Lake Pavilion (after Wang Wei)


Lake Pavilion

The boat carries the honored guest
so regally across the lake.
We look out over the railing and sip our wine.
Lotus blossoms, everywhere.

As is nearly always the case, I had more questions then answers when I first considered this adaptation, beginning with “what is happening here?” Yes, someone crosses a lake to meet a guest, they drink wine and see flowers in the water. But what does this signify? From my 21st century Texan viewpoint, the poem seems to be a piece about spiritual passage, and I colored my version with this in mind, using visual references to capitalize on and support the theme – crossing a body of water, looking outward, and of course, observing the lotus flowers, which hold great symbolism in Chinese and Buddhist culture.

The transliteration:

Small barge go to meet honoured guest
Leisurely lake on come
At railing face cup alcohol
On all sides lotus bloom


32 thoughts on “Lake Pavilion (after Wang Wei)

  1. Pingback: Leaving the Pavilion | Christine Plouvier, Novelist

  2. You have a talent for finding the best poems! Yours makes me wonder what the speaker will find out, while on this boat ride with the important guest. As usual, mine took a different turn, and became a leave-taking instead of a meeting. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am fascinated to watch your process of translation. What a challenge–to stay true to the writer’s intent, and to maintain the beauty of the original in a different language entirely. It seems to me require both a rigorous practice and a decided gift…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find the process relaxing – it requires concentration and demands that I enter the poem in a slightly different way than is my custom. The imagination is bridled by what I read into the poem, and I try not to vary wildly from that. But most of all, it’s fun. Pure delight!


  4. I think the key is in the symbolism behind the lotus blossoms:

    “The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is an ancient and polyvalent symbol in Asian culture. … Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. … The lotus flower is one of the Ashtamangala of Buddhism, representative of creation and cosmic renewal and ‘primordial purity’ … The padma is held to be a flower with a thousand petals and is therefore associated with the Sahasrara and indeed all the chakra. … In Buddhist symbolism the lotus is symbolic of purity of the body, speech, and mind as while rooted in the mud, its flowers blossom on long stalks as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. It is also symbolic of detachment as drops of water easily slide off its petals. … According to legend, Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk and everywhere he stepped, lotus flowers bloomed.”


  5. Pingback: Leaving the Pavilion | Irish Firebrands: Christine Plouvier, Novelist

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