Updated January 10, 2020

Ascending the Phoenix Terrace in Jinling

by Li Bai (701-762)

Here phoenix roamed four hundred years ago,
A sign of the enchantment that once thrived;
How empty now, where no more feathers flow,
A lonely river is all that’s survived.

Lush garden of the grand Wu Palace grounds
Is buried there beneath some nameless brush;
Where is the Jin court’s grace? There’s just those mounds
Of ancient ruins Time saw fit to crush.

The Three Mountains disappear in sky,
They rise, aloof, azure, whence egrets dive
To a lone river island, safe and dry;
Two Yangtze streams along it course and strive.

My daydream drifts to Chang’an, so far from here:
The Emperor whose fate is still unclear;
I’ve heard dark clouds obscure his brilliant sky;
I wish that to his aid a phoenix would fly.


Original Chinese









An ancient painting of Chinese poet Li Bai.



Yellow Crane Tower

by Cui Hao (704-754)

A Taoist immortal once left from this place,
While riding the back of a bright yellow crane.
As light as the air, his steps left not a trace;
Just Yellow Crane Tower was left to remain.

The yellow crane gone now has never returned;
A thousand years flown by without any wings.
How listlessly clouds for its company yearned—
A gift that is hoped for, yet sky never brings.

The sunshine illumines all the trees to the north
And lights up the River Han’s crystalline face.
From verdant grass, fragrance so sweetly pours forth
As parrots on river-bound isles squeeze for space.

Late shadows below stretch out long, scale the tower;
I’ve no yellow crane I can mount at this hour;
My home? which direction? O, I do not know,
O, misty long river, I’ve so far to go!


Original Chinese









“Yellow Crane Tower” by anonymous, circa Ming Dynasty.



Translations by Evan Mantyk and Chunlin Li. Evan Mantyk is a poet and English teacher living in New York. Chunlin Li is a professor at Fei Tian College in New York.

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2 Responses

  1. Li "Web Crease" Du

    No Phoenix

    No phoenix frolicked on the Terrace at Jinling,
    when there Li Bai had been exiled from Chang’an.
    Now in the southern capital out east, Nanjing,
    where Sun’s bright rays, were raised to peace out west, Xi’an,
    Wu Palace is replaced by splendid, built-up sites,
    if not as gorgeous as the towers of Hong Kong,
    still beautiful to see, so scintillating, bright;
    although I’ve heard dark clouds obscure their brilliant skies.
    My mind drifts out to space. Once T’ang was bathed in light.
    Here wild geese above the climbing buildings fly,
    as yellow cranes are busy flapping metal wings.
    One thousand years the aimless clouds go by. Good bye.


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