Posted by: ADMIN | April 9, 2011

ZEN POEMS FROM EARLY VIETNAM

ZEN POEMS FROM EARLY VIETNAM

(900 CE-1400 CE)

Images- Poems- Introduction

General Editor and Design
Nguyen Duy

Text selection and notes
Nguyen Ba Chung and Nguyen Duy

Based on the Collestions
Poetry and Prose of the Ly Tran Period
Editor of the Chinese and Sino
Vietnamese Sections

Nguyen Hue Chi

Translation into Vietnamese Poetry
Nguyen Duy and Nguyen Ba Chung

English Translation
Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Introduction
Nguyen Duy

Images
Nguyen Duy

Artistic Design
Nguyen Duy Son

FORWORD

Le Manh That (*)

Buddhism is a cultural phenomenon that spread to Vietnam from another country during the Hung King period in the second and third century BCE, when Vietnam was an independent, sovereign state. The earliest Buddhists, Chu Dong Tu and princess Tien Dung, are well known. In the beginning of the first century in the Common Era, following a long-term Southern expansionist policy. Chinese dynasties began to invade many Viet nations, including Vietnam, whose names were then Tay Au and Lac Viet. It was in the very process to counter this Northern expansionist aggression that Buddhism had become for the Vietnamese people an effective vehicle in the resistance against assimilation and conquest from the North.

At the time Buddhism was defined as a path that could “in society save the people and help the country, at home respect and honor the parents, and when living alone perfect oneself,” as Mau Tu (Mou Tzu) wrote in Ly Hoac Luan (ca. 165-225 CE ?) at the end of the second century when Vietnam’s first independent government imbued with Buddhism came into existence under the leadership of the famous Si Nhiep (Shih Hsieh) (136-226 CE). Thus, the Buddhism that had been laid down in the time of Mau Tu wasn’t just an ordinary way of life for individuals, but also a political doctrine to assist the Vietnamese to not only uphold their cultural identity but also preserve their independent country with sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is precisely because of an origin determined by these factors that Vietnamese Buddhism had developed with its unique characteristics that, upon close examination, are distinct from the many forms of Buddhism in other countries. The collection of a number of representative Zen poems during the one thousand years, from the 10th to the 20th century, esp. those of the Ly and Tran dynasties (the 10th to the 14th century), will help us uncover these characteristics.

One of the first distinctive characteristics is the fact that the life of Vietnamese Buddhism had been strongly merged with the political life of the nation. This is easy to understand because in the history of their existence, the Vietnamese have to continuously struggle, even resorting to armed struggles, in order to defend their very survival. For that reason, Buddhism, as the cultural force of its people, could not separate itself from this constant battle. We are, therefore, not surprised at statements made by Vietnamese Buddhists cum Zen masters that carry whiffs of political connotations regarding the country. Such is the first poem in this Collection. This Zen master personally took part in political activities, esp. in the first Vietnam-China war between an independent Vietnam and the rising Chinese dynasty of Sung. We can say that this is a penetrating feature that characterizes Vietnamese Zen poetry in its beginning stage.

These eminent Zen masters shared the same concerns, mainly about the political status of the country. The nature of their concerns might be different, leading to different views on the issue. From expressions that are purely and clearly political, such as the poem “The Nation’s Destiny” of Phap Thuan, to others that appear from the outside as involving thoughts on ethics or philosophy, specifically the poem “Advice to Disciples” by Zen master Van Hanh, we can find the unmistakable worry about the country and the fate of its people, which inevitably embodies a political content. This very first character will determine the overall picture of Vietnamese Zen poetry.

When King Tran Thai Tong fled from the royal citadel to Yen Tu mountain in April 1236 because of a major disagreement with Prime Minister Tran Thu Do, National Teacher Phu Van, aka Zen master Truc Lam, gave him two advices. These highlight the open attitude and the distinctive Buddhist approach to governance. “There is no Buddha in the mountain, the Buddha resides in our heart. The heart stills to understand, that’s the real Buddha. If your Majesty sees that Mind, your Majesty will become the Buddha. There is no need to seek it outside.” And, “A ruler of the land has to take the people’s wishes to be his wishes, to take the people’s hearts to be his heart. Now that the people wish to ask you to return, your Majesty has no choice but to return! Your Majesty, however, should not neglect the study of the sutras.” Tran Thai Tong had carried out these advices scrupulously, and later became not only one of the most illustrious kings of the Tran dynasty, but also an outstanding Zen master, as seen in the brilliance of his poem in this collection.

It’s also thanks to the determination of the function of Buddhism in national life which Mau Tu had broached that Vietnamese Buddhists new where to stop in the relation between Buddhism and the State of Vietnam. In their time, the problem of the separation of religious power and temporal power had not been urgently posed. Those Vietnamese Buddhists who had first taken part in political activities then had already known their limits. For that reason, the contest between religious and temporal powers in Vietnam had never become bloodied as it did in other parts of the world. This is the second distinctive characteristic of the Vietnamese Zen poetry. Perhaps they did not consciously perceive this issue, which later historians identified, as the relation between Church and State. But they might have vaguely recognized this relation, and made an effort to separate these two realities. Religious power and temporal power belong to two distinct domains. From its very nature, Buddhist doctrine never allows the establishment of religious power. More than that, Buddhist life emphasizes humility and respectfulness, which require Buddhists to see others as Buddha-to-be. Therefore, to talk about religious power in Buddhism is alien to its core.

Nevertheless, as the Buddhists had participated in the political life and had in fact wielded power, it was easy to creed the ambition of building a Buddhist religious power, which necessitated posing it as an issue. It’s fortunate that in Vietnamese history, those Buddhist personages directly engaged in politics had never held such an ambition, and also explained the reason they didn’t. To them, human life in the infinite process of the universe is too miniscule and ephemeral. The most majestic thing human beings could achieve in that process is the will to aspire higher, to be fearless in the face of all the vicissitudes in the natural as well as the human world. Originating from such an outlook, Vietnamese Buddhism had avoided the calamity of greedily clinging to power until being expelled forcefully from the movements of history.

