painting study – the poet…

the poet - sketch
the poet – sketch

Time to think about a new painting for my class – even though I won’t have time to complete it before the end of the course next week.
This idea came to me when a friend was describing a painting she had seen. The strong image in my head turned out to be very different from the actual painting and I decided that it would be an interesting project to try to make my image into reality.
This one is called “the poet” but is meant to be an imaginary portrait of Li Bai, one of the most – if not the most – famous Chinese poet. Perhaps he is looking too studious… Anyway, it is not an exercise in historical accuracy!

UPDATE: New poem from Tom perfectly captures the mood of the scene and even a bit of the flavour of Li Bai’s poetry!!

Walnut writing desk
rice-wine close at hand

I look down… wondering.
What name evokes “immortal”

yet completes the poet’s rhyme:
“moon’s reflection cold and white”?

(c) 2013 TJ Radcliffe

(cc) 2013 Hilary Farmer


Hai Zi, mystic poet – to face the sea…

and have flowers in spring...

From tomorrow on, be a happy man
Raise horses, chop wood, see the world.
From tomorrow on, care about food and vegetables
I will have a house, facing the sea, and flowers in spring.

From tomorrow on, write to all my family
Tell them of my happiness
This spark of joy, its message
I will let everyone know

Give every river, every mountain, a warm name

You too, stranger, I wish you the best
Wish you a brilliant future
Wish you everlasting love
Wish you happiness in this world

Me, I just want to face the sea, and have flowers in spring.

Hai Zi

海 子

从 明 天 起 , 做 一 个 幸 福 的 人
喂 马 , 劈 柴 , 周 游 世 界
从 明 天 起 , 关 心 粮 食 和 蔬 菜
我 有 一 所 房 子 , 面 朝 大 海 , 春 暖 花 开
从 明 天 起 , 和 每 一 个 亲 人 通 信
告 诉 他 们 我 的 幸 福
那 幸 福 的 闪 电 告 诉 我 的
我 将 告 诉 每 一 个 人
给 每 一 条 河 每 一 座 山 取 一 个 温 暖 的 名 字
陌 生 人 , 我 也 为 你 祝 福
愿 你 有 一 个 灿 烂 的 前 程
愿 你 有 情 人 终 成 眷 属
愿 你 在 尘 世 获 得 幸 福
我 只 愿 面 朝 大 海 , 春 暖 花 开

This is a very different style from my usual but I thought it suited this simple yet wistful poem. Haizi is a 20th century Chinese poet with a sad story…

Unfortunately, I don’t have the name of the translator/poet for this English version.

image (cc) 2010 Hilary Farmer

Dream and Poetry…

It’s all ordinary experience,
All ordinary images.
By chance they emerge in a dream,
Turning out infinite new patterns.

It’s all ordinary feelings,
All ordinary words.
By chance they encounter a poet,
Turning out infinite new verses.

Once intoxicated, one learns the strength of wine,
Once smitten, one learns the power of love:
You cannot write my poems
Just as I cannot dream your dreams.


Hu Shih (胡適) (trans. Kai-Yu Hsu)

ever studious..

Today’s doodle courtesy of my studious friend. He didn’t notice I was drawing him until I was almost finished… and yes! he’s practising writing Chinese!

I found the above poem recently and wanted to share it. The poet is Hu Shih (胡適) a 20th Century Chinese poet who pioneered the use of common language (as opposed to classical) in Chinese poetry and philosophy.

image (cc) 2010 Hilary Farmer

the cloudy river of the sky…

Li Bai drinking alone by moonlight
Li Bai drinking alone by moonlight

花間一壺酒。 A cup of wine, under the flowering trees;
獨酌無相親。 I drink alone, for no friend is near.
舉杯邀明月。 Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,
對影成三人。 For her, with my shadow, will make three people.
月既不解飲。 The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine;
影徒隨我身。 Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side.
暫伴月將影。 Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave
行樂須及春。 I must make merry before the Spring is spent.
我歌月徘徊。 To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams;
我舞影零亂。 In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.
醒時同交歡。 While we were sober, three shared the fun;
醉後各分散。 Now we are drunk, each goes their way.
永結無情遊。 May we long share our eternal friendship,
相期邈雲漢。 And meet at last on the Cloudy River of the sky.

poem Li Bai, translation Arthur Waley

image (cc) 2009 Hilary Farmer

seven cups of tea…

seven cups of tea
seven cups of tea

The Seven Cups of Tea’

The first cup caresses my dry lips and throat.
The second shatters the walls of my lonely sadness.
The third searches the dry rivulets of my soul to find the stories of five thousand scrolls.
With the fourth the pain of life’s grievances evaporates through my pores.
The fifth relaxes my muscles and bones become light.
With the sixth I find the path that leads to the immortal ancestors.
Oh the seventh cup! Better not take it! If I had it the only feeling
Is the fresh wind blowing through my wings,
As I make my way to Penglai.

Lu Tong, Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907)

Such a beautiful poem by Tang dynasty poet, Lu Tong! I have seen it on many tea websites and blogs with various translations but I have not found a name to credit with this particular lovely poetic version. You might want to know that Mount Penglai, mentioned in the last line is the mythical home of the immortals in the Eastern Sea.

As cranes are a symbol of immortality, they are flying away over the misty mountains to accompany that fortunate tea drinker on his way – should he drink that seventh cup!


一碗喉吻潤, 兩碗破孤悶

Lú Tóng 盧仝

Have a lovely long weekend – and I’m back Tuesday!

image (cc) 2009 Hilary Farmer

a spring ritual

willow twigs
willow twigs

When I was very young, one of our spring rituals was to go out and gather a few choice, newly budding tree branches. Usually we would select crabapple or maple or willow to bring into the house, place in a jar of water and watch the spring unfold at an accelerated rate compared to what seemed, to young eyes, an eternity of slowness evolving outside in the cool damp of March.

Because spring always holds the seed of autumn, I thought of this poem from Encounters with Cold Mountain on remembering the spring twigs. This is a lovely little book which contains modern versions, written by Peter Stambler, of ancient poems by a Tang dynasty (8-9th century) Chinese hermit poet. I find the touching words still fresh today. (Tomorrow I will definitely share something more upbeat!)

After dinner, I close my door

As if I could hand it to you, I break a willow branch;
Its leaves shake free and scatter downstream.

I keep my cottage in wife-lorn country;
You seal your rooms in lost-husband province.

Between us the sky arches like a rounded sea;
No ship, no traveler knows the opposite shore.

If you stand outdoors searching a mutual moon,
Do not count pairs of sparrows, flying wing by wing.

image (cc) 2009 Hilary Farmer

Wang Wei’s winter plum blossom

Winter plum blossom 1
Winter plum blossom 1

A friend who is studying Chinese literature suggested this favourite  by Wang Wei as the starting point for me to draw an image. Here it is with the translation he sent with it below.


You, who came from my hometown,
can surely tell me hometown news.
The day you left, before the silk-curtained window,
Had the plum opened a winter blossom?

At first, I thought that perhaps a scene representing a last cup of tea with a friend before setting out on the travels would give some feeling of nostalgia for those left behind.Then I decided to try another perhaps more poignant view which could represent the sadness of the one left behind and lost love.Here are both. I would love to know which you prefer!

Images (cc) 2009 Hilary Farmer

Winter plum blossom 2
Winter plum blossom 2