Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China
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The earliest and most extensive literary engagement with wilderness in human history, Mountain Home is vital poetry that feels utterly contemporary. China's tradition of "rivers-and-mountains" poetry stretches across millennia. This is a plain-spoken poetry of immediate day-to-day experience, and yet seems most akin to China's grand landscape paintings. Although its wisdom is ancient, rooted in Taoist and Zen thought, the work feels utterly contemporary, especially as rendered here in Hinton's rich and accessible translations. Mountain Home collects poems from 5th- through 13th-century China and includes the poets Li Po, Po Chu-i and Tu Fu. The "rivers-and-mountains" tradition covers a remarkable range of topics: comic domestic scenes, social protest, travel, sage recluses, and mountain landscapes shaped into forms of enlightenment. And within this range, the poems articulate the experience of living as an organic part of the natural world and its processes. In an age of global ecological disruption and mass extinction, this tradition grows more urgently important every day. Mountain Home offers poems that will charm and inform not just readers of poetry, but also the large community of readers who are interested in environmental awareness.
to this lone paddle, this calm on and on, no return in sight. On Returning to Wheel-Rim River At the canyon’s mouth, a far-off bell stirs. Woodcutters and fishermen scarcer still, sunset distant in these distant mountains, I verge on white clouds, returning alone. Frail water-chestnut vines never settle, and light cottonwood blossoms fly easily. Spring grass coloring the east ridge, all ravaged promise, I close my bramble gate. In Reply to Vice-Magistrate Chang In these twilight years, I
5th c. poet remembered for his rivers-and-mountains poems. Tu Fu 96 The nation falls into ruins…: This line has recently been rewritten to reflect our contemporary reality: “Rivers and mountains fall into ruins; the state continues.” 97 Sacred Peak: There is one sacred mountain for each direction in China, and one at the center. Exalt (Tai) Mountain in the east is the most sacred of these five sacred mountains. 101 watch: There were five watches in a night, two hours each, beginning at 7 p.m.
teaspoon of oil), which is used in fine perfumes. 110 Lo-yang: One of the two capitals in the north, Lo-yang was by now devastated, having been overrun twice by rebel armies and recaptured twice by loyal armies. Tu Fu’s friend, Meng, had left Lo-yang to search for his old village, which was almost certainly destroyed by the fighting. Wei Ying-wu 121 Twin-Stream: Located in the deep south, this is the monastery of Hui-neng (638—713), the Sixth Patriarch—author of the Platform Sutra and revered
poetry, manifest in its texture of imagistic clarity. Chia Tao’s language, like his mountain landscape, is suffused with the emptiness of nonbeing. But the effect of this is not limited to the absence of verb tenses and function words. In fact, its most dramatic manifestation is the way in which the poet’s presence in the poem becomes indistinguishable from that emptiness. Chia Tao’s presence is felt at two points in the poem—in the last line, and here in the first: As usual in the Chinese
Incense-Burner Peak,… My Thatched Mountain Hut Just Finished, Ch’i-Sited … In the Mountains, Asking the Moon Enjoying Pine and Bamboo Li the Mountain Recluse Stays the Night on Our Boat Off-Hand Chant The West Wind After Quiet Joys at South Garden, Sent By P’ei Tu Waves Sifting Sand The North Window: Bamboo and Rock Climbing Mountains in Dream CHIA TAO (779–843) Sent to a Master of Silence on White-Tower Mountain Looking for a Recluse I Can’t Find Evening Landscape, Clearing Snow A