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Artistic and Philosophical Foundations: Ziran



Ziran (自然): Nature. Things and processes that are natural and spontaneous. Ziran is a compound word: zi () and ran ().  Zi can mean “of itself” and “naturally”.  It is something or someone being themselves.  Ran in this case is an adverbial suffix.  Like the English suffix “ly”.  The implication here is that ziran is a verb, a word of action and/or state of being.

It can be Nature, as in the natural world of plants and animals; it can mean natural, as in the natural course of events, and like xian () it can refer to a state of mind at ease and unaffected. It is Nature being itself. It is something being itself.

This word appears many times in ancient Chinese poetry, both literally and figuratively.  Following are a few examples:

…“Wind sends the sweet fragrance of lotus
Echoes of clear dew drops falling off the bamboo.”
Summer Day: Southern Pavilion, Thinking of Xin Da:

Meng Haoran


…”Having the clear sounds of wind and water
No need to go back and listen to the hermit madly singing in the mountains.”
Writing About Master Kong’s Room Within the Cui Wei Temple,
Southern Mountains:                                                                                                       Meng Haoran


…”Lakes and mountains produce many insights
As a visitor drinking wine alone
Oars put inside, sing songs to myself
Completed songs flow away
Spreading sounds engage the sunset ripples.”Double Ninth Days in Longsha: Write and Then Send to Liu Zhexu:
Meng Haoran


…”Sunset on the mountain mists a beautiful glow
Flying birds come back together.                                                                              Within Nature and the Middle Way is the true meaning
When distinguishing wants and needs stop, words are forgotten.”      Drinking Wine No. 5:                                                                                                            Tao Yuanming


“In the west climb the popular Xianglu summit
To the south see tall waterfalls
Flows suspended for three hundred feet
For ten li spray expands from the pool into the canyon.

Water quickly explodes like lightning
Creating rising rainbows within rainbows
Amazed, it’s source is the Milky Way coming down to earth
Clouds of mist halfway to heaven.

Look up again to see the power and concentration of Nature
So strong!
Under special circumstances the waterfalls arise
Ocean winds blow without stopping
Moonlight on the river illuminates the sky.”

Gaze Into the Distance at Mt. Lu Waterfalls:

Li Bai


“Punctual rain informs us of the season
Only when spring comes is the genesis of risings and development
Following the east wind, evening secretly enters
To moisten things delicately and without a sound.

Open country footpaths, clouds adhere to the sky’s blackness
A single river boat lantern is bright
Daybreak, see the bending red blossoms
Chengdu with layers of brocade-like flowers.”

Happy Spring Evening Rains:                                                                                            Du Fu


…”Mountain pass with climbing flowers of many varieties
In the clouds, meditation houses of piled stones
Buildings follow the contours of land and cliff
Pathways wind around and meander without any straight lines
Fresh spring waters flow artesian from shady cliff walls
Tall vines shade the green ponds and levees…”

Travel to Mt. Langya Temple:                                                                                           Wei Yingwu


“Mountain huts with to Daoist scholars
Under one summit they dwell on separate peaks
They can just reach out to touch the white clouds
Gentle sunlight dries the conifers and their unbound hair.

Clear evenings, immortals make their descent
Burned incense full fills the emptiness
Living amidst the joys of wuwei
Ziran gives socity no place to rest…:                                                                             Mail This to Dao Masters, the Honorable Huang and Liu:

Wei Yingwu

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