A Tour of Poetry

By Li, Janet | The World and I, October 2009 | Go to article overview

A Tour of Poetry


Li, Janet, The World and I


Poetry is the most highly regarded and most ancient literary genre in China. It is interesting that among thousands of Chinese poems; more than one third of them portray sightseeing. These poems are full of wonder and imagination, in a combination of mythology, historical figures and natural scenery.

Chinese poetry is intensely personal and expressive. While the author provides an abstract description, it is the reader's imagination and emotion that completes the image, making it his or her own.

This article presents a sightseeing tour of China and its culture through a tour of its poetry. Our tour starts from Mount Lu in Jiangxi Province, passing through the West Lake, heading for Mount Tai, and ending at Yumen Pass in Dun Huang.

Mount Lu

Visitors will approach Mount Lu, which borders the Yangtze River to the north and faces the broad Boyang Lake. The mount is a popular sightseeing area in Jiangxi Province, with more than 2,000 years of history.

Peaks upon peaks, cluster after cluster, Mount Lu extends around 300 square miles. The main peak Big Hanyang pierces upward at the height of 1,474 meters above the sea level. Each peak poses in a very different gesture: some flying in the clouds; some competing to catch people's eyes. Between mountain ranges, rip currents and waterfalls can be beheld everywhere, each rich in different characteristics.

Countless poems about the beautiful scenery have cast a mysterious mask upon the mountain. "Cataract on Mount Lu" by Li Bai is considered as one of the best poems concerning the description of the sight.

The sunlit Censer peak exhales a wreath of cloud; Like an upended stream the cataract sounds loud. Its torrent dashes down three thousand feet from high; As if the Silver River fell from azure sky.

Mountain Lu is often referred to as the homeland of Buddism in China. Pure Land Buddhism, in particular, was founded by the accomplished Buddhist Huiyuan on its northwest slope. It is from there the Buddhist ideas and practicing methods featuring Chinese characteristics began to be popular. The religious movement later spread to Japan and grew in prominence.

The West Lake

As the Chinese saying goes, "There is heaven above; Su Zhou and Hang Zhou on earth." Without coincidence, Marco Polo, the western traveler who gained fame from his worldwide trips described Hang Zhou as "the most enchanting city on the globe."

The West Lake is located in the western area of Hang Zhou City's historic center. It is surrounded by mountains on three sides, with an area of around 6.5 square kilometers. The West Lake is like a shining pearl inlaid on the vast land, with a multitude of historical sites, brilliant cultural relics and native products. In any case, the West Lake has inspired Chinese poets and paintings for centuries.

Su Shi, who created more than 2,700 poems in his lifetime, is one of the most popular poets of the Song era. During his days in Hang Zhou as a governor, Su left a vast amount of Chinese calligraphies and poems, expressing his love and passion for the beauty of the West Lake. "Drinking on the Lake: At First It Was Clear, Later It Rained, second of two" is one of the masterpieces that people read aloud even nowadays. The poem has been translated into English by Michael Fuller.

The gleam on the water as it ripples is best on clear days. The appearance of the mountains, empty and hazy, is also remarkable in the rain. I would like to compare West Lake to the Lady West. Light makeup and heavy powder both are becoming.

As Su wrote, whatever the season is, no matter how the weather changes, the scenery of the lake is invariably pleasing to the eye. …

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