Wang Wei: Send Off Qiwu Qian: Returning Home After Failing an Imperial Examination

Send Off Qiwu Qian: Returning Home After Failing an Imperial Examination

送 綦 毋 潜 落 第 还 乡
圣 代 无 隐 者
英 灵 尽 来 归。
遂 令 东 山 客
不 得 顾 采 薇。
既 至 金 门 远
孰 云 吾 道 非?
江 淮 度 寒 食
京 洛 缝 春 衣。
置 酒 临 长 道
同 心 与 我 违。
行 当 浮 桂 棹
未 几 拂 荆 扉。
远 树 带 行 客
孤 城 当 落 晖。
吾 谋 适 不 用
勿 谓 知 音 稀!


Song Qi Wu Qian Luo Di Huan Xiang

Sheng dai qu yin zhe
Ying ling jin lai gui.
Sui ling dong shan ke
Bu de gu cai wei.

Ji zhi jin men yuan
Shu yun wu dao fei?
Jiang huai du han shi
Jing luo feng chun yi.

Zhi jiu lin chang dao
Tong xin you wo wei.
Xing dang fu gui zhao
Wei ji fu jing fei.

Yuan shu dai xing ke
Gu cheng dang luo hui.
Wu mou shi bu yong
Wu wei zhi yin xi !


Send Off Qiwu Qian: Returning Home After Failing an Imperial Examination

To a follower of the doctrine, the secrets of the Golden Ages are not concealed
During these times, the spirits of the departed brave all want to return.
Eastern mountain travelers with a successful official title
Are not able to take of, or pick, the common vetch.

Already Jinmen is very far away
Whose to say our path is the wrong one?
Cold food days in the Changjiang-Huaihe Valley
In Luoyang, it is time to sew spring time clothes.

So purchase some wine to help face the long road ahead
Give me leave with a united and whole, heart and mind.
Travel includes both floating cassia flowers and your boat
Soon after you can touch your bramble gate.

Distant trees like a beacon for travelers
Lonely, become equal in the disappearing light.
We do not need to seek comfort
Stay mute when we hear and know the rare voice.



Common vetch: A legume, considered a weed by many.  Used as livestock fodder.  Metaphor for a simple and materially-poor life.

Cold Food Days: The days that immediately precede the Qing Ming observations in early April.  No cooked meals are prepared to honor and respect the dearly departed.

Changjiang-Huaihe valley: The Huai River is a major river running west to east in between the Changjiang and the HuangHe (Yellow River).

Luoyang: Sometime ancient capital city east of the main capital city of Chang’an.

Cassia flowers: Also known as the Golden Rain tree, it is native to southeast Asia and is the national tree of Thailand.

Bramble gate: A metaphor for a dwelling and life of simplicity and non-materialistic living.



The lines near the end of poem: describing the trees as beacons and equal in the disappearing light is something only visual artists of Wang Wei’s awareness and ability can do.  He says as much in an essay called “Formulas For Landscape” inside the book, The Chinese Theory of Art by Lin Yutang (pg. 39).

My take on “the rare voice” is Wang’s honoring the artistic, and maybe even spiritual, intuition and inspiration that I believe he is so attuned to.

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