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  • from Following Huang Gongwang through the Fuchun Mountains
  • Zhai Yongming (bio)
    Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter (bio)

Translator's Note: The Fuchun Mountains are in a lush area near Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. They were immortalized by the Yuan Dynasty painter Huang Gongwang (1269–1354) in his famous landscape scroll Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains. The following poems are from Zhai Yongming's book-length sequence based on the scroll. The opening line of "Poem Twenty" is from a letter by the Liang Dynasty literati Wu Jun (469– 520), who traveled in the area. The poem in the third stanza of "Poem Twenty" is by the southern Song Dynasty poet Lu You (1125–1209).

poem ten

Dusk descends, the path sometimes hidden, sometimes revealed:a single tree, a solitary figure, a weightless leaf,a cave of fish, a brook of green, a stone of brittleness,A bird understands the silence

The master appears, imaginary footsteps cross a stone bridgeHe and I brush past each othera distance of several thousand years

Alternations appear          on lofty ridges and towering mountains,          sometimes hidden, sometimes revealedI brush past BeautyAnd miss it by thousands of years

Balance is revealed          grand courtyards and tiny huts like          steelyard weightsbear down on                   the weight of donkeys and peoplelike so many half-sensed doubts and suspicionsEverything has cause and effect          even powerful brushstrokesThe first pose always precedes the final pose [End Page 167]

The same mountains, the same roadthe same geography, paying respects to naturepaying respects to the crimson and green tinted heightsIt crawls along between every seam in the paperlarge trees and small, all gazing upwardA person of ancient times and a person of today, one in front and        one behindFollowing Huang Gongwang, walking in and walking outexperiencing a spell of presence

poem fifteen

Crimson spring festival,      Dragons! Phoenixes! float into viewCrimson                                 is a modern colorChina is red————solitary, brittle facepaintis what you need

Fireworks rain down forlornly, faintly visible are the sky-shattering        cannons of economic depressionWar, the shadow of war reappearsa few madmen making noise atevery node of the internet        hopping aroundpm 2.5 smog swallows up the ancient realm"To walk upon the paper is to have oxygen to breathe"

Spread a cloth, take out a paperweightBreath held in rapt attention, let mepoke my head into Huang Gongwang's three-layered space:

Mountains and rivers dense and lush, the most primordialBefore we came, this place was formless, unseenThese mountains and rivers didn't need a first draft, they werecompletely refinedBefore footsoles tread upon them, green moss enrobed themGaze like a fine brush        deftly flourishedBrush and ink like breathingBrush flows like dancingBeasts, flowers, and birds suspended beside the ancients

Green colored haze colored paperSetting down memoriesThe first layer like floating filaments        the second layer like powder [End Page 168]

the third and fourth layers stroked gently like skinthe fifth and sixth layers fragrant like orchidsthe seventh and eighth layers absorb sunlit rivers and mists and hazethe ninth layer bores between my eyes        transformed into energy

poem twenty

"Fuyang to Tonglu        is one hundred–some li"

I'm driving my car, new willows lining the banks, obliviousNo clamoring cicadas, no gibbonsAll I see are newly built suburbs and government-issue farmhousesWind and mist don't cleanseSky and mountains clashThe Peach Blossom Spring remainsas happy        as muddled        as ever

Fishing poles gone, conversations goneThat strong young man has moved to townHis old parents        at loose endstheir hearts troubled, yet mountains and waters are lucidOf old, how many sighs and epiphaniessent how many poets treading among the cloudsMountains and rivers at once sunlit and cloudedIt makes me sigh        O in a reveriequietly sweeping past Seven Mile Strand

Walking in the mountains in the rain, to Pine Wind Pavilion, suddenly the clouds partA scroll hinting at the "broken ink" of Li Yingqiu, and displaying the tints of the Generals Li

The distance of a footstep is Huang Gongwang's history...


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