Five Poems by Xuanzang

Lines Composed at Shelter Eye Tower In Western Paradise

Buddha’s great unstinting heart
Lofty as this three-tiered tower
Provides mercy and shelter
And vision extending
A thousand lifetimes
Not by austerity alone
Does a person reach
The brilliant glowing realm
Bounded by Dharma

By the Holy Lotus River

By the Holy Lotus River
Where pure gold flows east
After bathing in its waters
The human body acquires
A supple glow
Changing from within
And upon ascending
To the far bank
Looks back to the western shore
At Buddha’s sacred grove
For many thousands of autumns

A Half-Finished Verse on the Mountain of Sacrifice
Composed In Western Paradise

After unstinting effort
Of the human frame
To reach this mountain shelter

Where a few words
Suddenly discovered
Exceed the poetic realm

In a holy sutra
Inscribed in stone

The spirit’s music is performed
In the half-empty mountain air

To the Temple of Novitiates Composed in Tai Yuan Near the Northern Capital

Climbing west to
The Temple of Novitiates
Gazing east towards
Yang Cheng where
The broad plain sparkles
Like a thousand flakes of gold
Along the pure route
Where the River Fen flows

On Climbing Mount Song Near the Southern Capital

A lonely peak
Tapers its way
To a summit
Cut off in the clouds
Thousands of feet above

With walking stick in hand
Climbing like a rattan vine
Gradually ascending

Finally arriving at
The moon’s side
In the very Temple of Heaven

Where only fleecy clouds
Are gathered to keep company
With two or three monks



The seventh-century Chinese monk Xuanzang is one of the great heroes of Chinese history. He was largely responsible for the tremendous infusion of Buddhist learning in Tang China as a result of his epic pilgrimage over the Silk Road to India. It was a journey that spanned more than fifteen years and resulted in his triumphant return to Chang An, the Tang capital, in possession of 657 sacred Buddhist texts. Upon his return to the Tang court, at the behest of the Tang Emperor Taizong, Xuanzang spent the remainder of his life translating scriptures from Sanskrit into Chinese and writing an account of his journey.

Lan Hua

Lan Hua is the pen name for Joe Lamport, a poet and translator of classical Chinese poetry. You can read more of his translation work online at the The Tang Spirit Network, of which he is a co-founder. Lan Hua has also recently completed a book-length translation of Wu Cheng En's epic The Adventures of Monkey King, the first chapter of which was published in the January 2012 edition of InTranslation. In addition to his translations of Chinese poetry, Joe Lamport writes his own contemporary poetry, much of which is available online at He also maintains a blog for his current work in progress, The Life and Times of Richard Musto.

English translation copyright (c) Lan Hua, 2012.