Monday, March 5, 2018

Wu Li

Wu Li (1632—1718) is best known as a painter — one of the six orthodox artistic masters in the early Ch’ing period. He remained loyal to the Chinese landscape tradition, despite having seen prints of European paintings.

His poetry is noteworthy for his boldness in seeking to establish a Chinese Christian poetry.

He converted to Christianity and joined the Jesuits in 1682, later becoming one of the first Chinese to be ordained as a priest (1688). He could have been well paid as a court painter, but instead he chose the life of an evangelist — often disguising himself as a peasant or fisherman — travelling from village to village in Jiangsu.

The following poem was translated by Jonathan Chaves.

Singing of the Source of Holy Church

Before the firmament was ever formed,
------------------or any foundation laid,
high there hovered the Judge of the World,
------------------prepared for the last days!
This single Man from his five wounds
------------------poured every drop of blood;
a myriad nations gave their hearts
------------------to the wonder of the Cross!
The heavenly gates now have a ladder
------------------leading to their peace;
demonic spirits lack any art
------------------to insinuate deception.
Take up the burden joyfully
------------------fall in behind Jesus,
look up with reverence towards the top of that mountain,
------------------follow His every step.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.