Charter for Compassion

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Song Sending off Dan Qiuzi from Cloud Terrace on Mt. Hua by Li Bai

With School officially starting for teachers tomorrow, I spent the last day of summer translating a poem by Li Bai.  The poem mixes imagery of the river coming out of the mountains with mythology and the tradition of sending a friend off on a journey with a cup of wine.  Hoping you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed translating it. 

西嶽雲台歌送丹丘子  李白

Xīyuè Yúntái Gē Sòng Dān Qiūzǐ    Li Bai
A Song Sending off Dan Qiuzi from Cloud Terrace on Mt. Hua by Li Bai

Xīyuè zhēng róng hé zhuàngzāi!
Mt. Hua,  so lofty and majestic!

Huánghé rú sī tiānjì lái.

The Yellow River like a strand of silk descending from the boarder between sky and mountain.

Huánghé wànlǐ chù shān dòng,
The river moves ten thousand li at the touches of the mountain


pán wō gǔ zhuǎn Qín dì léi.
It thunders as it whirls and wheels through the land of Qin.

Róngguāng xiū qì fēn wǔcǎi,
A vibrant rainbow rests in its mist,

qiānnián yī qīng shèngrén zài.
Every thousand years a pure sage appears.

Jù líng páoxiāo bò liǎng shān,
A mighty spirit crashes splitting the two mountains,

hóngbō pēn jiàn shè dōnghǎi.
Great waves shoot arrow like to the Eastern Sea.

Sān fēng què lì rú yù cuī,
The Three Peaks stand yet ready to fall,

cuì yá dān gǔ gāo zhǎng kāi.
Emerald cliffs and red valley, a giant fist opening.

Bái dì jīn jīng yùn yuánqì,
The White Emperor taking golden essence and moving primal Qi energy,

shí zuò liánhuā yún zuò tái.
out of rock makes Lotus Blossom Cloud into a terrace


Yúntái gé dào lián yǎo míng,
Cloud Terrace Pavilion Path connects to deep mysteries

zhōng yǒu bùsǐ Dān Qiūshēng.
and within is the immortal Dan Qiusheng.

Míng xīng yùnǚ bèi sǎsǎo,
Shining Star, Jade Girl prepares to scatter and sweep

Mágū sāo bèi zhǐ zhǎo qīng.
Magu scratches the mountain's ridge lightly with her claws

Wǒ huáng shǒu bǎ Tiāndì hù,
The Heavenly Emperor holds open the door between Heaven and Earth

Dān Qiū tán tiān yǔ tiān yǔ.
Danqiu speaks with heaven in a heavenly language.

Jiǔchóng chūrù shēng guānghuī,
From the Ninth Heaven comes a radiance shining forth,

dōng lái pénglái fù xi guī.
East to Penglai then returning west.

Yù jiāng tǎng huì gùrén yǐn,
If you’d share this Jade Elixir with me my friend,

qí èr máo lóng shàngtiān fēi.
We would fly off to heaven on two straw dragons.

The following information comes from

Yunü 玉女, the "Jade Girl", was according to legend a daughter of the Jade Emperor 玉皇, a Daoist deity. She created nature and mankind.
According to a legend popular in the province of Jiangxi, Pan Gu 盤古, the creator of the universe, had separated Heaven and Earth but not produced any landscape or animals nor sun and moon. He therefore asked for support by the Jade Emperor, but the latter refused to provide help. Pan Gu therefore burst out in rage, destroyed the palace of the Jade Emperor, emptied his wine cellar and fell asleep. The Jade Girl thereupon be seeched her father to send her down to earth to support Pan Gu, but he continued refusing help. She so secretly slipped away, tore out her eyes to create sun, moon, stars and landscape, and used her own heart to produce man and woman. She also transformed her own intestines into rivers and swamps and her own bones to mountains and hills. He hair transformed into trees and bushes.

Following some local fairy tales, there are several mountain peaks (Yunü feng 玉女峯) named Yunü, like a summit in the Huashan range, the 華山玉女, and one in the Wuyishan 武夷山.

Magu 麻姑 "Mistress Hemp" is a female immortal venerated in Daoism. The oldest report of her ist to be found in Ge Hong's 葛洪 Shenxianzhuan 神仙傳 from the Jin period 晉 (265-420). In her biography it is said that once the immortal Wang Yuan 王遠 (courtesy name Fangping 方平, religious title Shangzhen yuanjun 上真元君 "Lord of the supreme perfect origin") dwelled with a certain Cai Jing 蔡經 he invited Magu for dinner. She reported from her travel to an island in the Eastern Sea where she saw mulberry trees and fields, which nobody believed. When Cai Jing saw that Magu’s feet were like birds’ claws the thought that they would be good to scratch his itching back. But Wang Yuan was able to read his thoughts and punished him for these frivolous thoughts by flogging his back with an invisible whip. When the dinner was over Wang Yuan and Magu climbed their coach and ascended to Heaven.
Wang Yuan’s biography in the book Shenxianzhuan 神仙傳 is very similar.
The late Tang period 唐 (618-907) Daoist Du Guangting 杜光庭 repeats this story in his Yongchengji xianlu 墉城集仙錄 and adds the information that Magu was Wang Yuan’s servant. Only later she was identified as Wang’s younger sister (Lishi zhenxian tidao tongjian houji 歷世真仙體道通鋻後集). Further information from the Southern Dynasties period 南朝 (420~589) book Qixieji 齊諧記 is quoted in the Song period 宋 (960-1279) encyclopedia Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (131) where it is said that Magu lived during the Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420) in Fuyang 富陽.
 The local gazetter Dengzhou fu zhi 登州府志 says that she lived during the short-lived Later Zhou period 後趙 (319-350), came from Jianchang 建昌 and that she exercised Daoist practice on Mt. Guyu 姑余山 near Mouzhong 牟州, where she eventually became an immortal.
It can be seen that there are several traditions venerating a Mistress Hemp. Therefore there are also many place names including her name, like a Mt. Magu, a Magu Cave, or Magu temples, like during the Tang period when there was, according to the writer Yan Zhenqing 颜真卿, a Mt. Magu 麻姑山 with a small platform in Nancheng 南城縣. A furnace for the production of longevity pills was still visible at that time. In Jianchang was likewise a Mt. Magu. During the Song period Hong Mai 洪邁 mentioned a Magu Cave 麻姑洞 near Mt. Qingcheng 青城山 in Sichuan. The book Yiyuan 異苑 reports that during the Qin (?) period there was a Magu Temple 麻姑廟 (Meigu 梅姑廟) in Danyang 丹陽縣. Magu lived nearby and was able, through Daoist skills, to walk over the water. Her husband killed her and threw her body into the river which carried her to the place where the temple would be erected later.

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