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Chinese Ancient Poem: Painting

We will appreciate a Chinese ancient poem: painting (画 ) (hua4).  

It was said the title “painting” was not the original title of this poem . People found this poem on a painting, so they gave the poem the title “painting”.

There is no exact saying about the author.

Some people believe the author is 王维 (wang2 wei2) from Tang dynasty, some people argue that the author should be 高鼎 (gao1 ding3) from Qing dynasty.

Also, some people think the author should be 道川禅师 (dao4 chuan1 cha2 shi1)(禅师 is the title of master for buddhist monk) from Song dynasty.

No matter who is the author, this poem is a very beautiful work that describes a drawing vividly with very simple words. Actually it is also a famous riddle.

Note:  In this post, we will only learn the first half part of the poem. If you really want to know the first part of the poem, I will give you a quick explanation.

On the below is the half part of this poem.

头头皆显露(tou2 tou2 jie1 xian3 lu4),物物体元平(wu4 wu4 ti3 yuan2 ping1)。

如何言不会(ru2 he2 yan2 bu2 hui4),只为转分明(zhi3 wei4 zhuan3 fen1 ming2).

On this part of poem, the author tried to tell people that the nature of the world is obvious, and the nature of everything is almost same, but people always can’t get it because they bring in their own desires.

Now let’s take a look at the first part of this poem.

远观山有色(yuan3 guan1 shan1 you3 se4),近听水无声(jin4 ting1 shui3 wu2 sheng1)。

春去花犹在(chun1 qu4 hua1 you2 zai4),人来鸟不惊(ren2 lai2 niao3 bu4 jing1)。

Based on this poem, you can imagine a beautiful painting filled with the mountain, flowing water, flowers and birds.

If you know the history of Chinese painting, you might know mountain, water, flowers and birds are Chinese ancient painters’ favorite subjects.

However, on this poem, the author doesn’t just describe a painting with this poem, actually he tried to explain the different level of understanding about the zen from a buddhist’s perspective.

远观山有色 means: Before you get to know the zen, you see the world as its original looking. The mountain is mountain, water is water.

近听水无声 means: When you know better of the zen, you will find the world doesn’t look as it appears just like the flowing water might have no real sound as it sounds like.

春去花犹在 means: When you know well of the zen, you will always get your own ideas about the world no matter how the real world changes just like the bloomy flowers still stay blossomy even spring season is gone.

人来鸟不惊 means: When you get the real meaning of the zen, you will be calm in any situation just like the bird won’t be scared to fly away when people come close.

When you know the cultural meaning behind this poem, you might fall in love with this poem as I do. Now let’s read this poem together.

2 replies on “Chinese Ancient Poem: Painting”

I love your lessons! I have taught Chinese for 20+ years, and still gain great insights from you. Thank you so much!!

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