Staying Overnight with Abbot Zan
- Poetry of Du Fu


- Last updated: 2024-02-24 22:42:23

Staying Overnight with Abbot Zan by Du Fu





English Translation

How did your tin-edged cane get here?

The autumn wind's already sighing.

The rain's laid waste the great court's chrysanthemums,

And frost has felled half the pond's lotuses.

Banished, you don't renounce your nature,

In limbo, you don't depart from Chan.

Now we've met, we can spend all night together,

The Gansu moon shines round upon us.

This poem dates from 759.

Chan is the original, Chinese, form of Zen Buddhism. Gansu is the province of north-western China to which Abbot Zan had been exiled.

Why Chinese poems is so special?
The most distinctive features of Chinese poetry are: concision- many poems are only four lines, and few are much longer than eight; ambiguity- number, tense and parts of speech are often undetermined, creating particularly rich interpretative possibilities; and structure- most poems follow quite strict formal patterns which have beauty in themselves as well as highlighting meaningful contrasts.
How to read a Chinese poem?
Like an English poem, but more so. Everything is there for a reason, so try to find that reason. Think about all the possible connotations, and be aware of the different possibilities of number and tense. Look for contrasts: within lines, between the lines of each couplet and between successive couplets. Above all, don't worry about what the poet meant- find your meaning.

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