English translations from poems by Kaku-an
Chinese poems by Kuo An Zhe



I. Searching for the Ox

Alone in the wilderness, lost in the jungle, the boy is searching, searching!

The swelling waters, the far-away mountains, and the unending path;

Exhausted and in despair, he knows not where to go,

He only hears the evening cicadas singing in the maple-woods.



II. Seeing the Traces

By the stream and under the trees, scattered
are the traces of the lost;
The sweet-scented grasses are growing
thick -- did he find the way?
However remote over the hills and far
away the beast may wander,
His nose reaches the heavens and none
can conceal it.


III. Seeing the Ox

On a yonder branch perches a nigheingale
cheerfully singing;
The sun is warm, and a soothing breeze
blows, on the bank the willows
are green;
The ox is there all by himself, nowhere
is he to hide himself;
The splendid head decorated with stately
horns -- what painter can
reproduce him?


IV. Catching the Ox

With the energy of his whole being,
boy has at last taken hold of the ox:
But how wild his will, how
ungovernable his power!
At times he struts up a plateau,
When Lo! he is lost again in a
misty unpenetrable mountain-pass.


V. Herding the Ox

The boy is not to separate himself with
his whip and tether,
Lest the animal should wander away into
a world of defilements;
When the ox is properly tended to,
he will grow pure and docile;
Without a chain, nothing binding, he will
by himself follow the oxherd.


VI. Coming Home on the Ox's Back

Riding on the animal, he leisurely
wends his way home;
Enveloped in the evening mist, how
tunefully the flute vanishes away!
Singing a ditty, beating time,
his heart is filled with a joy
That he is now one of those who know,
need it be told?


VII. The Ox Forgotten, Leaving the Man Alone

Riding on the animal, he is at last back
in his home,
Where lo! the ox is no more; the man
alone sits serenely.
Though the red sun is high up in the sky,
he is still quietly dreaming,
Under a straw-thatched roof are his whip
and rope idly lying.


VIII. The Ox and the Man Both Gone out of Sight

All is empty -- the whip, the rope,
the man, and the ox;
Who can ever survey the vastness
of heaven?
Over the furnace burning ablaze,
not a flake of snow can fall:
When this state of things obtains,
manifest is the spirit of the
ancient master.


IX. Returning to the Origin, Back to the Source

To return to the Origin, to be back
at the Source -- already a false step this!
Far better it is to stay at home,
blind and deaf, and without much ado;
Sitting in the hut, he takes no
cognisance of things outside,
Behold the streams flowing -- whither
nobody knows; and the flowers
vividly red -- for whom are they?


X. Entering the city with Bliss-bestowing Hands

Bare-chested and bare-footed, he comes
out into the market-place;
Daubed with mud and ashes,
how broadly he smiles!
There is no need for the miraculous
power of the gods,
For he touches, and lo!
the dead trees are in full bloom.