Meng Hao-jan

Weeping for Meng Haoran by Li Po

I look for my old friend. He is nowhere.

I might ask for the old man of Xiangyang
but among rivers and mountains his Caizhou island
is today desolate.

Tony Barnstone

about Meng Hao-jan - David Hinton
The first full flowering of Chinese poetry occurred in the illustrious T’ang Dynasty, and at the beginning of this renaissance stands Meng Hao-jan (689-740 C.E.), esteemed elder to a long line of China’s greatest poets: Wang Wei, Li Po, Tu Fu, Po Chü-i. Deeply influenced by Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, Meng was the first to make poetry from the Ch’an insight that deep understanding lies beyond words. The result was a strikingly distilled language that opened new inner depths, non-verbal insights, and outright enigma. This made Meng Hao-jan China’s first master of the short imagistic landscape poem that came to typify ancient Chinese poetry.

Master’s Chamber in the Ta-ya Temple

I-kunga’s place to meditiate:
this hut, in empty grove.

Outside the door, a pretty peak.
Beyond the stairs, deep valleys.

Sunset confused in footprints of the rain.
Blue of the void in the shade of the court.

Look, and see: the lotus blossom’s purity.
Know, thus: nothing tainted that man’s heart.

J.P. Seaton


Climbing Long-View Mountain’s Highest Peak

Rivers and mountains beyond the form seen:
Hsiang-yang’s beauty brings them in reach,

and Long-View has the highest peak around.
Somehow I’d never climbed its cragged heights,

its rocky cliffs like walls hacked and scraped
and towering over mountains crowded near,

but today, skies so bright and clear, I set out.
Soon the far end of sight’s all boundless away,

Cloud-Dream southlands a trifle in the palm,
Warrior-Knoll lost in that realm of blossoms.

And back on my horse, riding home at dusk,
a vine-sifted moon keeps the stream lit deep.

David Hinton


Spring Dawn

Sleeping in spring, I don’t feel the dawn
though everywhere birds are singing.
Last night I heard sounds, blowing, raining.
How many flowers have fallen down?

Tony Barnstone


Written for Old Friends in Slin Yang-jou City while Spending the Night on the Tung-lu River

I hear the apes howl sadly
In dark mountains.
The blue river
Flows swiftly through the night.

The wind cries
In the leaves on either bank.
The moon shines
On a solitary boat.

These wild hills
Are not my country.
I think of past ramblings
In the city with you.

I will take
These two lines of tears,
And send them to you
Far away
At the western reach of the sea.

Greg Whincup


At Lumen-Empty Monastery, Visiting the
Hermitage of Master Jung, My Departed Friend

The blue-lotus roof standing beside a pond,
White-Horse Creek tumbling through forests,

and my old friend some strange thing now.
A lingering visitor, alone and grief-stricken

after graveside rites among pines, I return,
looking for your sitting-mat spread on rock.

Bamboo that seems always my own thoughts:
it keeps fluttering here at your thatch hut.

David Hinton


Parting From Wang Wei

I’m lonely alone, expecting whom?
Each morning I return empty, lone.

I’m ready to go looking for fragrant grass,
but lament this parting, old friend.

On the Way who will help me?
It’s rare to find a soul mate

so I should guard my solitude,
just go home and close the gate.

Tony Barnstone


Written on the Wall of Master Yi’s Meditation Hut

Accustomed my friend to the stillness of Zen
you built a refuge in deserted woods
outside the gate a lone peak soars
beyond the steps wind countless ravines
sunset follows a daylong rain
tall trees cover your yard with shade
now that I’ve seen the lotus in bloom
I know the mind impervious to stain

Red Pine


Seeing Off Chu Ta Leaving for Ch-in

For an unemployed gentleman bound for Wuling
a first-rate sword is worth a ton of gold
I remove this in parting and give it to you
a simple piece of my heart

Red Pine


Spring Dawn

Sleeping in spring oblivious of dawn
everywhere I hear birds
after the wind and rain last night
I wonder how many petals fell

Red Pine


Steering my little boat towards a misty islet,
I watch the sun descend while my sorrows grow:
In the vast night the sky hangs lower than the treetops,
But in the blue lake the moon is coming close.

Gary Snyder


Night on the Great River

We anchor the boat alongside a hazy island.
As the sun sets I am overwhelmed with nostalgia.
The plain stretches away without limit.
The sky is just above the tree tops.
The river flows quietly by.
The moon comes down amongst men.

William Carlos Williams


Mooring on the Chien-te River

The boat rocks at anchor by the misty island
Sunset, my loneliness comes again.
In these vast wilds the sky arches down to the trees.
In the clear river water, the moon draws near.

Kenneth Rexroth

Passing the Night on the Chien-te River

My boat moored by misty isle,
sun sets, while a traveler’s grief rises.
Above vast plain: sky lowers among the trees.
In the limpid stream, the moon moves close.

J.P. Seaton

Not Finding Yuan

Went to Lo Yang to find a talented
man but he’d been exiled to the Sou
Mountains. It was O.K., he left word,
because the plums bud there earlier.

David Gordon


Rising Late

Spring sleep, well past dawn,
birdsong everywhere.
Last night, wind and pelting rain.
Blossoms scattered-who knows how many!

Anthony Piccione, Li Young Lee, and Carol Zhigong Chang


Spring Morning

Sleeping in spring, the sun rises before I do,
all around me the twittering of birds.
Rain patter on the roof, wind shrieking at night:
flower petals fell-who knows how many!

David Lunde

The Shih Ching , usually translated as either The Book of Songs or the Classic of Poetry, is the first great collection of Chinese poetry. Tradition says that it was edited into its present form by the Sage of Sages, Confucius himself. In fact the book was assembled before, during, and after the life of Confucius. Its more than three hundred poems include fragments of works as old as the Shang Dynasty (traditional; dates 1766-1154 BCE) as well as “contemporary” poems from the Chou feudal states written or spoken by both aristocratic court figures and just plain “folks”. A great deal has been said about the origin of many, if not the majority of the poems as oral “folk” art, but it is clear from the artistry of the written language in which they have been handed down that, like the scribes who improved upon the originally oral poetry attributed to “Homer” in the West to create the Iliad and the Odyssey, the people who converted Chou folk songs and court verses into poetry in written Chinese characters clearly thought of themselves as (and were) artists. So the characters used to render simple and direct lyrical utterances of the illiterate peasant folk often honor them with carefully chosen written vocabulary: the heart and soul of folk art remains clearly present, but literary subtleties are introduced. The scribes who created the Shih Ching were poets, not tape recorders. They chose the best of what existed, and they honored it with their own art.

In its present form, the Shih Ching consists of three major sections, the Kuo Feng, or Odes of the States, comprising 160 of the 300 are generally but not always folk songs. The Ya (Elegant Verses) subdivided with no obvious criteria into greater and lesser, include poems 161-265, and the Sung or Temple Odes high ritual songs and bits of dynastic myth, include poems 266-305. The present selection is comes, all but a single longer poem on drinking and its positive and negative consequences from the “Lesser Elegants”, all come from the Kuo Feng Sections.

Knowledge of the Shih Ching poems was a necessity of diplomatic practice around the time of Confucius, when it was a common practice to deliver or at least support the delivery of diplomatic messages among the feudal domains (the “States or Guo of the Guo Feng) by oral presentation of relevant lines from the Classic. From the Han on many of the poems where imbued with very specific allegorical interpretations, but it is clear that later poets, who memorized the book word for word, used it as allusive material in their own poems at least as often for its plain “folk” messages as for its orthodoxly approved allegorical ones.