Originating from the same historical background, the current of Vietnamese Zen poetry, in its contemplation on the human condition, or in its depiction of the country’s landscapes, could not escape from the above-defined function of Buddhism. This is easy to see because Buddhism put its survival with in the context of the people’s survival because the survival of the people is directly related to the survival of each individual belonging to the group. Therefore, even is the ultimate objective of the Buddhist life is enlightenment, i.e. the attainment of absolute individual freedom, such an objective could only be achieved through the relationship with other individuals within the community. This is based on the Buddhist view of co-dependent relations, which says that “All existences exist only in relations to other existences.” It is this very fundamental co-dependent view that allows Buddhists to have a tolerant and compassionate attitude, not only vis-à-vis oneself but also to other individuals and the world.

If we read Vietnamese Zen poetry in this manner, it will offer us name ideas for modern life when the world of science and technology has joined people in such close connections that are unthinkable in centuries past. When living closely together, because of the co-dependent relations, people are bound to feel responsibility for their fellow human beings as well as the world they live in. The collection of a volume of representative Vietnamese Zen poems helps the reader realize a new understanding not only the past culture of the Vietnamese people, but also from that past culture build a new way of life in relations with our fellow beings and the world.

(*) Le Manh That, Vice Rector, Van Hanh Institute of Buddhist Research, Ho Chi Minh City

Zen Master

PHAP THUAN (DO PHAP THUAN)

(915-990)

English

The Nation’s Destiny (1)

The nation’s destiny is intertwined as a thicket of coiled rattan (2)

In the Land under the Southern sky, the people is enjoying the peace

If the Palace is suffused with the spirit of “Vo Vi” (3)

There would be no more conflicts and strife everywhere.

Poem

The Nation’s Destiny

Like wove canes the nation’s destiny stands

Peace now adorns the Southern sky.

If Mindful Wisdom tends the Palace,

All warring stops, all strife withers.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

(1)       Another title: “In response to the king’s question on the nation’s destiny.”

(2)        This image, in another interpretation, points to the unity and cohesiveness of the people, a prerequisite for national prosperity.

(3)    “Vo Vi” is a term taken from the Tao Te King which indicates following the natural path of The Way, free from artificial and human partiality. It has been borrowed by translators of Buddhist sutras to embody the concept of “Asamskrita” (or asamskrta, Skt.;asankhata, Pali) to signify a state that is unconditioned, founded not by temporal components, beyond the cycle of birth and death, an attribute of “Nirvana.”

National Teacher

KHUONG VIET (NGO CHAN LUU)

(930-1011)

English:

Root of Fire

In the tree there must be fire already

Since the fire is already there, it can be born

If the tree doesn’t contain fire already

How come when we rub them together, there is fire?

Poem

Root of Fire

The fire lives in the tree.

The tree breathes the fire to life.

If the tree is bereft of fire,

How will the rubbed wood spark?

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

National Teacher

VAN HANH (NGUYEN VAN HANH)

(?-1018)

English

Advice to Disciples

Our body is like lightening, there one moment, then gone

Like the luxuriant foliage of spring, which turns yellow in the fall

Contemplating the lay of prosperity & decline, one has no fear

Decline and Prosperity lasts the length of time a dew drop clings to the tip of the grass.

Poem

Advice to Disciples

The body, like lightening, here then gone.

Like a spring foliage that withers in fall.

Don’t worry about the show of rise and decline;

Like dewdrops on grass, so our lives float on.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

King

LY THAI TONG (PHAT MA)

(1000-1054)

English

Response To the Old Masters

On the Fundamental Point of Zen

The Wisdom of Prajna belongs to no school

It isn’t the I, it isn’t the Other

The Buddhas of the past, the present, and the future

Are all the same essence.

Poem

Response To the Old Masters

On the Fundamental Point of Zen

The Mindful Wisdom belongs to no school.

Neither “I” nor “Not I.”

The Buddhas of past, present, and future

Share the same heart.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

CUU CHI (DAM CUU CHI)

(?-C. 1059-1065)

English

Mind and Body

Knows from the guts that mind and body are non-arising

From it evolves wondrously all phenomena

Affirmation of Negation all come from it

From it are born billions and billions of universes

Its presence fills up all empty space

Yet nowhere does it has any shape or form

Eons of lifetimes cannot compare with it

Here and there everywhere it is always luminous.

Poem

Mind and Body

Deep inside, mind and body are one and empty.

From its stillness the brilliance of the world arrives.

From its stillness, Yes and No

And the innumerable universes are born.

Space’s vast emptiness brims over with its presence.

Yet, nowhere does it stop to take shape or form.

Countless lifetimes born and dissolving,

To make a single moment of its luminous calm.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

NGO AN (DAM KHI)

(1020-1088)

English

A Farewell Poem

Our subtle nature it empty, not easily grasped

If we clear our mind, freeing it from all obstacles, it isn’t difficult to grasp it

Similar to a jewel that s fired in the mountain, its color becomes brighter

Or to a lotus petal burned in a kiln, its hue remains moist and fresh.

Poem

A Farewell Poem

Our Buddha nature not easily grasped.

Only a clear mind will capture it.

Bright as a jewel fired in volcanic heat;

A lotus plucked from a kiln, its hue, lush and fresh.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

VIEN CHIEU (MAI TRUC)

(999-1090)

English

Mind Empty

Our body is like a wall; there comes a time it will tumble

People in the world are filled with cares and worries

If we learn the Mind is empty, and do not get involved with its myriad manifestations

Then despite all the manifestations, we are at ease.

Poem

No Mind

The body like a breakwall in time will crumble.

Worries and cares erode all worlds.

The Mind empty, ignores the tumble of forms.

Quietly settled, remains oblivious to what the waves hurl.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

CHAN KHONG (VUONG HAI THIEM)

(1046-1100)

English

Reflection

The subtle, miraculous emptiness is present every day

It’s behind the harmonizing whirlwind in the world

Everyone knows the blessings of unconditioned wisdom

But unless one realizes it (makes it one’s home), it’s useless.

Poem

Reflection

Each day the miracle of emptiness,

The whirlwind that sings up the world.

You say you know the blessing of its presence,

But with what do you build your home?

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

(BHIKKHUNI) DIEU NHAN (LY NGOC KIEU)

(1041-1113)

English

Farewell Advice To Disciples

Birth, old age, sickness, death

It has been the rule since immemorial

The more one hopes to escape

The more one is caught in the net

Due to confusion, one seeks Buddha

Due to errors, one runs after Zen

Seeking neither Buddha nor Zen

Lips pursed, saying nothing.

Poem

Farewell Advice To Disciples

Birth, old age, sickness, death,

We can never escape them.

The more we fight,

The more their nets tangle.

In confusion we chase after Buddha;

In error we seek the Way of Zen.

