These poems are excerpted from The Selected Poems of Wang Wei and Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China. They are reprinted by permission.
In Reply to P’ei Ti
The cold river spreads boundless away.
Autumn rains darken azure-deep skies.
You ask about Whole-South Mountain:
mind knows far beyond white clouds.
Mourning Yin Yao
Giving you back to Stone-Tower Mountain, we bid farewell
among ash-green pine and cyprus, then return home.
Of your bones now buried white cloud, this much remains
forever: streams cascading empty toward human realms.
In the Mountains
Bramble stream, white rocks jutting out.
Heaven cold, red leaves scarce. No rain
up here where the mountain road ends,
sky stains robes empty kingfisher-blue.
Wheel-Rim River Sequence
Roofbeams cut from deep-grained apricot,
fragrant reeds braided into thatched eaves:
no one knows clouds beneath these rafters
drifting off to bring that human realm rain.
Tall bamboo blaze in meandering emptiness:
kingfisher-green rippling streamwater blue.
On Autumn-Pitch Mountain roads, they flaunt
such darkness, woodcutters too beyond knowing.
No one seen. In empty mountains,
a hint of drifting voice, no more.
Entering these deep woods, late sun-
light ablaze on green moss, rising.
Autumn mountains gathering last light,
one bird follows another in flight away.
Shifting kingfisher-greens flash radiant
scatters. Evening mists: nowhere they are.
I leave South Lodge, boat light, water
so vast you never reach North Lodge.
Far shores: I see villagers there beyond
knowing in all this distance, distance.
Wind buffets and blows autumn rain.
Water cascading thin across rocks,
waves lash at each other. An egret
startles up, white, then settles back.
White-Rock Shallows open and clear,
green reeds past prime for harvest:
families come down east and west,
rinse thin silk radiant in moonlight.
Waterlily blossoms out on tree branches
flaunt crimson calyces among mountains.
At home beside this stream, quiet, no one
here. Scattered. Scattered open and falling.
Header image of traditional Chinese painting of high-mountain landscape with mist courtesy Shutterstock.