To Live, To Dance, To Translate

CAFA Lecture Bill Porter: To Live, To Dance, To Translate

TEXT:Sue Wang    DATE:2014.6.19

Bill Porter assumes the pen name Red Pine for his translation work. He was born in Los Angeles in 1943, grew up in the Idaho Panhandle, served a tour of duty in the US Army, graduated from the University of California with a degree in anthropology, and attended graduate school at Columbia University. Uninspired by the prospect of an academic career, he dropped out of Columbia and moved to a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. After four years with the monks and nuns, he struck out on his own and eventually found work at English-language radio stations in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where he interviewed local dignitaries and produced more than a thousand programs about his travels in China. His translations have been honored with a number of awards, including two NEA translation fellowships, a PEN Translation Prize, and the inaugural Asian Literature Award of the American Literary Translators Association. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to support work on a book based on a pilgrimage to the graves and homes of China’s greatest poets of the past, which was published under the title Finding Them Gone in January of 2016. More recently, Porter received the 2018 Thornton Wilder Prize for Translation bestowed by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Port Townsend, Washington.

At 6:30 pm on June 12, 2014, the American writer, translator and Sinologist Bill Porter gave a lecture entitled “To Live, To Dance, To Translate” at the Auditorium of the CAFA (Central Academe of Fine Art) Art Museum. The lecture was jointly organized by the School of Humanities, CAFA, and CAFA Art Museum, the poet Xichuan presided over the lecture, and honoured guests included Xu Bing, Vice President of CAFA, Yu Fan, Jiang Jie, teachers of the Department of Sculpture, and poets Zhai Yongming, Ouyang Jianghe, etc., were also presentat the lecture.

Host Xichuan initially told the audience of his experience of his meeting with Bill Porter, whose pen name was Red Pine, his publications of the Chinese edition included “Road to Heaven”, “Zen Baggage”, “The Tour of Yellow River”, “Reading the Heart Sutra”, “Finding Tao in China”, “Silk Road”, etc.; his English translations include “Tao Te Ching”, “One Thousand Poems”, “Cold Mountain Poems”, “In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu”, etc. Xichuan said Bill Poter’s translation was distinctive and creative which also made a contribution to English poetry itself, and he called Bill Porter immortal.

Bill Porter gave a lecture starting from his childhood experiences. He was born into a rich family, but he felt rich people had a deceptive smiling face, so they weren’t “real people”. Instead, he thought the “real people” were the servants of his family. At the age of 15, his parents divorced, and his father soon became bankrupt which made him relaxed and happy. It also made him clear that money was not the target he pursued in his life.

In 1972 Porter went to the Fo Kwang Shan Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, to concentrate on studying Zen. During this period of practice, Bill learned and translated Chinese, and he thought through translating, he would be able to learn another foreign language. In addition, this experience brought him freedom which was the biggest harvest for him, because he found that, although he could learn a lot of knowledge at Columbia University, it seemed like“delusions”, his thinking was controlled by the system. But the practice in the temple helped him depose the “delusion”, and obtain freedom.

In 1989, funded by Wang Wenyang, the son of a rich man in Taiwan, Bill was able to travel in China, and he started an historical record looking for hermits in the Zhongnan Mountains, combining the experience and the historical anecdotes, he wrote a book Road to Heaven. In 2012, at 69, Bill began the last trip – “finding them gone”. This time, along the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, he followed the footprints of 36 poets including Chen Zi-ang, Cao Zhi, Ruan Ji, Ouyang Xiu, Su Dongpo, Li Qingzhao, Bai Juyi and was able to have a dialogue with them across time and space.

In the lecture, Bill Porter wittily told the story of his learning Chinese and practicing in the mountains, engaging in translation for almost 40 years, his discovery that translating was the best way to understand a culture. For Bill, translation was a kind of “dance”, and moreover, the dance relied on Chinese culture. He took the translating process as the metaphor of the story Jiang Ziya Fishing, sometimes he spends a lot of time on the translation, waiting for inspiration through meditation, and with the help of others’ strength.

