Wang Wei English Translations
Click on the title of each poem for the text in Chinese characters, pinyin and literal translation.
There's light cloud, and drizzle round the pavilion,
In the dark yard, I wearily open a gate.
I sit and look at the colour of green moss,
Ready for people's clothing to pick up.
Birds Calling in the Ravine
I'm idle, as osmanthus flowers fall,
This quiet night in spring, the hill is empty.
The moon comes out and startles the birds on the hill,
They don't stop calling in the spring ravine.
Dismounting, I offer my friend a cup of wine,
I ask what place he is headed to.
He says he has not achieved his aims,
Is retiring to the southern hills.
Now go, and ask me nothing more,
White clouds will drift on for all time.
We bid each other farewell beside the hill,
As day meets dusk, I close the wooden gate.
Next year, in spring, there will be green grass again,
But will my honoured friend return?
Peach Blossom Journey
A fisher's boat chased the water into the coveted hills,
Both banks were covered in peach blossom at the ancient river crossing.
He knew not how far he sailed, gazing at the reddened trees,
He travelled to the end of the blue stream, seeing no man on the way.
Then finding a crack in the hillside, he squeezed through the deepest of caves,
And beyond the mountain a vista opened of flat land all about!
In the distance he saw clouds and trees gathered together,
Nearby amongst a thousand homes flowers and bamboo were scattered.
A wood-gatherer was the first to speak a Han-era name,
The inhabitants' dress was unchanged since the time of Qin.
The people lived together on uplands above Wu Ling river,
Apart from the outside world they laid their fields and plantations.
Below the pines and the bright moon, all was quiet in the houses,
When the sun started to shine through the clouds, the chickens and dogs gave voice.
Startled to find a stranger amongst them, the people jostled around,
They competed to invite him in and ask about his home.
As brightness came, the lanes had all been swept of blossom,
By dusk, along the water the fishers and woodsmen returned.
To escape the troubled world they had first left men's society,
They live as if become immortals, no reason now to return.
In that valley they knew nothing of the way we live outside,
From within our world we gaze afar at empty clouds and hills.
Who would not doubt that magic place so hard to find,
The fisher's worldly heart could not stop thinking of his home.
He left that land, but its hills and rivers never left his heart,
Eventually he again set out, and planned to journey back.
By memory, he passed along the way he'd taken before,
Who could know the hills and gullies had now completely changed?
Now he faced only the great mountain where he remembered the entrance,
Each time he followed the clear stream, he found only cloud and forest.
Spring comes, and all again is peach blossom and water,
No-one knows how to reach that immortal place.
You also come from my home town,
You must know all the home town news.
At dawn, before the silken window,
Is it too cold for plum blossom to show?
Replying to Subprefect Zhang
Now in old age, I know the value of silence,
The world's affairs no longer stir my heart.
Turning to myself, I have no greater plan,
All I can do is return to the forest of old.
Wind from the pine trees blows my sash undone,
The moon shines through the hills; I pluck the qin.
You ask me why the world must rise and fall,
Fishermen sing on the steep banks of the river.
Returning to Songshan Mountain
The limpid river runs between the bushes,
The horse and cart are moving idly on.
The water flows as if with a mind of its own,
At dusk, the birds return to perch together.
The desolate town is faced by an ancient ferry,
The setting sun now fills the autumn hills.
And far below high Songshan's tumbling ridges,
Returning home, I close the door for now.
Seeing Off Yuan the Second on a Mission to Anxi
At Weicheng morning rain has dampened light dust,
By the hostel, the willows are all fresh and green.
I urge my friend to drink a last cup of wine,
West of Yang Pass, there will be no friends.
Stopping at Incense Storing Temple
I did not know the incense storing temple,
I walked a few miles into the clouded peaks.
No man on the path between the ancient trees,
A bell rang somewhere deep among the hills.
A spring sounded choked, running down steep rocks,
The green pines chilled the sunlight's coloured rays.
Come dusk, at the bend of a deserted pool,
Through meditation I controlled passion's dragon.
At the Lake Pavilion
On a skiff I meet an honoured guest,
Slowly, slowly, it comes across the lake.
Facing at the railing, we drink a cup of wine,
On all sides, lotus flowers are in bloom.
When bearing fruit it's red and green,
As if the flowers were budding again.
If a guest remains on the hill,
Set a cup of cornel here.
Hills are empty, no man is seen,
Yet the sound of people's voices is heard.
Light is cast into the deep forest,
And shines again on green moss.
Fine Apricot Lodge
Fine apricot was cut for the roofbeam,
Fragrant cogongrass tied for the eaves.
I know not when the cloud from this house
Will go to make rain among the people.
A bird in flight goes on without limit,
Joined hills are autumn's colours again.
From top to bottom of Huazi Ridge,
Melancholy feeling has no end.
Wingceltis and goldenrain shine at the empty bend,
Fresh and green, rippling ever onward.
A secret road leads up to Shangshan hill,
Even the woodcutter does not know.
Lily Magnolia Enclosure
The autumn hill gathers remaining light,
A flying bird chases its companion before.
The green colour is momentarily bright,
Sunset mist has no fixed place.
I have a new house at Mengcheng's mouth,
The old willow tree is full of grief.
Who will come after, I do not know,
He must feel sorrow for those in the past.
A light boat sets off from the southern hill,
The north is hard to reach across the vastness.
On the other bank, I look for my home,
It cannot be recognised so far off.
Temple Tree Path
A narrow, sunless path to the temple tree,
Deep and dark; abundant green moss.
Wait by the gate when finished sweeping the yard,
In case a monk should come down from the hill.