chinese love poetry

to celebrate chinese new year these two days before valentine’s day, and to continue this series of articles about love, let us enjoy chinese poet kuan tao-sheng’s words about love in married life. she lived from 1262 to 1319 but her words are timeless:blog-orientalgallery-chinese-paintings-0006.jpg

you and i
have so much love,
that it
burns like a fire,
in which we bake a lump of clay
molded into a figure of you
and a figure of me.
then we take both of them,
and break them into pieces,
and mix the pieces with water,
and mold again a figure of you,
and a figure of me.
i am in your clay.
you are in my clay.
in life we share a single quilt.
in death we will share one coffin.

(translation by kenneth rexroth)

one of the deepest human yearnings is connectedness, true connectedness. we have this deep longing to be irrevocably linked to another body, another soul. this is, i guess, what inspires the long-term companionship of marriage. marriage is not only about procreating and raising children. marriage has the potential to go much deeper. apparently that was so even in 13th century china. this is interesting because sociologists sometimes have us believe that marriage inspired by romantic love, love that is driven primarily by emotions and only secondarily by physical passions (and very little by money or other social considerations), is a product of medieval europe.

as kuan tao-sheng shows. this deep desire for love, to be one with another on all levels, crosses all times and all boundaries. and how lovely to see that she fulfilled her desire. her beautiful words give wings and hope to all who long to be married, and to those who have entered this bond between two people.

i am in your clay.
you are in my clay.

related articles:

martin buber’s “i and thou”
going to a place that is love
valentine’s day: freedom to marry day

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