Monday, May 16, 2011

Autumn Night at West Lake

While I’m still in the afterglow of a short trip to China, here’s a favorite Chinese poem (despite its being not quite the right season for it). A friend and I discovered this poem years ago in an elementary school reader while exploring the old schoolroom in the marvelous Chinese settlement of Locke, California, in the Sacramento River Delta region. The poem was given no authorship or translation attribution in the reader, and despite much looking I’ve been unable to find it reproduced anywhere else. It’s clearly about Hangzhou’s famous West Lake, but that’s all I know about it (and would be deeply appreciative should anyone happen to have additional information on the poem’s source).


Su Dike goes sidewise;
   Pai Dike stretches crosswise.
It’s like a rainbow sidewise;
   It’s also like a rainbow crosswise.

The moon is misty from the Rainbow Bridge.
   The bridge is like a bow;
   The moon is like a bow.

Shadows of two green hills fall to the east of the bridge –
   A high peak in the south,
   Another high peak in the north.

In the haze of autumn the two peaks are vague –
   It is vague in the south.
   It is vague in the north.

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