Red Cliffs I. – Su Shih

First Prose Poem On The Red Cliffs

In the autumn of 1082, on the 16th of the seventh month, Master Su and his guests sailed in a boat below the Red Cliffs. Clear wind blew gently, the water was calm. The boaters raised their wine and poured for each other, reciting “The Bright Moon” and singing “The Lovely One.”
After a while, the moon rose above the eastern mountain, and hovered between the Dipper and the Cowherd star. White mist lay across the water; the light from the water reached the sky. They went where their tiny boat took them, floating on a thousand leagues of haze, in the vastness as if resting on emptiness and riding the wind, not knowing where they would stop, floating as if they had left the earth and stood alone, having turned into birds and become immortal. And so they drank and their joy reached its height, and they sang beating on the side of the boat. The song went:

Cassia oars and orchid paddles
Beat the illusory moon,
Rowing against the flow of streaming light.
From a great distance my heart
Yearns for my beloved at one end of the sky.

Among the guests there was one who played the flute, and he played along with their song. The sound of his flute mourned, as if grieving as if loving, as if weeping as if reproaching. Its sound echoed and lingered, not breaking as if a silken thread. It set to dancing the dragon submerged in a deep crevice, and brought to tears the widow in the lonely boat.

Master Su sobered himself, and straightening his collar sat upright. He asked the guest: “Why did you play like that?” The guest replied, “‘The moon is bright, the stars, sparse. The crows and magpies fly south,’ aren’t these the words from Cao Cao’s poem? Looking west towards Xiakou, East towards Wuchang, with the mountains and rivers entwining each other, densely green — isn’t this the place where Cao was beseiged by Zhou Yu? Cao had just broken Jingzhou, and was going to Jiangling, sailing west with the flow of the river. His boats prow to stern stretched for a thousand miles, and his flags and banners blocked the sky. Pouring wine, looking down on the river, chanting poems with a spear across his knees, he was indeed a hero of his times; but today, where is he? And how about you and I, fishermen and woodcutters on the islets in the river, taking the fish and shrimp and deer as our companions, and riding in a leaf of a boat, raising gourds as our goblets and drinking to each other? Entrusted like flies to heaven and earth, as tiny as one grain in a vast ocean. I grieve at my life’s shortness, and envy how the Great River is infinite. I want to fly with the immortals and roam the vastness, embrace the moon and live forever. I know that I cannot quickly achieve this, and I entrusted these sounds to the sad wind.”

Master Su said, “Do you know the water and moon? The one flows on, and yet never goes anywhere, and the other waxes and wanes, yet never diminishes or grows. If you look at them from the point of Change, then heaven and earth never stay the same for even the blink of an eye. If you look from the point of what is unchanging, then all things, and I, are inexhaustible, so what is there to envy? Between heaven and earth, each thing has its master, and if it were not mine, even if only a hair, I would not take it. Only the clear wind on the river, and the bright moon between the mountains: the ear receives one and creates sound, the eye meets the other and makes color; you can take these without prohibition, and use them without exhausting them. This is the infinite treasure of the Creator, and what you and I can share and rejoice in.”

The guest was pleased and smiled, they washed the cups and refilled them. All the dishes were finished, and the cups and plates were scattered all over. Pillowing on each other in the middle of the boat, they didn’t see that the sky was already brightening in the east.

Su Shih / Su DongPo
(1057-1101)

Translated by Pauline Chen

Dreams Of The Tang Dynasty #21

#21
There is no way, there is no balance,
All the world is chaos and injustice.
Tradition insists that women are darkness,
And men are lightness – but tradition is wrong.
She was my light- my burning flower,
Without her I reside in an eternal moonless night.
Losing the last remnant of any love in my heart,
I reach enlightenment, fading sorrowfully into the void.
AD868

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #20

#20
There is a man who lives
Halfway down the mountain.
He and his young daughter of eight years
Have joined me on walks by the river.
She has taken an interest in my old pipa
And I have taken her as a student.
It is the greatest delight of my old age
To have her fill my ears with music once more.
AD886

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #19

#19
My hands no longer work like they used to
Stiff and achy, my fingers hurt to move.
I long for music, but my pipa sits unplayed.
I’ve carried it with me some days,
Hoping to meet someone on the road
Who can play me a familiar tune, any tune.
AD886

