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题西林壁 Inscribed on a wall of Xilin Temple

题西林壁

原作: 苏轼(字子瞻, 号东坡居士; 11世纪北宋)

旧版英译:戈登.奥赛茵, 闵晓红, 黄海鹏(1990)

新版修改及赏析: 闵晓红(2023)


横看成林侧成峰,

远近高低各不同。

不识庐山真面目,

只缘身在此山中。


Inscribed on a wall of Xilin Temple

written by Su Shi (11th AC, social name 'Dongpo')

old En. trans. by G. Osing, J. Min & H. Huang (1990)

Revision+ annot. by Julia Min (2023)


Let eye go: near is high as far as near is low.

Sidewise you see a spine of ridges, outward peaks.

How can you hope to view Mt. Lu from every side

When your body is dwelling in her very eye?


Appreciation:

This poem was composed in 1084 when our poet Dongpo was transferred to Ruzhou which is closer to the capital, a positive gesture from the Royal Court. The temple was on his way to the new post, so he visited his monk friend Can Liao there in Mt Lu (庐山) in Jiangxi, a well-known sightseeing destination.

Again the first two lines present the complexity of the natural beauty he saw while climbing Mt Lu, leading to the theme in the second couplet – an elevation of a conscious realisation that the subjective perspective could be incomplete, even misleading, as against the objective view of the whole picture of the world. I’d say this poem could serve as a good example of the Song ci poems which tend to seek a profound philosophical connotation to enlighten people’s mind with simple everyday language, a spiritual attitude of Zen. The last couplet has become a popular proverb in Chinese language.


Reference:

1. Blooming Alone in Winter by Gordon Osing, Julia Min, and Huang Haipeng, published by the People's Publication House Henan Province in 1990 (《寒心未肯随春态》戈登.奥赛茵,闵晓红,黄海鹏) (“Inscribed on Xilin Temple”-- Sideways you see a spine of ridges, outward peaks./Let eye go: near is high as far as near is low./How can you hope to know Lu Shan’s true face?/Your physical self is dwelling in her eye.”)

2. picture from baidu-TA说

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