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The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Thursday, November 30, 2023

A Poem About Middle Age (by Tang Yin)

 Here’s my translation of another poem by the Ming artist Tang Yin. I’m just beginning to read his poems and I find myself once again falling under the spell of Chinese poetry. What a wonderful spell it is. 

Tang Yin is the real deal as a great Tang poet, except that he lived about 900 years too late to be considered among their dynastic rank. He falls into the category of what I like to call the Later Day Tang Poets, in that he writes imbued with the spirit of Tang but, at least in Tang Yin’s case, from a much more modern (or more accurately, a pre-modern) point of view. It’s a bit like feeling young at heart but in an older person’s body - which is perhaps a good introduction to this untitled poem, by a great Later Day Tang Poet, Tang Yin, about being middle aged.

Untitled - by Tang Yin

To remain sleeping without relish

In middle age the mood’s gone missing

Most of us wake up to the rooster’s cry

Without thought of pursuing fortune or fame



残睡无多有滋味     中年到底没心情

世人多被鸡催起     自不由身为利名

It might help you better appreciate this poem if I explain the reference to pursuing fortune and fame in the last line. This is considered to be the Confucian ideal. But that was not Tang Yin’s path, as I’ll further explain in a subsequent post.  He came from the school of roustabout Later Day Tang Poets, in the company of such kindred spirits as Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

A Little Taste of Tang Yin

 I've just discovered a Chinese poet named Tang Yin.  He was apparently best known as a painter during the Ming Dynasty.  Like Wang Wei before him, he became a master of both arts.  His dates are 1470 - 1524.  So far I've only read and translated a few of his poems but they really fit my current mood.  Tang Yin has a casual, almost flippant style to his poetry, with a very mordant wit.

Here is one from a series of untitled poems that I started translating earlier today:

Untitled – 2


Remove the yoke of the Imperial City

Unkempt I return to lie in an old thatched hut

Where there’s barely room to stand, don’t laugh

Ten thousand li of mountains and rivers flow

Through my brush and come to life




解皇都第一名 猖披归卧旧

莫笑无余地    万里江山下生

I particularly love the last line (which I've rendered in two lines) as a description of an artist through whom the life force is fully flowing.  The way Tang Yin expresses it, it's unclear if he is speaking of painting or poetry, either way, the mountains and rivers flow through his brush ....


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Dream from the Mountaintop (Bai Juyi)

It's been almost a month of illness, starting with a bout with Covid, which brought on a debilitating knock-on infection thanks to the cytokine storm.  Now, after two weeks of antibiotics, some semblance of good health has been restored.

Translating a poem seemed like a good way to celebrate.  Somehow when I scroll through the online anthology of Tang poems, I often find a poem perfectly suited to my mood, and that certainly proved to be the case today with this poem by Bai JuYi.

Dream from the Mountaintop  

By BaiJuyi 


I dreamed of climbing Mt. Song

Alone, carrying a plant and staff

A thousand cliffs, ten thousand ravines

Wandering the whole terrain


I dreamed my feet were flawless

Vigorous as in the days of youth

The magic spirit had restored

Everything as it once was


I sensed the spirit indwelling

Ill appearance gave way to health   

Outer and inner realms a mere fantasy

When I woke both seemed unreal


 Now in daytime I walk as a cripple

At night I proceed with ease and grace

Night and day are evenly divided

Between all that’s lost and gained





夜梦上嵩山    独携藜杖出

千岩与万壑 游览皆周毕


梦中足不病    健似少年日

既悟神返初    依然旧形质


始知形神内 形病神无疾

形神两是幻 梦寤俱非实


昼行虽蹇涩 夜步颇安逸

昼夜既平分 其间何得失