Practice, rest, repeat, Bai Juyi says to those learning to play an instrument.
Perhaps written ca. 818, when Bai Juyi was sent in dispair deep in Sichuan, to distant Chongzhou (considered the birthplace of Taoism). There Bai began to learn the guzheng, a Chinese zither. The zhēng (zither) able to create ten thousand sounds of Nature.
Purple sleeves, red strings, during a bright moon.
In the dark, playing alone, bowing my head.
Strings cease, fingers rest, all sound stops.
Having deep feelings, ten thousand times over, repeat.
zǐ xiù hóng xián míng yuè zhōng， zì dàn zì gǎn àn dīróng 。Bai Juyi, Night Music ca. 818
xián níng zhǐ yān shēng tíng chǔ， bié yǒu shēn qíng yī wàn zhòng 。
Notes on Translation
The Tao is the mother of ten thousand things.Laozi, Tao de Ching, verse one
夜筝, Yè zhēng, literally, night zither, 筝 zheng, is the general class of zithers, stringed instruments; a qin, having fewer strings than some zithers, is easier to play. 自弹自感 zì dàn zì gǎn (meaning, playing alone).
The rhyming words: Zheng (zither); zhōng (during, in the middle); dirong (bowing one’s head, looking down); zhòng (repeat). Yi wan, figuratively, innumerable, literally, ten thousand, a familiar term used by Laozi in the Tao de Ching. Laozi uses it to describe an unknowable number.