Return to Furong Mountain 归人 山主人

Seeking Shelter During a Snowstorm on Furong Mountain

“Day turns twilight and the dark green mountains are behind me
The cold thatched cottage is needy
I knock on the wicket gate, a dog barks
Everyone sleeps at night in a snowstorm”

Return to Furong Mountain 归 人 山主人

I have been here before, to be exact, March 6, 1019, not too long ago, when I first translated Liu Changqing’s poem.

The title has changed, it is more more alliterative. For the better, I think. One could also translate the title as “Lodging on Furong Mountain During a Snowstorm”, and that would work. One could substitute Hibiscus for Furong (for that is the meaning of 芙蓉, furong), and that would please some, not me.

As I said, I have been here before. Here is Furong Mountain.

In summer, the green mountains are covered with lovely hibiscus flowers. There is much to see – Furong Waterfall, which dazzles the eye with its droplets reflecting in the sunlight, the ancient streets of the city filled with shops of the Tujia people, Tusi Palace, Xizhou Bronze Pillar and Tujia Cave Ancestors’ Relics.

Ah, but it is winter, there is a snowstorm, everyone sleeps. Everyone, but one, the host who rises to greet his guest.

Question?

It remains for to ask why Liu Changqing is traveling to Furong Mountain in winter. Furong is far to the south in the province of Hunan. Therefore it is neither close to Suizhou, where Liu served as governor for spell, nor northern Hebei Province, Liu’s ancestral home.

One hint as to the reason for his trip comes from another poem, Looking for the Taoist monk Chang of the Southern stream. Southern stream often meant the Yangtze, and poets like Liu often made pilgrimages to the southern mountainous regions to obtain deep insight, a spiritual experience. Liu might have been seeking the monk Chang or following in the footsteps Wang Wei to whom he wrote a farewell poem on the occasion of his exile to the south.

It is important to note that the journey is the goal, not the destination. Along the way many experiences happen and a transformation begins. Perhaps Liu has been this way before, perhaps not.

Either way, we are constantly seeking a truth which is elusive, and therefore certainly worth a return trip.

Chinese Characters and Pinyin

雪夜宿芙蓉山主人

日 暮 苍 山 远,
天 寒 白 屋 贫
柴 门 闻 犬 吠
风 雪 夜 归 人

Xuě yè sù fúróng shān zhǔrén

rìmù cāngshān yuǎn
tiān hán bái wū pín
cháimén wén quǎnfèi
fēng xuě yè guī rén

Advertisements

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.


Snowy Night’s Lodging, Furong Mountain, My Host

Snowy Hut on Hibiscus Mountain

A snowy lodging, Furong Mountain, my host

In the twilight, the ashen gray mountains are far away
The day is cold, my hut snowy white.
At the wooden door, I hear the dog bark,
Amid the wind and snowy night, someone returns.

雪夜宿芙蓉山主人

日 暮 苍 山 远,
天 寒 白 屋 贫

柴 门 闻 犬 吠,
风 雪 夜 归 人

Xuě yè sù fúróng shān zhǔrén

rìmù cāngshān yuǎn,
tiān hán bái wū pín
cháimén wén quǎnfèi,
fēng xuě yè guī rén

Around the age of 70, our poet Liu Changqing (刘长卿, Liú Zhǎngqīng, circa 709–786), was appointed governor of Siuzhou in Henan province.

Furong Mountain (芙蓉山, Fúróng shān, literally Hibiscus Mountain) is found in Henan province. Puji Temple, a Buddhist temple is located at the very top of the mountain. Apparently, lodging was provided for visitors like Liu Changqing.

Isn’t it Pedantic?

My wife says I overthink things. My daughter says I obsess on trivial detail. And sometimes, we one relies on the possibly apocryphal statement by Sigmund Freud that sometimes, “A cigar is just a cigar.”

Still one tries to suck all the marrow from the bone, to find meaning that is not at first apparent, sometimes projecting thoughts never intended. But isn’t that the intent of poetry. It is a word picture and work of art. If any good, evoking feelings and emotions.

Our poet finds himself in a snow covered hut on Furong Mountain along with his dog. It is not his lodging for we learn in the last line that someone, the rightful owner, returns ( 人 归 ) as the wind howls, the snow blows, in the darkness of night (风 雪 夜 ).

Who is the owner and how will the trespassing Liu be greeted? Is not the mountain the true host (主人) ?

Chinese Temple