Deep in the mountain forest, not a soul can be seen
Still, I hear a sound stirring, a voice
And see the setting sun looking back
Reflecting on the green moss
No one is seen in the empty mountains, and yet
A voice is heard, no more.
In these deep dark woods, setting sunlight
Shines on green moss, rising up at me.
Interpretation of Deer Park
鹿柴, Lu Chai, Deer Park that Wang Wei identifies in his poem is the Deer Park in Sarnath, India. This is where Siddhartha sat beneath the famous Bodhi Tree, meditated, and became Gautama Buddha, “Enlightened”.
These are the four noble truths taught by Buddha.
That we crave and cling to impermanent things; that these things can not satisfying us; that this worldly suffering ends with the freedom from these wants, and; that this freedom is achieved through the right way.
Line 1, Wang Wei’s setting, 空山 translates literally as empty mountains, its literary meaning is serene mountains. 空 which is generally translated as empty may also mean: hollow, in vain, sky, air, or free, another allusion to Buddha’s teaching of the noble truths.
Line 4, the light of the sun that shines back at us is a mere glimmer of complete understanding. It is nevertheless, something, and like the will o’the wisp, as we approach it, it fades, ever receding from our grasp.
Wang Wei (699–759) must be included in anyone’s list of superstar poets of the Tang Dynasty. He was also an accomplished painter and musician.
Original Chinese and Pinyin
空 山 不 見 人
Kōngshān bùjiàn rén
但 聞 人 語 響
Dàn wén rén yǔ xiǎng
返 景 入 深 林
Fǎn jǐng rù shēn lín
復 照 青 苔 上
fù zhào qīngtái shàng
French Translation of Deer Park by Wang Wei
Nul n’est vu dans les montagnes serenes, mais
Une voix est entendue, et pas plus.
Les bois sombres profonds, la lumière du soleil
Brille sur la mousse verte, se lève sur moi.
This poem is an endless source of study for scholars and translators. Here is one such study of thousands. Lichtung and Luchai, by Toming Jun Liu. Enjoy.