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Mountain Life at Sunset in Autumn

Wang, Wei 1 (700-761 CE)

On the quiet mountain after a fresh rain
The evening chill reveals that autumn is arriving.
The bright moon shines among the pine trees;
The clear spring flows over the stones.
The clamor of voices from the bamboo grove announces the return of the washerwomen.
The lotuses part as the fishing boats pass downstream.
Although the fragrance of Spring is past,
Mountains are a natural place for noble children to reside 2.


1 Mo-jie was Wei Wang's alternative name. He was a native of Qi City (present day Qi-xian City in Shanxi Province). In 721 CE, he passed the Advanced Exam. Later, he took the first place on the Palace Exam. Over the years he was promoted to the position of supervising censor. When the rebel troops led by Lu-shan An captured the capital, Chang-an, Wang was given an official post. After the rebellion was crushed, Wang was demoted to Guardian of the Crown Prince due to his collaboration with the rebellion. His wife died when he was young, but he never remarried. In his late years, he resided in Wang-chuan City of Lan-tian County. He lived in leisure, sometimes as a recluse, occasionally as a statesman. Chinese poets put him and Hao-ran Meng side by side and call them "Wang and Meng" because their poems are outstanding representative works of pastoral poetry. During Wang's early years, he wrote poems about women and border fortresses. However, his main achievements were his poems about landscapes, especially mountains and rivers. His poems are peaceful, colorful, artistic, and real-to-life. They contain many interesting remarks about Zen philosophy. Through his poetic works, he advocated Buddhism and a life of seclusion. Therefore, people called him the Buddha of Poetry. Wei Wang forged poetry, painting and music in one stove with one flame. Dong-po Su praised Wang's work by saying, "His poems are like paintings and his paintings are like poetry."

2 This line is Wang's response to a statement in the chapter about recruiting hermits in The History of the State of Chu. The statement says, "Come back! Noble children! Mountains are not a good place for one to reside long." During Wang's time the government was corrupt. Even though he was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister, he was disappointed with the corruption. Therefore, Wang thought that when the government is not corrupt, hermits should leave the mountains and serve their community, but when the government is corrupt, it is appropriate for the hermits to remain in the mountains.