Hearing the monk Jun from Shu play the qín
(translated by William P. Coleman)
The monk from Shu holds “Green Brocade,”
in the west, beneath E-mei Mountain.
For me — his hand scatters once —
it’s like hearing pines in ten thousand valleys.
My heart is a traveler, washing in a flowing river,
echoing sound emitted by an ice-cold bell.
Not awake to the mountain jade-green at sunset.
In the autumn dark, how many layers?
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 — and very helpful notes — on pp. 115-7 of Whincup, Greg. The Heart of Chinese Poetry. Garden City: Anchor Press, Doubleday, 1987. ISBN0-385-23967-X.
Also on p. 182 of Yip, Wai-Lim. Chinese Poetry. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8223-1946-2.
There are also translation materials for this poem at the website Tang Shi — 300 Tang Poems, from Wengu — Chinese Classics and Poems.
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.
Home page for my Li Bai translations.