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June 30, 2008


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At the risk of being a sound bite, I must let you know how much I have enjoyed these two posts on translating and on Heidegger. I am not a translator, but I discovered you on Granite Studio and I do spend way too much enjoyable time digesting people's musings in blogs. Perhaps it is the frustrated former scholar of Chinese that I am (I run an executive search firm in Beijing) that has me spending wonderful hours following the unfolding of links to amazing pieces of information, one who also loves contemplating Time and Being (or should that be time and being?). I actually don't care much for your Li Bai translation as it injects way too much ego and interpretation of feelings that are not there, but hey, that is your prerogative. Thank you again for the brain food, now I have to get back to work finding a specialized English to Chinese legal translator to be based in Guangzhou!!! ugh.

Terry, thank you for stopping by! You are my first official comment-- as at a friend's suggestion I actually only opened the comments up yesterday. I am dying of curiosity however-- how would you translate the poem?

My translation was for a documentary made in 2006 and I was overwhelmed by the many comments I received when I asked an online japanese translators group I participate in for help. Some of them work as translators in both languages and are very proficient. The archiving is not great but you can follow the thread here (RE: (Obscure) Li Bai (Li Po) Poem):

I received a lot of advice. I will copy below the one published english version (it's below)... not just my attempt but I guess so many attempts at translating Chinese as well as Japanese poetry justs falls flat. I am a fan of Vikram Seth's slim volume of translations

I think it's called Three Chinese Poets...

Anyway, thanks again Terry (and feel free to revise my translation)And good luck with your translator hunt.


> "a published English translation of this poem might possibly be found in
> "Wandering About Mount Tai" (Li Bo) or "Climbing the Peak of Mount Taibo"
> (Li Bo), in Philip K. Jason, ed., Critical Survey of Poetry,

I found this book in the Berkeley Public Library. It does not include a
complete translation of the poem, but rather it has a sort of narrative
description, with the portion in question described as follows:

| In the first poem of the group, despite the speaker's appreciation of the
| mountain's beauty, the stone gate of a cave-heaven is closed to him and
| the gold and silver pavilions of the Faerie Isles can be imagined but
| remain distant. Moreover, the beautiful "Jade Women" who come in response
| to the poet's magic, spirit-summoning whistle tease him, laughing and
| giving him nothing more than a cup of "Liquid Sunrise," the immortals'
| wine.

The bibliography for this article listed several anthologies of translated
poems that may include this particular Li Bo poem, but the author did not
cite a specific reference, so that was a dead end.

I then went to the East Asian Library at UC Berkeley and, with the help of a
wonderful librarian Bruce C. Williams, found an English version of the poem
published in the academic journal 通報 _T'OUNG PAO: Revue Internationale de
Sinologie_, Vol. LXIX, Livr. 4-5, pp. 248-251, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1983, in
an article by Paul W. Kroll entitled "Verses from on High: The Ascent of
T'ai Shan."

The translation starts off:

| In the fourth month I ascend Mount Tai;

A portion of the poem containing the two lines Leanne is interested in is
translated as follows:

| Climbing to the heights, I gaze afar at P'eng and Ying;
| The image imagined -- the Terrace of Gold and Silver.
| At Heaven's Gate, one long whistle I give,
| And from a myriad _li_ the clear wind comes.
| Jade maidens, four or five persons,
| Gliding and whirling descend from the Nine Peripheries.

Kroll later goes on to give an explanation including this "long whistle" as

| The Terrace of Gold and Silver" fixed in mind by Li Po92 is the same
| estrade remarked by Kuo P'u 郭璞 (276-324) when that inspired poet
| beheld P'eng-lai in the sixth of his famous series of _yu hsien_ 遊仙
| ("Roaming to Sylphdom") verses.93 Once this visionary contact with the
| higher realms is established by Li Po, the pace of events quickens. He
| stands now at the aptly named arete Heaven's Gate.94 In response to his
| "long whistle" -- an old and respected method of calling up desired
| atmospheric and spiritual phenomena95 -- a "clear wind" arrives from afar.
| But this uncanny breeze (it is a rarer, more remote wind than that which
| sounded through the pines on the climb up) is merely the herald of a group
| of "jade maidens" come from heaven's farthest bounds -- or are they
| members of the troupe of jade maidens we have already seen as attendant
| upon the lord of T'ai Shan himself?

At any rate, one thing that these two versions agree on is that 長嘯 refers
to a sort of magical "whistle" used to summon atmospheric or spiritual
phenomena, and that it is the poet doing the whistling.

Hi Peony, yes, I agree with this sentiment. In fact I said something very similar here:


There are a lot of blogs on the internet full of nice pictures or cute quotes; so it is a relief that some of us allow the page more time and space for words.

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