Overflowing (visiting Tu Fu)


Overflowing (visiting Tu Fu)


Image: Kawase Hasui, via asia.si.edu

The river’s surface reflects the moon, just out of reach
A lantern shines as midnight nears
An egret sleeps, its head curled, at one with the sand
A fish jumps behind the boat, and I hear it splash

Literal translations of classic Chinese poetry can be found at chinese-poems.com. This is my interpretation of a poem by Tu Fu. The literal translation, as provided at chinese-poems.com, is as follows:


River moon go person only few feet
Lantern shine night approach third watch
Sand head overnight egret join curl peaceful
Boat stern jump splash noise

Alternate (simpler) interpretation:

Moon shining on river beside my boat
Lantern lights my way at midnight      
Egret sleeping soundly, its head curled in the sand
Behind the boat, a fish jumps and splashes

What message is this simple verse meant to deliver? Is it the peacefulness of the scene? The distance of the moon, emphasized by the insubstantial form of its reflection? The freedom the fish enjoys while the egret rests? The many messages delivered to the senses? The sense of being part of something greater?
If it is the latter, are the questions even asked, or is all simply a given?
Perhaps it is all of these.

More Chinese interpretations can be found here.

12 thoughts on “Overflowing (visiting Tu Fu)

  1. For me there is a profound difference between the first and second poem…both create a meditative presence within a scene but the first one seems to open the doors of awareness of time and perception wider…it is quite interesting to absorb the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

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