A crouching blue cat is closely examining a centipede

Taking Refuge

The way it is, a hermit’s life

I realize it bit by bit, since I arrived

Stretching four limbs, listening with six senses

Wearing the same clothing for different seasons

Eating whatever the Nature rations

Diligently I must keep up

Just so I might recognize the Buddha when he shows up

~ Translated by Dot, from a poem by Han Shan (aka Cold Mountain), a recluse in the Tang dynasty

自从出家后,渐得养生趣。伸缩四肢全,勤听六根具。

褐衣随春冬,粝食供朝暮。今日恳恳修,愿与佛相遇。

~ 寒山 (唐代)

In China, from beginningless time to nowadays, throughout the whole time span, there’re always hermits retreating from society to live alone on high mountains. If they never wrote anything, or if the writings got scattered by the wind, we would have never caught a glimpse of their exceptional lives. If all you’ve ever tried is a worldly existence, how could you imagine a life freed from all things unimportant?

Fortunately, some of their musings did get handed down. Han Shan, aka Cold Mountain, a recluse in the Tang dynasty, allegedly retreated into Tian Tai Mountain (Zhejiang Province) in his 30s and lived way past 100-year-old. His poetry had never been properly appreciated until the 20th century.

Peach Blossom

In earthly realm, April has spent its inflorescence

Here at mountain temple, peaches have come into blossom

Nowhere to be found once it’s lost, I used to have regrets about spring

Not knowing it has a hideout in here so awesome

~ Translated by Dot, from Bai Juyi’s “Peach Blossoms at Dalin Temple,” written in the Tang dynasty

人間四月芳菲盡
山寺桃花始盛開
長恨春歸無覓處
不知轉入此中來

~ 白居易 (唐代) <<大林寺桃花>>

In The Bamboo Grove

Sitting alone in a bamboo grove

I play the zither, singing aloud

The woods are deep, no one being around

Yet between the bright moon and me, there is a knowing grown

~ Translated by Dot, from Wang Wei’s “In The Bamboo Grove,” written in the Tang dynasty

獨坐幽篁裡
彈琴復長嘯
深林人不知
明月來相照

~ 王維 (唐代) <<竹里館>>

Entertaining Oneself

You ask me, why I live in the Mount Bi

I smile with no answer, while my heart is free

Peach blooms in season, creeks flow out of sight

Here in the mountains, life departs from earthly plight

~ Translated by Dot, from Li Bai’s “Q & A in the Mountain,” written in the Tang dynasty

問余何意棲碧山,笑而不答心自閒。
桃花流水杳然去,別有天地非人間。

~ 李白 (唐朝) <<山中問答>>

Simple Joy

Drizzle entrained in slanting wind and morning chill

Light clouds bypass weeping willows and after-rain beach

A boundless expanse comes into scene, where the Luo River joins the sea

Pearly bubbles floating in afternoon tea

Onboard my dinner plate are mountain greens

The divine delicacy in earthly life

mild flavor and simple glee

~ Translated by Dot, from Su Shi’s “Drizzle In Slanting Wind and Morning Chill,” verses written on December 24, 1084 while he was hiking in Mount Zhong Nan

细雨斜风作晓寒,淡烟疏柳媚晴滩。入淮清洛渐漫漫。
雪沫乳花浮午盏,蓼茸蒿笋试春盘。人间有味是清欢。

~ 蘇軾 (宋代) <<浣溪沙 細雨斜風作曉寒>>

元丰七年十二月二十四日,从泗州刘倩叔游南山

Moon Gazing

When will the moon come full again?

I raise my winecup asking the sky

In heaven’s terms, what year is it up there?

I wish to ride the wind back to where I came from

Yet I dread the cold at the height!

So I dance in the shade of my dream instead

Which seems to be much warmer than the flight


The moon lingers near the red eaves tonight

Peeking through my fringed window and robbing me of sleep

I know I shouldn’t be resentful

Yet why the moon has to be so full, always at times while we’re apart?

This earthly life is made up of joy and sorrow, reunion and farewell

And the moon keeps cycling through phases as well

It has been this way since forever!

