+ Bibliography
+ About the Speakers


LI BO (701-762)

DU FU (721-770)

The Poet-Painter

Robert Oxnam :: Wang Wei was not only a poet. He was also a painter of some distinction. While associated with the Buddhist belief that the world we perceive is illusory, Wang Wei was preoccupied with how perception is bound up with human feelings.

Stephen Owen :: Wang Wei is often associated with Buddhism, and he has explicitly associated himself with Buddhism in many cases. But on a deeper level, it was the way he was fascinated by looking at the world.

He was also a painter, and his poetry shows very much the eye of a painter, the way you look at a scene, construct the scene, see the balances and relationships in the scene, and often see things that people in the scene can't themselves see.

And the Buddhist side of this would seem to be often the Buddhist notion of rupa, the sort of sensuous surfaces of the world, where you can describe all the beauties, but they're hollow, they're two dimensional images.

One of the most famous lines is "the color of the mountain is between being and non-being," and, of course, what this describes is a mountain in a mist in that peculiar way in which you can just barely see a color space in the mist, and you think there's a mountain there, but in the Buddhist sense of the illusions of the world, you have this huge thing, this mountain and all of a sudden, its presence, its very existence, sort of half fades in and out. It's between being there and not being there.