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams Of The Tang Dynasty #18

#18
This lonely mountain house,
Is the only place my heart can rest.
I wake up in the cold morning light,
And go walking the quiet wooded paths.
Our country crumbles around us,
But the world of men means little here.
Emperors rise and fall; sons and fathers die,
But the pines and peaks remain still.
If I pick up my pace,
I can reach the north peak by noon.
If I don’t get distracted by the landscapes
I can drink my wine before it gets warm.
AD885

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams Of The Tang Dynasty #17

#17
We boil spring water to make tea,
Sitting on a grassy knoll above the water.
The waterfall continues as it has always done,
Ten thousand years with little change.
How many lovers have sat as we have,
Happy and content above this spring?
I’m a cautious man,
But this woman’s a water dragon.
She takes off all her clothes,
And leaps in from our heights above.
AD 865

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams Of The Tang Dynasty #16

#16
Dragons Scale incense fills the air,
I watch her morning rituals from the bed.
Two fools who found each other in this life,
And yet she still finds the time to pray.
Holy priestess of the mountains,
Fragrant blossom of the most precarious peaks.
She has been overlooked by so many men,
But only because they don’t know what they seek.
I soak up this time with her,
Unworthy lover of her ancient soul.
Two temporary sparks in the dark,
Kindling this elusive flame of happiness.
AD864

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Something Within The Heart

Something within the heart loves little things
And holds them ever while great moments pass;
The​ mind that shuns the pageantry​ of kings
Will long remember how a blade of grass
Held, in a drop of dew, the first faint glow
Of daybreak in an April long since ended,
Or how some casual footprint in the snow
Glazed in a silent wood as night descended.

When memory brings you back it does not speak
Of your great love in all its timeless bloom,
But rather of one brief moment when a bleak
Finger of sunlight found us in a room
One wintry dusk, and touched you as you lay
Musing on love, with no word left to say.

-Anderson Scruggs

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #14

#14 A Poem From Chongqing
Official duties have taken me so far from home,
Down in this southern land of mountains and heat.
Only a few hours after sunrise,
And already all my clothes are wet.
I think about a woman who rules my heart,
Alone in her bed, night after night.
I write poems on stones and walls and tables,
Incapable of erasing her face from my mind.
AD866

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #13

#13 Hua Shan
Flower Mountain, beautiful and perilous
How many faithful men have fallen from her face?
Her elegance and danger make my heart race,
Men weren’t meant to scale such peaks.
My prayers are said between heavy breaths,
At a lonely shrine on her western cliffs.
Exhausted, I rest for the night in a hermit’s hut,
Where we drink wild tea and write poems.
AD848

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #12

#12
Perched on the cliffside,
Overlooking a little mountain river.
I shift my wine jug on the stone,
Searching for a stable place to let it stand.
Bare trees, and a cool breeze,
A bird sings a spring song in the pines above.
Such peace is rare in these uncertain days,
But such beauty will live forever.
I smile down at the sparkling water,
And the sun reflects its smile back up at me.
AD848

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #9

#9 The Great Flood (Written Upon Hearing About XinMei’s Death)
The gods of the river are in a raging fury,
Sending flood waters down upon my province.
Everything I’ve ever known,
Washed away into oblivion.
My love, her husband, my village, her prison,
Just memories now stolen by the void.
Is it karma for our many transgressions,
Or karma for the evils of our empire?
Are we all just blossoms in the wind,
Torn apart by the eternal tempest?
AD 858

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Other poems about XinMei
Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #2

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #8

#8
The fortresses burn – blood flows everywhere,
Birds feast on the ruins of a grand age.
I seek solace from the violence in the mountain’s mazes,
Eating wild berries; my stomach aches with hunger.
One moment you are feasting and warm,
The next moment alone, cold, and hungry.
I sit by an ancient and indifferent waterfall,
So close to death and yet its beauty still moves me.
My thoughts wander in the silence,
Will my bones lay forgotten, bleached by the sun?
AD 882

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #5

#5 For Yu
I sit on top of Old Pine Mountain
Chanting her beautiful words.
The only thing sweeter than her mouth
And more intoxicating than her wine
Was the sound of her voice reciting DuFu.
For many years I thought
The last great poetry died with Bai Juyi,
But she could conquer any man
With the ink of her calligraphy
And with a glance from her eyes.
AD 869

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including Long’s childhood love) destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #3

#3
The Emperor taxes the people without relent,
Rumors of rebellion are whispered in the streets.
By the time the eunuchs have taken what they want,
There is hardly anything left to get through the winter.
Mothers suffocate their babies in the night,
Many sell their daughters to officials or whore houses for food.
I weep for the extravagance of the court
I weep for the pains of the people.
AD 856

