Wang Wei and a Cold Night

The Venerable Scarlet Emperor Beans have been in the field since May 17. Last night, with temperatures predicted below freezing, I had to cover them. Honestly, I regret planting them inside when I did. They grew so large in the house, that I despair of their chances to grow as well as they might have if I’d waited a little while. But, they did grow very very fast.

After finding my old drawings and painting of Mt. Moran among my souvenirs, and seeing how well I’d written (and read) Chinese back in the 80s, I decided that I would return to practicing Chinese writing again, which, of course, will come with reading.

Today’s honored bean/poet is Wang Wei. In the featured photo, he’s the bean closest to you. Maybe his name tag isn’t visible, but he is only about 6 inches high. I planted him outside a few weeks ago and have been tending him carefully against the cold. I just ran out of room in the house and he was small enough to cover easily.

Last year he didn’t have a chance. I ran out of room when it was time to plant him and he ended up in the front yard. Not good. Too much exposure for a fragile bean, so, this year, he has an honored position in a safer bed.

I don’t know much about Wang Wei the poet. Long ago when I got my first anthology of Chinese poetry as a Christmas gift, his poetry didn’t really strike me. Now it does. Today I learned this about him which makes me like him more:

“Wang Wei founded the Southern School of painter-poets. He is particularly known as a landscape painter, developing the possibilities of monochrome and pomo (“breaking the ink”), a technique in which ink is applied in patches or washes that leave blank spaces. None of his paintings are extant, though the spiritual quality of his landscapes influenced many painters. Wei’s poetry likewise embodied Zen Buddhist ideals of detachment and simplicity; in his poems, he uses details sparingly, frequently narrating natural phenomena such as water and mist rather than human presence.”

Since my thing seems to be painting clouds and mountains, how could I not be intrigued?

A View of the Han River

With its three Hsiang branches it reaches Ch’u border
And with nine streets touches the gateway of Ching:
The river runs behind heaven and earth,
Where the color of mountains both is and is not.
The dwellings of men seem floating along
On ripples of the distant sky…
O Hsiang-yang, how your beautiful days
Make drunken my old mountain-heart!

Update: Bain Juyi and Lao She sustained some frost damage. We’ll see. I planted new beans just in case…

28 thoughts on “Wang Wei and a Cold Night

  1. Glad to hear you found a place for Wang Wei. I find it interesting how our connections with others can shift and change depending on where we are in our own lives. I’m not surprised you are more taken with his poetry now.

  2. Mr Moran is the header painting? Did you do the Chinese writing on the side of it, too? I think it is so pretty.

    • Yeah, I did the writing on the side of the mountain painting. It is Mt. Moran, one of the Tetons. I did a science fair project about that mountain in 8th grade. I fell in love with it when my parents took my bro and me there in 1964.

  3. I’m devastated to hear of frost damage to your venerable bean bed. But am intrigued by the idea of a fragile bean. Does the fragility of the plant lend a delicacy to the taste of said bean? I don’t think I’ve ever had beans that did not do well. (In all my three years of gardening, both the tomatoes and the beans seem to just thrive on my absentminded, haphazard gardening methods.

    Unlike the poet/artist, the beans were neither distant nor well spaced. Overcrowding meant that I was diving for beans in every hidden crevasse between leaves. It would have made a terrible ink drawing with no spaces to define what was where. But I do like the idea of a Mountain Heart to draw upon. Though, bean brain might be more apt!

    • These beans are delicious. I’ve only eaten them green since I never grow enough to have enough dry beans to plant and eat, plus, dried bean dishes are a little challenging at 7600 feet. Once they are established, they are easy to take care of. I’m pretty sure I lost two last night, but only time will tell. It will depend on how established the roots are, but they haven’t been in the ground that long. Nature’s a crap shoot. I had to perform a small funeral for a little bird that got blown out of his nest during the recent gale force winds.

  4. Hello Martha and your beans. Wang Wei’s focus and his work is an inspiration. My oldest and his family are here (first time in 2 1/2 years). He was sharing at my parents’ house last night how he is attempting to learn Chinese. I thought it a great challenge and aspiration! Hugs to all of you~beans included!

  5. Sorry to hear about the beans that grew so tall and then so cold. Sigh. It sounds like you will help them survive despite what nature may have in store. It was a glorious beginning all the same! I am intrigued by the poetry as I am not at all familiar with that genre. Very cool.

    • Only three of the tall beans survived last night. It may freeze again tonight. That’s just nature and I know it. Still, they were really amazing and I’ve put some seeds in the dirt. Maybe they will come up.

      It’s really difficult to translate Chinese poetry to English. Part of the “poem” is the way the ideograms look on the paper. They don’t use as many words as we need to translate the meaning, still, so many are very beautiful.

      • I hope you get some more survivors. But it is nature after all. Interesting about the poetry. “Reading” it (for those like me who don’t read Chinese) would be parallel to viewing it as art. Still beautiful. I’m fascinated by the lettering.

        • I can’t read the Chinese but one experience I had in China was a learning moment. I was in a park with a bunch of students. There was a moon gate with four characters inscribed at the top. I could read them. I looked at my students like, “WTF?” They explained it was a famous Chinese poem. It was “Wind, water, sky, mountain.” It went with the moon gate which ostensibly framed the three visible aspects of that poem. After that, I decided that when looking at a landscape, “Wow” is a pretty good poem.

  6. My condolences on the freezing death of the beans – hopefully the beans are tougher than you give them credit for… I’m very impressed that you are going to brush up on your Chinese!!

    • Well you know they say older people should play sudoku and do crosswords etc. But I can’t see me doing those things. I think regaining some of my skill would be a better brain exercise. Three of the beans are really dead. 😦 I hope the seeds I planted come up and thrive.

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