The Small Tarn West of the Knoll
- Poetry of Liu Zongyuan


- Last updated: 2024-04-18 10:11:47

The Small Tarn West of the Knoll by Liu Zongyuan






English Translation

A hundred and twenty paces west of the knoll, across the bamboos and bushes I heard with delight a gurgling like the sound made by jade bracelets. So I cut a path through the bamboos till I came upon a small pool of clear water. The bottom was of rock and a spring gushed out from the boulders near the bank. Rocks formed little islets and crags, overhung by green trees and vines which were growing in great profusion. There were about a hundred fish in the tarn, and they seemed to be gliding through empty space without support. In the sunlight which reached the bottom, casting shadows over the rocks, the fish would stay for a while motionless then suddenly dart far away. They scudded to and fro, as if sharing the visitors' delight.

Looking southwest in the chequered sunlight at the jagged, serpentine shore, you could not see the whole.

I sat by this tarn, with bamboos and trees all round me, in utter silence and solitude. The seclusion and quiet cast a chill over me; and the scene was one of such purity that I could not stay there long. So I marked the spot and left.

With me were Wu Wuling, Gong Gu, and my brother Zongxuan. And two of the Cui boys, Shuyi and Fengyi, had accompanied us to help us.

By  Liu Zongyuan

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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