TaoYuanming, 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.
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
~ 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.
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 –
If to translate literally, it would be –
Sitting in my front yard, I watch flowers unfold or fall