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 …

Beauty

Spring flowers and autumn moon, when will such sentiments cease to boom?

All memories of the past, how could I escape

To my little loft last night, the easterly wind blew again

I couldn’t bear to think of the homeland

In such lucent moonlight


The fine mansions are there still

Only the fair faces must have wilted

How much sorrow could you conceal?

Must be as much as the river of spring

Rolling eastward never-ending

~ Translated by Dot, from Li Yu’s “The Royal Beauty,” written in the Tang dynasty

春花秋月何時了 往事知多少 小樓昨夜又東風 故國不堪回首 月明中  

雕欄玉砌應猶在 只是朱颜改 問君能有幾多愁 恰似一江春水 向東流

~ 李煜 (唐代) <<虞美人>>

Bird Chirps At Night

Up the west tower I go, in silence alone

Latching onto a phoenix tree in the courtyard, a half moon shaped like a sickle

And the autumn, a lockup on its own


A tangled thread, an unsortable mess

This parting sorrow, quite unusual

Has a mind of its own, lingering on

~ Translated by Dot, from Li Yu’s “Autumn Sentiments,” written in the Tang dynasty

(Li Yu was the last Emperor of the Tang dynasty, also a great poet.)

無言獨上西樓 月如鉤 寂寞梧桐深院 鎖清秋     

剪不斷 理還亂 是離愁 別是一般滋味 在心頭

~ 李煜 (唐朝最後一位皇帝) <<鳥夜啼 秋懷>>

In The Woods

Not a soul is seen on the empty mountain

Yet voices are heard round about

Sunset light returns to the woods

Slanting again on the moss

~ Translated by Dot, from Wang Wei’s “The Deer Range,” written in the Tang dynasty

空山不見人 但聞人語響 返景入深林 復照青苔上

~ 王維 (唐代) <<鹿柴>>

Close To Heaven

Spending the night at the Summit Temple

Reaching up for the stars on my arms’ level

Speaking in a low voice

Trying not to disturb those in heaven

~ Translated by Dot, from Li Bai’s “At the Summit Temple,” written in the Tang dynasty

夜宿峰顶寺
舉手捫星辰
不敢高聲語
恐驚天上人

~ 李白 (唐代) <<夜宿山寺>>

By The River

Growing on the rim, grasses meditate in the dim

Offering solace from trees above, orioles sing in the deep

Late and rapid, spring flood comes with sudden rain

No one taking the ferry, lonely boat shifts along the riverbank

~ Translated by Dot, from Wei Yingwu’s “By the River to the West of Town,” written in the Tang dynasty

獨憐幽草澗邊生 上有黃鸝深樹鳴 春潮帶雨晚來急 野渡無人舟自橫

~ 韋應物 (唐代) <<滁州西澗>>

Visiting the Hermit

Whereabouts is the hermit, I ask a lad under the pines

He is away gathering herbs, the lad replies

Must be somewhere in this mountain

Only the clouds are too deep to be certain

~ Translated by Dot, from Jia Dao’s “Visiting the Hermit With no Luck,” written in the Tang dynasty

松下問童子
言師採藥去
只在此山中
雲深不知處

賈島 (唐代) <<尋隱者不遇>>

Depicting The Fall

Withered vines, brittle trees, muted crows

Single-log bridge, small creek, desolate town

Ancient path, westerly wind, bumpy saddle

A sunset on the horizon

A broken heart in the world’s shadow

~ Translated by Dot, from Ma Zhiyuan’s “Thoughts About the Fall,” written in the Yuan dynasty

枯藤老樹昏鴉,小橋流水人家,古道西風瘦馬。夕陽西下,斷腸人在天涯。

~ 馬致遠 (元代) <<天淨沙·秋思>>

Snowy Night

Too cold to settle between the beddings

I see the window brightened up, almost blinding

It is the heavy snow, deep in the night

Occasionally cracking some bamboo upright

~ Translated by Dot, from Bai Juyi’s “Snow At Night,” written in the Tang dynasty

已訝衾枕冷
復見窗户明
夜深知雪重
時聞折竹聲

~ 白居易 (唐代) <<夜雪>>

Parting

Tenderhearted yet disguised as heartless

Since it’s hard to laugh before a wine flask

Unlike the candle, who must be feeling sorry

For it’s been shedding tears till morning

~ Translated by Dot, from Du Mu’s “Parting,” written in the Tang dynasty

多情卻似總無情
唯覺樽前笑不成
蠟燭有心還惜別
替人垂淚到天明

~ 杜牧 (晚唐) <<贈別>>