Po Chu-i

According to legend, Po Chu-i used to read his poems to an old peasant woman and change any line that she couldn’t understand.  

Po-Chu-i – David Hinton
The Book of Songs is the ancient source from which the Chinese poetic tradition flows, and thoughts never twisty may very well describe the essence of the entire tradition… for it is a tradition that consistently valued clarity and depth of wisdom, not mere complexity and virtuosity. In this, Po Chu-i is the quintessential Chinese poet, for although it deeply informs the work of all the major ancient poets, Po makes that sage clarity itself his particular vision.

Rather than Wang Wei’s strategy of losing the self among the ten thousand things, this poetics opens me poem open the poem to the various movements of self, and Po Chu-i was a master of its subtle ways. In a culture that made no fundamental distinction between heart’ and mind, he inhabited everyday experience at the level where a simple heart is a full heart and a simple mind is an empty mind, endowing thoughts never twisty with new depths. Such is his gentle power: the sense in his poems of dwelling at the very center of one’s life, combining the intimacies of a full heart and the distances of an empty mind.

He inhabited everyday experience at the level where a simple heart is a full heart and a simple mind is an empty mind, endowing thoughts never twisty with new depths. Such is his gentle power: the sense in his poems of dwelling at the very center of one’s life, combining the intimacies of a full heart and the distances of an empty mind. [David Hinton]n\  

Po Chu-i – Burton Watson

What is Po Chu-i most famous for? Simplicity of language, for one thing, especially in comparison with the others in the triad. For the large number of his works that have been preserved—far more than those of any of his contemporaries. And for an abiding desire to portray himself, whatever he may have been in real life, as a connoisseur of everyday delights, a man confronting the world, particularly in the years of old age, with an air of humor and philosophical acceptance.

In the end, however, it is the simple, low-keyed works depicting his daily moods and activities, often almost prosy in expression, for which he is best remembered. These are the poems that exercised the greatest influence on the poets of succeeding centuries, In addition, Po, like so many Chinese poets of the classical tradition, employed poetry as writers of other cultures have used the diary or autobiography forms: as a medium in which to record daily activities, contacts with close friends and relatives, scenes along a journey, or quiet musings on the meaning and goal of life.

Po seems to have turned to poetry especially in times of stress and sorrow, to vent his emotions and to some degree sublimate them. And finally, the writing of poetry was for him a source of deep personal delight and satisfaction, constituting, along with wine and music, one of the chief joys of his daily existence. Through his poems of everyday life, with their wealth of detail on his house, his garden, the foods he ate, his pet cranes, and his prize rocks, he greatly enriched the themes and scope of Chinese poetry. He even
scholars have often found his works somewhat too bland for their tastes, lacking the kind of challenge posed, for example, by the knotty and allusive style of much of Tu Fu’s poetry.

Lest one suppose that Po’s simplicity of language was easily achieved—that the poems were merely dashed off, as they some-times seem on first reading—one should note that Sung scholars who had seen Po’s drafts reported that they were heavily revised. The artless effect he achieved was in fact the product of highly controlled art.

Autumn Rain, A Night of Sleep

It’s a late autumn night, cold and quiet.
A lone old man at ease here in idleness,

I lie down late, after the lamp goes dark,
sleep deep and rich amid sounds of rain.

Ashes burn all night under the winejar,
and incense keeps the quilt-rack warm.

Day dawns cold and clear, but I stay put.
Frosty leaves crowd the steps with red.

David Hinton


Written While on Night Duty at the Palace, to Send to Yuan Ninth

Ten thousand threads of thought, two sheets written:
before sealing them, I read them over, wonder if they’ll do.
The palace water clock has just sounded the fifth watch,
the lamp in the window, my one light, about to go out.

Burton Watson

Autumn’s Cold

Here’s my snowy crown
time’s tinted decrepitude
there’s the frost in the courtyard
autumn’s glittery breath
now I’m sick and just watching my wife
pick cure-alls
then I’m frozen waiting for the maid
to comb my hair
without the body
what use fame?
worldly things
I’ve put aside
I delve my heart
determined now
to learn from Empty Boats!

James Cryer

After Lunch

After lunch–one short nap;
On waking up–two cups of tea.
Raising my head, I see the sun’s light
Once again slanting to the southwest.
Those who are happy regret the shortness of the day;
Those who are sad tire of the year’s sloth.
But those whose hearts are devoid of joy or sadness
Just go on living, regardless of ‘short’ or ‘long’.

Arthur Waley

Grass on the Ancient Plain

in one year, to wither, then flourish.
Wild fire cannot burn them away.
Spring breezes’ breath, they spring again.
Their distant fragrance on the ancient way,
Their sunlit emerald greens the ruined walls.
Seeing you off again, dear friend.
Sighing, sighing, full of parting’s pain.

