Tuesday, November 1, 2016

autumn meditation #4

autumn meditation #4

I’ve heard it said Chang’an is like a weiqi board;
the events of the past hundred years: grief beyond bearing—

the mansions of princes and nobles all have new masters;
civilian and soldiers’ attire: different than in the past—

due north in border passes, gongs and drums resound;
westward, carts and horses speed feathered dispatches—

fish and dragons are silent: the autumn river runs cold;
the homeland at peace: alive in my reflections

Jack Hayes
© 2016
based on Du Fu:
秋興八首 (四)
qiū xìng bā shŏu (sì)

Line 1: Every English translation I’ve seen insists on translating 弈棋yìqí as “chess.” But he clearly means what is now known in China as 圍棋 wéiqí, which is better known in the west by the romanized version of its Japanese name, Go. Per Wikipedia: “The first reference to chess, called Xiang Qi, in China comes in the xuán guaì lù (玄怪录, record of the mysterious and strange) dating to about 800.” Du Fu’s poem dates to 766. On the other hand, again per Wikipedia, “The game [go] originated and was invented in ancient China more than 5,500 years ago, and is still the oldest board game continuously played today. It was considered one of the four essential arts of the cultured aristocratic Chinese scholar caste in antiquity.” Benn’s China’s Golden Age makes a point of how popular go/weiqi was during the Tang dynasty.

As always, grateful acknowledgement to Sheila Graham-Smith for her research & editing, as well as to such major Du Fu translators as Stephen Owen, Burton Watson, William Hung, & David Hinton for their scholarship.

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
“Woman Playing Go”: Anonymous - Color on silk. Tang Dynasty.
Unearthed at the Astana Graves in 1972 from the tomb number 187.
Public domain.


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