Square of Earth
In ancient Chinese cosmology the earth was symbolised by a square and heaven by a circle. Each of these four pieces ( 'corner songs' I call them) in the ‘Square of Earth’ represent an emotional variation on the theme of my leaving Beijing after living there 13 years to return to New Zealand. They also reflect my taking the moods of any leaving as simply a rehearsal for the great final departure.
Square of Earth – III
this is the corner song of affection
temple of heaven*
in that park
a twig of
only the old
a fall of state
*In Chinese ‘Tiantan (天坛)’; here I refer to the principal round building, often referenced in English as ‘Temple of Heaven’.. It is in fact ‘The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest’ (祈年殿)where the emperor prayed for a full harvest each year; The Chinese name‘Tiantan’ refers to the whole complex of structures at this location and the park enclosing it with its hundreds of cypresses trees, some up to 800 years old. No other place in Beijing holds such a feeling for me of the forgivingness and even tenderness of age.
**refers to the ancient divinatory practice of heating a marked tortoise shell and interpreting the resulting cracks.