On the Carving

of Dragons


Translations from Ancient Chinese



Fa Hai



Wang Fan Chih



Li Tsung Yuan

At Dawn I Visit Master Chao's Place

to Study Ch'an Scripture


Ch'iu Wei

Upon Searching West Mountain,

The Hermit Isn't Found


Po Chu I

The Pleasure of Brother Chen's Arrival





Li Shang Yin


Falling Flowers


Tu Mu

Passing Pure-Flowers Palace

Han River


Li Po


Under the Moon Alone Drinking

Drink In Hand, I Query the Moon

Descending Chung Nan Shan, We Pause at

Hermit Hu Szu's Place to Drink Wine

Ancient Air

Peach and Pine


Tu Fu

Spring Views

Lament on Green Slope

Rising High

Mountain Temple


Wang Wei


Upon Returning to Sung Mountain

A Mountain Dwelling in the Autumn Dark

Chung Nan Shan

Passing the Temple of Captured Fragrance


Ch'u Yuan

The Questions of Heaven

The Patterns of Earth


On the Carving of Dragons



It is very hard to be good

and very easy to be bad.

The differentiation

of the two,

itself, is difficult.

Fa Hai




I have ten acres of land.

I plant on the south slope of the mountain.

Of blue pine, I have four or five trees.

Of green and yellow beans, I have two or three clumps.

When it is hot I swim in the pond.

When it is cool, I sit by its banks and sing.

Rambling about satisfies my soul.

Who can do anything to me?

Wang Fan Chih



At Dawn I Visit Master Chao's Place To Study Ch'an Scripture

Drawing water from the well

I rinse my cold teeth

Purifying my heart

I dust off my clothes

Leisurely looking

through the pages of a book

Strolling out

from the eastern study reading

The true source

is, in the end, unsecured

Random directions

are what the whole world follows

the bequeathed word

is what I long to fathom

The disciplined nature

can be ripened, but how


This Way//Man,

this courtyard sky,

quiet in the vault of Heaven

Green colors

connect the dense bamboo

And the sun rises:

mists . . .

and dew remains

on the blue pines

like an ointment

The taste of "nothingness"

cannot be explained

Awake, contented,

my heart, in itself,

is sufficient and satisfied

Liu Tsung Yuan


Upon Searching West Mountain The Hermit Isn't Found

At the summit is a thatched cottage,

straight up thirty li.

At the gate, no servant-boy answers my knock.

I look in the hut, but there's only a table and bench.

If he's not out filling his cart in the wood

he must be fishing at "Autumn Flood."

Wrong pond. We won't meet here.

I struggle, like a frog,

to respect and admire the void.


The grass color in fresh rain.

The pine sound at evening, in the window, within.

Now, as I record this short verse,

Self content - one vast chamber of the heart . . .

Although no thoughts have passed between us, Master, still

I almost obtain your pure peaceful principle.

My passions exhausted, having lost all interest in finding you,

I head back down the mountain.

Why should I wait any longer, Master?

Ch'iu Wei



The Pleasure of Old Brother Ch'en's Arrival

The yellow birds' cries

will soon come to end.

The green plums soon, too,

will be ripened.

After sitting

in compassion

for the ending of spring

with all of its being,

I rise and enter

the East Garden

to stroll

cup in hand,

at leisure, alone,

pouring more wine

when suddenly

a knock

is heard at the door.

Even a passing stranger

is a joy to have visit here.

But what? Oh, who is it?

It's my old brother, Ch'en!

Unhurried, at ease,

we exhaust the day talking,

growing close

with long years

of our feelings.

And we are not just being silly

over one cup of wine

but could, really, talk

our whole life.

Po Chu I




Everyone, to escape the summer heat,

runs away like wild men.

I, alone, sitting in contemplation,

never leave this room.

Why is the meditation lodge not hot, too?

Only when the heart is peaceful is the body cool.

Po Chu I




The early summer sun is just beginning to increase.

The south wind blows through

fragrant woods and grasses.

My carriage teeters along, barely steady

on this old mountain road: so clear and cold.

