Wang Wei — In the Mountains

In the Mountains

Wang Wei

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

In Bramble Stream, white stones jut out;
the air’s cold, so red leaves are sparse.

The mountain path is clear after rain;
It’s the sky-greenery that wets my clothes.

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. 229 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:

Seaton, JP. The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry. Seaton, JP. The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry. Boulder: Shambhala, 2006. ISBN 1-57062-862-9.

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.


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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