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“The Heaven Questions”

Ch’u Yuan
Ch’u Yuan

“The Heaven Questions”

In the beginning of old,

all is yet formless, no up or down,

Light is still dim,

dark is a blur; the only image is a whir.

When bright gets brighter,

and dark gets darker, the yin couples with the yang,

Then is the round pattern manifold.

What an achievement that was!

Around turn the cords on the pivot of Heaven.

Eight Pillars are the buttresses;

Spread out are the nine fields of Heaven

with their many angles and edges.

The heavens mesh with the twelve Earth Branches,

the sun and moon bond, and the stars line up.

One leaves from Bright Valley and rests at Shroud Shore

on its journey from bright to dark,

While the Orb of Night flourishes after death

and harbors a rabbit in its gut.

Nu Qu got nine sons without a husband.

Old Qiang is there, and the benevolent nimbus.

Dark as it closes, bright when it opens,

before the Horn rises the Great Light is hidden.

— from “The Heaven Questions” by Ch’u Yuan (trans. Stephen Field)

Ch’u Yuan (329–299 BC) was a Chinese poet who contributed a number of works to the famous Chinese anthology Ch’u Tz’u, (also known as “Songs of the South” or “Songs of Chu”). A courtier of King Huai of Chu (328–288 BC), Ch’u was exiled due to the maneuvering from jealous rivals for the king’s favors. In exile he collected legends and folk odes and from these produced one of the first substantial bodies of poetry in Chinese literary history. Perhaps his most famous poetic work, his “Heavenly Questions” are a series of 170 queries put into verse about the nature of the universe.

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Ch’u Yuan
Ch’u Yuan

“The Heaven Questions”

In the beginning of old,

all is yet formless, no up or down,

Light is still dim,

dark is a blur; the only image is a whir.

When bright gets brighter,

and dark gets darker, the yin couples with the yang,

Then is the round pattern manifold.

What an achievement that was!

Around turn the cords on the pivot of Heaven.

Eight Pillars are the buttresses;

Spread out are the nine fields of Heaven

with their many angles and edges.

The heavens mesh with the twelve Earth Branches,

the sun and moon bond, and the stars line up.

One leaves from Bright Valley and rests at Shroud Shore

on its journey from bright to dark,

While the Orb of Night flourishes after death

and harbors a rabbit in its gut.

Nu Qu got nine sons without a husband.

Old Qiang is there, and the benevolent nimbus.

Dark as it closes, bright when it opens,

before the Horn rises the Great Light is hidden.

— from “The Heaven Questions” by Ch’u Yuan (trans. Stephen Field)

Ch’u Yuan (329–299 BC) was a Chinese poet who contributed a number of works to the famous Chinese anthology Ch’u Tz’u, (also known as “Songs of the South” or “Songs of Chu”). A courtier of King Huai of Chu (328–288 BC), Ch’u was exiled due to the maneuvering from jealous rivals for the king’s favors. In exile he collected legends and folk odes and from these produced one of the first substantial bodies of poetry in Chinese literary history. Perhaps his most famous poetic work, his “Heavenly Questions” are a series of 170 queries put into verse about the nature of the universe.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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