Wang Wei — The Luan Family’s Rapids

The Luan Family’s Rapids

Wang Wei

701-761 CE
(translated by William P. Coleman)

In a blast, the wind drives the autumn rain;
the downpour flows, slithering, shallow over rocks.

Waves jump up, splashing into each other;
an egret startles, white, then it’s down again.

I found the Chinese text and an English translation of this poem — along with the word-by-word literal translation I used to create this one — on p. 227 of Wai-Lim Yip’s book Chinese Poetry: an Anthology of Major Modes and Genres, Duke University Press, 1997; ISBN 0-8223-1946-2.

I also consulted the English translation in:

Barnstone, Tony and Chou Ping. The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry Barnstone, Tony and Chou Ping. The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry. Garden City: Anchor, 2005. ISBN 0-385-72198-6, p 106. This book has an online supplement.

And the one in:

Yu, Pauline. The Poetry of Wang Wei Yu, Pauline. The Poetry of Wang Wei. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980. 0-253-17772-3, p. 203.

The grammar of Chinese allows poets to leave interpretive choices open, and it’s an unattainable ideal of translating to bring out possibilities without closing others. I try to use my sense of English to at least intrigue you. If I’ve succeeded, it’s best — even if you don’t know Chinese, which I don’t either — to follow up at the source I cite above and see the original word-by-word translation from which I worked. It’ll be richer than what I’ve given you. To understand the poem best, try to construct your own translation.

See the FAQ and the external links at Chinese Poems, a beautiful resource with many poems.


more Chinese poetry translations in this blog More Chinese poetry translations in this blog.
more Chinese poetry translations in this blog Home page for my Wang Wei translations.

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