May we all live long and well

And gaze at the same moon thousand miles away

~ Translated by Dot, from Su Shi’s “Lyrics To the Melody of Water,” written on a full-moon night in the Song dynasty

明月几时有?把酒问青天。不知天上宫阙,今夕是何年。我欲乘风归去,又恐琼楼玉宇,高处不胜寒。起舞弄清影,何似在人间。
转朱阁,低绮户,照无眠。不应有恨,何事长向别时圆?人有悲欢离合,月有阴晴圆缺,此事古难全。但愿人长久,千里共婵娟。

~ 蘇軾 (宋代) <<水調歌頭>>

Unbridled

Some may live in reclusion

Only they never renounce profusion

How to tell a true hermit from the false?

Just see whether they still hold on to forts.

If you have let go of curses and cares,

Your mind would be as clear as crescent moon.

Completely at ease clinging no more

Unmoored to samsara; unbound by nirvana

Simply being nobody

And utterly doing nothing

What a leisure and blessing

~ Translated by Dot, from Han Shan (Cold Mountain)’s original work in the Tang dynasty

我见出家人,不入出家学。欲知真出家,心净无绳索。

澄澄孤玄妙,如如无倚托。三界任纵横,四生不可泊。

无为无事人,逍遥实快乐。

~ 寒山 (唐代)

Spring Outing (4)

In a morning or evening like this

I let myself loose

Outside the window are flowers and herbs

Trees and bamboos

Reclining on my bed, a zither

Waiting on the nightstand, a jug of wine half full

The best of times are untraceable

Only this moment is for me to fable

Translated by Dot, from Tao Yuanming’s “Spring Outing (Part Four),” written in the Six Dynasties period

斯晨斯夕,言息其庐。
花药分列,林竹翳如。
清琴横床,浊酒半壶。
黄唐莫逮,慨独在余。

~ 陶淵明 (東晉末至南北朝) 《時運 其四》

Spring Outing (2&3)

The river is filled to the brim

For you to wash or to rinse

The far view extends vast and beyond

I watch and I sing

It’s easy to feel content in life – all depends on how you think

Raising my winecup to cheers

I feel just so pleased


But the water runs nonstop

Bringing me the fond memory of Yi

Passing by are a few schoolboys

Singing a song on their way home

I envy them for being so carefree, either in sleep or on the roam

But we’re in such different time zones

The past cannot be chased back home

Translated by Dot, from Tao Yuanming’s “Spring Outing (Part Two & Three),” written in the Six Dynasties period

洋洋平泽,乃漱乃濯。
邈邈遐景,载欣载瞩。
称心而言,人亦易足。
挥兹一觞,陶然自乐。

延目中流,悠想清沂。
童冠齐业,闲咏以归。
我爱其静,寤寐交挥。
但恨殊世,邈不可追。

~ 陶淵明 (東晉末至南北朝) 《時運 其二及三》

Spring Outing (1)

Time’s flying – it’s spring!

The mornings are getting warmersuch a beautiful thing

Putting on my spring outfit

I set off to the eastern fringe

Fading away is the mountain haze

On the horizon, resigning to a fine tinge.

From the south comes a breeze

Flittering over some new greens

Translated by Dot, from Tao Yuanming’s “Spring Outing (Part One),” written in the Six Dynasties period

迈迈时运,穆穆良朝。
袭我春服,薄言东郊。
山涤余霭,宇暧微霄。
有风自南,翼彼新苗。

~ 陶淵明 (東晉末至南北朝) 《時運 其一》

Lotus Position

Sitting cross-legged on a rock

Listening to the cool drips

Of a mountain brook

Relishing subtle changes in the breeze

I realize the empty nature of hazy dreams

Resting in a slant of sunlight, the tree casts a low shadow

Gazing at my own mind

I watch a lotus flower

Emerging slowly from the puddle

~ Translated by Dot, from Cold Mountain’s original verses written in the Tang dynasty

盘陀石上坐,溪涧冷凄凄。静玩偏嘉丽,虚岩蒙雾迷。

怡然憩歇处,日斜树影低。我自观心地,莲花出淤泥。

~ 寒山 (唐代)

Four Seasons

In spring, the rain fills the rivers to the brim

Clouds in summer form a sky of whims

In autumn, the moon

Outpours a full night of bright

Towering over those stark ridges, a pine tree in winter

A hymn to the all-might!

Translated by Dot, from Tao Yuanming’s “Four Seasons,” a poem written in the Six Dynasties period

春水满四泽,夏云多奇峰。
秋月扬明晖,冬岭秀孤松。

~ 陶淵明 (東晉末至南北朝) 《四時》