Cai Yen (162 – 239 CE) The daughter of writer Cai Yi, himself a friend of the legendary Cao Cao, Cai Yen is considered the first great Chinese woman poet. Far from leading a scholastic life, she was captured by a Hun chieftain, to whom she bore two sons, before Cao Cao ransomed her and married her to one of his officers.
From 18 Verses Sung to a Tatar Reed Whistle
I was born in a time of peace, But later the mandate of Heaven Was withdrawn from the Han Dynasty. Heaven was pitiless. It sent down confusion and separation. Earth was pitiless. It brought me to birth in such a time. War was everywhere. Every road was dangerous. Soldiers and civilians everywhere Fleeing death and suffering. Smoke and dust clouds obscured the land Overrun by the ruthless Tatar bands. Our people lost their will power and integrity. I can never learn the ways of the barbarians. I am daily subject to violence and insult. I sing one stanza to my lute and a Tatar horn. But no one knows my agony and grief.
I'd often like to lie atop a hill, Instead I suffer hardship, lacking money. This northern land was never what I wished, Instead I think of my teacher in the eastern forest. Golden flecks in the ash of cassia wood, My great ideals decline more year by year. As the sun goes down, a chilling wind appears, To hear cicadas makes me sorrow more.
Swift wind, heaven high, an ape's cry of grief, At the islet of clear white sand, birds circle round. Endlessly, trees shed leaves, rustling, rustling down, Without cease, the great river surges, surges on. Ten thousand miles in sorrowful autumn, always someone's guest, A hundred years full of sickness, I climb the terrace alone. Suffering troubles, I bitterly regret my whitening temples, Frustratingly I've had to abandon my cup of cloudy wine.
At first light, you ride swiftly over the village bridge; Plum blossoms fall on the stream and unmelted snow. With the days short and the weather cold, it’s sad to see a guest depart; The Ch’u Mountains are boundless, and the road, remote.
“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
A year ago my boat, homeward bound, moored at Yen-ling- I was kept awake all night by the rain beating against the sails . Last night the rain fell on the thatched roof of my house. I dreamed of che sound of rain beating against the sails.
Ordinary people look to their surroundings, while followers of the Way look to Mind, but the true Dharma is to forget them both. The former is easy enough, the latter very difficult. Men are afraid to forget their minds, fearing to fall through the Void with nothing to stay their fall. They do not know that the Void is not really void, but the realm of the real Dharma.