Seek neither the Way nor the Buddha.

Lips pursed, say nothing.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

MAN GIAC (LY TRUONG)

(1052-1096)

English

Telling Everyone That One Is Falling Ill

Spring passes, a hundred flowers fall

Spring comes, a hundred flowers bloom

Before one’s face fly worldly events

On one’s head comes old age

Don’t say that when spring’s past, all flowers are fallen

In the courtyard last night an apricot branch blossoms

Poem

Confessing To Falling Ill

When spring passes, a hundred flowers fall.

When spring arrives, a hundred flowers wave.

The world glides past our eyes.

Time scatters its dust over our heads.

Don’t say when spring passes, all flowers fade.

Only last night, in the courtyard, an apricot bloomed.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

TU LO (TU DAO HANH)

(?-1117)

English

Affirmation and Negation

If we say “Affirmation”, then as tiny as a speck of dust exists

If we say “Negation”, then even the whole universe is empty

“Affirmation” and “Negation” are like the reflection of the moon in the water

Don’t say that it’s there, don’t say that it isn’t there.

Poem

Yes and No

If we say Yes, even a speck of dust survives.

If we say No, the entire universe is void.

Yes and No. Like the moon in the river,

Who can say it’s there, who can say it isn’t?

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Supreme Patriarch

KHANH HY (NGUYEN KHANH HY)

(1067-1142)

English

Response To Phap Dung

On the Questions of Forms & the Formless,

The Wise and the Wordling

Don’t ask about Form and Formlessness: it’s a tiring waster of time

In our practice of the Path, there is nothing better than following our Patriarchs

If we seek the Mind in the open sky, it’s difficult to know what it is

Similar to trying to grow cinnamon trees in the field, we can never turn them into a viable bush

The entire universe lies securely on the tip of a feather

The sun, the moon are completely enclosed within a grain of mustard

The Great Activity lies on our hand and within our Power

Who can tell which is the Wise or the Wordling, which the west or the east.

Poem

Response to Phap Hung

On the Question of the Formed and the Formless,

The Wise and the Wordling

Don’t ask of the Formed and the Formless,

Follow the path, study the anciets.

The sky is never home to the Buddha’s face.

The cinnamon tree knows nothing of cinnamon forests.

This whole universe spins on a feather.

The small mustard seed contains the sun and moon.

The Great Power lies in the palms of our hands.

Who can tell the sham from the true, the West from the East?

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

KIEU TRI HUYEN

(C.1070-1130)

English

In Response to Tu Dao Hanh

On The Question of True Minh

The mysterious sounds in the jewel create miraculous echoes

Which clearly carry the seeds of Zen

The mundane worlds as numerous as sands and dust are all Bodhi Land

But is one tried to search for it, it’d be thousands of miles away.

Poem

In Response to Tu Dao Hanh

On The Question of The True Mind

The precious jewel makes wondrous sounds

The seeds of Zen are carried on its notes

Swirls of dust- innumerable Bodhi Lands

Seek outside, on what will the music float?

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

TINH KHONG (NGO TINH KHONG)

(1091-1170)

English

The Wise Do Not Attain Enlightenment

The wise do not attain enlightenment

Those who do must necessarily be dull

The guest lies there, raising his foot high

He does not know what is true, what is false.

Poem

The Wise Do Not Attain Enlightenment

The wise do not attain enlightenment.

The Buddha just sits and smiles

The good guest stretches out on high

Doesn’t bother with ‘true’ or ‘false.’

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

QUANG NGHIEM (NGUYEN QUANG NGHIEM)

(1122-1190)

English

Do Not Follow the Tathagata’s Path

Only when you escape from death that you can discuss the nature of death

Only when you are born into the land of no birth that you can talk of birthlessness

A young man has to have the ambition to shatter heaven

Don’t bother treading the well-worn path of Tathagata(*)

Poem

Do Not Follow the Tathagata’s Path

Free from death, one’s free to talk of death’s nature.

Born into birthlessness, one’s free to talk of birthlessness.

Man’s aim is to shatter the heaven,

Not, to the Buddha’s past, toe the line.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

(*) Tathagata, “Thus Gone”, i.e. “one who has attained perfect wisdom,” another title of the Buddha.

Zen Master

MINH TRI (TO MINH TRI)

(?-1196)

English

Searching For the Echo

The wind shakes the pine branches, the moon shines under the water

Leaving no trace, giving no shadow

It’s the same with the human forms

(Try to locate it is like trying to find) the echo in empty space.

Poem

Searching For the Echo

Winds through pines, moons on waters,

Leave neither trace nor shadow.

Our mind-body void like them.

Grasp for it-grasp the wind’s echo.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

THUONG CHIEU (PHAM THUONG CHIEU)

(?-1203)

English

Mind

Possessing a human body in this world

Our mind is the treasure of the Tathagata

(one of the Buddha’s honorific titles)

It shines brightly everywhere

But if we look for it, it’s nowhere found.

Poem

Mind

Born into the human body,

Mind holds the Buddha nature.

Its light- a beacon shines within,

Look outside- never find it.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

TINH GIOI (CHU HAI NGUNG)

(?-1207)

English

A Farewell Poem

When autumn comes, it’s cool and the mind is light and spacious

The poets of “eight dau” (1) look at the moon and write poems

How laughable are those dunces in the Zen land

Why do they employ words to transmit the mind seal (2)

Poem

A Farewell Poem

The autumn light cool, soft, expansive.

Great poets gaze on the moon and write.

Laughable dunces drunk in the Zen land,

What’s sealed in Mind to stamp with words.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

(1)    dau: a scoop, and measure of ten pints. Ta Linh Van, a poet in the Six Dynasties period, said that : “The poetic talent in the world consists of 10 “dau”. Tao Thuc alone has 8…”. “Eight dau,” therefore, means supreme, top light.

(2)    Mind seal: a Zen term, indicating the transmission of enlightenment directly from mind to mind, from teacher to disciple, without going through any intermediaries.

TRAN THAI TONG (TRAN CANH)

(1218-1277)

English

To the Monk Duc Song at Thanh Phong Shrine

The wind beats at the pine door, the moon shines on the yard

My heart is one with the landscape, quietly clear and bright

What a great bliss there, and nobody has any inkling

Leaving the monk alone in the mountain to enjoy his bliss until dawn

Poem

To the Monk Duc Son at Thanh Phong Shrine

Winds at a pine door, moonlight on an empty yard.

