Dark Field Microscopy
December 17, 2012 5:48 AM   Subscribe

  • I did not know the incense storing temple,
  • I walked a few miles into the clouded peaks.
  • No man on the path between the ancient trees,
  • A bell rang somewhere deep among the hills.
  • A spring sounded choked, running down steep rocks,
  • The green pines chilled the sunlight's coloured rays.
  • Come dusk, at the bend of a deserted pool,
  • Through meditation I controlled passion's dragon.
Stopping at Incense Storing Temple, Wang Wei (699-759)
posted by lemuring (13 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
What a beautiful, amazing post. Thank you.

This is a long way from my Play-Doh endoplasmic reticulum science project.

What miracles we have wrought, that we are able to see these workings of life.
posted by Miko at 5:53 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a beautiful poem and and a nice post. But scholars don't agree with the idea that the poem is about microbiology.

Some think that In front of the vast and mysterious lake at dusk, Wang Wei is free from worldly thoughts. Naturally, he yearns to rid himself of all selfish desires and other secular thoughts through tranquil meditation. Or maybe it's an evocation of the Buddha spirit. Or maybe it has something to do with the relationship between the poet and his natural surroundings.

There aren't enough posts on Metafilter about ancient Chinese poetry. So thanks for that.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:36 AM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would never have guessed that anyone would think the poem was about molecular biology. I just thought it was an especially imaginative, art-y post.
posted by Miko at 6:41 AM on December 17, 2012

I think twoleftfeet was being sarcastic :) That said, I'd like to think that a contemporary version of Wang Wei would have quite a bit to say about the birds, trees, and mountains of the microscopic world.
posted by lemuring at 6:51 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, and also I didn't need to drink that 2nd cider. Forgive me my obtuse-ness.
posted by Miko at 6:54 AM on December 17, 2012

I think twoleftfeet was being sarcastic

Not really. I think another poem by Wang Wei, Peach Blossom Journey, describes an absorption into a greater whole. So maybe there's a bigness to go with the smallness.

Early Chinese poetry has a fairly thick interpretive layer.

Nice post though.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:00 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is what every Metafilter post should be like.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2012

Also Amoebas are the bad guys right?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:12 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to expand a little, Wang Wei was a master of jueju, which was a highly constrained poetic form (like a haiku or a limerick), involving a very regular pattern of syllables. He was also a master painter, quite accomplished in the symbolism of nature, typical of High Tang poetry. Wang Wei was a Buddhist, and at its best, his poetry expresses a profound emptiness
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2012

"Best YouTube comment" isn't a very high bar but comment 6 on the the incense storing temple link hit me as being right in there with the "one hand clapping" business. "What is it that makes the amoeba to be alive?"
posted by jfuller at 7:44 AM on December 17, 2012

[this is good]
posted by milov at 8:43 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Great choice of poem.
posted by ersatz at 11:54 AM on December 18, 2012

posted by flyblackbox at 10:32 PM on December 21, 2012

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