For Whom The Bell Tolls

I have been lately reading the poetry of Li Shangyin (李商隐, 813-858), a famous poet of the late Tang Dynasty in China. I like this one in particular translated by A.C. Graham:

Written on a Monastery Wall:

They rejected life to seek the Way. Their footprints are before us. 

They offered up their brains, ripped up their bodies; so firm was their resolution. 

See it as large, and a millet-grain cheats us of the universe. 

See it as small, and the world can hide in a pinpoint. 

The oyster before its womb fills thinks of the new cassia.1 

The amber, when it first sets, remembers a former pine. 

If we trust the true and sure words written on Indian leaves.2

We hear all past and future in one stroke of the temple bell.


1 In traditional Chinese culture, people believed a cassia tree grew on the Moon. Further, it was believes that oysters grew pearls during the waxing of the moon.

2 In ancient India, the Buddhist sutras were frequently written on palm leaves and carefully preserved.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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