Climbing the Xiling Pagoda in Yangzhou, Autumn



Climbing the Xiling Pagoda1 in Yangzhou, Autumn2

The pagoda points into blue sky,
and I climb on its top, looking at distant landscape.
The top merges with the sky’s vigor
and towers above the clouds like a brilliant sign.

Clear is the horizon between things on the earth and sky,
and above the three layers of heaven arc beams brushed with color.
The lake3 water below shakes the shadow of the golden temple,
And the sun shines like a burning ball of fire.

Birds dart like arrows past the pagoda’s jade-bead curtains.
Its painted arch embraces the sunlight.
My eye follows the road winding into the distance
while my mind chases the departure of the sails.

An autumn dew washes white the leaves of phoenix and catalpa;
the frost paints all of the pomelos and oranges yellow.
Faintly I see the jade white hairs between Buddha’s brow─
a flash lighting up the world of confusion.

  • 1It was destroyed in fire in the Tang Dynasty.
  • 2The poem was composed by Li Po when he was 26 or 27 years old.
  • 3It refers to the Thin West Lake in Yangzhou.