Purple bracken. Turtle feet ferns.

As I travel about, I gather them.

Blue plums! Again and again I pick and eat them.

They satisfy my hunger and quench my thirst

just like a cup of celestial "Cold Clouds" elixir!

Po Chu I




Sea and sky. I gaze to the east. The evening is

vast and boundless.

The aspect of mountain. Streams appear.

Broad and long. Far and near.

Lamp lights. Ten thousand homes. The four paths.

A river of stars in the heart of the water.

The wind blows. Ancient woods. Clear sky rain.

Moon illumines the level sands. Summer nights frost.

I could go to a river tower and pass away the heat

of the summer, couldn't I?

But compare that to my old oak shed, clear and cool.

Po Chu I




To see each other is difficult;

to not see each other is also difficult.

The East Wind withers

one hundred flowers.

Only after the silkworms die in spring

is the silk made.

Only when the torch is ashes

do the tears begin to dry.

In the mirror at dawn I look grievous and sad;

now there are clouds at my temples.

The night, sighing, wakens me to

cold moon shine.

Raspberry Mountain, disheveled

but luxuriant, is not far away.

Turquoise birds, in great display,


Li Shang Yin



Falling Flowers

At the high pavilion, the guests

have finally departed.

In the small garden, these flowers,

disordered and flown about, conceal

the crooked paths leading

far off escort the slanting radiance

that, broken, body and soul

shattered, I cannot endure to sweep.

Li Shang Yin



Passing Pure-Flowers Palace

Chiang-an returns hopefully to Hsiu Mountain

completely covered with lichi.

On top of the mountain, one thousand gates

open for him:

one "red-rider" in this world of dust and sensuality.

At the palace, the imperial couple

sport and laugh,

unaware that the lichi branches

have reached their destination.

Tu Mu



Han River

Water flows full and gentle

between its borders

over its waves and ripples the seagulls fly

Green and pure

blue as deep as a good dye

Heading south from the north is a man

old and alone

Now that the evening light

is long ago spent

the fishing boats return.

Tu Mu




A beautiful woman draws her

pearled window curtain

And sits, deep within,

thin-painted brows

curled to a frown.

Moist tracings of tears

are all that are seen here.

For whom her heart feels so much

is unknown.

Li Po



Under the Moon Alone Drinking

Among the flowers, a jug of wine

and I, alone, drinking

without my good friends.

Lifting my cup, I invite the bright moon,

then facing my shadow,

I make up three friends.

The moon has never really known

how to drink.

And my shadow, well, he just follows me.

But for the time being,

with moon and shadow,

we'll party with spring.

While I sing, the moon rocks and rolls,

and then when I dance,

my shadow scatters.

While sober, we shared joyous salutes.

Now that we're drunk,

each goes his own way.

For awhile together we were senseless wanderers.

We'll all meet again

in the Milky Way.

Li Po



Drink In Hand, I Query the Moon

To have a moon in a blue sky,

how long has it been?

I stop my cup and ask.

Man yearns for the bright moon

but we can never get there.

When man moves, the moon moves along with him.

The moon is like a flying mirror looking down

from Red Towers.


The green mist dissipates, then all is clear

and brightness emerges.

When we see the night coming in from across the sea

we would rather know that it was morning

disappearing behind cloudy gates.

White Rabbit continues to pound his medicine

and the Autumn turns into Spring.

Heng Wa, alone, sojourns to his neighbors.

Modern man does not see the old moon.

Ancient men and modern men resemble flowing water,

they are universally alike.

I only want to sing and drink wine

and have the moon shine a long time

reflecting in my golden goblet.

Li Po



Descending Chung Nan Shan

We Pause at Hermit Hu Szu's Place

To Drink Wine

Evening follows our descent

of the jade-colored mountain.

Mountain and moon

accompany these men returning.

Looking back

over our path,

the hoary azure of sky, turquoise mist

tints the hillside horizon.

Hand in hand, together,

we approach your hut.

A young disciple

opens the thorny gate

to green bamboo

as we pass through your dark path.

