Home » Issues & Poems » Issue Fourteen » Flying Cornices of the Four-Bridge Misty Rain Pavilion

Flying Cornices of the Four-Bridge Misty Rain Pavilion

Yang Lian

‘Flying Cornices of the Four-Bridge Misty Rain Pavilion’ is based on a beautiful pavilion in Slender West Lake, Yangzhou, China. I was trying to discover the layers of the depths into it, therefore to build up a philosophical understanding on the traditional Chinese garden-scape. I wrote this piece partly because I was hoping it would become a kind of ‘blue print’ of the a special project we designed for the poetry festival in Yangzhou this year. Five or six world class Chinese aritists would show their works at Slender West Lake and, together with all the festival poets, create a discussion entitled ‘The Creative Dialoque between Contemporary Arts and The Aesthetics of Traditional Chinese Garden’. (Yang Lian) From a translator’s point of view, this poem has given me enormous pleasure not only because of the beautiful images of the Chinese traditional garden scenery the poem depicts, but also due to the philosophical depth of time and space, history, love and destiny that the poem transfers and causes to resonate in a reader’s mind. The complexity of the poem and the difficulty in translating it also lie in the fact the poem weaves in subtle references to works of Tang and Song dynasty poets, works of present day artists and poets, historical and current events and places, in addition to the feelings and thoughts that are a culmination of the author’s personal journey as an exiled poet living and working around the globe.

Lorence Leigh

Flying Cornices of the Four-Bridge Misty Rain Pavilion

Translated by Lorence Leigh

1.             Theme of Landscape


Is it a bridge or a pavilion?               Both have steps of water

Bridge               draped with viburnum and osmanthus in four directions

Pavilion               pulling the dead prisoner returning               tip of whip wet and green


One fine willow branch whisks down history

One tender window               the whole lake drifting destination

One cornice               is carrying a garden flying


Who is taking a stroll?               Water sleeves dust off poems

chanting               each bridge holds in mouth its own moon

each ray of moonlight draws out flute-music of a jade lady


Passing through streets of lotus leaves               morning markets of birds singing

Thousands of years               push a circling dream that never wants to be woken

Who is not being dreamed?               Falling into chaotic rocks upon awakening


paddles babble               shadow of that back never caught up

Scattered stars in four directions tear a tourist guide limb from limb

Flying cornices               wipe clean the bait of flesh and blood

Both sides of the flower window               eyes wiped off twice

water               a harem               carved into one’s heart

The hand that slapped the fence1               that plucked the strings               same wallowing


Slanted corners of the pavilion hang down chill 

Bridges are also ghosts               hiding in a thousand folds of reflection

holding up aesthetics               one word exhausted all flower seasons


Along the footsteps of tiles               of the clouds

from the sky stored with endless destruction

who               is tearing off this page again?



2.             Theme of Time


Weariness of bamboos

are the climbing footsteps locked in the upper story year after year               sentenced

to decorate the spring that became amber long ago


Weariness of human               turning a corner

wooden stairs making crunching noises               a barrel of tar splashed right in the face2

thickness of age               and of speed               the long scroll deeply sunk


This moment is infinitely massive               an arm away               lakeshore               seashore

also joins the steel you arranged quietly getting rusty

One person               a pen point reincarnated slowly


passed               through               experienced               the darkness of corridor

looks out at a crack while ships come and go               flowers blossom and wilt

What is not haunting in the pool of blood?               Rot


uses this painting to glue               exposed organs

repeats the deaths that you have seen those deaths of yours

Flying cornices take and let go fluttering birds               tar-smelled spreading snow


Also climbing               one crane elegantly dances

sewing through the dead               buried even deeper now into the magnet

Which tearful eyes are not down looking


at one’s own distant place               that many universes have coloured

into a little ink               This and next life will all return to here

in an amber water splashing


Always just dripped down               thousands of years

dripping               a star upon ruins of the pavilion

Your art               found a lotus that will never forgive time



3.             Theme of Space


Countless little golden flying cornices are seesawing with ripples

breeze from water surface blowing gently beneath

The room is even more emptied


the cage               woven with words               glittering like words

Crystalline water pavilion of a line of poetry sails forward

What are locked out from inside               are still my eyes

looking               at the space as graceful as the sick

continuing an invisible growth               Yangzhou

secretly sucking all of its massacres  


Colour of willow               burned down to the bottom of lake like a sound

calling for help               water level plays defeated hills in the distance

My turbulence               misappropriated unimaginatively


even so               still only borrowed scenery

Lean from the fence since ancient times               ink mark still in the form of blood oozing out

