Thursday, July 24, 2014


Don't Read Books!

Yang Wan-li (1127-1206), "Don't Read Books!", tr. Jonathan Chaves in Victor Mair, ed., The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), p. 254:
Don't read books!
Don't chant poems!
When you read books your eyeballs wither away,
    leaving the bare sockets.
When you chant poems your heart leaks out slowly
    with each word.
People say reading books is enjoyable.
People say chanting poems is fun.
But if your lips constantly make a sound
    like an insect chirping in autumn,
you will only turn into a haggard old man.
And even if you don't turn into a haggard old man,
it's annoying for others to have to hear you.

It's so much better
    to close your eyes, sit in your study,
    lower the curtains, sweep the floor,
    burn incense.
It's beautiful to listen to the wind,
    listen to the rain,
    take a walk when you feel energetic,
    and when you’re tired go to sleep.

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