Searching Nanxi for the Reclusive Changshan Taoist, 尋南溪常山道人隱居

Searching Southern Creek (Nanxi) for the Taoist priest
Along the way, I find a footprint in the moss
A while cloud lies low upon the lake
Spring grass grows freely at the door
A heavy rain has the color of the pine trees
A mountain brook gushes from its source
And, mingling with its flowers is a truth
I have forgotten

Alternate title, Looking for the Taoist monk Chang of the Southern stream.

In Discovering a Truth, I have forgotten the Words

“Poems cannot convey the meaning of words accurately, and words cannot accurately convey thoughts.” This is the subtext of the ancient The Classic of Changes, (the I Ching). A fundamental tenet of Daoism also holds that people cannot express and access the Way (Dao) by language. And if Zhuangzi is correct, “then the purpose of the words is to express an idea, and if we get the idea we can forget the words”.

Liu Changqing (劉長卿 709–785) served the Emperor Dezong as governor of Suizhou Province.

Liu captures the essence of nature and the spirit of the Dao in his beautifully expressive mood piece of eight lines with five characters per line. The name of the monk he seeks and the place he goes to are of no substance.

A footprint in the moss marks the way, then Liu discovers that he needs nothing more than the this simple path beset by a heavy rain that obscures the forest. For the truth mingles with the flowers alongside the rushing mountain brook.

Chinese

尋南溪常山道人隱居
一路經行處,
莓苔見履痕,
白雲依靜渚,
春草閉閒門。
過雨看松色,
隨山到水源,
溪花與禪意,
相對亦忘言

Pinyin

Xún nán xī cháng shān dàoren yǐnjū

Yī lùshàng jīngguò dì dìfāng, qīngtái xiǎodào liú xià xié hén.
Báiyún yīwēi ānjìng shāzhōu, chūncǎo huánrào dào yuàn xián mén.
Xīn yǔ guòhòu sōng sè qīngcuì, xúnzhe shānlù lái dào shuǐyuán.


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