Aqua green plants

and creeping vines brush

our passing clothes.

Exchanging pleasant thoughts,

we come to rest,

splashing delicious wine

as we drink.

A long song hums

in the winds in the pines.

The song ceases,

and the "River of Stars" scatters.

I get drunk, and you, sir, too,

are happy again.

Joyful and contented,

all is flux and forgetfulness

as we completely ignore the changes.

Li Po



Ancient Air

It's a long time since a Great Ode has been written.

As we fall into decline, who, in the end, will tell of our tale?

The "Royal Airs" abandoned to vines and grass,

thickets of bramble cover the embattled States.

The dragon and tiger devour each other.

Weapons clash until the dynasty is crazy and mad,

and the good sounds are all but gone.

The sadness of hatred arouses sorrow in men.

Yang Ma revives the collapsed wave.

The waters begin to rise and spread, flowing over,

without even a short dike to contain them.

The decline is vigorous.

Although there have been ten thousand changes,

the pattern of law is already submerged.

Li Po



Peach and Pine

In the East Garden

peach blossoms open

sporting bright smiles

that rival the sun.

Their chance encounter with Spring Wind

has made them flourish

and produce these sun-radiant beings.

Are they not as beautiful as women?

I only fear that they might not bear fruit.

But, with the yielding of the seasons,

the"Fire Star" will fly from

the "Green Dragons Heart."

How can they understand

this South Mountain Pine?

Alone I stand, like pipes and zither

(the rustling sound of the wind).

Li Po



Spring Views

In the countryside are the mountains and rivers.

In the city it is Spring and the trees are thick.

Moved by affection, the flowers splash tears.

In regretful parting, bird cries startle hearts.

The beacon fire has been burning for three moons.

A letter from home is worth more than ten thousand in gold.

This white head only scratches his hair even shorter,

hair so thin and disarrayed, it won't even support

my comb.

Tu Fu



Lament on Green Slope

Our army is at the East Opening of Green Slope.

The sky is bitter cold. The horses drink near great white caves.

Those yellow heads, the Sons of Hei, rush daily into our West.

Many of our men run against them, and their curved bows.

Mountain Snow, river ice, desolate winds:

Green Slope is a beacon of fire and vapor.

The men of the capitol are bones.

How are we to keep sending messages to our army

and endure this waiting, without such great anxiety,

until next year to hear from them?

Tu Fu



Rising High

The wind blows furious

high in the western sky

gibbons shriek and wail

Around a light white sand islet

the birds fly and return

Endlessly hsiao-hsiao

leaves fall from the trees

Inexhaustible k'un-k'un

the long river gurgles by

Ten thousand miles

I have traveled constantly

this melancholy Autumn

After a hundred years

and much illness alone

I climb the high lookout tower

I am so sorrowful and distressed

it is difficult

and I bitterly resent

this heavy frosting

of hair at my temples

Despondent I drown in despair

having renounced even

my cheap old wine cup

Tu Fu



Mountain Temple

At this rustic monastery the remaining Buddhists are scarce.

To the mountain garden the narrow path is very high.

Musk incense makes the pink carnations drowsy.

Cockatoos peck, peck precious peaches.

These scattered rocks are passed by "successful" men.

On overhanging cliffs, you must build your place securely.

Up so high at night, in these many layered pavilions,

you can look one hundred miles and see the smallest things.

Tu Fu




Out among the mountains

we see each other off.

Day becomes night

as I close my brushwood gate.

When the Spring grass

is green again next year

will you, honored friend,

again return?

Wang Wei



Upon Returning to Sung Mountain

Clear streams sash the land in long, thin belts.

Carriage horses walk leisurely, at ease, at ease.

Water flows like thoughts:

evening fowl and I together return

where we belong.

Where the wilds meet the city walls,

I come upon an ancient ferry.

The setting sun fills the autumn mountains.

From far overhead, lofty Sung descends.

I return home, closing the rustic gate.

