A blue kitten is crouching beside a yellow chicken, but they seem not to be thinking the same thoughts

Year End

Gone with the snow

The days of sorrow

Before you know, the weather has turned warm

Lining my pathway with willows

And plums blooming on one side alone

I can’t help but begin to sing

You say my song and the wine are perfectly in sync!

Don’t know what it really means

But the mountains must know

Some songs are meant to be sung

Translated by Dot, from Tao Yuanming’s “La Ri,” a poem about the traditional Chinese holiday La Ba, written in the Six Dynasties period

风雪送余运,无妨时已和。
梅柳夹门植,一条有佳花。
我唱尔言得,酒中适何多!
未能明多少,章山有奇歌。

~ 陶淵明 (東晉末至南北朝) 《蜡日》(亦即蜡八,指年終蜡祭八神之日)

Tao Yuanming, born in 365 AD and died in 427 AD, is a major figure in China’s long history of poetry. Being disappointed with the political reality in his era, he decided to withdraw from public service and spent much of his life in reclusion, writing poetry to reflect on the beauty of countryside and simple life. He is considered the pioneer of recluse poetry, and his works a paragon of the ‘Fields and Gardens’ genre, an important poetic movement in classical Chinese literature.


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.

A blue cat and a red bird seem to be communicating with each other

Dreamland

Sitting in my own little corner, I watch dust motes drifting in the sunlight, random leaves swirling in midair, heaps of discard filling the wastebaskets, and pristine little pebbles resting on the riverbed …

I reflect on every path that leads to the mind’s home.

It is a path that leads nowhere. One arrives at every step. This desert scrubland is as perfect as that childhood dreamland – there is no need to rush elsewhere.

~ Thoughts extended from a Chinese couplet originated in the Ming dynasty –

閒看庭前花開花落 靜觀天邊雲捲雲舒

If to translate literally, it would be –

Sitting in my front yard, I watch flowers unfold or fall

clouds gather or fleet …