Golden Secret Series
By ZANG Di (1964-) tr. FAN Jinghua
Head bent, I can see this chrysanthemum alone,
A golden guide, small curving arms extending like tentacles of a mollusc.
Only a glance unfocused may find them in the shape of yellow petals.
Now I am sensitive as if my mind is a broken string.
So well-nurtured, it must be savvy in politics,
And hence in the decorum of a plant lies the occult message of the cosmos.
Head up, I catch a glimpse of a figure that is watering the flower.
She is no gardener, and yet it appears she is equipped with a better way,
Knowing how to introduce water to the point.
A casual comparison may tell, most people have uncountable secrets behind their back,
But her secret is not hidden behind. It is there, between the flower and me. Voila,
Yes! Her secret is always there on her façade.
When one lowers his head to look at a flower, the gesture is a way to positioning the object. Lowering one’s head is a way of approaching, getting close and enlarging the object, therefore the seen flower here becomes not only a small world in itself (the cosmos in the forthcoming stanza) but also a guide for the world. This expression itself is discursive, which implies numerous (false) directions. Numerous hands (as of the thousand-handed kuanyin bodhisattva), numerous tentacles or receivers require one to distance himself in order to get a better view of the picture. Otherwise, he will only see the trees instead of the forest. Only when a flower is not a flower, can that flower become a(ny) flower or flowers, so that the flower carries the meaning of all the flowers.
The opening line of the second stanza proves a little slippery to translate. Literally, 而我现在心细得就像一根断弦 can be rendered as “And I now am thin-hearted (careful, meticulous) just like a broken string.” But it is obvious that the phrase bears more than this. On the one hand, it emphasizes that the gazer focuses on the details of the object; on the other hand, it implies that the gazer himself is made to be sensitive by the adjustment in the course of gazing. Of course, the visual implication is also suggested in the comparison between the flower with many thin arms and the heart. However, in Chinese, 心refers to both heart and mind, as in the ancient people believe that heart is responsible for emotion and thinking.
The phrase “so well-nurtured” is a little ambiguous as to what it refers. There, it can be understood as referring to the wisdom “sound mind in a sound body,” which I take as a step to understand the word politics, as politics is so abruptly brought into the poem. Here, I take politics as an ability to be graceful and easy in any situation. That is, politics may be understood as the decorum of a plant, which is the result of the shaping power of the cosmos, and the beauty of a flower is the embodiment of the occult meaning.
In the first two stanzas, the gazer is into or inside the flower, whereas in the coming two stanzas the gazer is distancing himself from the flower or standing outside of it. Now, he sees another person, and he claims that she is not a gardener though she is watering the flower. That is, the person does not belong to the garden (not a laborer or slave to the garden). When one looks at a flower (“I see this chrysanthemum alone”), he sees only that flower or at most the flower and subjectified flower (me into the flower, empathized flower or my flower). When he looks up and contextualizes the flower, he sees another (the other). Once one sees between the object and the subject the third party, he sees more than three.
Therefore, the gazer comes out from inside or behind the flower to the front, and the meaning between or behind them becomes explicit. This is the explication of meaning: meaning lies upon things, not behind. When the flower is not the flower, any flower is the flower. A flower is a flower, after all.
养得这么好，心的健康要有身的健康，sound mind in a sound body，这本身就是一种政治。我在此将政治理解为一种游刃有余、进退自然的能力，可以说是下一行中的植物的礼貌、decorum得体，这一切是大自然的奥义，the occult message of the cosmos宇宙的玄妙寓意。