An Autumn Evening in the Mountains
- Poetry of Wang Wei


- Last updated: 2024-03-29 21:00:27

An Autumn Evening in the Mountains by Wang Wei





English Translation

After rain the empty mountain

Stands autumnal in the evening,

Moonlight in its groves of pine,

Stones of crystal in its brooks.

Bamboos whisper of washer-girls bound home,

Lotus-leaves yield before a fisher-boat --

And what does it matter that springtime has gone,

While you are here, O Prince of Friends?


Wang Wei, a poet known for his picturesque poems, vividly paints a scenery of a tranquil evening in the mountains. This particular poem captivates its audience by creating a soothing, leisurely atmosphere and linking that natural scenery to human civilization. In the very first line, the emphasis on the late arrival of autumn depicts a carefree and calm night. After setting the scenery, Wang then focuses on two specific aspects of nature: the bright moon, 明月, and the clear spring, 清泉. The moon and water are critical connections to human civilization; in most Chinese poetry, the moon symbolizes a yearning for a loved one, whereas water signifies a source of life. Through incorporation the moon and water, Wang hints at the sustained connection between humanity and nature. The next lines mention direct aspects of human society, whether it be the women who wash clothes or the fishermen who lower their boats into the streams of the mountains. These mundane, humanly actions stir the quiet passions of nature — the bamboo rustles, the lotuses bob up and down in the water. Finally, Wang applies the most direct link between humanity and nature by personifying spring as a person who casually lingers around, resting and moving at her own pace. Ultimately, the mountains’ aura of tranquility and relaxation allows nobles to stay and rest at their own accord — a symbol of the unity between man and nature.

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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