The Pond-Bamboo Dwelling by Lin Yutang (Chinese, 1895–1976)

Lin Yutang brushed this work for his second daughter Taiyi to celebrate the completion of her new book. It is a transcription of two poems, the first one composed by the renowned Buddhist monk Zhongfeng Mingben (1263–1323) and the second by an anonymous Yuan (1279–1368) poet. The poems express a deep appreciation of nature and a laid-back attitude toward life that resonate with Lin’s own:

I love my dwelling beside water and bamboo.
Rugged stones pave the stairs at random;
Windows are casually set.
Though small in scale,
It is clean, quiet, unpretentious, and feels comfortably roomy.
What is it like to lay back and be free?
Leaning against the balustrade, I watch the fish in the water.
Nature is enjoyable with its wind, flowers, snow, and moon.
With more free time, I can burn some incense, have some talks, and read some books.
Sweep away the dust, but cherish the green moss.
Let the red leaves in front of my door cover the stairs.
They are worth painting, for they too are wonderful.
There are a few pines, a few bamboos, and a few plum trees.
Flowers and plants are cultivated to blossom when the time is right.
For the future, let Heaven make the arrangements.
How can we know when wealth or rank might come?
So just relax, follow the course of nature, and be happy.

(trans. by Shi-yee Liu)

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