Tenn Nga-I, Freelancer
A Night on a Mountainside
(Translated by Tenn Nga-I)
Sleep peacefully on a mountainside
Blanketed in gauzy silken mist
In homes at the foot of the hill
Yellow bulbs glow like flowers in bloom
Warming the darkening eventide
Among the houses
Snores abruptly rise
Gurgling like boiling water
Colloquy with birds and insects
Before and beyond the hillside
In front and back of the homesteads
In chorus with a rippling breeze
They sing a familiar farm village melody:
“Dark Night on a Mountainside,” as it’s called
A moon hovers in the night sky
Unwilling to drift into slumber
Watching over dreaming souls till the break of day
A mountainside farm village is the subject of Qiu Yifan’s “A Night on Mountainside,” a Hakka poem that portrays various aspects of the mountain nightscape, revealing the lively and harmonious interaction between humans and nature. In the poem, nature isn’t simply a passive, lifeless object for people to observe and exploit. On the contrary, the poet imagines nature as a living organism, full of awareness and expressive power, a partner who actively responds to human needs and activities.
The poem’s mood is warm. Darkness has fallen on the mountainside and the village has slipped into peaceful sleep. The farmland is covered by a blanket of mist, as though it were a person sleeping – the poet compares the hazy fog that settles on the mountain at night to a “gauzy silken blanket,” vividly portraying the village’s tranquility, endowing it with a lyrical quality.
The houses at the foot of the mountain are lit by electric bulbs, which the poet likens to flowers that blossom in the night. Rather than making people feel sad and lonely, the darkness overflows with warmth, the “yellow bulbs” reinforcing the cozy atmosphere.
The perspective then shifts into the rooms where people are sleeping, unaware or unconcerned that they are snoring loudly, “gurgling like boiling water.” The deep, uninhibited snores create a kind of rhythm, a counterpoint to the sounds of birds and insects, as if all are singing in harmony. The poet characterizes the sonic interaction between humans and nature as a “colloquy” (參詳cam xiong), as though the snorers are carrying on a spirited nighttime conversation with the various creatures. The sounds echo off the mountains around the village, flowing here and there on the “rippling breeze” that cools the night, the melody everywhere to be heard. This song sung by the insects, the birds, the wind, the night, and human beings is a tune familiar to them all, nature’s musical score. The poet uses “familiar” (熟識sug sitt) to highlight the tacit understanding and friendship among the natural world’s myriad creatures, even giving the song a name; “A Dark Night on a Mountain.” In the midst of this peaceful, harmonious, and happy atmosphere, the moon is reluctant to go to sleep, as though she is a mother and guardian to all, content to watch over her children as they dream the night away.
In depicting a mountain village at night, the poem conveys a “dreamscape” where humans and nature coexist in harmony, a style of “nature writing” that approaches the pastoral: on the one hand, it seeks a pure state of living, eager to return to a life of simplicity; on the other hand, the poem implicitly critiques modern urban society – in a social environment where prosperity, progress, and efficiency are valued above all else, human feelings are gradually lost, and human beings grow farther and farther apart from nature.
Qiu Maojing, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Qiu Yifan (1971- ) is a native of Nanzhuang Township in Miaoli County. As a youth he went to school in Taoyuan and Hsinchu. While studying at Hsinchu Normal College (today’s National Hsinchu University of Education) Professor Fan Wenfang encouraged Qiu to pursue writing. Qiu Yifan published “A Carved Basket,” his first piece, in Hakka magazine. After university graduation he taught elementary school for many years in his hometown of Nanzhuang, continuing to write Hakka songs, essays, and fiction, publishing in Hakka Magazine, Central Plain Weekly, and other periodicals. He has served as secretary-general of the Nanzhuang Township Community Association and editor of Nanzhuang People, a local publication. He is currently enrolled in a doctoral program at National Central University in Hakka language, literature, and sociology. He also serves as chief editor of Hakka Literature Magazine, actively promoting Hakka writing.
In a preface to A Night on a Mountainside Qiu wrote that Hakka poetry is a major source of reliance in his life. To date he has published a number of Hakka poetry collections: Really (1999; published as a single volume with Gong Wanzao’s A-Qiujian’s Story), River Snail (2000), Longing Under the Flowering Tung Tree (2004), and A Night on a Mountainside (2007). To promote written Hakka, in addition to composing Hakka poetry, Qiu has also authored a number of scholarly works: Poets, Language, and Poems: Hakka Writer Wu Zhuoliu’s Poetry (2012), and Ethnicity, Language, and Literature: Treatises on Hakka Literature (2012), works that expound on the beauty of Hakka literature and argue for the necessity for a written Hakka language. Qiu has received the 1st Annual Mung Fa Literature Prize (1998), the Ministry of Education Award for Hakka Essays and Teachers’ Group Prize for Poetry (2008, 2009), and the Taiwan Hakka Culture Award, affirming his literary achievements. Fan Wenfang has praised Qiu’s poetry for presenting everyday thoughts and feelings in pure Hakka, hailing his prolific output and command of the Hakka language.
|Work(English)：||A Night on a Mountainside|
|Anthology：||A Night on a Mountainside|
|Author：||Qiu Yifan (Hiu, Yit-fan)|
|Language：||Traditional Chinese (Hakka)|
|Translator：||鄭雅怡 (Tenn Nga-i)|
|Publisher：||Miaoli City: International Culture and Tourism Bureau, Miaoli County|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.m.sanmin.com.tw/Product/Index/000746898|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “www.m.sanmin.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||Unpublished Translation by the Literature Toolkit Project|