Clear and calm. Heart and landscape one.

This bliss. And no one knows.

A monk on his peak alone until dawn.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

Zen Master

TUE TRUNG THUONG SY (TRAN TUNG)

(1230-1291)

English

Suddenly Inspired to Write a Poem

Sit up straight in the middle of the residence, saying nothing

Looking with leisure at a string of smoke rising from the top of Con Luan mountain

When we’re tired, the mind ceases all activities

No need to chant the Buddha’s name, no need to sit in meditation

Poem

Suddenly Inspired to Write a Poem

Sitting straight up in the room, I gaze

At a wisp of smoke from Con Luan Mountain

The mind slows to a stop when tired.

No need to sit or chant the Buddha’s name.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

King

TRAN THANH TONG (TRAN HOANG)

(1240-1290)

English

Moved When Reading “The Great Wisdom Record” Collection

For thirty years [I have] drilled the turtle shells, broken the tiles (1)

Several times I fell into a cold sweat while studying the path of meditation

One morning I suddenly see the mother’s original face

It turns out that it’s only half of the portrait

Before the eyes there’s no color, but the ear, there’s no sound (2)

Only the mind thinks that there colors and sounds exist

The color and the sound are not involved, beyond the lip and the tongue

Pay no attention even is they call our and point them to you.

Poem

On Reading the Record of Great Wisdom

Thirty years of drilling shells and breaking tiles

A few times sitting, breaking a cold sweat.

One morning the originally face appeared,

Half of it gone, half of it left.

Eyes see no colors, ears hear no sounds.

Only the mind gives shape and meaning.

Once beyond our lips and tongue,

All words are void and radiant.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

(1)    “drilling turtle shells”: doing difficult tasks; “breaking tiles”: doing easy tasks.

(2)    In these four lines, Tran Thanh tong poetically points to one of the undamental trainings of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness as expounded by the Buddha (smrti-upasthna (Sanskrit)). This practice, seeing the mind as impermanent, as an endless series of one sensation after another, and seeing all things as being inter-dependent, without a nature of their own, will lead to the ultimate awareness that there is no self, no permanent identity, only emptiness.

King

TRAN NHAN TONG (TRAN KHAM)

(1258-1308)

English

To Live in the World, Practice with Joy

Living in the world, practice with skillful means to maintain the joy of the Path

When hungry, eat; when sleepy, sleep

You already carry within you the family jewel, don’t look for it elsewhere

Facing the world with a mind that is empty, what use is Zen?

Poem

Joyful Practice

Living in the world, practice quietly with joy.

When hungry eat. When tired sleep.

Don’t look for it elsewhere, the jewel lies within.

An empty mind facing the world, what use is Zen?

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

PHAP LOA (DONG KIEN CUONG)

(1284-1330)

English

Enter the World Longing for Green Mountain

The slender range of mountains is mirrored in the autumn water

The mountain peak rises like a sharp point in the sunlight

Looking up, I could see the boundless infinity

The road ahead veers into so many paths

Poem

Enter the World Longing for Green Mountain

A slender range mirrored in autumn waters.

A single peak rising straight to Heaven.

Look up, a vast and boundless horizon.

Look down, a road veering into numberless paths.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

HUYEN QUANG (LY DAO TAI)

(1254-1334)

English

Dien Huu Pagoda

In the autumn night, the temple’s peal is fading

The moonlight comes down like waves, the maple leaves are bright red

The animal forms of the architecture throw their reflections onto the pond,

As if sound asleep upside down in a chilly square mirror

The two towers stand parallel in a pair like two icy jeweled fingers

Immunity to earthly entanglements is a barrier against the world of desires

Having no worries, one’s visions is widened

Understanding thoroughly that good and evil are of the same footing

One can see that the devil’s abode and Buddha Land are one.

Poem

Dien Huu Pagoda

The temple bell calls across the autumn night.

Moonlight flickers through groves of red maple.

A dragon’s feet on a temple pond, sleep gently upside down.

The pagoda’s towers, twinned in ice, poke at the air.

Don’t worry about what’s beyond the horizon,

Or contend with the world of desires.

Good and evil share the same hearth.

The Buddha’s land is one.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

TRAN THI KIEN

(c.1260?- c.1330?)

English

Dedicated to Zen Master Pho Minh of An Lang Pagoda

To seek refuge in mountains & brooks, that is not a Great Refuge

To practice the Path right in one’s home temple, that is the True Practice

Today, in a deep sitting, I’m awakened as if from a dream

No need to blame the prefect of Trieu Chau in the old story (*)

Poem

Dedicated to Zen Master Pho Minh of An Lang Pagoda

Seek refuge in hills and brooks- no Great Refuge.

Practice at home is the True Practice.

Sitting today, I suddenly see

What does it mater, the story of Trieu Chau?

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

(*) This refers to the story of Han Du, a poet in the Tang dynasty who wrote a treatise objecting to the veneration of the Buddha’s Relics. When older, he changed his mind and became a believer in Buddhism.

TRUONG HAN SIEU

(?-1354)

English

Duc Thuy Mountain

The mountain’s hue is as silky green as ever

Why hasn’t the sojourner returned?

In the middle of the stream stands the bright tower

Heaven opens up the cave’s gate

Only when distance from the old turbulent life like today

Do I understand that the old fame has no meaning (*)

The sky and space of the Five Lakes is boundless

I’m looking for the old rock where I sat and fished before.

Poem

Duc Thuy Mountain

The mountain silky green as always.

Why hasn’t the traveler returned?

The bright tower’s reflection sits in the stream.

Clouds life up from the cave.

Distant from life’s turbulence,

I now understand my error.

The sky of the Five Lakes is boundless;

Which way’s the old rock where I say and fished before?

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

(*) Truong Han Sieu, when young, condemned Buddhism. The king did not take offense. He appointed Truong to be the administrator of a major temple. Only later that Truong changed his mind and came to understand and embrace Buddhism.

TRAN QUANG TRIEU

(1286-1325)

English

Written at Gia Lam Pagoda

The heart has grown cold with the dream of the snail’s horns (*)

Take a leisurely walk to the Zen temple

Late spring, the petals look delicate

Deep forest, the cicada’s songs echo wide

Rain stops, the sky is one deep blue

Clear pond, the cool moon shines down

Guest takes leave, the monk’s silent

The land is fragrant with the pine flowers.

