Thinking of Elder Sister Zhen

for two sopranos bells and prayer bowls

Text by Wang Duanshu (1621-1706), translated by Beata Grant

premiered November 1, 2015
Anne Harley, Stacey Fraser sopranos
Garrison Theater, Claremont, California

“Thinking of Elder Sister Zhen” is setting of 17th Chinese poet Wang Duanshu. She speaks here of the departure of her sister Wang Jingshu, who was leaving home to join a community of nuns. She imagines the beauty of Jingshu’s travels, including the once-in-thousands-of-years blossoming of the Udambara tree, The “Triple Realm” she refers to is of desire, form and formlessness, realms to be conquered through her religious practice.

She departs on her little boat, a witness to the dharma;
To a secluded village and the chill of an ancient temple.
The wind gusts and the shadows of the banners quiver;
The moon sets, leaving little bits behind in the alms bowl.
Exquisite beauty –– the blossoming of the Udambara tree,
Delightful feelings –– dining on the hills and rivers.
The Master has long ago transcended the Triple Realm,
While I, alas, remain caught up in my poetic worlds.

                  – Wang Duanshu (1621-1706), translated by Beata Grant.