Wang Wei

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I will walk till the water checks my path,
Then sit and watch the rising clouds.
All alone in a foreign land,
I am twice as homesick on this day
When brothers carry dogwood up the mountain,
Each of them a branch—and my branch missing.

Wang Wei (Chinese: 王維; 699–759) was a Tang dynasty Chinese poet, musician, painter, and statesman. He was one of the most famous men of arts and letters of his time. Many of his poems are preserved, and twenty-nine were included in the highly influential 18th-century anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems.


  • 泛舟大河裏,積水窮天涯。
    • The boat set sail upon the great river
      whose swollen waters stretched to sky's edge.
      Sky and waves split apart suddenly—
      the district capital's thousands of homes.
      Moving on, I can see the town market
      and vaguely make out mulberry and hemp.
      I turn to gaze back toward my homeland—
      only vast floods that stretch to the clouds.
    • "Written Crossing the Yellow River to Qing-he" (渡河到清河作)
  • 空山不見人,但聞人語響。
    • Empty hills, no one in sight,
      only the sound of someone talking;
      late sunlight enters the deep wood,
      shining over the green moss again.
    • "Deer Fence" (鹿柴)
    • Variant translations:
      • No one is seen in deserted hills,
        Only the echoes of speech is heard.
        Sunlight cast back comes deep in the woods,
        And shines once again upon the green moss.
        • Translated by Stephen Owen
      • On the empty mountain, seeing no one,
        Only hearing the echoes of someone's voice;
        Returning light enters the deep forest,
        Again shining upon the green moss.
        • Translated by Richard W. Bodman and Victor H. Mair
  • 行到水穷处,坐看云起时。
    • I will walk till the water checks my path,
      Then sit and watch the rising clouds.
    • "Zhongnan Retreat" (终南别业)
  • 紅豆生南國,春來發幾枝。
    • Red beans come from Southern country,
      Few blossoms on vines when Spring comes.
      For my sake please pick many of them,
      They are the best symbol of true love.
    • "Red Beans" (相思), trans. Zi-chang Tang
  • 明月松間照,清泉石上流。
    • The bright moon shines between the pines.
      The crystal stream flows over the pebbles.
    • "Autumn Twilight in the Mountains" (山居秋暝), trans. Kenneth Rexroth
  • 独在异乡为异客,每逢佳节倍思亲。
    • All alone in a foreign land,
      I am twice as homesick on this day
      When brothers carry dogwood up the mountain,
      Each of them a branch—and my branch missing.
    • "On the Mountain Holiday Thinking of My Brothers in Shan-tung" (九月九日忆山东兄弟), trans. Witter Bynner
    • Variant translation:
      • To be a stranger in a strange land:
        Whenever one feasts, one thinks of one's brother twice as much as before.
        There where my brother far away is ascending,
        The dogwood is flowering, and a man is missed.
        • "Thinking of My Brother in Shantung on the Ninth Day of the Ninth Moon", in The White Pony, ed. Robert Payne
  • 独坐幽篁里,弹琴复长啸。
    • I sit alone in the secluded bamboo grove
      and play the zither and whistle along.
      In the deep forest no one knows,
      the bright moon comes to shine on me.
    • "Bamboo Grove" (竹里馆), as translated by Arthur Sze in The Silk Dragon: Translations from the Chinese (2013), p. 19
    • Variant translation:
      • Lying alone in this dark bamboo grove,
        Playing on a flute, continually whistling,
        In this dark wood where no one comes,
        The bright moon comes to shine on me.
        • "In a Bamboo Grove" in The White Pony, ed. Robert Payne, p. 151
  • 渭城朝雨浥轻尘,客舍青青柳色新。
    • A morning rain has settled the dust in Weicheng;
      Willows are green again in the tavern dooryard...
      Wait till we empty one more cup –
      West of Yang Gate there'll be no old friends.
    • "A Song at Weicheng" (送元二使安西), as translated by Witter Bynner in Three Hundred Poems of the Tang Dynasty
    • Variant translations:
      • Wei City morning rain dampens the light dust.
        By this inn, green, newly green willows.
        I urge you to drink another cup of wine;
        West of Yang Pass, are no old friends.
        • Mike O'Connor, "Wei City Song" in Where the World Does Not Follow (2002), p. 119
      • No dust is raised on pathways wet with morning rain,
        The willows by the tavern look so fresh and green.
        I invite you to drink a cup of wine again:
        West of the Southern Pass no more friends will be seen.
      • Light rain is on the light dust.
        The willows of the inn-yard
        Will be going greener and greener,
        But you, Sir, had better take wine ere your departure,
        For you will have no friends about you
        When you come to the gates of Go.
  • 一身转战三千里, 一剑曾当百万师。
    • Fighting single-handed for a thousand miles,
      With his naked dagger he could hold a multitude.
    • "Song of an Old General" (老将行)
  • 卫青不败由天幸, 李广无功缘数奇。
    • General Wei Qing's victory was only a thing of chance.
      And General Li Guang's thwarted effort was his fate, not his fault.
    • "Song of an Old General" (老将行)
  • 君自故鄉來,應知故鄉事。
    • You have come from my home,
      So you must know about things at home.
      On the day you left—in front of my open-work window,
      Had the winter plum opened into blossom yet?
    • "Tsa shih"
  • The cold mountain turns dark green.
    The autumn stream flows murmuring on.
    Leaning on my staff beneath the wicket gate,
    In the rushing wind I hear the cry of the aged cicada.
    • "The Cold Mountain"
  • I have just seen you go down the mountain.
    I close the wicker gate in the setting sun.
    The grass will be green again in coming spring,
    But will the wanderer ever return?
    • "Departure" (trans. Robert Payne)
  • In the mountains a night of rain,
    And above the trees a hundred springs.
    • As quoted in Lin Yutang's My Country and My People (1936), p. 247

Quotes about Wang Wei[edit]

  • Probably China's greatest descriptive poet.
    • Lin Yutang, My Country and My People (1936), p. 247
  • 诗中有画,画中有诗。
    • Shi zhong you hua, hua zhong you shi.
    • There is painting in his poetry, and poetry in his painting.
    • Su Shi, as quoted in Wang Wei (1981) by Marsha L. Wagner, p. 157

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