Bai Juyi’s Zen Poem ‘Flowers are not Flowers’

A Zen poem by Bai Juyi 白居易 aka “The Hermit of Xiangshan”   香山居士

Flowers are not Flowers   

Flowers are not flowers

Mists are not mists.

Like shadowy appearances coming at midnight

And leaving at first light

They come like a spring dream but for how long?

Parting  nowhere to be found in the morning clouds

 

1. 花非花,雾非雾。夜半来,天明去。来如春梦几时多?去时朝云无觅处

as quoted in Kong Lingping  Bloody Chronicles p. 506 in the Chinese text available online and in the Chinese edition of Epoch Times online at http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/12/8/30/n3670977.htm

2. 花非花,雾非雾。夜半来,天明去。来如春梦几多时?去似朝云无觅处。

… Parting like a morning cloud nowhere to be found

https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/2646303.html

This is a bit of an interpretive translation.  I interpolated”Like shadowy appearances” to make the meaning clearer.  The giveaway is 来如春梦 coming like a spring dream.  This is not about a spring dream, it is about “reality” being like a spring dream.  The shadows — our perceptions — is what is real, not the imagined thing in itself.

Flowers are not Flowers   

Flowers are not flowers

Mists are not mists.

[Like shadowy appearances] Coming at midnight

And leaving at first light

They come like a spring dream but for how long?

Parting  nowhere to be found in the morning clouds

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About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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