Poem

Written at Gia Lam Pagoda

The heart has grown cold in the snail’s dream of riches.

I take a easeful walk to the Zen temple

Late spring, the petals sit so delicately.

The cicada’s songs drift across the deep forest.

The rain stops, the sky, one deep blue.

By the clear pond, a cool moon shines down

When the guest takes leave, the monk is silent,

The land fragrant with pine.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

(*) Snail has no horns, indicates the eventual illusory nature of fame and fortune

NGUYEN TRUNG NGAN

(1289-1370)

English

Overnight at Hoa Am Temple

By chance, I ask for permission to stay overnight at the temple

The monk allows me half the bed

In the morning, I scoop water at the rocky stream

At night, I sleep with the clouds in the paper scrolls

Pine cones fall by the window

Gibbons call from across the river

The temple’s wooden rattle (usually fish-shaped)

Wakes me up from my dream

A rain of flowers profusely falls.

Poem

A Night a Hoa Am Temple

By chance I stay overnight at the temple.

The old monk gives me half his bed.

In the morning I scoop water from a rocky stream.

At night sleep like a cloud on paper scrolls.

Pine cones tumble past the sill.

Gibbons call from across the river.

The wooden fish shakes me from my dream.

A rain of flowers falls.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

TRAN NGUYEN DAN

(1325-1390)

English

Thoughts Inspired in the Mountain

Ten years devoted to the affairs of politics, I betrayed the autumn lamp (1)

Under the row of pines, walking with the help of a scrawny staff, I’m humming a poem

Not a soul of the worldly guests by on horseback, chasing the worldly dust

A monk knocks on the door, asking for a poem

If I retire to Luc Da for a life free of occupations, is there time? (2)

Get a share of money according to the Thanh Mieu rule, I’ll respectfully decline (3)

Stay and wait till successes are achieved, fame assured

And be a bag of fading bones buried under a mound of earth?

Poem

Thoughts Inspired on the Mountain

Ten years of politics, I turned my back to the autumn lamp.

Now with a cane I walk along humming a poem under the pines.

No worldly guests to ride by, chasing dust.

A monk knocks at my door, asks for a verse.

Will retiring to Luc Da give me enough rest?

Would decline of Thanh mieu riches buys me peace?

If I wait for the height of success and fame,

I’ll be but a bag of bones covered in dirt.

Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung

(1)    Autumn lamp: indicates old age

(2)    “Luc Da”: the name of Bui Do’s retirement residence, indicating place of retirement.

(3)    “Thanh Mieu”: green rice seedlings. Vuong An Thach of China created “Thanh mieu rule” which allowed people to borrow rice seedlings from the government, and to repay with interests at time of harvest. Indicate involvement with government’s employment.

POETS’ BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

1. Phap Thuan (915-990)

The Zen master Phap Thuan was born 915. His native village and given name remain unknown. He belonged to the tenth generation of the Vinitaruci School of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism, which was founded in 580 in the Red River Delta by the Indian monk Vinitaruci. Recognized for his deep knowledge and understanding of the world, Phap Thuan served as an advisor to King Le Dai Hanh (941-1006). This poem is the only poem of the author to survive.

2. Khuong Viet (Ngo Chan Luu) (930-1011)

Zen master Khuong Viet’s given name was Ngo Chan Luu. He was born in 933 in Cat Loi village, Thuong Lac district. He started out studying Confucianism, but later decided to become a monk. He belonged to the fourth generation of the Wall Meditation School of Vietnamese Buddhism, which was founded in 820 by the Chinese master Vo Ngon Thong (?-826) (Wo Yen Tong). By the age of forty, Khuong Viet was widely noted for his proficiency in Zen. King Dinh Tien Hoang (970-979) bestowed upon him the title “Khuong Viet The Great Teacher,” and appointed him head of the nation’s Buddhist organization- the Supreme Patriarch. Under King Le Dai Hanh (941-1005), he served as advisor. The Farewell poem, two couplets and a song are all that remain of his writings.

3. Van Hanh (?-1018)

Zen master Van Hanh was born in co Phap village, Bac Giang Province. His given name and birth date remain uncertain. As a young student he mastered all three philosophies- Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. But it was to Buddhism that he grew particularly devoted. At the age of 21, he joined the Luc To temple and belonged to the 12th generation of the Vo Ngong Thong (Wall Meditation) school. He was a valued advisor to King Le Dai Hanh, and was instrumental in the founding of the Ly dynasty. King Ly Thai To (1010-1028) appointed him National Teacher. He was widely admired for his grasp of the political realities and the task of national building. Only five of his poems survive.

4. King Ly Thai Tong (1028-1054)

King Ly Thai Tong’s birth name was Duc Chinh. He was born in 1000 in the village of Co Phap, Bac Giang Province, the eldest son of King Ly Thai To (974-1028). Under his rule the country was prosperous and peaceful. He was intelligent, well versed in marital arts, interested in music, academic studies, and poetry. He was especially devoted to Buddhism. He paid great attention to the welfare of the people and devised policies for general economic development. He ordered the compilation of the Book of Criminal Code to be the basis for he nation’s legal system. Unfortunately, that was lost. Only two poems and two royal proclamations survive.

5. Cuu Chi (?-c. 1059-1065)

Zen master Cuu Chi or Dam Cuu Chi was born in Phu Dam village, Chu Minh district, Bac Ninh Province. His family name and exact date of birth remain unknown. As a young student, he was said to have declared that “Confucius, Mo Tsu are biased on Yes; Lao Tsu, Chuang Tzu are biased on No. The world’s small schemes cannot bring about freedom. Only Buddhism, biased on neither Yes or No, can end the cycle of birth and death, but it will require the utmost self-discipline and efforts.” Cuu Chi studied with the great Zen master Dinh Huong at Cam Ung Pagoda and belonged to the seventh generation of the Vo Ngon Thong (Wall Meditation) school. King Ly Thai Tong three times asked him to make a visit to the capital, and three times he declined. To meet him the king made several trips to his temple. This is his only poem to survive.

6. Vien Chieu (999-1091)

Zen master Vien Chieu was born Mai Truc in Phuc Duong village, Lon Dam district in 999. He was Queen Linh Cam’s nephew. As a child he was intelligent and studious. He followed Zen master Dinh Huong on Ba Tieu Mountain and belonged to the seventh generation of the Vo Ngon Thong School. After three years he appeared to have gained enlightenment. He had a great talent for elucidating the dharma, which attracted a large number of disciples in the capital. He was also a great poet, and wrote poems to expound the practices of Buddhism. His four major works were lost, except for a few excerpts from one in Thien Uyen Tap Anh (Collection of Outstanding Zen Masters). This is the only poem of his that survives.