In the following Q & A, Bill Porter shared the harvest on the road of translation, the feeling of China, and the understanding of Zen. Bill said there wasn’t any correct or wrong translation, as there wasn’t any perfect “dance”, but one needed to see the inner heart, because translation was a performing art which allowed the pursuit of your own happiness. Bill was like a practicing person, he thought Zen had no thought, and the so-called“enlightenment” was also a kind of delusion.

After the end of the lecture, Xichuan gave some small gifts to Bill on behalf of CAFAM, and he himself gave a set of ancient coins of the Tang Dynasty to Bill Porter.

Text: Ye Yuanfeng, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

Photo: Hu Zhiheng, Quan Jing/CAFA ART INFO

CAFA Lecture Bill Porter: To Live, To Dance, To Translate

Link:https://peacelilysite.com/2022/04/02/to-live-to-dance-to-translate/

Source: https://cafa.com.cn/en/news/details/8322914

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Short Stories With Deep Meanings

Short Stories With Deep Meanings

Photo by Shane Kell on Pexels.com

Birdsnest

In the Tang Dynasty, there was a peculiar Zen master. He didn’t even have a Dharma name, and his practice was very special. He did not live in a temple. He settled himself in an awning like a bird nest on the top of a pine tree.  People called him “the Zen Master of the Birdsnest”. Many visitors hiked to the remote forest to seek the monk’s wise advices. 

Bai Juyi, was a very famous Chinese poet, also a high level officer at that time. One time, Bai Juyi traveled long distance to visit the Zen Master. He asked Zen Master Birdsnest, “Can you tell me what is the most important thing the Buddha ever said?”

      The Zen master replied, “Don’t do any bad things, and do all the good things.”

      Bai Juyi thought this answer is far too simple, he sneered, “Even a three-year-old can say this.”

      Zen Master Birdsnest said: “Although a three-year-old child can say it, but an eighty-year-old man still finds it very difficult to do it.”

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

Determination

Master Qinluan was a famous Japanese Zen master. At the age of nine, he made up his mind to become a monk and asked Zen Master Cizhen to shave his ordination for him. Zen Master Cizhen asked him, “Why do you want to become a monk when you are so young?” Qinluan said: “Although I am only nine years old, my parents have both died. I don’t understand why people must die. Why must I be separated from my parents? Therefore, I must become a monk and explore these truths.”

Zen Master Cizhen said: “Very well. I’m willing to accept you as a disciple. However, it’s too late today, so I’ll shave you tomorrow morning.” Qin Luan said, “Master! Although you said that you will shave me early tomorrow morning, I am still young and ignorant. I can’t guarantee whether my determination to become a monk will last until tomorrow. Besides, Master, you are so old, you can’t guarantee that you will even wake up tomorrow morning!” After listening this words, Zen Master Cizhen was surprisingly happy, and said joyfully, “Yes! What you said is absolutely right. Now I will shave for you!”

Three Moves by Mencius’s Mother

Mencius, was a famous scholar well-known for his erudition. He was one of the greatest representatives of Confucianism in ancient China.

He had a great mother, who really focused on education. Once his family lived near a graveyard when he was a child. Therefore, he often played near the grave and imitated people’s crying or digging the tombs. When his mother saw this, she said: “It’s not a good place for a child to live in.”

His mother moved the family to a house near a market. Soon Mencius began  to amused himself by imitating peddler’s hawking and bargaining. His mother found this place still not good for a child to live in. She decided to move away again.

At last they settled down near a school. Mencius quickly began copying the students’ reading and writing. He also took pleasure by imitating the sacrificial rites on ceremony and formalities of  courtesy. He became more polite and hardworking. Then his mother said: this is a good place for a child !.

Short Stories With Deep Meanings

Link: https://peacelilysite.com/2022/03/25/short-stories-with-deep-meanings/

#MonkBirdnest#Buddhism#BaiJuyi#Mencius#Confucianism