Poems from the Chinese

David Hinton

Listening to a Monk’s Ch’in in Depths


Carrying a ch’in cased in green silk, a monk

descended from Eyebrow Mountain in the west.


When he plays, even in a few first notes,

I hear the pines of ten thousand valleys,


and streams rinse my wanderer’s heart clean.

Echoes linger among temple frost-fall bells,


night coming unnoticed in emerald mountains,

autumn clouds banked up, gone dark and deep.


Li Po (701-762)

Bamboo-Midst Cottage


Sitting alone in silent bamboo dark,

I play a ch’in into breath chants.


In these forest depths no one knows

this moon come bathing me in light.


Wang Wei (701-761)


Listening to Cheng Yin Play His Ch’in



Another Juan Chi ripening wine’s renown

in bamboo forests full of crystalline wind,


you sit half drunk, let down flowing sleeves

and sweep your dragon-rimmed ch’in clean.


Then it’s a fresh tune for each cup of wine,

dusk’s blaze sinking away unnoticed.  Soon,


thoughts deep among rivers and mountains,

I hear this mind my former lives all share.


Meng Hao-jan (689-907 C.E.)


In Reply to Vice-Magistrate Chang



In these twilight years, I love tranquility

alone.  Mind free of all ten thousand affairs,


self-regard free of all those grand schemes,

I return to my old forest, knowing empty.


Soon mountain moonlight plays my chi’in

and pine winds loosen my robe.  Explain this


inner pattern behind failure and success?

Fishing song carries into shoreline depths.


Wang Wei (701-761)

David Hinton was a recent Visiting Artist at Berklee.