7. Ngo An (1020-1088)

Zen master Ngo An’s given name was Dam Khi. He was born in 1020 in Tu Ly village, Kim Bai district. He began as a student of Confucianism. Unusually well versed in Sanskrit, at the age of 19, he devoted himself to Buddhism, studying with Monk Quang Tri at Quan Dinh pagoda. Later he moved to a temple on Ninh Son Mountain in Ung Thien district. He belonged to the eighth generation of the Vo Ngon Thong School. Only one of his poems survives.

8. Dieu Nhan (1041-1113)

Zen master Dieu Nhan was born in 1041 in Phu Dong village, Tien Du district. The daughter of Phung Can Vuong, King Ly Thanh Tong’s brother, she was raised by the king in the royal palace. When she came of age the king gave her in marriage to a highland tribal chief in Chan Dang (Vinh Phu Province today). After her husband passed away, Dieu Nhan joined the Buddhist order, studied with Zen master Chan Khong, and later became Head of the 17th generation of the Vinitaruci School. She was also recognized as one of the two most distinguished woman poets of the time. The above poem is the only one extant today.

9. Chan Khong (1046-1100)

Zen master Chan Khong’s given name is Vuong Hai Thiem. He was born in 1046 in Phu Dong village, Tien Du district. As a child he was an avid reader. At the age of 10, he went on a pilgrimage to all the major temples and decided to become a monk, belonging to the 16th generation of the Vo Ngon Thong School. Later he settled on Tu Son Mountain, spending twenty years deepening his practices. His reputation spread far and wide. King Ly Nhan Tong (1072-1128) invited him to give dharma talks on the Lotus sutra to a royal audience. Leaders and cultural icons of the time such as Marshall Ly Thuong Kiet, Minister Doan Van Kham, and others all held him in high respect and great affection. The only works of his which still remain in existence are a farewell poem and record of a few conversations with students.

10. Man Giac (1052-1096)

Zen master Man Giac’s given name was Ly Truong. He was born in 1052 in Lung Trieu Village, An Cach area. Widely known as a great scholar while still young he was inducted into the royal household by King Ly Nhan Tong. He soon decided, however, to become a monk, and left the court to travel up and down the country, seeking out friends of similar bent. He gathered about him a great number of disciples, and became one of the most prominent monks of the 8th generation of the Vo Ngon Thong School. This is the second school of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism, which was founded by the Chinese monk Vo Ngon Thong. This poem is the only one by the author that remains extant.

11. Tu Dao Hanh (c. 1100)

The Zen master Tu Lo, or Tu Dao Hanh, belongs to the 12th generation of the Vinitaruci School. There is no record of his native village of his given name. He resided in Thien Phuc pagoda (popularly called Chua Thay) on Phat Tich Mountain, Quoc Oai Province. He was known to practice Tantrism and became an almost legendary figure in the national folklore. Only four of his poems are still in existence. The above is one of the most populat and often quoted.

12. Khong Lo (c. 1119)

The Zen master Khong Lo, o Duong Khong Lo was born in Hai Thanh Village, Nam Ha Province. Belonging to a family that had been fishermen for many generations, he joined the Buddhist order and became part of the 9th generation of the Vo Ngon Thong School. He devoted his time to the practice of both Zen and Tantrism. Known for his preference for a simple and unattached life, he took to the road, often visiting the most remote temples and landscapes in the company of another famous poet, Zen master Giac Hai. Only two of his poems are sill extant.

13. Khanh Hy (1067-1142)

Zen master Khanh Hy’s family name was Nguyen. He was born in 1067 in Co Giao Village, Long Bien district. He studied with Monk Ban Tich at Chuc Thanh pagoda, and became the head of the 14th generation of the Vo Ngon Thong School. He was a monk of great intelligence and quick wit, and often consulted about national affairs by King Ly Thanh Tong (1128-1137). The king appointed him administrative head of the nation’s Buddhist organization, the Supreme Patriarch. His works were lost, except for one extant poem.

14. Kieu Tri Huyen (c. 1100)

Kieu Tri Huyen was a Zen master whowas a contemporary of Tu Dao Hanh. Well known for his vast knowledge, he often exchanged views with Tu Dao Hanh on the subject of Zen. He opened a school in the Thai Binh area (Tan Hung prefect, in today Thai Binh Province). No information remains regarding his date and place of birth, and his background. Only one of his poems survives.

15. Tinh Khong (1091-1170)

Ngo Tinh Khong was born in Phuc Chau (in today’s Phuc Kien province), China. At the age of thirty, he came to Khai Quoc pagoda, Thien Duc prefect. According to Thien Uyen Tap Anh (Collection of Outstanding Zen Masters), he initially followed an ascetic practice, eating very little- a grain of sesame seed or corn a day. One day, when he by chance had a conversation with another monk on the dharma body and the dharma eye, he realized that he was far from enlightenment. Following this monk’s advice, he studied with Monk Dao Hue in Tien Du Mountain. After three years he received approval from his teacher, and returned to Khai Quoc pagoda to teach. His reputation grew far and wide. Extant are only a few records of conversations he had with students.

16. Minh Tri (?-1196)

Zen master Minh Tri’s family name was To. He was born in Phu Cam village. His date of birth remains unknown. His initial dharma name was Thien Tri. He was the abbot of Phuc Thanh pagoda and belonged to the tenth generation of the Vo Ngon Thong School. Later he studied with Zen master Dao Hue. Because of his vast understanding of the sutras, esp. the Lotus sutra, his teacher changed his dharma name to Minh Tri (Shining Wisdom). Only two of his poems survive.

17. Quang Nghiem (1121-1190)

Zen master Quang Nghiem’s family name was Nguyen. He was born in 1121 in Dan Phuong village. He started out studying with his uncle, Monk Bao Nhat, then followed Monk Tri Thien (mostly another name of Zen master Minh Tri above) at Phuc Thanh pagoda. After he had gained enlightenment, he became abbot of Thanh An pagoda, in Sieu Loai village, Minister Phung Giang Tuong later invited him to come to Tinh Qua pagoda. Only one of his poems survives.

