Sunrise-Sunset in Yangshou

Murray River 1924 (
Murray River 1924 (

River Yulong means meeting a dragon.
In the time of the Ming Dynasty
a water-dragon came to Yangshou –
was awestruck by its raw beauty
and stayed forever. It wakes at dawn.

Early morning I watched the apricot
ball of sun rise in the far east where
it was born. Gold beams dance
between the sheer rock peaks of the
Guilin Mountains that reach up
like the outstretched fingers of two
giant hands cradling the valley.
Late autumn in Yangshou – the perfume
of white chrysanthemums in full flower
grace the infant day. Water lilies open
lilac umbrella leaves. In orchards
by the river the remnants of peach blossoms
swirl in the light breeze.

The sun climbs higher. In Yangshou Park
mountain-singers in traditional silk dress
release their gifts of words to the air.
In English they explain to foreigners
like me that four lines of song capture
two hundred years of history. Nearby a
watercolorist paints peony roses – the
national flower of China on rice paper fans.
In the far corner an old master practices
tai chi. The sun is high now –
equidistant between east and west –
balanced perfectly like the yin and the yang.

In West Street the tourists jostle and
hustle – haggling over the best price for
silk, jade, yak-bone, tiger-balm and tea.
I move through the crowds. At a tiny
wooden stall I buy propaganda art – a poster
of the Gang of Four – vanguard of the Cultural
Revolution under the late Chairman Mao
– a huge red cross cuts through their faces.
Decisively Throw Out The Wang-Zhang-
Jiang-Yao Party Clique! The caption reads.
There’ll be no mountain-songs for them.

The sun moves west. I make my way
through the bustle to an unsealed path
that leads to a village on the outskirts of
town – home of my hosts.
A blue kingfisher darts through the
persimmon trees that line the river banks
hanging heavy with ripe tangerine fruit.
I walk on into the soft shadows of the
abdicating day past fields of pink cosmos
bobbing in the evening breeze.

The sun sinks west below the horizon
in a purple and magenta haze. A fresh fish
caught especially for me is cooked in
traditional Yangshou style. We eat under
an arbor that droops with the weight of
scarlet roses – almost spent their velvet
petals fall around us on the ground.
A full-faced moon hangs in the vacant
night sky. Its light floats out over
the Yulong River. The dragon sleeps.

Jeanine Leane

Author: Jeanine Leane

Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri woman from South-west New south Wales. A Doctorate in literature and Aboriginal representation followed a long teaching career at secondary and Tertiary level. Formerly a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Studies, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at ANU where she is currently a research fellow in the Australian Centre for Indigenous History. In 2010, Jeanine’s first volume of poetry, Dark Secrets After Dreaming: AD 1887-1961 won the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry from the Australian Poets’ Union and her manuscript, Purple Threads won the David Unaipon Award at the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and was shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize and the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. Jeanine was the recipient of an Australian Research Council Discovery grant (2012 -2015) for her project; Reading the Nation: A critical study of Aboriginal/Settler representation in the contemporary Australian Literary Landscape and a Discovery Indigenous Award (2014 -2017) for her current project; The David Unaipon Award: Shaping the literary and cultural history of Aboriginal writing in Australia.

1 thought on “Sunrise-Sunset in Yangshou”

  1. I love the way the dragon seems to be there throughout the poem in the background and we seem to be looking through his eyes as well as the persona’s

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