Today is January 15, 1099, I am an exile in Dan Zhou*. This evening a few old pals came to visit. “It’s such a nice evening with a fine moon, how about we go for a stroll?”They said. Happily I tagged along.
In the western part of the town, we dropped by a temple, passing through some narrow alley, crowded butcher shops and wine stores, where strangers like me were mingling with locals. By the time we got back, it was already midnight. The door was closed, and the ones inside were snoring. Laying aside my walking stick, I let out a laugh. What is gain in life, what is loss? My friends asked what I was laughing about. I was just laughing at myself.
Although I was also laughing at Han Yu**. He was once fishing in a desolate place and couldn’t catch anything, so he thought he should go somewhere far and away, in order to catch big fish. What he didn’t know is, even if you go as far as to the sea, you don’t necessarily catch big fish.
~ Translated by Dot, from Su Shi’s “A Midnight Note To Myself In Dan Zhou,” written in the Song dynasty
*Dan Zhou – a remote seaside town on Hai Nan Island, regarded as “the world’s end” in China
One night in autumn, right when I was about to go to bed,the moonlight sneaked into the room with an invite, which I accepted with delight.
To share the fun, I went to Cheng Tian Temple and knocked on my friend’s door. He’s not yet asleep either, so we took a walk in the courtyard. The ground was a pool of moonbeams, crisscrossed with the shadows of bamboos and cypresses, swaying like freshwater algae.
Which night doesn’t come with a moon? What place doesn’t have bamboos? Only that nobody else is as leisurely as us to sightsee.
~ Translated by Dot, from Su Shi’s “A Nightout at Cheng Tian Temple,” written in the Song dynasty
~ Translated by Dot, from Shi De’s original verses written in the Tang dynasty
~ 拾得 (唐代)
Shi De, aka Shih-Te or Pickup, was a monk on Mount Tiantai in the Tang dynasty. Allegedly, as a little boy he was abandoned by his parents and adopted by Feng Gan – a legendary Buddhist poet at the Guoqing Temple on Mt. Tiantai, and ever since he spent most of his life working and practicing at the temple, forming the famous “Tiantai Trio” (天台三聖) with Feng Gan and their mutual friend – Han Shan (Cold Mountain).