Three T’ang Dynasty Poems

translated by Mike O’Connor

In Szechuan, Seeing off a Friend to Lu Mountain

by Yin-Luan, poet-monk (late T’ang)

You’re traveling
at the fragrant time of spring

on the Szechuan road
where all the hills are blooming.

Ten li of stream bank,
five li of flowers

and two or three peaks
snow-capped above clouds.

You’ll be on Lu Mountain,
at my old home

among pines and wisteria—
ten years abandoned.

At last when you
reach the mountain,

please ask the birds
if they remember me.


At Pei-Ch’ing Temple

by Li Shang-Yin (812–858)

Rays of the westering sun
reach the small temple;
at a thatched hut,
I visit a monk.

Amid falling leaves,
where are the people?
Layers of cloud hover
over the trail.

A single clapper precedes
the stone chimes of night;
the Master stands,
leaning on his staff.

In a world that’s just
a dust-speck in the universe,
why do we prefer
to love and hate?


Early in the Morning

by Kuan-Hsiu, poet-monk (832–912)

After night sitting
comes the dawn;
the body stiff and aching
in the stillness.

The pure spirit
searches in dreams;
the scent of fresh flowers
pervades.

Dew gathers in the trees,
drips like rain;
the clouds over the stream
move along like monks.

I can hear visitors
coming this way—
their wheels far off
creaking on the road.



Mike O’Connor is a poet and translator of Chinese. His books include Immortality (poetry) and When I Find You Again, It Will Be in Mountains: Selected Poems of Chia Tao (translation). The source for the first two translations is Zhongguo Fo Dao Shige Zonghui (Chinese Buddhist-Taoist Poetry Collection), 290, 258; the source for the third is Zhongguo Lidai Seng Shi Quanji (Complete Poems of Chinese Buddhist Monks through the Ages), 1012.

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