Flying cornices extend suckers vigorously               The pavilion               with even more souls


still cannot fill up               a gleam of fake breeze beneath water     

A ghost’s homeland left only with endless prison terms

sentenced long ago               concentration camp of a body


Imprison brick and wood               old paint outside               reflecting

the galaxy that imprisons even further beyond               Those ‘I’s

stretch the diameter after death


looking               at a formation made from water               nonexistent

ripples glimmering               last words never more than one sentence

Poetry               holding the evil news in its hands chillingly



4.             Theme of Solitude


One person               three images

Pavilion’s one glance               twists charmingly as Peony Pavilion3

When three dreams dream one another               moonlight out of reach


is all the more sensual               A boundless cobblestoned path

conducts swirling tears on mottled bamboo               that touch and spill over footsteps

a desire to pluck the moon from water but drowned


A person is a path               a cloister a thousand years old

Who is passing by               polishing the sound of rain laid with jade

further away than soundless               holding directions fully


History more fictitious than no one               Wings

four flying cornices dive into a fleshy Guqin4

expose               organs broken into pieces


Prince               pursue then               that ghost boat lady

must continue to fill up the wine glass for ghost poetry

in drunken eyes what’s written completely               is never written completely               only one line


The pavilion already on horizon               washes fragrance overflown from dynasties

seizes a composition dry and cracked at the bottom of eyes

cultivates               even those thoughts unable to terminate


Three images               blow

a whistle in the shape of human               recognize a crashing swallow

Solitude               a forever foreign land


in homeland               scene of darkness humming in the distance

On the edge of bluestone well               sound of father’s cough feels profoundly intimate

sound of father’s cough incomparably hollow



5.             In the Rain: Garden Where Paths Never Cross5


(A Farewell Poem)

Rain drops are in the name

but fate of name

is in every little broken heart

wet               no longer able to cry

just like green               hung everywhere its beaded curtains

glittering refraction

glittering opacity

just like farewell               always earlier than first meeting

Flying cornices await here

looking at you handcuffed a thousand times falling down


We fall down               mist and rain

one form ripples within another

coming down along flying cornices

In vain a crooked needle stitches broken pieces

an anchor tossed into flesh               just like the tip of a pick

chipping               more               even stranger memories

Everybody’s path is an infinite

end               eyes full of autumn waves

staring at a distance just discerned 

four tracks slide towards four ruined walls


First poem               last written

fate dangles every word and howls faintly 

you go               lake shore               willow colour                step by step

deleted to become now

Sound of rain leaks out               a garden a body

an overlooking Creator

Words to each other               derived further from words

glittering fences demolished while being built

You               with your lifetime talent to catch 

a misty rain pavilion with parasites               a misty rain pavilion with fish bones


Original manuscript of water defies revision

ours in common               an untouchable shape

a piece of pink marble6

pushed further to the bottom of sea               just like moulds of love-making

still stripping where nothing left

Everybody’s misty rain pavilion

shrouded in love all alone

listens to a heart that could turn white after death7

a passing poem flows into wreckage

is actually               true


Houses doubled above and beneath water

This poem is for you               the infinite

dreaming your infinity               glowing on the flying cornices

your eyelid in misty rain               your face               lip line

a ray of borrowed golden colour

Farewell               buried into one’s own flesh and blood

shape of garden                destroyed once at every corner

sacrificed once with every name

Contemplating that you have never left               painful beauty of contemplation

along the flying cornices               approaching you ascends





  1. Refers to the Song Dynasty Poet Xin Qi Ji’s poem.
  2. Refers to the Chinese artist Shang Yang’s painting.
  3. A famous 16th century Chinese opera of a romantic love story which took place in a garden.
  4. An ancient Chinese musical instrument.
  5. Refers to Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges’s short story ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’.
  6. Refers to the Italian city of Verona where Romeo and Juliet’s story was born.
  7. Refers to the preserved heart of the great Polish composer Chopin.

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