Chia Yi
  • Chia Yi

Disaster is to fortune as strands of a single rope.

Fate is past understanding — who comprehends its bounds?

Force water and it spurts, force an arrow and it goes far:

All things are propelled in circles, undulating and revolving:

Clouds rise and rain falls, tangled in contingent alternation.

On the Great Potter’s wheel creatures are shaped in all their infinite variety.

Heaven cannot be predicted, the Way cannot be foretold,

Late or early, it is predetermined: who knows when his time will be?

Consider then:

Heaven and Earth are a crucible, the Creator is the smith,

Yin and yang are the charcoal, living creatures are the bronze:

Combining, scattering, waning, waxing – where is any pattern?

A thousand changes, myriad transformations with never any end.

— from “Rhymeprose on an Owl,” by Chia Yi

Chia Yi (201–169 BC) was a Chinese poet who wrote during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) and served as a close confidant of the emperor until his advocacy of Confucian philosophy led to his being forced out of the palace by other court officials. Because his situation was similar to that of Ch’u Yuan (329–299 BC), Chia Yi is often compared to the poet of the previous century, although his exile ended when he was called back to tutor the emperor’s son. He is best known for his “fu” (“rhymeprose”), a form that mixes poetry and prose characterized by great length and elaboration.


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