On The Stork Tower
By Wang Zhihuan
To the furthest mountain, the bright sun shines
To the distant sea, the Yellow River flows
To get a better view
Climb another floor
Notes on the poem
Only six of Wang’s poems survive today, two are part of the 300 Tang Poems, including “Ascending Stork Tower for a better view”.
The poem symbolizes the pursuit of an ideal. The admonition is “Try harder!”
There are many variations of the poem, and one can substitute climbing for ascending if one wishes. I also like this visual image: “In the mountain’s distance mountains, the bright sun sinks, To the sea the Yellow River flows, If you wish to see a thousand miles, You should climb another floor.”
The poem’s third line is idiomatic. One could also say kick it up a notch. Or, try harder! A literal translation goes like this:
yù qióng qiānlǐ mù,
[wanting] [furthest] [thousand] [mile] [eye]
If you want to see a thousand miles
Another version goes like this:
The sun in the distant mountains glows
The Yellow River seawards ever flows
You will find a grander sight
By climbing to a greater height
Wang Zhihuan (王之涣, 688-742) was born in Shanxi province where the Stork Tower is located. Read more…
Bái rì yī shān jǐn,
huánghé rù hǎiliú.
Yù qióng qiānlǐ mù,
gèng shàng yī céng lóu
Much of the rhyme, both internal and end, is lost in translation.
The second line is particular beautiful. The combination of the Yellow River (黄河, Huánghé) and the Ocean Current (海流, hǎiliú) is more suggestive than my simple use of “the sea”.
The Stork Tower in Puzhou Town, Yongji, Shanxi, Wang’s home province.
In China, the stork (鹳, include the heron and crane) is a symbol of longevity because it lives a long life, and its white feathers represent old age. In the Chinese imperial hierarchy, the stork is “a bird of the first rank.” Flying cranes symbolize one’s hope for a higher position.
There is a useful idiom that explains the significance of the stork.
Hè lì jī qún
A crane standing amid a flock of chickens
Being conspicuously different, Standing head and shoulders above others.
Alas, the Stork Tower was ravaged by the flooding Yellow River, but it has been rebuilt.