Poem in Chinese about Sugar

Kokan Shiren Japanese

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A prominent figure in early fourteenth-century Japanese Zen, Shiren was born into an aristocratic family in Kyoto and studied Zen in Kamakura with the Chinese émigré monk Yishan Yining (Japanese: Issan Ichinei, 1247–1317). Shiren’s calligraphy reveals a debt to his master in its crisp brushwork, long horizontal strokes, and overall rightward-leaning tendency. The seven-character quatrain, about sugar, reads:

Now let fire and water fight it out:
Heat and boil it many times,
It will form naturally;
Don’t say that it always tastes like honey.
When you roll your tongue
It may also taste sour.
—Trans. Yoshiaki Shimizu and John M. Rosenfield

Poem in Chinese about Sugar, Kokan Shiren (Japanese, 1278–1346), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, Japan

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