Tang Dynasty Poems: Visions of Paradise

24 March, 2010 at 09:49 | Posted in Chinese culture, Tang Dynasty | 6 Comments
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Endless Yearning (I)

I am endlessly yearning
To be in Changan,
Insects hum of autumn by the gold brim of the well
A thin frost glistens like little mirrors on my cold mat,
The high lantern flickers, and deeper grows my longing
I lift the shade and, with many a sigh, gaze upon the moon,
Single as a flower, centred from the clouds
Above, I see the blueness and deepness of the sky
Below, I see the greenness and the restlessness of water…
Heaven is high, Earth wide, bitter between them flies my sorrows
Can I dream through the gateway, over the mountain?
Endless longing
Breaks my heart.
–Li Bai

A Visit to Sky-Mother Mountain in a Dream

So, longing in my dreams for Wu and Yue
One night I flew over Mirror Lake under the moon,
The moon cast my shadow on the water
And travelled with me all the way to Shanxi,
The lodge of Lord Xie still remained
Where green waters swirled and the cry of apes was shrill,
Donning the shoes of Xie
I climbed the dark ladder of clouds,
Midway, I saw the sun rise from the sea
Heard the Cock of Heaven crow,
And my path twisted through a thousand crags
Enchanted by flowers I leaned against a rock
And suddenly all was dark,
Growls of bears and snarls of dragons echoed
Among the rocks and streams,
The deep forest appalled me, I shrank from the lowering cliffs,
Dark were the clouds, heavy with rain
Waters boiled into misty spray,
Lightening flashed, thunder roared
Peaks tottered, boulders crashed,
And the stone gate of a great cavern
Yawned open,
Below me, a bottomless void of blue
Sun and moon gleaming on terraces of silver and gold,
With rainbows for garments, and winds for horses
The lords of the clouds descended, a mighty host,
Phoenixes circled the chariots, tigers played zithers
As the immortals went by, rank upon rank.
–Li Bai

A Ballad of Heaven

The River of Heaven wheels round at night
Drifting the circling stars,
At Silver Bank, the floating clouds
Mimic the murmur of water.
By the Palace of Jade the cassia blossoms
Have not yet fallen,
Fairy maidens gather their fragrance
For their dangling girdle-sachets.

The Princess from Ch’in rolls up her blinds,
Dawn at the north casement.
In front of the window, a planted kola nut
Dwarfs the blue phoenix.
The King’s son plays his pipes
Long as goose quills,
Summoning dragons to plough the mist
And plant Jade Grass.

Sashes of pink as clouds at dawn
Skirts of lotus-root silk,
They walk on Blue Island, gathering
Fresh orchids in spring.

She points to Hsi Ho in the east
Deftly urging his steeds,
While land begins to rise from the sea
And stone hills wear away.
–Li He


On the Way Back to the Old Residence

Travelling to Heaven in dreams
There is another space and dimension in the kettle
Overlook the human Earth,
That is easily withered and rotten.
–Li Bai

Ling Xu Mountain

Leaving the human world
Going toward the path to Heaven;
Upon Consummation through cultivation,
Then follow the clouds to Heaven,
Caves hidden under pine trees,
Deep and unseen among the peach blossoms;
–Li Bai

It is evident in the Tang dynasty poetry that they believe to be a human being on Earth is not the sole purpose of life. Tang people understood that reaching the happiness of heaven through cultivation and Consummation is the goal to be achieved. This is the predominant message that Tang poems have passed down to us.

Link: http://www.clearharmony.net/articles/200209/7191.html

All paintings by Zhang Cuiying

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6 Comments »

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  1. you gave me the first insight into early chinese poetry which i have never been able to enjoy because i cannot read chinese though i am chinese. anyway can we exchange links?

    • Fiveloaf, that makes me very happy :-) I don’t understand though what you mean by exchange links? What links? I’m new in this world of blogs you see :-) Do you mean the links to the blogs?

      • yes, link to the blog- it means adding each others name on each others blog so that anytime a visitor hovers over the name and click on it, it shall bring that visitors to my blog or yours- that also means whenever i feel like visiting you, i just needed to click on your link address appearing on my blogroll and it will take me to yours.. what you need to do is go to ‘dashboard’ & search for ‘links’, click on ‘add’, and fill up the two lines above with my http address and click ‘add’- that easy! btw i have added you.. but it is common courtesy to request for permission..

        • Yes, sure that’s ok. Thanks for informing me about this :-)

          (5 min later) I’ve just had a look at your blog, briefly. I like the soft words and tone in your poems… and the rythm. You seem to have talent for poetry :-) I wish you all the best, to you and your work.
          Kindly Kristina

  2. wooooow! this is so amazing that I’ve never seen before.


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