Caught by the rebels during the An Lushan Rebellion (755-763), Wang Wei (born in 699) would escape. Charged with treason, he eventually is cleared with the help of family connections and reappointed to government positions, but not at the same level.
At the end of his life, he retires to his family’s Lantian estate, near the capital of Chang’an, which had been the taken by the rebels and recaptured. Wang Wei again took up his pen and paint brush, dying (in 759 or 761, scholars disagree on the year) before the rebellion is finally put down.
Wang Wei was well-known for both his poetic and artistic skills. Three hundred years later poet/painter, Su Shi said, “Within Wang Wei’s poems are the images of a painting.”
may be translated as Lines, or Mixed verse, or Miscellaneous lines, or Miscellaneous Poetry, sometimes in Pinyin as Záshī.
Sir, coming from the old country
Tell me, what is happening there
On that cold day you left, on my silken paintings
Were the first plum flowers blossoming yet?
Notes on the English translation.
Shu Shi’s observation is a good one.
Like many painters, Wang Wei has managed to incorporate his name in the poem, in the last character, 未. Also interesting is the idea of the future, 未 來 and the unknown, 未 知, all of these characters appearing at times in the poem.
Most translators of the characters, 綺窗 (third line) choose silken window, but I prefer silken paintings which, if not literal, expresses Wang Wei’s thought.
Monsieur, venant de l’ancien pays
Dites-moi, ce qui se passe là-bas
Ce jour-là froid vous avez quitté, sur mes toiles soyeuses
Ont été les premières fleurs de prune fleurissant encore?