From the joints where leaves broke or froze, new vines are emerging ALREADY. I love these beans.
MOON, RAIN, RIVERBANK Tu Fu
Rain road through, now the autumn night is clear The water wears a patina of gold and carries a bright jade star. Heavenly River runs clear and pure, as gently as before.
Sunset buries the mountains in shadow. A mirror floats in the deep green void, its light reflecting the cold, wet dusk, dew glistening, freezing on the flowers.
FALL RIVER SONG Li Bai
On Old River Mountain A huge boulder swept clean by the blue winds of Heaven
where they have written in an alphabet of moss an ancient song.
NIGHT SNOW Bai Juyi
I was surprised my quilt and pillow were cold, I see that now the window’s bright again. Deep in the night, I know the snow is thick, I sometimes hear the sound as bamboo snaps.
WALKING THROUGH SOUTH MOUNTAIN FIELDS Li Ho
The autumn wilds bright, Autumn wind white. Pool-water deep and clear, Insects whining, Clouds rise from rocks, On moss-grown mountains. cold reds weeping dew, Colour of graceful crying.
Wilderness fields in October — Forks of rice. Torpid fireflies, flying low, Start across dike-paths. Water flows from veins of rocks, Springs drip on sand. Ghost-lanterns like lacquer lamps Lighting up pine-flowers.
I know you’ve all been losing sleep wondering how Li Bai, Tu Fu and Li Ho are faring out there in the wilderness of my yard. They’re doing very well. The hot weather that makes me and Bear wonder what we’re doing here and question the entire point of life, has made the Scarlet Emperor Beans and everything else out there shoot up in plant bliss. Here they are:
To hedge my bets when I planted these esteemed beans, I stuck some seeds into the ground. One has come up. 🙂 I’ve named him Bai Juyi who was one of the most famous poets of the Tang Dynasty. He was also — as the others were, except Li Ho who was something of a renegade — a public official.
Bai Juyi is famous for the times he was governor of various Chinese cities, I think most notably Hangzhou. Anyone who has been to Hangzhou has gone primarily to enjoy the incredible beauty of West Lake. Cixi, the last empress of China, had a replica of West Lake built in Beijing for her enjoyment. It’s said of Hangzhou, “Heaven above. Earth below. Between, Hangzhou.”
Back in olden times West Lake sometimes dried up making it impossible for the farmers to grow crops. When Bai Juyi was governor, he built a causeway that successfully held the water in the lake and controlled the flow. It was not just a thing of beauty, but of utility. Of course, the causeway he built is long gone, but the one that is there now follows Bai Juyi’s plans, more or less.
Bai Juyi’s most famous poem is a long story-poem called the “Never Ending Sorrow.” It was incredibly popular in Japan and in one of Japan’s oldest and most well known (and amazing!) novels, The Tale of Genji Bai Juyi’s poem has a central place. Japanese fashion of this era was strongly influenced by the poem as well.
On the Lake
Two monks sit, playing chess on the mountain, Bamboo casts a shadow on the board. I hear the monks slam the pieces down.