第 一 講
About the author: Professor Yeh Chia-ying was born in Beijing, China. She graduated from the Department of Chinese Literature of Furen University in Beijing. In 1948 she moved to Taiwan, and at present she lives in Vancouver, Canada, where she is a well-known poet and scholar in the field of Classical Chinese Literature.
She has taught in Taiwan at Zhanghua Girls High School, the Second Girls High School of Taipei, Furen University, Danjiang University, and National Taiwan University. She has been a Visiting Professor at Michigan State University and Harvard University in the U.S., and a Professor of the University of British Columbia in Canada. She has also lectured or been a visiting professor at Beijing University, Beijing Normal University, Nanjing University, Nanjing Normal University, Fudan University and Huadong Normal University in Shanghai, Sichuan University in Chengdu, and others.
She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Director of the Classical Chinese Culture Research Institute of Nankai University, Tianjin, China.
Editor's Preface: When Professor Yeh Chia-ying visited Gold Buddha Monastery in Canada, the Venerable Master Hua invited her to speak on Chinese poetry, and thus this lecture series began. The lecture tapes were transcribed by Tu Xiaoli, An Yi, and Yang Aidi, who were three of her students in 1979 at the Classical Chinese Culture Research Institute of Nankai University in Tianjin, China.
In May of 1998, Professor Yeh delivered another lecture series on Tu Fu's poetry. The tapes of these lectures are currently being prepared for publication as well.
I have this opportunity of meeting all of you today and enjoying together with you the poetry of Tao Yuanming, a famous poet from the Eastern Jin Dynasty. There were special conditions that have led up to this—a kind of coincidence. Last week I happened to come to Gold Buddha Monastery, and the Venerable Master Hua suddenly asked me to say something about Chinese poetry. At that time, I was not prepared at all, and I wondered what kind of poetry would be most suitable to discuss here.
Generally speaking, Buddhism is a religion that emphasizes the inner mind. A Sutra says, “All living beings should master their minds.” That is to say, all living beings should control and watch over their own minds. Since I remembered this teaching in Buddhism, when Venerable Master asked me to speak on poetry, I recalled that the Chinese poet Tao Yuanming had written a poem on the human mind. This is the poem I discussed last time, which goes: “Why are you so calm? When the mind is detached, the surroundings are naturally peaceful.” Why are you not affected by worldly disturbances? Because your mind is far away from worldly annoyances, and so, very naturally, you feel that the place you live is very tranquil.
I recall a Chan story about two monks who were arguing outside the monastery. You know how there are often banners hung up in front of Buddhist temples, long flags that say something like, “Amitabha Buddha”? It was windy that evening, and the flags were fluttering in the wind. Thus, one monk said, “The wind is moving.” The other one said, “The flag is moving.” While the two monks were debating back and forth, the Great Master Huineng, who later became the Sixth Patriarch, passed by and overheard their argument. The Great Master remarked, “It is not the wind that moves, nor the flags. Kind sirs, it is your minds that are moving.” He said, “Your minds have been confused and moved by outside phenomena.” So, I talked about Tao Yuanming's poem which said, “When the mind is detached, the surroundings are naturally peaceful.”
Tao Yuanming was born in a period of Chinese history that was full of wars, darkness, and disasters. The poet strove all his life to maintain an inner peace during those difficult times, and eventually he was successful. That's why I discussed this poem of Tao Yuanming last week. Because of these conditions, Venerable Master Hua asked me to lecture regularly on Chinese poetry. I figured that since we had started with Tao Yuanming, we might as well continue with his “Drinking” poems.
Before we go on, I recall that at the end of my last speech, Venerable Master Hua commented that although Tao Yuanming has been dead for over a thousand years, I spoke about him in such a vivid way it was as if he were still alive. In fact, it is not my discussion of his poems that makes you feel that way. Early in the Southern Song Dynasty, there was a famous Chinese poet named Xin Qiji, also known as Jiaxuan. He had both literary and military talents. He could also lead troops in battle.
He wrote a poem about Tao Yuanming. Here are few lines of that poem. Due to the limited time and board space, I cannot write out the whole poem; I will only write these few lines: “I only got to know Yuanming in my old age. He looks pretty much like in my dreams.” There are two lines later in the poem: “You should not think that this man is dead; even now, he is still full of vitality.”
Xin Qiji is saying that he did not really know Tao Yuanming until he was old. But Tao Yuanming lived during the Jin Dynasty [317-419 A.D.] and Xin Qiji lived in the Song Dynasty [1127-1278 A.D.]; there were several dynasties in between. How could he have known Tao Yuanming?
Later, he said: “He looks pretty much like in my dreams.” His meaning was, “Tao Yuanming may not have looked exactly the way he appeared in my dream, but he didn't look that different.” So the line says, “pretty much like.”
Then the poem says, “You should not think that this man is dead.” We, the readers of Tao Yuanming's poems in later generations, should believe that this man--the elder Mr. Tao Yuanming—is not dead. It seems that this elder gentleman is not dead. “Even now, he is still full of vitality.” Even now--in the time of Xin Qiji—he looks full of energy. This “energy” is not that of an explosive temper, but indicates an appearance of great vitality. Not only did Xin Qiji of the Southern Song Dynasty sense Tao Yuanming's vitality, but even now as we talk about his poems in 1984, your teacher, Venerable Master Hua, can also sense Tao Yuanming's energetic power!
My lectures have not brought him to life, for his spirit never died in the first place. For hundreds of years, he has had the power to touch people's hearts. Sometimes people may be alive, eating and sleeping, but we say they are walking corpses. They have no purpose to live for when they are alive, how much the less after they die. But hundreds and thousands of years after Tao Yuanming's death, when people read his poems, they feel as if he is still alive. That is because when Tao Yuanming was living in this world, he always presented his true self to the world: his emotions, his thoughts, and his life. Thus we can sense the sincerity of his sentiments, ideas, and spirit.
The poem I discussed last time was one of Tao Yuanming's “Drinking” poems. He has a series of twenty poems entitled “Drinking,” and that was only one of them. If we really want to understand Tao Yuanming and his “Drinking” poems, studying one poem is not enough. So I will explain go on to all twenty.
Why did Tao Yuanming compose these twenty “Drinking” poems? What was his real aim? Before we get into his poems, we should briefly introduce the background of his time and his lifestyle.
To be continued