18. Thuong Chieu (?-1203)

Thuong Chieu’s family name is Pham. He was born in Phu Ninh village. Under the reign of Le Cao Tong, he had been appointed to a high position. He resigned from office to study with Zen master Quang Nghiem at Tinh Qua pagoda. After he had gained a deep understanding of the dharma, he was invited to be the abbot Luc To temple in Dich Bang Village, Thien Duc prefect. He belonged to the 12th generation of the Vo Ngon Thong School. His work was lost, except for two poems.

19. Tinh Gioi (c. 1200)

The Zen master Tinh Gioi’s given name was Chu Hai Ngung. He was reportedly born in Giang Mao, but exactly where and when is not known. From a poor peasant family, he initially pursued the study of Confucianism. At the age of 26, he became a novice at Quoc Thanh Pagoda where he was famous for his talent of praying and diving the weather. He was often asked by kings of the Ly dynasty to perform the rituals. Only two of his poems survive.

20. Tran Thai Tong (1218-1277)

Tran Thai Tong’s given name was Tran Canh. He was born in 1218 at the end of the Ly dynasty. Tran Thu Do, his uncle, prepared the ground for his marriage to Queen Ly Chieu Hoang, who later abdicated to make him the founder of the Tran dynasty in 1226. he commanded the armies and defeated the first Mongolian invasion of Vietnam in 1257. Learned in both Confucianism and Buddhism, he ruled the country wisely and authored several profound works on Buddhism, the most famous of which is Khoa Hu Luc (Instructions on Emptiness), a Zen manual. A prodigious writer, he left behind a substantial number of works. However, only a small part of those survive.

21. Tue Trung Thuong Sy (1230-1291)

Tue Trung Thuong Sy’s given name was Tran Tung. He was born in 1230, the elder brother of the great Marshal, Tran Hung Dao. He led resistance against three Mongolian invasions, in 1257-58 / 1285 / 1287-88. At the end of the later war, he serves for a short time as a province governor, but then retired to his beloved Duong Chan Trang (Nurture Truth Farmstead) and devoted himself to the practice of Buddhism. He became the teacher of King Tran Nhan Tong, who later founded the Bamboo Grove School of Zen, the first genuinely Vietnamese-inspired branch of Buddhism. A lay practitioner, Tue Trung Thuong Sy was widely acknowledged as an enlightened spirit, free from tradition-bound rituals and dogmas. His writings were collected by his senior students into the collection Thuong Sy Ngu Luc (Recorded Saying of the Eminent Tue Trung).

22. Tran Thanh Tong (1240-1290)

Tran Thanh Tong’s given name was Tran Hoang. He was born in 1240, the eldest son of King Tran Thai Tong (1218-1277). He ascended the throne in 1258. a wise and outstanding strategist, he selected and promoted people of ability to positions of high authority without regard to origin and background, and was the first to rely on the common people as the principle line of national defense. He helped organize the Dien Hong conference, bringing together all the nation’s elders to ask for their advice on how to deal with a national security threat from the North. Because of this action, he had the whole nation united behind him. He and his son Tran Nhan Tong led the nation in the successful defense against the two Mongolian invasions of 1285 and 1288. Once the country regained peace, he abdicated and devoted the rest of his life to the practice of Buddhism and writing. An outstanding poet, he combined the high style of Chinese poetry with the popular rhythm of the folk lyric, creating poems of exquisite sensibility imbued with the equanimity and profundity of a Zen master. His works were lost, except for seven poems.

23. Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308)

Tran Nhan Tong’s given name was Tran Kham. He was born in 1258. After his father voluntarily abdicated in 1279, he ascended the throne, becoming one of the most illustrious kings of the Tran dynasty. Known far and wide for his compassion and peacefulness, he used the system of national examinations to search for talents to serve the welfare of the country. He was instrumental in the organizing of the two most unique conferences in Vietnam’s history- the Dien Hong conference of all of the country’s elders and the Binh Than conference of all military commanders, which helped forge the nation’s will against foreign threats. In 1293 Tran Nhan tong abdicated in favor of his son, and devoted the rest of his life to the practice of Buddhism. He traveled far and wide, all the way to Chiem Thanh, a country that bordered Vietnam on the South and often at odds if not at war with Vietnam. To secure a long-term peace, he arranged for a marriage between the Chiem Thanh king and one of his daughters- Princess Huyen Tran. In 1298 he became a monk and settled in Yen Tu Mountain. When he was not meditating in Yen Tu, he went barefooted around the country, giving lectures and organizing studies of the Buddhist dharma. One of the most brilliant kings and philosophers, he remains the polestar of Vietnamese traditional culture. His influence has reached across seven centuries. Both Zen masters Thich Thanh Tu and Thich Nhat Hanh consider themselves to be his spiritual descendants and both try, each in his own way, to revive the tradition of the Bamboo Forest School. Tran Nhan Tong was a prodigious author, but only 31 of his poems and a few other short pieces remain in existence.

24. Phap Loa (1284-1330)

Phap Loa’s given name was Dong Kien Cuong. He was born in 1284 in Cuu La village, Chi Linh district, Nam Sach County. A precocious child, he showed early interest in Buddhism. When Tran Nhan Tong came to visit the Nam Sach area in 1304, they met by chance, and the founder of the Bamboo Forest School of Zen accepted him as his disciple. To mark this special encounter, the king gave him the dharma name “Thien Lai” (Auspicious Arrival). When Thien Lai proved to be an outstanding student, Tran Tong was so impressed that he changed Kien Cuong’s name to Phap Loa and appointed him his successor. Phap Loa excelled as an organizer, builder, compiler of commentaries on the dharma, and expounder of doctrines. His works, unfortunately, are lost, except for three poems and a few excerpts from his writings.

25. Huyen Quang (1254-1334)

Huyen Quang’s given name was Ly Dao Tai. He was born in 1254 at Van Tai Village, Nam Sach District, Lang Giang Province. Recognized in childhood as a great literary talent, he easily passed the regional examination in 1274, and a year later, was the first laureate of the third examination (equivalent to the doctor degree). He was appointed to serve in the court, but after a short time decided to leave to become a monk. King Tran Nhan Tong, founder of the Bamboo Forest School, took him under his wing. He later became the Third Patriarch of the School. He is considered one of the great poets of the era. Twenty-four of his poems have been found.

