I have been spending my spring sabbatical in China. As I am a sinologist, specializing in traditional Chinese poetry, there is nothing surprising in that, except that I have not been here since 1981, when I led a tour group for less than three weeks. Most of my work has been that of the classicist, poring over poems in literary Chinese from the late Ming to early Ch’ing Dynasties (17th century), and the Sung Dynasty (960-1279), my periods of concentration.
My trip here was for the purpose of exploring the famed Yellow Mountains (Huang shan) of Anhui Province, one of the Creator’s most extraordinary productions, with stark granite cliffs displaying fantastically shaped rock formations, adorned by virtually the only vegetation, twisting pine trees that appear to be rooted in stone, protruding horizontally, vertically, and at every conceivable angle—peaks, rocks and pines known throughout China by such names as Heavenly Gate, Lotus Blossom Peak, The Pine Which Broke Through Rock, The Reclining Dragon Pine, The Roiled Dragon Pine, Bridge of the Immortals, The Hundred-Step Ladder Through the Clouds, Flew-Here Rock. This last is an enormous boulder that stands on the very tip of a stony peak, unconnected with it in any way, as if placed there on purpose.
And then there are the mists and clouds, arising as if from below suddenly, unexpectedly, to burgeon forth and form the “Ocean of Cloud.”