“On the Plateau,” by Shen Haobo

Rally for Tibetan monk who killed himself through self-immolationPoet and publisher was born in 1976 in Taixing, Jiangsu Province. He is a leading figure in the “Lower Body Poets” (下半身写作) contemporary movement. Follow Shen on his Sina blog and Weibo account.

Following is a translation of Shen’s poem “On the Plateau” (在高原), originally published in September of last year [Chinese], in which the poet explores the themes of  and self-immolation on the Tibetan plateau.

On the Plateau

Navy blue* sky, floating fragmented clouds

Like a troop of soldiers, spirit scattered by guns

Like an aged master, a soul that flies away after deep meditation

Like a cow eating grass, a crawling in its stomach, chewing the cud of the soul

 

The wind blowing the poplar, green-colored leaves

Turning and tumbling on its back, beneath the sunshine, sparkling like silver

Exposing the face of Tara. The Yellow River like the tears of snowy mountains

Yak milk flowing the same, washing heaven’s reflection

 

The canyon’s bend, rivers and creeks among a thick forest

Those little houses, snow-white walls painted with black characters:

Fight disintegration, refuse infiltration, resist self-immolation, violators will be prosecuted

A pitch-black gun muzzle, dipped in blood, burning on the plateau

 

The monk wearing red, turning like prayer, walking towards the flame

Hiding himself in the shoulder blade of the plateau, his body like cedar branches

Turquoise eyes, amber teeth, flame like the wind

Blowing open the withered and yellow sutra. He’s in the fire, like incense in the furnace

 

Throwing oneself to blood, and achieving instant enlightenment?

Death by flame, is it also Nirvana?

Why die in such a way? Because of land and faith?

A pride of lions galloping on the plateau, they kowtow the same, as they walk towards the flame

2013/9/10

在高原

 

藏青色的天空,漂满破碎的云

像一群士兵,被枪打散的灵魂

像年迈的上师,入定后飞出去的灵魂

像吃草的牛羊,匍匐的胃中,反刍出的灵魂

 

风吹着杨树,绿色的叶子

翻卷出它们的背面,在阳光下,白银般闪耀

露出度母的脸。黄河像雪山的眼泪

牦牛奶一样流淌,清洗着天空的倒影

 

峡谷的拐弯处,河川的密林间

那些小房子,雪白的墙上刷着黑色的大字:

反对分裂,拒绝渗透,抵制自焚,违法必究

黑洞洞的枪口,蘸着血,在高原上燃烧

 

穿红衣的僧人,转经一样,朝火焰走去

他把高原埋藏在肩胛,身体像雪松的枝条

绿松石的眼睛,琥珀的牙,火焰像风

吹开舌苔上枯黄的佛经。他在火中,如香在炉中

 

投身于血,也能立地成佛吗?

火焰加身的死亡,也是涅槃吗?

为何要如此去死?因为土地和信仰吗?

群狮奔腾的高原,那人磕长头一样,朝火焰走去

[Chinese source]

Translated by Natalie Ornell. Also see CDT’s translation of Shen Haobo’s “My Motherland is Not Made of Love” and Martin Winter’s translation of Shen’s poem “Republic” (理想国).

* 藏 (zàng), the first character in the Chinese word for “navy-blue” (藏青色 zàngqīngsè), is also the short form of the Chinese word for (西藏 Xīzàng). Back.