Wang Wei



A Mountain Dwelling in the Autumn Dark

The void in the mountains after a fresh rain

The sky the air with evening comes Autumn

The bright moon illuminates spaces between pines

The clear spring flows over the rocks

Bamboo clamours the bathing women return

Lotus rustles beneath the fishing boat

And with this thought Spring's fragrance ends

The King's sons themselves will they always be

Wang Wei



Chung Nan Shan

The Great Ones of Paradise

connect the mountains with the corners of the seas

that the white clouds appear as though circling.

Turquoise mists, when entered, are nothing.

Distinguish the wilds, the middle, the peak

of the mountain, as it alters, transforms and evolves

in transition, revolution, changing.

Both dark weather and fair weather, shade and light,

differ with every valley and pool.

Wanting to spend the night in this old lodge,

I call across the water to query the woodcutter.

Wang Wei



Passing the Temple of Captured Fragrance

I hardly saw

the Temple of Captured Fragrance

After many miles

you are there

in cloudy peaks

Past an old tree

no one

has ever passed

In this deep mountain

oh, I would cherish

dwelling here


Watersounds swallowed

in lofty stone

Sun colors

cold blue pine

To dark

void deep song

I sit

in peaceful meditation

Subduing the poison dragons

Wang Wei



The Questions of Heaven

Heaven asks, saying: of the beginning

of time, who knows the tale?

When above and below were not yet formed,

who was there to question?

When dark and bright were obscured,

who could distinguish?

When flux was not form,

how was it known?

Bright is bright and dark is dark.

The only thing is, how were they formed?

Yin and Yang blend and mix:

what is the root, how does it change?


The circular and nine-tiered Heaven,

who planned and built it?

Just what achievement was this?

In the beginning, who made it?

Where is the Dipper tied to the Cord?

Where is the Axis raised?

How are the Eight Pillars placed?

What is the Southeast Fault?

The Nine Heavens' borders,

where do they reach, where do they touch?

Their edges and angles are many.

Who knows their number?


What joins the Heavens?

Where do the Twelve Houses part?

The terraced walls of nine layers,

how many li are they tall?

The Gates of Four directions,

who passes through them?

Open the Northwest gate,

what wind blows through?

Where is the winter warm?

Where is the summer cold?

Where is the stone forest?

What beast can speak?


Where roams the horned-dragon

bearing on its back the bear?

The nine-headed Hsiung

and Shu-Hu, where do they stay?

Where is there immortality?

What do the Long Men Guard?

The P'ing weed, nine-stemmed,

and hemp blossoms, where do they grow?

The snake that swallows elephants,

how big can it be?

The black waters that darken the feet,

and Three Perils, where are they found?


Where life is long and there is no death,

where is the end?

Where dwells the ox-fish?

Where is the man-eating bird?

When Great Archer Yi shot down the Suns,

O, how the crow feathers scattered!

Ch'u Yuan



The Patterns of Earth

Flood waters deep,

how are they filled?

The Nine Regions of the Earth,

how are they arranged?

How course the rivers and oceans?

What site did K'un design?

What does the lying dragon draw?

What plan did Yu complete?

When K'ang Hui was enraged,

why did the earth collapse in the southeast?

How are the Nine Lands blocked?

Why do the river valleys clog?


The continuous eastward course,

who knows why it flows?

From East to West, South to North,

which length is greater?

South to North runs long and narrow,

which span is shorter?

The K'un Lun hanging gardens,

where are they placed?

How are the sun and moon coupled?

How are the patterned stars arranged?

Emerge by the path of morning.

Arrive at the vale of night.


From light until dark

is a pass of how many li?

When the sun has not risen,

where does the flame dragon mirror?

Sun driver yet to soar,

how does the fire flower shine?

What virtue moves the moon

to revive, again, after death?

What good is it

to hold a rabbit in the gut?

Virgin mountain,

whence came Nine Sons?


Where Po Ch'iang dwells,

where is the auspicious ch'i?

What closes and then is darkness?

What opens and then is bright?

Before the Horn has risen,

where hides the Spirit of Light?

Ch'u Yuan