Crossing The Pass

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Su's view looking north into Jiangxi from Plum Pass

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Crossing The Pass
        Su Shi 1036-1101

Seven years
        since I crossed this pass
                I can't bear to recall!
Again I visit Caoxi*
        so at least one spoonful 
                of honey.
Like in a dream
        I return from across the sea,
Like a drunkard
        I don't feel I am back in Jiangnan.
Washing my feet in the stream
        I whistle into the empty ravine,
Fog penetrates my traveling clothes
        lazy kingfisher floats by in the mist.
Who sent this mountain pheasant
        to startle me?
Half on rocks
        half on flowers
                Light rain falls san-san...

Guò Lǐng
Sū Shì 1036-1101

Qīnián láiwàng wǒ hékān?
Yòu shì Cáoxī yīshāo gān.
Mènglǐ sì huì qiān hǎiwài,
Zuì zhōng bù juédào Jiāngnán.
Bō shàng zhuózú wū kōng jiàn,
Wù rào zhengyī cuì lán lán.
Shéi qiǎn shānjī hū jīngqǐ,
Bàn yán huā yǔ lòu sānsān.
Translator: Dongbo 東波

*Caoxi is the home of the Nanhuasi 南華寺.

This poem was written when Su Shi crossed the 梅關 Meiguan for the second time. When He crossed it seven years before he did not expect to return alive. Now in older than his years after seven years in the miasmic south

View to the north, looking into Jiangxi Province and the road north to 'civilization'. This is the location of the Meiguan, Plum Pass between Jiangxi and Guangdong Provinces. It was one of the main gateways to the miasmic south.

The Meiguan was well known to all travelers who for official, commercial, religious or banishment made their way south. For most it was not a happy event to leave the center of China's culture for the gloomy, miasmic, only recently pacified south. Many poems have been written about the Meiguan. Huineng, the Sixth Chan Patriarch crossed this pass twice in his life, the last time when he fled to Guangdong and established the Nanhuasi 南華寺.

See Phung Khac Khoan's poem 過關 Crossing The Pass; another traveler, this time a Vietnamese vistor crossing the Zhenanguan, on the border between Vietnam and China, on his way to Peking.

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