Yang Jian

Wang Ping

Yang Jian: A Short Introduction

Yang Jian, born in 1967, is a Buddhist monk who lives in rural China, and whose poetry I first came across during a trip to China a few years ago. In “A Few Thoughts after Reading Poems by Yang Jian,” an essay on Yang Jian’s work which has yet to appear in print in English, the Chinese critic Yan Li men­tions that although a rural figure Yang Jian has hardly spent his life in isolation, but has traveled to many places in China, including Xin Jiang, whose population is 99 percent Muslim.

            This realization of diversity in human thought and action certainly shows up in Yan Li’s subsequent observation that Yang Jian’s strength as a poet lies in “his philosophical reasoning and broad view of life, which allow him better to unmask the flaws in human nature.” Moreover, “the unity between his poems and his simple way of life is where the true power of Yang Jian lies. Working in the shadow of an overpowering feudal Chinese culture, he has resisted the temp­tation to live in a divided, schizophrenic way. Instead, Yang Jian is both within and independent of his surrounding influences. Though his work is “rich in tra­ditional Chinese influences. . . one can also feel his sense of humor, rare in Chi­nese poetry, and [his own] broad value system that has allowed [this humor] to develop.”

            Other translated poems of Yang Jian that Alex Lemon and I have done ap­pear in New American Writing.—St. Paul, Minnesota, August 1, 2008

 

 


Yang Jian

Old House

As if our life

Were made of spring rain

Of faint willows

And blue stones under our feet

 

And our thoughts

Are tiles under the moon

Simple, limitless

Because of the supporting beams

 

We talk about the old house

Like an aged man gone for several decades

The spirit of an ancient pine

The flex of an old bridge

 

(Translated from the Chinese by Alex Lemon and Wang Ping)

  

Yang Jian

Song of Little Village

                                    I.

 

The village god on the little river

Is covered with dust

A man with bad hearing and memory

Looks up with fatigue

He’s not gazing at the stars

Just stretching his aching neck

As for the river

He only scoops its water

For his vegetable fields

 

                                    II.

 

An old woman

Like a small road in the winter dusk

Ancient

But the traces of her family

Still cling to her smart, handsome face

She walks over

Making no sound

Behind her

The broken roof of my country

(Translated from the Chinese by Alex Lemon and Wang Ping)

 

 

Yang Jian

On the Day of Clear and Bright

 

Uncle and nephew, following each other

Walking in the fields of rape blossom

Birds chirp like threads pulled from a heart

The paper money burns too fast

They back up a few steps

 

On their way home

They clean the mud off their shoes with a shovel

The villagers watch from a distance

“Whose sons are those

Who are back to visit the graves?”

(Translated from the Chinese by Alex Lemon and Wang Ping)

 

Yang Jian

The Family in the Old House

 

A child is playing on the floor

He sees everything as a toy

It is dusk

And he’s still playing with the morning stick

 

His mother is a barber

His father unloads rocks on highways

The couple’s faces

Are gray from too much desire

 

His grandpa stares out of the window

In the skywell of the old house

How much sorrow

Is carried in the drizzle

(Translated from the Chinese by Alex Lemon and Wang Ping)

Yang Jian

A Passing Guest

 

I’m just resting on the stone bench

Just watching the river

I’m a passing guest

I won’t dirty up the place

 

The canal is dry

Beneath the gray pier

I am dying

In order to live

 

Dusk gives me peace

Love brings me terror

Makes me indulge, sink

But I’m only a passing guest

 

I’m just resting on the stone bench

Just watching the river

I’m a passing guest

I won’t dirty up the place before I leave

(Translated from the Chinese by Alex Lemon and Wang Ping)

 

Yang Jian

Happiness

 

To study all my life

Under the blue sky, a mother with her son

Making happiness for others

 

To understand with my life

Night along the canal

Silence in the fir woods

(Translated from the Chinese by Alex Lemon and Wang Ping)

 

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