Here Four Mountains Circled Round

Plans beginning to form, I set out,
walking-stick in hand, hiking alone

through gorges and across streams,
into mountains and over ridgelines,

crossing summits without resting,
tracing creeks back without pause.

Combed by wind and rinsed by rain,
or stepping into dew among the stars,

I sifted through our shallow thoughts
and left their tight compass behind.

Without shell or stalk for divination,
I picked out the fine and wondrous,

cut thornwood staffs and blazed trails
in my search for boulders and cliffs.

Here, four mountains circled round,
a pair of streams winding through,

I soon had a library
facing south ridges

and a teaching hall
against north slopes

a hall for meditation
among sheer peaks

and huts for monks
along deep streams.

Looking into these towering forests hundreds of years old,
I inhabit the savory fragrance of ten thousand passing ages,

and turning to the fresh springs of all boundless antiquity,
treasure the inexhaustible clarity of their glistening liquid.

Leaving behind the elegant towers that stand outside cities
and the human enterprise bustling inside every village wall,

I delight here in origin’s weave, embrace uncarved simplicity,
heaven and earth mingling sweet dew in these fields of Way.

Hsieh Ling-yun (385-433), trans. David Hinton