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July 11, 2008


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Alan Siegrist Just on a lark, I searched for this poem once again and now I found a Japanese translation of it.



It sounds like you caught the gist of it. If I may translate freely, this might also be something like:

"I once wailed in anguish interminably at the gates of heaven, and then a soothing breeze from a myriad li away washed over me."


Yes, it was most probably a stretch. There is an obscure Japanese meaning, though that I think I got from the Kojien: [名](スル)声を長く引いて、詩歌を吟じること。Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy of the Kojien so I could have got this from somewhere else. Alan actually went to the East Asian Library at Berkeley and received help on the poem and I recall they were suggested "shrieking"....

At heaven's gate
I wail in anguish
As the wind from 100 li away
Sweeps away the worries of my heart

Ian: Not a poem. He's whistling. This is a Taoist practice, and this is a poem replete with Taoist mountain imagery. There are no worries in the heart to be swept away. No anguish. The opposite, he's going to meet the Jade maidens!

At the sky's gate, (I utter a) single long whistle.
From ten thousand miles, the clear wind comes.

The entire poem in Chinese:

It is really very exciting. Li Bai is really getting the royal treatment. Look what happens next:

Jade maidens, in all four or five,
floating and spinning, descend from the Nine Boundaries
They withhold their smiles, and extend their pure white hands,
And bequeath to me a cup filled with roiling red clouds.

Wow! I think I actually did this translation earlier than 2008 and all I had was that one long line translated into Japanese. I checked library books locally and I used-- such as it was then-- the Internet, but there was nothing. You know, even yesterday morning I quickly googled in Japanese the line and I still didn't really come up with anything more but yesterday I spent only a minute. It always bothered me because I knew I didn't have it right -- and I also love the images of that line. In the Japanese documentary it appeared at the bottom of mountain scenery as just one long line. I should have just emailed you.

You don't call it Heaven's Gate but sky's gate? Do you think that washing away my worries is contained in that line? I do but obviously I'm coming from a Japanese perspective. After I worked on this translation I became so interested in reading Chinese palms and Japanese translations. I don't know why I still even like to do that with Jan. I absolutely love the last line of the cup filled with really red clouds. That's quite an image. Finally I'll never understand how you learn Chinese so quickly. It took me an enormous amount of time to learn Japanese.

Heaven's gate, sky's gate, same thing. I like to shake it out of Heaven's gate which carries all sorts of associations. He's climbing the mountain into the immortal realm. By the way, I have climbed this very path on Taishan, a fantastic stairway cut into the rock, cliffs covered with calligraphy. There is no washing away of worries or sorrow. There is none of that in this poem. This is a poem about leaving the world of humans and traversing the immortal realm. It is a mystical poem filled with all sorts of wonderful images. Caves, terraces of gold, emerald peaks, dragons, green moss. . . It is a fantastical vision. There is no drunken sorrow here.

Tomasz Gra Leanne, google translate cannot go wrong ; ). It translated the poem as:
In April, Tarzan, shek ping road opened.
The six dragons diverge, skin with his.
Ma, a little bit of moss.
The flying flow is overwhelming, and the water is rushing.
North M87, Roach, a bluff to the east.
Cave-Ogi, Underground-Ogi, Underground-Ikazuchi.
From from, imagine gold and silver.
The door of heaven is a rage, and the wind is coming.
The-Year-old woman is under the sway of dance.
Included in the part and own cup.
It is not the only thing that has ever been done.
Kuang so, take a leisurely look.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_whistling I guess it's more like: 'I summoned spirits at the Heaven's gate and wind from hundred miles swept my fears away'. I suggest that you may want to explain what Li Bai wanted to achieve by whistling. On the other hand you may as well keep it simple and say simply 'I whistled'.

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