Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where Dragon Bones is taking me....

This is an photo of a 'hanging coffin,' used by the Ba people who lived in the QuTang Gorge. It's a little hard to see unless you know what you're looking for - the crevice just left of center holds a wood coffin made out of a single tree trunk - but it's the best I've been able to find online, and is borrowed from a site called TravelPod - click on the image itself to see more of the photographer's images from her trip through China in 2006.

I am, of course, fascinated with the hanging coffins. This poem is quoted in Dragon Bones, and is what got me researching (click on the title link to find where I got the poem, and on the link in the middle for a site with more photos of how the hanging coffins were used):

Meng Jiao (751–814), “Sadness of the Gorges” (third of a set of ten)
tr. A. C. Graham

Above the gorges, one thread of sky:
Cascades in the gorges twine a thousand cords.
High up, the slant of splintered sunlight, moonlight:
Beneath, curbs to the wild heave of the waves.
The shock of a gleam, and then another,
In depths of shadow frozen for centuries:
The rays between the gorges do not halt at noon;
Where the straits are perilous, more hungry spittle.
Trees lock their roots in rotted coffins
And the twisted skeletons hang tilted upright:
Branches right as the frost perches
Mournful cadences, remote and clear.
A spurned exile’s shrivelled guts
Scald and seethe in the water and fire he walks through.

A lifetime’s like a fine-spun thread,
The road goes up by the rope at the edge.
When he pours his libation of tears to the ghosts in the stream
The ghosts gather, a shimmer on the waves.

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