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Friday, June 15, 2012

Wishing Upon A Boat


Simple pleasures of an uncomplicated life.  Let not the rat races of the world come knocking here into this paradise.

Semporna, a tiny town in East Malaysia on the northern side of the Island of Borneo

小舟划水伴龍影, Rowing a little boat by the dragon’s shadow,
龍影閃罩龍宮苑. The dragon’s shadow briefly crosses the Dragon Palace garden.
宮苑為世人為天, If the Palace Garden is Earth, then man must be Heaven,
天為心靜從何怨. Heaven is the bliss of the heart, whence resentment comes from?

Thursday, June 14, 2012


18 June 2012...


The theme of the above Chinese poem was inspired when I first saw the picture. However, during my time spent in Balboa Park in this past week, I was mulling over it. The theme may be okay but the imagery was not appropriate to the picture. The movement was too fast implied by the "dragon's shadow". At the same time, the poem does not quite rhyme. I was toying with a pattern not found in Chinese. I was making the end of the previous line into the starting of the next line. It was fun and whimsical but not really good. As I was strolling through the sunny day in the park, my mind was relentless with me until I have come up with something satisfactory. At the same time, I thought it would be a good idea to let you all have a glimpse into my thought process is.


There were a number of lines, I first came up to make the poem rhyme.


划舟破水隨龍影 Rowing the boat, breaking the water, following the dragon's shadow. However, there are two things that are not quite right. First of all, not everyone at the first glance will know that the dragon's shadow refers to the longish shadow of the boat in the photo. "Breaking the water/waves" suggests faster movement than in the photo. Also one does not see any wave around the boat except the hint of ripples caused by the oar and those in further distance from the boat.


After removing the dragon's shadow, another line rose up as, 划舟破水兩邊分. This is line good except that it does not reflect the mood in the photo well. In the third line, I wanted to convey that if the imagery world of the ocean is a human world, and that we are so lucky to behave like gods in peering down to their world, we should have no worries at all. In another words, it is just the perspective in how we should percieve to avoid sorrows. This is the theme that I wanted to convey. I was trying out different phrases such as 船上童子, (Boy on the boat), 海族 (denizens of the ocean), 魚族 (clans of fish, fish denizens). However, this is too direct and explicit. Chinese like to be oblique in their arts. At the same time, keeping in mind the constraints of the rhyming structure. In the end, I came up with the following.


划舟渡眾水清深, Rowing the boat, ferrying across clear waters of the deep,
海靜無風聽漣音. Calm is the ocean, I hear ripples sound.
船下人間面上仙, If those under the boat are from the mortal world, then all above are immortals,
懮愁漂來誰之心. Should sorrow come drifting by, to whom does it belong to?


I like the phrase 渡眾, "ferrying the masses". It can be literal as in the photo ferrying his siblings or can be figurative as in salvation of the masses in Buddhist terminology. I wanted to use another Buddhist term, 苦海, "the sea of bitterness" but this ill-fits the photo and mood.

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