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Passing the Incense Temple

Classical Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty: an interpretive translation


By Lan Hua
Created: March 15, 2011 Last Updated: March 15, 2011
Related articles: China » Culture
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A portrait of Wang Wei, one of the most influential Tang poets. From 'The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei.' (Public domain image)

A portrait of Wang Wei, one of the most influential Tang poets. From 'The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei.' (Public domain image)

This week I have translated a poem by Wang Wei, another great poet of the middle Tang period. 

Accomplished as both a poet and painter, Wang is thus doubly renowned for his vivid landscapes. 

Although none of his paintings have survived (except in the form of copies made by subsequent artists), as Su Shi (another noted Chinese poet) said, Wang’s poems hold a painting within them.
Tang poetry: Wang Wei
After two-decade’s of rise and fall through the Imperial bureaucracy, Wang eventually resigned from government service to dedicate himself fully to Buddhism, so much so that he posthumously earned himself the nickname Poet Buddha. 

That Buddha spirit comes through clearly in this poem as part of the mountain landscape.  And it’s really the combination of Nature and Spirit that makes this poem so evocative, and familiar to modern readers. 

On his journey through the Chungnan Mountains, Wang Wei bears a striking resemblance to a 19th century English poet on a ramble through the Lake District; and the Nothingness he encounters there prefigures the Romantic Sublime.

Editor's note: This is a series of translations of Chinese poetry from the Tang Dynasty being published on The Epoch Times website. Each piece will be accompanied by its Chinese original, an interpretive English translation, and a small essay of introduction, contextualization, and appraisal.

Lan Hua is the pen name for a New York-based writer and translator. The name means Blue Flower, both in tribute to Red Pine (who towers above him as the greatest living translator of the Poems of the Masters) and the broader lyric tradition in which he tries to participate.

 




   

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