Climbing the Western Tower

Joyous Meeting Alone and silent, Li Yu climbs the western tower of his capital (Jinling, modern Nanjing). The once full moon is reduced to a sliver, like a hook. In the dark courtyard, kept captive, stands a lonely Wutong tree, in the pure autumn breeze, (waiting for the phoenix to bring peace and prosperity to…

East of Town

East of Town East of Town by Wei Yingwu probably refers to beautiful Suzhou where Wei was governor in his last posting before his death. Wei Yingwu (韋應物 ca. 737-792), wrote many of his poems in the style of the earlier five-character poet Tao Qian, (365-427), who was, for much of his life, a recluse….

Dining With Mei

In the midst of the smoke and the wine, “Am I dreaming,” Meng might have been asking. The lovable poet Meng Haoran spent much of his time drinking, one might even say drunk with is one reason for his lack of political success. It is the day of the Qingming Festival (April 6th) and he…

Exiled and Dwelling by a Creek

Dwelling by a Creek (溪居, Xījū)by Liu Zongyuan of the late Tang dynasty. Tired and troubled by this hat and robeLucky, I am exiled in this southern wilderness.A neighbor now to farmers.Sometimes to the mountain forests.At dawn plowing and turning dewy grass,At night hearing the rap of oars on rocks.Coming and going not seeing a…

A New Year’s Resolution

Climbing White Stork Tower by the Tang poet Wang Zhihuan (688–742) is often recited by schoolchildren in class. The poem expresses the idea that one who wants to shine in class and travel further in life will work a little harder. Climbing White Stork Tower The bright sun is surrounded by mountains,The Yellow River flows…

River Snow

Like Robert Frost in his poem Whose Woods Are These, Liu Zongyuan (773-819) in River Snow, gives us a lonely vision of a snow covered landscape. As the Tang dynasty attempted to put the decade long turmoil of the An Lushan Rebellion behind it, consolidate its power, some court officials like Liu Zongyuan attempted political…

The Winter Solstice

The 14th century Japanese Buddhist monk and author Yoshida Kenko (1283-1352) kept a book of Bai Juyi’s poems, saying it is “a most wonderful comfort to sit lone beneath a lamp, book in hand, and commune with someone from the past whom you have never met.” That statement forever rings true. Darling Xiangling, on Winter…

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice, a poem by the Chinese poet Du Fu. Dongzhi, a traditional winter holiday in China. The winter solstice, December 21st or 22nd, the shortest day, the longest night of the year, when the North Pole tilts the furthest away from the sun, and much of the Northern Hemisphere is thrown into perpetual darkness….

Leaving Baidi in the Morning

Smooth sailing ahead? Note. Baidi is an ancient fortress on a hill at the northern shore of the Yangtze River. Legend has it that it was once covered in a white mist. Li Bai was exiled here for treason during the An Lushan Rebellion. Li Bai wrote “Leaving Baidi in the Morning” on his way…

In the Bamboo Grove

So Far Away Your wife dies, your mother dies, you feel so, so alone in the world. And so, you’ve got to get away from the insincere well-wishers, the never-ending condolences, and what is worse, the internal thoughts that nag at you and never go away. Away, for Wang Wei, was hidden away in a…