Amongst The Cliffs

I like reading poetry before I begin my writing day. It sets the rhythm for words to flow.

This beautiful prose poem was written by Han Yu (768-824) the most famous prose poet of the Tang Dynasty. The photo was taken in 1985 on Wu Yi Mountain in Fujian Province when I was studying Chinese painting at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Art.

The path up the mountain is hard to follow through the tumbled rocks.

When I reach the monastery the bats are already flying.

I go to the guest room and sit on the steps. The rain is over.

The banana leaves are broad. The gardenias are in bloom.

The old guest master tells me there are ancient paintings on the walls.

He goes and gets a light. I see they are incomparably beautiful.

He spreads my bed and sweeps the mat. He serves me soup and rice.

It is simple food but nourishing. The night goes on as I lie and listen

to the great peace. Insects chirp and click in the stillness.

The pure moon rises above the ridge and shines in my door.

At daybreak I get up alone. I saddle my horse myself and go my way.

The trails are all washed out. I go up and down, picking my way

through storm clouds on the mountain.

Red cliffs, green waterfalls, all sparkle in the morning light.

I pass pines and oaks then men could not reach around.

I cross flooded streams. My bare feet stumble on the cobbles.

The water roars. My clothes whip in the wind.

This is the only life where a man can find happiness.

Why do I spend my days bridled like a horse with a cruel bit in his mouth?

If I only had a few friends who agreed with me we’d retire

To the mountains and stay till our lives end.

– Han Yu

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