Over seventy summits, mapped and named, obscured by snow.
Vastly high, to rising sky, lined up, a thousand passes!
Weaponed suits, in furs, on armoured horse—no easy passes—
Battled armies halt: So huge their ride! How far to go!?
Which immortals built those paths where only birds can fly?
So high, so far away, yet reachable in just a day.
Life-affirming, miracle pines peak over clouds’ seas’ sway.
Nine Dragon Waterfall(2) dashed to a hundred rivers—Li Bai(3):
Brush pen flourished into Dream Flower Pen(4), a tree-soft point.
Yellow Emperor(5) made dan inside this Taoist sphere.
Full of beauty—is this Buddha’s lotus seat(6) spread here?
Brightness Apex(7), it’s impossible to get to the point.
Half way to heaven, heart-vast, up-down, majestic, vision not finite,
No limit, far, inside, vast, unseen but known, profound—
Base Earth energy running millions of years unbound,
Only being here I now know the universe’s light.
-Translated by Jennifer Zeng and Damian Robin
1. Huangshan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huangshan(Chinese: 黄山, literal meaning: Yellow Mountain) is a mountain range in southern Anhui Province in eastern China. Vegetation on the range is thickest below 1,100 meters (3,600 ft), with trees growing up to the tree line at 1,800 meters (5,900 ft). The area is well known for its scenery, sunsets, peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, Huangshan pine trees, hot springs, winter snow, and views of the clouds from above. Huangshan is a frequent subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, as well as modern photography. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of China's major tourist destinations.
2. The Nine Dragon Waterfall is one of the three most famous waterfalls in Huangshan.
3. Li Bai (701–762) was a Chinese poet acclaimed from his own day to the present as a genius and romantic figure who took traditional poetic forms to new heights. He is regarded by many as the greatest poet in Chinese history.
4. Dream Flower Pen (Meng Bi Sheng Hua) is located within northeast of Yellow Mountain and close to the Bijia Peak. The elevation is 1,640 meters. A stone stands elevated with a round bottom cuspate top, like a brush pen used for calligraphy. Legend has it that once Li Bai dreamed that flowers blossomed on top of his brush. There is also another story that when Li Bai once visited Mount Huangshan, he was invited by a monk to write a poem. After he finished writing, everyone was so amazed by his calligraphy and poem. In his excitement (not without drinking some rice wine produced and provided by the monks), Li Bai threw away his brush which turned into a peak of Huangshan which is now called "夢筆生花Meng Bi Sheng Hua", or "Dream Flower Pen", meaning the brush blossomed in a dream. "Meng Bi Sheng Hua" also evolved into a Chinese idiom referring to very talented writers or writings.
5. Legend has it that once the Yellow Emperor made his elixir, or dan, on Mount Huangshan. Huang means yellow, Shan means mountain. That's how Mount Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) gained its name: It was named after the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di). The Yellow Emperor was
one of Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors in ancient China, living some 5000 years ago. He was believed to have succeeded in cultivation, become an immortal and rose to heaven on a dragon. Chinese people now call themselves "descendants of the Yellow Emperor".
6. Lotus Peak is one of the three main peaks of Huangshan. Buddhas are believed to sit on lotus petals (like a seat).
7. The Bright Peak is one of the three main peaks of Huangshan.
White realms vast, our hearts traversing back to the origins of time
Cloud to oceans surrounding us, our poetic endeavors reaching to the heavens
Poetry now completed, we find a cool breeze with the moon so bright
Society of poets, we aspire to catch a glimpse of life upon the highest of mountains.
Translated by Jennifer Zeng.
Standing alone in Spring, whose courtyard is this?
Briskly, east wind overspills the wall,
A thousand trees of sudden burning snow,
pear blossom’s fragrance scorching lane and trail.
Night descends, they beacon back the moon.
At daybreak, they’re caressed by misty cool.
While Qingming*’s coming, they’re first to grasp Spring’s soul,
making this far-off place beautiful.
I’m wondering: were they beings cast down
to earth, to experience, whole, life’s jail?
In cold night dreams they still remember lightness,
home beyond the cloudy mountains’ rail.
Translated by Jennifer Zeng and Damian Robin
* The Qingming or Ching Ming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English, is a traditional Chinese festival on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. This makes it the 15th day after the Spring Equinox, either 4 or 5 April in a given year. Other common translations include Chinese Memorial Day and Ancestors' Day.
飛雪樹頭 太古周遊 我思浩浩 天地悠悠
東風吹徹 孰與唱酬 我思茫茫 不見子猷
尋梅策蹇 寒江泛舟 我思澹澹 聊以忘憂
四望一白 如臨姑射 我思渙渙 夫復何求
With all the trees in shrouds of falling snow,
We move towards the moment of Time's birth.
My thoughts leap forward with great strength and flow
Within the massive gap of heaven … earth.
Around me, cold East Wind that blows and blows
Much like a song—but who will sing with me?
Dispersing, wafting thoughts are vagrant echoes
Of Zi You gone, returned, now not with me.
I want to ride a donkey, sail the river
To trace plum blossoms at the edge of mind.
My thoughts reach gently, dancing on forever,
They leave the worried world’s concerns behind.
While in the center of this pure white realm,
I could be in the presence of Ku Yi.
Contented, all my thoughts flow with no helm.
All I have is all I need to be.
Translated by Jennifer Zeng.
Edited by Damian Robin.
文心水機 道出於一 亦真亦幻 至怪至奇
夫彼為文 淵洄如水 溢於筆端 為漣為漪
夫彼為水 譎詭其文 噴薄而出 如虹如霓
若夫可聽 鳴泉濺濺 若夫可賞 江煙合離
文焉水焉 變態萬狀 發於方寸 頃刻千里
The soul of my poetry
is like the essence of water
following the same Way
sometimes so real
other times elusive
they can be wonderful
yet hard to understand.
When the Way manifests in my writing
It flows like water
swirling and creating ripples
spilling from the tip of my pen
causing waves from deepest origins.
When the Way manifest in water
Its ripples are mysterious
and hard to catch
Bursting forth like a rainbow
with exquisite colors.
If the Way can be heard
Listen to the murmuring of the spring
If the Way can be seen
Watch the soft mist above a lake
Constantly gathering and departing
No longer can I tell apart
Whether it is the water or my writing
forever changing into endless forms
emerging from some intangible spring
that can erupt suddenly
with full power and majesty
outpouring and stretching
for a thousand miles.
Translated by Jennifer Zeng.