山居秋暝 – Dusk in Autumn, at a Mountain Home

Given that the title of this blog is taken from this poem, I figure it would be nice to introduce it first – and also introduce one of China’s greatest poets in the bargain. Wang Wei 王維 (699-759), who is known as the ‘Buddha of Poetry’, was not only a poet, but also a court official of the Tang Dynasty as well as a painter.

Since he was into both art and literature, there is perhaps no surprise that he is most famous for poetry that invokes scenes – just as he was famous for paintings which invoked poetry and literary heritage.

空山新雨后,天气晚来秋。

In the wake of vacant mountains’ rain, the air at dusk arrives with hints of autumn.

明月松间照,清泉石上流。

Moonlight shines through gaps between the pines; clear spring water flows over the stones.

竹喧归浣女,莲动下渔舟。

Noise from the bamboos welcomes the washerwomen back; moving lotus reveals the fisher’s boat.

随意春芳歇,王孙自可留。

Let the spring’s fragrance wither as it may! Here this noble lord is free to stay. [1]

[1] This line about the noble lord (which in Chinese literally translates to ‘grandson of the king’) is a reference to the Verses of Chu, where a poem called ‘Beckoning the Hidden Scholar’ talks about how a noble lord should not be staying in the mountains and forests. Here Wang Wei has turned the line around – he has every intention of staying right here, where the scenery is lovely and life is at peace.

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