题扬州禅智寺 (杜牧)

Title: The Temple of Zen Wisdom at Yangzhou
Author: Du Mu
▪  杜牧
Poetic Form: lǜshī 律诗

Apologies, individual character links no longer available for this poem...

1. (雨 + 过) + (一 + 蝉 + 噪)
    (rain + to pass) + (one + cicada + loud chirping)
    gloss: After the rain, a cicada is chirping loudly

2. 飘 + 萧 + 松 + 桂 + 秋
    to flutter + sad + pine + cassia + autumn
    gloss: The pine and cassia trees make their sad
    autumn rustling

3. (青 + 苔) + 满 + (阶 + 砌)
    (green + moss) + full + (steps + steps in layers)
    gloss: Green moss covers the steps

4. (白 + 鸟) + (故 + (迟 + 留))
    (white + bird) + (intentional + (tardy + remain))
    gloss: White birds intentionally linger

5. (暮 + 霭) + 生 + (深 + 树)
    (dusk + mist) + to produce + (deep + tree)
    gloss: Deep forests rise out of the dusky mist

6. (斜 + 阳) + 下 + (小 + 楼)
    (slanted + sun) + to descend + (small + building)
    gloss: Slanted rays of sun fall upon the/a small

7. 谁 + 知 + (竹 + 西 + 路)
    who + to know + (bamboo + west + road)
    gloss: Who knows/knew that West Bamboo Road

8. (歌 + 吹) + 是 + (扬 + 州)
    (song + to blow) + to be + (Yang + Zhou)
    gloss: The songs in the wind come from


The Temple of Zen Wisdom at Yangzhou
translation by Jessica Alexander ©

The rain passes leaving one cicada to his clamorous song and
The pine and cassia trees quiver with their sad autumn rustling.
Green moss conceals the layered steps while
White birds idly, purposefully linger.
From the dusky mist rise deep, dense woods and
The sun's oblique rays fall upon the small tower.
Who knew that to West Bamboo Road
Would blow the songs of busy Yangzhou?


In 837 CE, Du Mu’s younger brother was sent to the West Bamboo Temple (also known as the Temple of Zen Wisdom) in Yangzhou to recover from an illness.  Upon hearing the news, Du Mu immediately went to pay him a visit, though, as he had already exceeded his annual vacation, he was forced to quit his position to do so.  The poem, a meticulous play on contrasts, is clouded by the poet’s worries both for his brother’s health and for his own career prospects.
Lines 1 and 2 indicate to the reader that it is early autumn (‘autumn’, ‘cicada’, and ‘rustling leaves’).The poet is describing what he is seeing and hearing.  The noise of the cicadas contrasts with the peacefulness of the temple (noise in the silence, silence in the noise) and the movement of the rain contrasts with the stillness of the temple.
Lines 3 and 4 delve deeper into the tranquility of the temple.  Thick moss on the steps alludes to a lack of people, a point emphasized by the express presence of birds.  The poet also provides the reader with a select palette of green and white.  The absence of other colors and other living things narrows our focus to just these things, making the temple seem even emptier and quieter.
In lines 5 and 6 Du Mu uses the play of light and dark to maintain his focus on the peacefulness of the temple: gloomy trees in the mist, oblique light on the building.  In all, these contrasts serve to make the temple seem cool but not cold, secluded but not dark.
In lines 7 and 8, the poet suddenly breaks the stillness he has set up for the reader in the middle of this temple with the noises of Yangzhou.  He sets it up so that the singing and dancing is located outside the temple, in a sense outside himself.  The joyful boisterousness is separate from him; he, like the temple, is silence and seclusion.


Other Translations

Unable to find any current translations.  Please contact me if you know of one!