Poems Written About Travel as Sleep, Daoqian (1043-1114)

In ten years’ travels, each place is home briefly. San Francisco, Beijing, Tokyo, New York, Taipei, Hong Kong, Kyoto. Was even a year spent in one of them? Soon I will fly back to San Francisco. Looking at it now, I believe a long succession of beautiful dreams has passed. The ancients walked great distances to spend years in distant places. To get home, they walked back. And then, what remains across space, and through dream?

“Poem Offered to the Great Kwanyin of Upper Zhu Temple”

Ten years passed, scattered among rivers and oceans,
But my dreaming spirit always relied on Vulture Peak;
Up flights of clouds, moon underfoot, once again I arrive here,
Forehead to the floor in reverence before the White Robed Immortal!

Daoqian (1043-1114) from 
Canliaozishiji fascicle six

[From the project, “Poet-monk: Daoqian”]

Poems Written After Sleep, Daoqian (1043-1114)

On the cusp of sleep, night’s gravity weighs on the body. The mind cannot escape. There is a bend in the road to dreams that I cannot see past. Suddenly you are at the door. I answer. And we are outside, in the forest near your old house. When I awake, I am in bed and realize I was dreaming of you again.


“Description of a Dream, Sent to Monk Miaoyi”

The Hall of Wondrous Thoughts is deep along the winding road;
Night comes, and all at once my dream-soul clambers up and out;
When you open the gate, we greet one another
As if we were in the emerald fog of a bamboo grove.

– Daoqian (1043-1114) from
Canliaozishiji fascicle seven

[From the project, “Poet-monk: Daoqian”]

Poems Written While Asleep, Daoqian (1043-1114)

The traces of dreams are hidden on the shelves of the archives, among the manuscripts. There are poems written long ago. Then, the soul would get up out of the sleeping body and wander between worlds. Sometimes, a dreaming soul composed a poem, placing the right words in the right order. When the dreaming person woke, they might record the words written by their dreaming spirit.


“8th month, 17th night: A Poem Written in Dream”

At midnight, when there is no one to be seen on the autumn river,
Green lotuses hold up gleaming dew for
River Divinities and Water Immortals to drink together.
They leave a handful to revive my spirit.

– Daoqian (1043-1114), from Canliaozishiji fascicle twelve

[From the project, “Poet-monk: Daoqian”]