Elements (No. 2) – T’ai Hsuan Ching, Reimagined: An Epic Poem

T'ai Hsuan Ching - Tetragram 2 (0001) - Credit: JoePerez.com

Note: This post continues a series of excerpts from my forthcoming untitled volume of poetry which is a thorough reimagination of the T’ai Hsuan Ching, also known as the Canon of Supreme Mystery. It is intended as neither strict translation nor commentary, but an original vision inspired by the poet’s own response to the text of the Chinese classic. 

Unlike the better-known I Ching, the cosmology of  T’ai Hsuan Ching is based on a vision of reality from ternary properties. These properties are depicted with line drawings called unigrams and arranged in this epic poem in groups of four (i.e., the 81 tetragrams).



Tetragram 2. Elements




Rewards are in the Core,
Space empties of Emptiness
If the Palace door be open,
Or if it be closed.


Plants penetrate stone
Overturning the rock.
Moss appears, the world outside
Gives breath to good things,
Takes from harmful things.


It leaves me.
It enters me.
It is me.
It is not me.


Four stars of the Plough:
Eye of Spirit, Pivot of Emptiness!
Heart of Spirit, Tamer of the Bear!
Core of Spirit, Bringer of Life!
Root of Spirit, Creative Source!


A sash on a hook hangs down
And passes through a jade ring.
Its honoring is action enough.
Elements reward the whole.


A Yellow Cottage — A prize.
A White Cottage — Nothing.
A Green Cottage — A warning:
The poor do not have the means.


The Blue Castle disappears.
It ascends and perfumes the Heaven.
She lets it go.
He carries it.
It is true.


Eyes blind to truth
Do not inspire allegiance
Or obtain sweet sex.
Their work is undone.


Journeys outside one’s body
Do not bring death.
Atoms may live quintillions of years
But quarks live so quickly
The difference has not been truly measured.



Acknowledgments: I am particularly indebted to translations of the T’ai Hsuan Ching, Tao Te Ching,and I Ching by Derek Walters, Michael Nylan, Alfred Huang, and S. Mitchell.

For related posts on Awake, Alive & Aware, see the T’ai Hsuan Ching category.

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