).

Taking Leave of a Friend

Blue mountains lie beyond the north wall;

Round the city’s eastern side flows the white water.

Here we part, friend, once and forever.

You go ten thousand miles, drifting away

Like an unrooted water-grass.

Oh, the floating clouds and the thoughts of a wanderer!

Oh, the sunset and the longing of an old friend!

We ride away from each other, waving our hands,

While our horses neigh softly, softly . . . .

To His Two Children

In the land of Wu the mulberry leaves are green,

And three times the silkworms have gone off to sleep.

In East Luh where my family stay,

I wonder who is sowing those fields of ours.

I cannot be back in time for the spring work,

I can help with nothing, traveling on the river.

The south wind blowing wafts my homesick spirit

And carries it up to the front of our familiar tavern.

There I see a peach tree on the east side of the house

With thick leaves and branches waving in the blue mist.

It is the tree I planted before my parting three years ago.

The peach tree has grown now as tall as the tavern roof,

While I have wandered about without returning.

Ping-yang, my pretty daughter, I see you stand

By the peach tree and pluck a flowering branch.

You pluck the flowers, but I am not there;

How your tears flow like a stream of water!

My little son, Po-chin, grown up to your sister’s shoulders,

You come out with her under the peach tree,

But who is there to pat you on the back?

When I think of these things, my senses fail,

And a sharp pain cuts my heart every day.

Now I tear off a piece of white silk to write this letter,

And send it to you with my love a long way up the river.

The Old Dust

The living is a passing traveler;

The dead, a man come home.

One brief journey between heaven and earth,

Then, alas! we are the same old dust of ten thousand ages.

The rabbit in the moon pounds the elixir in vain;

Fu-sang, the tree of immortality, has crumbled to kindling wood.

Man dies, his white bones are dumb without a word

While the green pines feel the coming of the spring.

Looking back, I sigh; looking before, I sigh again.

What is there to prize in the life’s vaporous glory?


Nefarious War

Last year we fought by the head-stream of the Sang-kan,

This year we are fighting on the Tsung-ho road.

We have washed our armor in the waves of Chiao-chi lake,

We have pastured our horses on Tien-shan’s snowy slopes.

The long, long war goes on ten thousand miles from home,

Our three armies are worn and grown old.

The barbarian does man-slaughter, not plowing;

On this yellow sand-plains nothing has been seen but

blanched skulls and bones.

Where the Chin emperor built the walls against the Tartars,

There the defenders of Han are burning beacon fires.

The beacon fires burn and never go out,

There is no end to war!—

In the battlefield men grapple each other and die;

The horses of the vanquished utter lamentable cries to heaven,

While ravens and kites peck at human entrails,

Carry them up in their flight, and hang them on the branches of dead trees.

So, men are scattered and smeared over the desert grass,

And the generals have accomplished nothing.

Oh, nefarious war! I see why arms

Were so seldom used by the benign sovereigns.

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 ask 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 born 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.



WATERFALL AT LU-SHAN

Sunlight streams on the river stones.
From high above, the river steadily plunges —

three thousand feet of sparkling water —
the Milky Way pouring down from heaven.

CLEARING AT DAWN

The fields are chill, the sparse rain has stopped;
The colours of Spring teem on every side.
With leaping fish the blue pond is full;
With singing thrushes the green boughs droop.
The flowers of the field have dabbled their powdered cheeks;
The mountain grasses are bent level at the waist.
By the bamboo stream the last fragment of cloud
Blown by the wind slowly scatters away.


SELF-ABANDONMENT

I sat srinking and did not notice the dusk,
Till falling petals filled the folds of my dress.
Drunken I rose and walked to the moonlit stream;
The birds were gone, and men also few.

TO TAN-CH’IU

My friend is lodging high in the Eastern Range,
Dearly loving the beauty of valleys and hills.
At green Spring he lies in the empty woods,
And is still asleep when the sun shines on igh.
A pine-tree wind dusts his sleeves and coat;
A peebly stream cleans his heart and ears.
I envy you, who far from strife and talk
Are high-propped on a pillow of blue cloud.

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Filed under Chinese poetry, Li Po, Mystic Poetry, pictures, poetry