26. Tran Thi Kien (?-?)

Tran Thi Kien was born in Cu Xa Village, Dong Trieu District. The dates of his birth and death remain unknown. Recommended to King Tran Nhan Tong by Marshall Tran hung Dao, he was appointed to various administrative posts. He was famous as a judge of great integrity and sagacity, and for his ability to foretell events using the I-Ching. King Tran Minh Tong (1276-1320) wrote a poem praising his legal acumen. None of his writings survives, except for this one poem, which was attributed to him in late 1940s.

27. Truong Han Sieu (?-1354)

Truong Han Sieu was born in Phuc Thanh Village, Yen Ninh District. The date of his birth remains unknown. Recommended by Marshall Tran Hung Dao, he held high positions under the reign of King Tran Minh Tong and Tran Du Tong. In 1353, he led an expedition to defend Hoa Chau (today Thanh Hoa Province). The following year, he submitted his resignation due to till health. He died before returning to the capital. In recognition of his outstanding service, King Tran Du Tong posthumously awarded him the honorary title Thai Bao (the third highest dignitary). Truong Han Sieu was famous for his integrity, wide knowledge, and wise counsel. Initially he favored Confucianism over Buddhism. Only towards the end of his life did he changed his mind and embraced Buddhism. His extant works are three prose pieces and four poems. A major record of the Tran dynasty’s Statues and Regulations (10 volumes) and a book of law code both jointly compiled with Nguyen Trung Ngan were also lost.

28. Tran Quang Trieu (1286-1325)

Tran Quang Trieu was born in 1286 at Tuc Mac Village, Thien Truong district, (now in Ha Nam Ninh Province). A nephew of the great Marshal Tran Hung Dao and brother in law of King Tran Anh Tong, he was well appointed in the court. He excelled in both literary and military fields, leading troops to pacify the border area. After the death of his wife, he asked to be allowed to retire to his retreat of Bich Dong near Quynh Lam Pagoda, in Quang Ninh Province. There, with his colleagues, he founded the Bich Dong Poetry Group. In 1324 King Tran Minh Tong asked him to return to the Court. Unfortunately, he died shortly thereafter. His sudden departure stunned his friends, who edited his poems posthumously into the Cuc Duong Collection. Of that collection, only 11 poems remain in existence.

29.Nguyen Trung Ngan (1289-1370)

Nguyen Trung Ngan was born in 1289 in Tho Hoang Village, Thien Thi district, Hung Yen Province. He obtained his doctoral degree at the age of 15. He assisted King Tran Minh Tong in the campaigns to pacify the Da Giang area and the unrest in Laos. He was a great poet whose many poems were selected in later anthologies. He was also a well-known legal scholar, who together with Truong Han Sieu compiled a book of Vietnamese criminal code (Hinh Thu), which no longer exists. Only 80 of his poems survive.

30. Tran Nguyen Dan (1325-1390)

Tran Nguyen Dan was born in 1325 in Tuc Mac Village, My Loc district, Nam Dinh Province. A member of the royal family, he was nephew of the great strategist Tran Quang Khai and maternal grandfather to the coming great cultural icon Nguyen Trai. He represented that unique man of action and contemplation of traditional Vietnamese culture who was equally at home in Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. In 1385 he resigned his post, and returned to live in obscurity in the Con Son area, Hai Duong Province. Only fifty one of his poems remain extant.

EDITORS

Nguyen Duy (General Editor)

Nguyen Duy’s given name is Nguyen Duy Nhue. Born in 1948, in Dong Ve Village, Thanh Hoa Province, he now lives in Ho Chi Minh City. In 1965 Duy served as a military squad leader, defending the area of Ham Rong, Thanh Hoa and, in 1966, he joined the signal corps, fighting in various battlefields including Khe Sanh, Route 9, and south of Laos, Quang Tri… He left the army in 1976 and worked for the newspaper Van Nghe Giai Phong (Liberation Literature and Arts). Since 1977 he has been the representative of Van Nghe weekly in the South. Among his published works are ten collections of poetry, three collections of memoirs, and a novel. The books of poetry include: Cat Trang (White Sand, 1973), Anh Trang (Moonlight, 1984), Me va Em (Mother and you, 1987), Duong xa (Distant Road, 1989), Qua Tang (The Gift, 1994), and Ve (Returning, 1994). In 1985 he published a novel- Khoang Cach (Distance), and a documentary narrative, Nhin Ra Be Rong Troi Cao (Wide sea and great sky). Among his awards are the poetry prize of Van Nghe in 1973 and the poetry prize of Vietnam Writer’s Association in 1985. A major collection of his poetry has been translated into Russia, French, Sweden, Germany, and English (Distant Road, published by Curbstone press- USA- in 1999). He holds a degree in Vietnamese linguistics and literature (Hanoi).

Kevin Bowen

Kevin Bowen is a director of the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His collections of poetry include: Playing Basketball with the Vietcong, Forms of Prayers at the Hotel Edison (Curbstone press), and most recently Eight True Maps of the West (Dedalus Press, Dublin). He has edited anthologies and collections of Vietnamese literature in translation including: Writing Between the Lines: An Anthology of War and Its Consequences; Distant Road: Selected Poems of Nguyen Duy; Six Vietnamese Poets, and Mountain River: Vietnamese Poetry from the Wars 1948-1993. He has received the Pushcart Prize and Artist Fellowships in Poetry and Fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts with his wife and two children. They share a house with the poet Sabra Loomis on Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland.

Nguyen Ba Chung

Nguyen Ba Chung is a writer, poet, and translator. His essays and translations have appeared in Vietnam Forum, New Asia Review, Boston Review, Compost, Nation, Manoa, Vietnam Reflections (TV History), Cypher, FirstPages, and other journals. He is the cotranslator of Thoi Xa Vang (A Time Far Past), and the author of the three poetry collections Mua Ngan (Distant Rain) in 1996, River: Vietnamese Poetry From the Wars 1948-1993 issued by the University of Massachusetts Press in Oct 1998; with Kevin Bowen Distant oad- Selected Poems of Nguyen Duy @ released by Curbstone Press in Nov 1999; and Six Vietnamese Poets, also by Curbstone Press in 2002. in the summer of 2002 he guest-edited with Kevin Bowen the Manoa issue 141 featuring New Vietnamese Writings. He is currently an Associate at the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and the Social Consequences and a Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Thank you (Dieu An & Le Hieu) for your offering this book
(Ven Thich Nguyen Tang, October 2007)

Typing: Kim Thu & Kim Chi
Layout: Quang Nhat Vien


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