Thoughts on Xuanwu Lake


 
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View of Xuanwu Lake over the Wu Dynasty wall

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Thoughts on Xuanwu Lake
        Zhan  Shichuanɡ

Under the Xuanwu Gate,
The Big Bunny raises its proud tail,
Greeting us with a belated "Happy New Year!"
But the turtle-snake image of Xuanwu is not there.
Is it because she doesn't wish to welcome us
And has gone into hiding even before daybreak?

On the bank of Xuanwu Lake,
The Pied Dragon darts blue rays from its arrogant eyes,
Like a newly sworn-in official raising his head high.
But the true image of Xuanwu is not there.
Has she tasted the forbidden fruit
And dived deep into the water in shame?

In the middle of Xuanwu Lake,
Fish pop out of the water to fill their bellies;
Tourists on the boats 
        break the Lake's serenity with shouts and hoots.
But the playful Xuanwu is not there.
Has he been promoted seven ranks in one leap,
Packed his luggage and flown to high heaven?

In front of Xuanwu Lake,
An old man told me the tribulations of this watery space.
There was a time when part of this glistening mirror 
        was turned to paddy fields.
Perhaps it was at that time that Xuanwu fled the place?
But I take it if people sincerely repent their sins,
Xuanwu will one day be lured back to its native waters.
 
NánJīnɡ XuánWǔHú XiáXiǎnɡ
Zhan Shichuanɡ

Xuánwǔmén xià,
Dàbáitù qiàoqǐ jiāo’ào de wěibā,
Dào yīshēnɡ chídào de tùnián jíxiánɡ!
Què bújiàn ɡuī shé hé tǐ de xuánwǔ xínɡxiànɡ,
Nándào tā bú huānyínɡ wǒmen,
Tiān wèi liànɡ jiù zǎozao duǒcánɡ.

Xuánwǔhú biān,
Cǎilónɡ de yǎnjīnɡ fāchū yánɡyánɡ-zìdé de lánɡuānɡ,
Tā xiànɡ ɡānɡ shànɡrèn de xīnɡuān tóulú ɡāo’ánɡ.
Què bújiàn xuánwǔ zhēnxiànɡ.
Nándào tā chīle jìnɡuǒ,
Hàixiū dē zuānjìn shuǐzhōnɡyānɡ.

Xuánwǔhú zhōnɡ,
Yú’ér lòuchū shuǐmiàn yī bǎo jī chánɡ;
Huáchuán de yóukè yònɡ xiàojiào dǎpò nínɡjìnɡ ānxiánɡ,
Què bújiàn xuánwǔ xīxì de múyànɡ,
Nándào tā ɡuān shēnɡ qījí,
Shōushí xínɡzhuānɡ fēidào le tiānshànɡ.

Xuánwǔhú qián,
Yīɡè lǎorén shuō qǐ húpō de kǔnán cānɡsānɡ.
Cénɡ jǐ hé shí shuǐ jìnɡ tián zuò dàotián.
Bù zhīdào xuánwǔ shìfǒu cónɡ nà yīkè jiù táowánɡ?
Búɡuò wǒ xiānɡxìn rénmen de zhēnchénɡ chànhuǐ,
Kě yǐ bǎ xuánwǔ zài dù qǐnɡhuí tā de ɡùxiānɡ.
 
Translator: Charles Q. Wu 吳千之

Notes:
From May 21 through June 11, 1999, Charles Wu led a 24-member Taoist tour to China. "We visiting seven mountains, ten cities, and numerous temples, mostly Taoist, some Buddhist, and one Confucian. Throughout the tour we were accompanied by outstanding Taoist scholar, Professor Zhan Shichuang of Xiamen University, who shared with us his great wisdom as well as rich knowledge about the philosophy, history, and practice of China's native-born religion. I had the privilege of being his interpreter, and the two of us developed a great friendship emanating from a common qi field. On several occasions, after visiting an inspiring site, Professor Zhan's poetic creativity would be set ablaze and once back on the bus he would start composing a poem, which I would immediately or subsequently translate and read to the group."


Commentary:
Xuanwu Lake is an ancient lake turned into a scenic resort, now the largest public park in Nanjing. Xuanwu is a mythical animal symbolizing the north (as well as water). It combines the bodies of the snake and turtle. It forms a quartet with three other animals: Zhuque or the Red Robin symbolizing the south, Qinglong or Blue Dragon symbolizing the east, and Baihu or White Tiger symbolizing the west. The Big Bunny and Pied Dragon are Disneyland-type displays that, along with booming tourism, have invaded this otherwise tranquil scenic park.

 
 
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