Chinese Poem: 观书有感 Guān shū yǒu gǎn the feeling of reading books

I recently learned a Chinese poem that was life changing. I love the depth of wisdom encapsulated by this poem. So, I have translated it with an explanation below.



Bàn mǔ fāng táng yī jiàn kāi, tiānguāng yún yǐng gòng páihuái.

Wèn qú nà dé qīng rúxǔ? Wèi yǒu yuántóu huóshuǐ lái.

A large oblong pool opens as a mirror,

Light, cloud, and shadow linger through the sky,

When asked: whence comes such clarity (of thought)?

One’s answered that living water flows from the source.

The author is using a metaphor to explain what it feels like to read books. He likens the mind to a large pool of crystal-clear water. It opens as a mirror before the onlooking author. He looks into the mirror of water and sees light, clouds and shadow drifting across the sky. He asks why the pool of water is so clear (in other words, why are his thoughts so clear?), and he’s answered that it’s because living water is flowing into it — which by the name of the poem directly implies that new ideas are flowing into his mind because he reads frequently.

I could not agree more with this sentiment and have never in my life heard it articulated so beautifully.

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