Yellow Crane Terrace

by Li Po

English version by Kenneth Hope
Original Language Chinese

Here he is, my good old friend!
He's at Yellow Crane Terrace on a western departure.
And--we're saying goodbye, goodbye.
He's in a cloud of third-month blossoms.
He's off downstream to Yang-chou.
That shadow there is his lonely sail.
Now there's nothing left of it.
All the blue is empty now.
All you can see is that long, long river.
It flows to the edge of the sky.

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Blossoms, as I've said elsewhere, are a common reference in Chinese and Japanese poetry to the natural opening of enlightenment that occurs after the hard winter of spiritual practice. Li Po's friend is "in a cloud of third-month blossoms" -- that is, enlightenment that is full, mature, no longer tenuous.

Li Po watches his friend's "lonely sail" until there is nothing left of it and "all the blue is empty now." The more he tries to hold the vision of his friend, the more his friend disappears into blissful Nirvana until only the empty sky, pure mind, is observed.

The "long, long river," the flow of life (or, if you prefer, the flow of life energy) empties itself into the open sky of unlimited awareness.

Yellow Crane Terrace