Wang Wei’s Wangchuan Collection and Li Qingzhao translations

Matthew Flannery

Painter and poet Wang Wei brushed a long handscroll of his large estate, Wangchuan Villa, then added twenty verses to describe its scenes. The villa was located on the Wang River (Wangchuan) in the Lantian district in the Zhongnan range (Southern Mountains) about thirty miles south of the sometime Tang capital Chang’an.

I: Mengcheng Hollow

My new home is near Mengcheng.
Of ancient forests, worn willows remain.
Who will come to live here next?
Will he grieve for men now gone?

II: Huazi Hill

Flying birds never cease.
Layered mountains redden again.
I pace the crest of Huazi hill.
Empty sorrow never ends.

III: The House of Apricot Wood

For beams, I chop down apricot wood
knotting sweet thatch, I roof my house.
White clouds quitting my rough-hewn rafters
perhaps will water the world of men.

Line three: clouds seem to be symbolic of the benign influence of one’s fame or good example.

V: Deer Enclosure

This mountain is empty of men.
Only their voices carry this far.
Deep in the woods, slanting sun
shines on jade green moss.

Line four: growing where traffic is slight, moss can represent separation, loneliness.

VI: Magnolia Park

Light slides from autumn slopes.
Hurrying birds pursue their flocks.
Jade shadows sometimes brighten.
The colors grow restless on darkening hills.

X: South Hill

I steer my skiff towards South Hill.
North Hill is too far.
Over the water, homes of men.
Who lives there now? Too far to tell.