Visiting Xuandu Temple Again

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Visiting Xuandu Temple Again
Liu Yuxi 722-842

The temple's vast courtyard is now home to moss
Vegetables flower where peach trees once bloomed
Where is the priest who planted the trees
Old Mister Liu is back here again
Zài Yóu Xuándū Guān
Liú Yǔxī 722-842

Bǎi mǔ tíng zhōng bàn shì tái,
Táohuā jìng jìn càihuā kāi.
Zhòng táo dàoshi guī hé chù?
Qián dù Liú Láng jīn yòu lái.
Translator: Red Pine-Bill Porter 赤松

115. Liu wrote this poem in April of 828 and included this preface: “In the year 805, when I was serving as vice director of the State Farm Bureau, there were no flowers at this temple. That was the year I was demoted to serve as prefect of Lienchou (in Kuangtung province) and later as vice prefect of Changte (in Hunan province). After ten years, I was called back to the capital, and everyone told me there was a Taoist priest who had planted miraculous peach trees that filled his temple with clouds of red blossoms. So I wrote the previous poem to record such an unusual sight. Again I was sent away, and now after fourteen years I have returned once more, this time to serve as director of the Bureau of Receptions. Once more, I visited Hsuantu Temple, but not a single tree was standing – nothing but weeds swayed in the spring breeze. Therefore I am writing four more lines in anticipation of my next visit.” The temple courtyard is a reference to that of the palace, and the Taoist priest to the former prime minister, Wang Shu-wen. Again Liu went too far in his sarcastic references. Not long after writing this poem, he was banished again.

From the book Poems of the Masters, China's Classic Anthology of Tang and Song Dynasty verse. One of the best, if not "the best", books of general translations of Chinese poetry. Wonderfully detailed notes on each poem and all poems are displayed in the original Chinese.

Translated by Red Pine, published by Copper Canyon Press.

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