松寺 Pine Temple
卢延让 (Author: Lu Yanrang, 10th century)
山寺取凉当夏夜，mountain temple get cold should summer night
共僧蹲坐石阶前。together monk squat sit stone stair in front of
两三条电欲为雨，two three strip lightning about to become rain
七八个星犹在天。7, 8 individual star still exist sky
衣汗稍停床上扇，clothes sweat a little stop bed on fan
茶香时拨涧中泉。tea fragrant sometimes stir mountain brook in stream
通宵听论莲华义， all night hear discuss Buddhism meaning
不藉松窗一觉眠。 not equal to pine window one night sleep
A mountain temple grows a little cooler on a summer night.
I squatted in front of the stairs with a monk.
Until two or three flashes of lightning signaled the coming rain.
Seven or eight stars were left in the sky.
And my clothes were damp from the day’s heat,
I lay in bed, fanning myself and stirring my tea
Its fragrance joined the mountain streams,
The perfume of each stimulating the other.
I listened to talk of the Lotus Sutra until dawn
But even a whole night’s discussion is not worth a good sleep by a pine window.
This poem was written by Lu Yanrang, a poet in the late Tang Dynasty. While much of our translation closely follows the literal, word for word language, we expanded the sixth line to try to give a little better sense of what was meant by tea fragrance that stirs the mountain streams. By the Tang dynasty, tea drinking had become very popular in Buddhist monasteries, and the monks participated in the aesthetic appreciation of various teas. Moreover, a Buddhist who achieves virtue is believed to have a “pure nose” which is capable of smelling the good scents of nature even from a great distance. We think that the poet was saying that the essence of the tea became one with the mountain streams and that he could smell and appreciate both as he lay on a bed fanning himself.
Chinese poets sometimes borrow concepts from the works of the past. The second couplet of this poem probably inspired a later poem written by Xin Qiji, which we have also translated. Xin’s poem also portrayed a landscape with the stars appearing in the distant sky until two or three rain drops fall in front of the mountain. Though both poems portrayed a tranquil environment, the second couplet of Lu’s poem emphasizes the unexpectedness of a summer rain — before the flashes of the lightning signaled the coming rain, there were still stars hanging in the sky.
The last couplet of the poem could be translated in two different ways — If we translate the word “藉“ as “think of”, this couplet would mean that the poet was so concentrated on listening to the discussion of the Lotus Sutra that he didn’t even think about going to sleep. “藉“ could also be interpreted as a homophonic pun of the word “及“, which means “come up with” or “be equal to”. We chose the second interpretation as it corresponds more closely to the relaxing and pleasant environment described in this poem.