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nguu lang

Châu Hải Đường (周海棠) is the pen-name of translator and calligrapher Lê Tiến Đạt ( 黎進達), courtesy name (字 , tự) Minh Thành (明成). He is a native of Vĩnh Bảo district (永寶縣 , Vĩnh Bảo huyện) located in Hải Phòng (海防), northern Vietnam. His home village is located close to the birthplace of Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm (阮秉謙 , 1491-1585), a famous poet of both classical Chinese and Vietnamese poetry. As a child, Châu Hải Đường studied classical Chinese under his grandfather, after which he continued to study both classical Chinese and Mandarin. He has translated several books from Mandarin into Vietnamese, including The Ugly Chinaman (醜陋的中國人 , Xú lậu đích Trung Quốc nhân) by Bo-yang (柏楊 , Bá Dương) and The Despicable Sage: T’sao T’sao (卑鄙的聖人:曹操 , Ti bỉ đích thánh nhân: Tào Tháo) by Wang Hsiao-lei (王曉磊 , Vương Hiểu Lỗi) . The Vietnamese titles of his translations are, respectively, Khoe Bàn Chân Nhỏ  (誇盘蹎㳶) and Tào Tháo: Thánh nhân đê tiện (曹操: 聖人低賤). Renowned for his calligraphy, he also teaches Chinese calligraphy and classical Chinese at the Nhân Mỹ school of calligraphy (仁美學堂 , Nhân Mỹ học đường) in Hà Nội (河內), the capital city of Vietnam.

In addition to practicing calligraphy and working as a translator, he also writes his own poetry in a variety of classical Chinese and traditional Vietnamese forms. The following poem was writing on the Chi-hs’i festival, or Double Seventh festival (七夕 , Thất Tịch), a festival celebrated across China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. The festival, which is a romantic occasion similar to modern-day Valentine’s Day, is traditionally associated with the story of the Herd-boy and Weaver-girl, two lovers who are separated on opposite sides of the Milky Way. Each year they meet only once, and shed tears together which fall to earth in the form of the rain that usually falls during this season. Interestingly, there are two stars associated with these lovers that in fact do cross paths only once a year around this time.

七夕無雨偶作

織女牛郎事有無
世間聽說正模糊
幾經七夕無風雨
豈是年衰淚已枯

Thất tịch vô vũ ngẫu tác

Chức Nữ, Ngưu Lang sự hữu vô?
Thế gian thính thuyết chính mô hồ.
Kỷ kinh Thất tịch vô phong vũ;
Khải thị niên suy lệ dĩ khô?

Improvised on a rainless Double Seventh Festival

The Herd-Boy and Weaver-Girl, is this story true or false?
Hearsay of the world is truly vague
How often has the Double-seventh festival passed without wind or rain
Is it that in old age their tears have dried?

Notes:

-The author has also translated this poem into Vietnamese:

Chức Nữ, Ngưu Lang chuyện có không?
Nhân gian nghe nói những mông lung.
Mấy phen Thất tịch không mưa gió;
Há bởi già nua lệ cạn dòng?

da du cung

This page, according to description given on Facebook, is a “personal blog”. The significance of this “personal” adjective  is amorphous. I have not posted  much personal information on this blog in the past, and I do not intend to do so in the future. Yet, at the same time, I have never shrugged from posting my personal poetry, through which, according to a traditional Oriental view of poetry’s significance, an astute reader can capture and understand the essence of my character, my ambitions, my strengths and flaws, my very “person”. Yet, I have never viewed myself as a “poet” in the Western sense of an eccentric caricature with crazed eyes and wild hair, prone to flights of fancy and Bohemian lifestyles. The great poets of the Far East were largely occupied with far more serious affairs; they were high officials, reclusive scholars, battle-hardened generals. Poetry was turned to as a medium through which they could give vent to the myriad of worries and cares weighing down on their hearts in a manner both refined and becoming of their masculine bearing. Verse was no frivolous past-time for idle dreamers; it was through the immortality of the written word that their names and characters would be known and judged by future generations. With fear and trembling, I meditate upon volumes of useless words uttered in haste and poor judgement, meaningless rhymes conceived in mediocrity and ignorance. I hope only that history will prove forgiving and spare future readers the occasion of laughing at my feeble pretensions to cultivation and erudition. For the similarly obscure Confucian of a future generation, sufficient to judge my person and know my heart will be the few scattered poems of mixed quality which I have hitherto presented. Disenchanted and disoriented by crude Modernity, with which my consciousness has been unwillingly and hopelessly contaminated, I have sought only to live according to the Way of my forefathers. Let then the understanding souls of both Present and Future pass judgement accordingly.

This blog began as medium through which I solely intended to present the classical Chinese poetry of Vietnamese authors. Since then, the scope of this blog has expanded to including various works of prose of historical importance or simply of my own liking. Yet, including even those works from the early 20th century and my own classical Chinese poetry, I have hitherto been silent on my Vietnamese modernity and post-modernity. Simply put, this blog is outdated and severely limited in its scope and contemporary significance. This blog now has an expanded and international readership; my translations have been printed in weekly newspapers distributed widely in the Southern California region; I have made appearances on various Vietnamese television networks in Texas and California. Pushed rather unknowingly and unexpectedly into the public sphere, I now feel compelled to present my countrymen with works of high quality. This has several implications – first, I will be expanding my posts to include subjects and works relevant to Vietnamese modernism and post-modernism. The revised purpose of this blog is to promote Vietnamese culture in all its myriad time periods and manifestations. Works written in Vietnamese will be translated and annotated in English. Relevant works written in English will be translated and posted in Vietnamese. However, of the frequency of such posts I cannot be sure. I intend to move onto working on publishing printed works alongside online writings which I will continue to make available. Rest assured, translations of classical Chinese works, both verse and prose, will continue on a regular basis – I have collected the classical Chinese poems of a living Vietnamese scholar and will translate and post them in the near future. I hope that the readership will have patience with the rather arbitrary and obscure nature of this blog’s posts – a trilingual blog is a task both to read and to maintain. However, I have a good feeling about this new direction and have high hopes for the projects with which I am presently occupied.

Stay tuned!

Notes:

– The illustration is calligraphy of one of my poems, which I wrote previously this year. The calligrapher, who in this work has signed his pen-name as Hòai Chân (懷真) lives in Vietnam.

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