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including Long’s childhood love) destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of The Tang Dynasty #2

#2 For XinMei
Her skin is as white and smooth as cream.
Her hair, like a dark storm.
She dances to an old mountain tune
Wearing nothing but a white gauze dress.
The cool air blows in through her open windows
While we drink wine, and I write poems on her thigh.
Her husband is a man of many vices;
Spending all his days in the capitol’s whore houses.
Some nights we weep for the future,
But we shed no tears tonight –
How much longer can we live like this?
At sixteen, naive to the ways of the world,
We made vows of love to each other.
At seventeen, the world’s brutality became real,
Her mother married her off to a fool for money.
AD 842

龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

Dreams of the Tang Dynasty #1

#1
The moon shines like a phosphorescent pearl,
Washing the pines and water in a silver glow.
I’ve walked this wooded path many nights;
Singing songs to the heavenly river above
About this earthly river below.
Sitting on my favorite rock,
I write these words with water on stone,
“How many years do I have left?
Does any man know?”
And like a dream,
I watch the words evaporate
Up into the void of the sky.
AD 889

– 龙火花 Long HuoHua

Born Approx AD820 – Died AD895
Timeline Of Major Events During Long’s Life:

AD840 – Earliest known poems by Long
841 – Yu XuanJi is Born
846 – Bai JuYi dies
848 – Emperor Wuzong persecutes Buddhists, Shuts down temples across empire.
858 – Major flood killing tens of thousands (including XinMei) and destabilizing dynasty
863 – Long Starts affair with Yu XuanJi
866 – Long gets sent on official duty to Chongqing
867 – Yu XuanJi is Executed
875 – Huang Chao’s Rebellion
881 – Huang Chao Captures Chang’An
883 – Capitol retaken, Huang Chao Rebellion Ends
883 – Tang Dynasty Starts Decline
895 – Long HuoHua Dies
AD907 – Tang Dynasty Falls

游崇真观南楼睹新及第题名处 Visiting the South Tower of Lofty-Truth Temple, I View the Newly Inscribed Names of Imperial Graduates – 鱼玄机 Yu Xuanji

游崇真观南楼,
睹新及第题名处

云峰满目放春晴,
历历银钩指下生。
自恨罗衣掩诗句,
举头空羡榜中名。

-鱼玄机

Visiting the South Tower of Lofty-Truth Temple,
I view the newly inscribed names of Imperial Graduates

Cloudy summits fill my eyes this fine spring day,
I catch every silver stroke beneath my fingertips.
How I hate this silk dress which conceals my poetry,
I raise my head in hopeless envy of the names that are listed.

– Yu XuanJi

Translation by Dean Marais

About Yu Xuanji:

Yu XuanJi wrote her first poem at 6 years old. When she was older, being exceptionally beautiful, she was sold as a concubine to an official who fell in love with her. However, his jealous wife forced him to throw her out. With no home or income she had to turn to prostitution in Chang’An. She met many of the poets of her day there, and ended up at a taoist temple where she continued to write poems. The story goes that she was falsely accused of murder, and though many of her poet friends pleaded for her life, she was executed in Chang’An at 26 years of age.

夏日山居 A Summer Day Living in The Mountains – 鱼玄机 Yu Xuanji

夏日山居

移得仙居此地来,
花丛自遍不曾栽。
庭前亚树张衣桁,
坐上新泉泛酒杯。
轩槛暗传深竹径,
绮罗长拥乱书堆。
闲乘画舫吟明月,
信任轻风吹却回。

鱼玄机

A Summer Day Living In The Mountains

I’ve moved to this residence suitable for the gods,
Wild clusters of flowers bloom all over.
My gown hangs on a tree in the front courtyard;
I sit beside a fresh spring floating wine cups.
Beyond the pavilion’s railing, a path stretches back into the dark bamboo,
My silk dress lies draped over disorderly piles of books.
I leisurely float in a painted boat, chanting to the bright moon,
Trusting in the light breeze to blow me back again.

Yu XuanJi

Translation by Dean Marais

About Yu Xuanji:

Yu XuanJi wrote her first poem at 6 years old. When she was older, being exceptionally beautiful, she was sold as a concubine to an official who fell in love with her. However, his jealous wife forced him to throw her out. With no home or income she had to turn to prostitution in Chang’An. She met many of the poets of her day there, and ended up at a taoist temple where she continued to write poems. The story goes that she was falsely accused of murder, and though many of her poet friends pleaded for her life, she was executed in Chang’An at 26 years of age.