J.P. Seaton

Lament for Peony Flowers

I grieve for the red peony flowers by the steps.
By this evening two branches have withered.
Tomorrow morning wind will blow away the rest.
At night I keep sad watch, hold flame over the dying red.

Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

Staying at Bamboo Lodge

an evening sitting under
the eaves of the pines
at night sleeping
in Bamboo Lodge
the sky so clear you’d say
it was drugs
meditation so deep, thought
I’d gone home to the hills
but Clever can’t beat
and Quick won’t match
(you just can’t pave the Way)
that’s it!
the Gate of Mystery!

James Cryer

Written on SUng Mountain’s Eastern Cliffs in Early Spring

Skies clearing above thirty»six peaks,
kingfisher-blue mists rise over snowmelt.

The moon’s drifted through three nights
now, spring opening across four mountains

grasses turning distances an early green
while cold birds leave silence unchanged.

Here below the highest of these east cliffs:
nothing but a name l’ve scrawled on rock

David Hinton

The Bamboo by Li Ch’e Yun’s Window

Don’t cut it to make a flute.
Don’t trim it for a fishing
Pole. When the grass and flowers
Are all gone, it will be beautiful
Under the falling snow flakes.

Kenneth Rexroth

Drunk Again

Last year, when I lay sick,
I vowed
I’d never touch a drop again
As long as I should live.

But who could know
Last year
What this year’s spring would bring ?

And here I am,
Coming home from old Liu’s house
As drunk as I can be!

Henry Hart

Madly Singing in the Mountains

There is no one among men that has not a special failin
And my failing consists in writing verses.
I have broken away from the thousand ties of life;
But this inlirmity still remains behind.
Each time that I look at a fine landscape,
Each time that I meet a loved friend,
I raise my voice and recite a stanza of poetry
And marvel as though a god had crossed my path.

Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

Rising Late

Birds are calling in courtyard trees
and sunlight’s bright in the eaves,

but I’m old, my laziness perfected,
and now it’s cold I rise even later.

It’s my nature: quilts thick or thin,
pillows high or low. They suit me:

spirit at peace, body safe and warm
How many can savor such things?

Once I’ve slept enough, I just sit
looking up, no thoughts anywhere-

as if our senses had never opened
and our limbs were long forgotten.

I think back to someone up early
in Ch’ang-an, clothes frost»stained.

He and I, each whole and sufficient-
who can say which is nothing now?

David Hinton


Writing Again On The Same Theme

The sun’s high
I’ve slept enough
still too lazy to get up;
in a little room
quilts piled on
I’m not afraid of the cold.
The bell of the Temple of Bequeathed Love
I prop up my pillow to listen;
snow on Incense Burner Peak
rolling up the blind, I look at it.
K’uang’s Mount Lu
a place for running away from fame;
a fitting post to spend old age in.
Mind peaceful
body at rest
this is where I belong.
Why should I always think of Ch’ang-an as home?

Arthur Waley

Palace Song

Tears soak her thin shawl
dreams won’t come.
In the dark night, from the front palace,
girls rehearsing songs.
Still fresh and young,
already put down,
She leans across the brazier
to wait the coming dawn.

Gary Snyder


The Mountain

The snow has gone from Chung-nan; spring is almost come.
Lovely in the distance its blue colors, against the brown of the streets.
A thousand coaches, ten thousand horsemen pass down the Nine Roads;
Turns his head and looks at the mountains,–not one man!

Arthur Waley


Spring Visit to Chien-Tang Lake

Remnants of sun ribbon the river-
half and half, black river red.
Third night, ninth month lovely hour;
pearled dew, bent bow moon.

Matthew Flannery


A Farewell Poem on the Theme “Grass on the Old Plain

See how the grass flourishes on this each year, once withered, then green again.
Wild fires can’t burn it all;
when the spring winds blow, it grows again.
Now, its fragrance overruns the old road,
in clear spring sunlight, green up to the ruined walls.
So here I say farewell to my honored friend,
and the grass rustles, full of parting’s sorrows.

Geoffrey Waters


At the Tomb of Li Bai

Cai Shi River goes on
beside Li Bai’s grave,

fields spread away everywhere,
grass-tips touch the clouds.

How sorrowful, the abandoned grave
the bones lodged deep, to water level

Once, heaven was shaken,
earth trembled with your poems,

but poets have the worst of it, all
must sink. Your fall was greatest

Anthony Piccione & Carol Zhogong Chang 



Remembering Jiang Nan

Jiang Nan Jiang Nan is wonderful, the scenery is like that of the past.
At sunrise the river flowers are redder than fire,
During the night came the sounds of the wind and the rain.
How could one not remember Jiang Nan?


Chinese Scholar – hm68.com

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.