Friday, March 12, 2010

Married Love - K. Tao-Sheng

The Yuan Dynasty poetess Kuan Tao-Sheng (1262-1319) was known as a calligrapher and painter of bamboos, orchids and plum blossoms. She was married to Chao Meng-Fu, the leading Yuan Dynasty calligrapher.  Tao-Sheng wrote the poem to her husband when she found out that he was intending to take a concubine. It is said that he was so moved by it that he did not.   

As a calligrapher and painter, she is overshadowed by him (who even has a crater on Mercury with his name!), but this poem has made her known far more broadly, as Chinese calligraphy is an acquired taste.  It is interesting (to me) how thousand-year old Chinese poetry - of which there will be more examples in this blog - is much more accessible to "regular" people than Chinese paintings of the same period with their often obscure references to Chinese history, etc.   

A few years ago, I was asked by my friend, Janet Chen, to speak at her wedding to Gary Mi.  I was very touched by this honor and chose this poem, around which I built some wedding remarks.
Married Love 

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 a figure again 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 bed.                                                                  

Kuan Tao-Sheng - Chinese

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