Thirteen Translations of Lu Zhai, a poem by Wang Wei

Wang Wei (Chinese王維; 699–759) was a Chinese poet, musician, painter, and politician during the Tang dynasty. He was one of the most famous men of arts and letters of his time. Many of his poems are preserved, and twenty-nine were included in the highly influential 18th-century anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems.

Lu Zhai is one of his most known poems and also most translated into English and other languages. We collected some of the English translations for you to better understand the in-depth meaning of this poem. We all know it is hard to translate poems but why not give it a try? 

Maybe you can tell us what  you have got from this poem after reading all 13 translations?











W.J.B. Fletcher, 1919

So Lone seem the hills; there is no one in sight there.
But whence is the echo of voices I hear?
The rays of the sunset pierce slanting the forest,
And in their reflection green mosses appear.


Witter Bynner & Kiang Kang-hu, 1929

There seems to be no one on the empty mountain...
And yet I think I hear a voice,
Where sunlight, entering a grove,
Shines back to me from the green moss.


Soame Jenyns, 1944

An empty hill, and no one in sight
But I hear the echo of voices.
The slanting sun at evening penetrates the deep woods
And shines reflected on the blue lichens.


Chang Yin-nan & Lewis C. Walmsley, 1958

Through the deep woods, the slanting sunlight
Casts motley patterns on the jade-green mosses.
No glimpse of man in this lonely mountain,
Yet faint voices drift on the air.


C.J. Chen & Michael Bullock, 1960

On the lone mountain
I meet no one,
I hear only the echo
At an angle the sun's rays
       enter the depths of the wood,
And shine        
        upon the green moss.


James J.Y. Liu, 1962

On the empty mountains no one can be seen,
Bt human voices are heard to resound.
The reflected sunlight pieces the deep forest
And falls again upon the mossy ground.


Kenneth Rexroth, 1990

Deep in the mountain wilderness
Where nobody ever comes
Only once in a great while
Something like the sound of a far-off voice.
The low ray of the sun
Slip through the dark forest,
And gleam again on the shadowy moss.


Burton Watson, 1971

Empty hills, no on in sight,
only the sound of someone talking;
late sunlight enters the deep wood,
shining over the green moss again.


Wai-lim Yip, 1972

Empty mountain: no man is seen,
But voices of men are heard.
Sun's reflection reaches into the woods
And shines upon the green moss.


G.W. Robinson, 1997

Hills empty, no one to be seen
We hear only boices echoed -
With light coming back into the deep wood
The top of the green moss is lit again.


 William McNaughton, 1974

In empty mountains no one can be seen.
But here might echoing voices cross.
Reflecting rays
     entering the deep wood
Glitter again
     on the dark green moss.


H.C. Chang, 1977

Not the shadow on a man on the deserted hill -
And yet one hears voices speaking;
Deep in the seclusion of the woods,
Stray shafts of the sun pick out the green moss.


Gary Snyder, 1978

Empty mountains:
     no one to be seen.

Yet - hear -
     human sounds and echoes.

Returning sunlight
     enters the dark woods;

Again shining
     on the green moss, above.