So Far Away
Your wife dies, your mother dies, you feel so, so alone in the world. And so, you’ve got to get away from the insincere well-wishers, the never-ending condolences, and what is worse, the internal thoughts that nag at you and never go away. Away, for Wang Wei, was hidden away in a bamboo grove on his Lantian estate, south of Chang’an, deep within the beautiful Zhongnan Mountains on a moonlit night.
In a Bamboo Grove
Sitting alone in a bamboo grove
Plucking my Qin, hearing it whine
Deep in the forest, no one knows that
High above, the moon shines down
Dú zuò yōu huáng li,
tánqín fù chángxiào.
Shēn lín rén bùzhī,
míng yuè lái xiāng zhào.
Note. The ancient Chinese Qin (qín, 琴) is a stringed instrument, like a zither. The traditional Chinese Qin has a high resonance in what can be called an echoing sound.
Wang Wei was an accomplished painter, musician, and poet, as well as politician, of the Middle Tang Dynasty. This poem dates to circa 749-750.
When a loved one dies, some people will demonstrate the pain felt from their loss by wailing loudly. Others cry uncontrollably. But in true Buddhist teachings, which Wang Wei followed, the revered reaction is to withhold your tears, to honor loved ones with silent thoughts.
The reference to a Bamboo Grove calls to mind the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, scholars and poets of the late Han dynasty and early Three Kingdoms Period (200 – 280 AD) who wished for a little peace in world gone crazy.
If I, the author of this blog, might be permitted a personal note, I would suggest the lonely listen to a little Carole King — So Far Away. Follow this with James Taylor and You’ve Got a Friend. Or simply go for a walk in the woods with your best two friends, Desi and Lucy (two joyful rescue dogs).