Wang Wei

Wang Wei’s readers almost invariably find themselves inside his poems. Something is happening here, and I dont know what it is, except that Im in the presence of surpassing poetic genius.

Wang Wei J.P. Seaton

Wang Wei was an aristocrat, born with a silver writing brush in his mouth. Of all the privileged among the Chinese poets of all periods of her history, Wang Wei made best use of his privilege. He was a musician of surpassing skill and a landscape painter so innovative that he can be said to have changed landscape painting from his time forward. He was also a patron of poets (he probably saved Li Po from execution), and, not least, patron of the Southern School of Zen Buddhism, the school from which arose both the Rinzai and the Soto schools known to modern scholars and practitioners alike. Most importantly, he was a poet of consummate skill. There is no doubt that Wang Weis chueh chu, his quatrains, are somehow something other than anyone else’s. Su Shih, the great Sung poet, said that Wang Wei’s poems are paintings, and his paintings, poems. More than a thousand years of readers have agreed. But there is more. Wang Wei’s readers almost invariably find themselves inside his poems. Something is happening here, and I dont know what it is, except that Im in the presence of surpassing poetic genius. [source]
Wang Wei
The best introduction to Wang Wei’s poetry is a poem of Ars Poetica by Ssu-k’ung T’u (837-908):

Bend downand there it is:
No need to wrest it from others.
With the Way, in complete agreement
The mere touch of a hand is spring:
The way we come upon blooming flowers,
The way we see the year renew itself.
What comes this way will stay;
What is gotten by force will drain away.
A secluded man in an empty mountain,
As rain drops, picks some blades of duckweed.
Freely to feel the flash of dawn:
Leisurely, with the celestial balance. [tooltip content= “Hiding the Universe: Poems of Wang Wei, Wai-lim Yip (Wushinsha-Grossman Press,1970)”] [source][/tooltip]

Once More, on the Empty Mountain >>>

Wai-lim Yip – Wang Wei and mise-en-scene >>>

Willis and Tony Barnstone >>>

Bird Song Torrent

The man at his ease: the cassia flowers falling.
Night quiet: Spring mountain empty.
Moon-rise: shocks the mountain birds.
Sometimes you’ll hear their cries, among spring’s torrents.

J.P. Seaton

Return to Wang River

Bells stir in the mouth of the gorge.
Few fishermen and woodcutters are left.
Far off in the mountains is twilight.
Alone I come back to white clouds.
Weak water chestnut stems cant hold still.
Willow catkins are light and blow about.
To the east is a rice paddy, color of spring grass.
I close the thorn gate, seized by grief.

Tony Barnstone

Drifting on the Lake

Autumn is crisp and the firmament far,
especially far from where people live.
I look at cranes on the sand
and am immersed in joy when I see mountains beyond the clouds.
Dusk inks the crystal ripples.
Leisurely the white moon comes out.
Tonight I am with my oar, alone, and can do
everything,
yet waver, not willing to return.

Willis Barnstone