Ching An

I’m ashamed I’ve yet to realize my monk’s oath:
the fault’s in this load of blue green hills I carry,
many tens of thousands strong.

Ching An

Wang K’ai-yun, a lay friend who was arguably the finest classical poet of the late Ch’ing, favorably compared Ching An’s work to that of the legendary wild-man monk Hanshan. It is a surprising comparison, considering the fact that Ching An was a successful abbot and a recognized leader in the relations between the monastic community and the central government, but it is a particularly apt one. Like Hanshan’s poems, Ching An’s are sharply personal and even apparently iconoclastic. Ching An was also compared by contemporaries to the famous late T’ang Buddhist poet Chia Tao (779-843), a selection of whose poems are translated on this website.

…Yuan Mei and the monk Ching An, are certainly among the best of all the classical Chinese poetic tradition. Both are outstanding for their mastery of classical forms, and their willingness to use those forms to record the realities of their lives in a language that made classical poetry available to ordinary people. Both poets, a century apart, realized that the millions of readers of popular fiction were a potential audience, and so, unlike the majority of “classical” poets of the period, both refused merely to imitate the great poetry of “the ancient”, choosing rather to put classical techniques at the service of vernacular language, in order to reach the people, always the intended audience for wen.

Dusk of Autumn: Writing What My Heart Embraces

I am the orphan cloud:
no trace left behind.

Come South three times now
to listen to the frosty bell.
When men see geese flying
they think of letters home.

Even the mountains grieve at the Fall:
they’re Wearing a sickly face.

But fine phrases are there too
to be plucked from the sad heart of Autumn,
and many an ancient poet ran into one on the road.

I’m ashamed I’ve yet to realize
my monk’s oath:

the fault’s in this load of blue green hills I carry
many tens of thousands strong.

J.P. Seaton

To Show You All, On the First Morning of the Year

A thousand thousand Worlds,
a single breath,
one turn of the Great Potter`s Wheel.
The withered tree blossoms

in a Spring beyond illusion.
Pop!
The firecrackers bring me back:

the laugh’s on me.
This year’s man
is last year’s man.

J.P. Seaton

Night Sitting

The hermit doesn’t sleep at night:
in love with the blue of the vacant moon
The cool of he breeze
that rustles the trees
rustles him too.

J.P. Seaton