Poems of Meng Jiao
Searching for Recluse Pei
Fording the river, climbing up again,
Going where all is simple and pure.
Winter grasses don't hide the trail.
Divine peaks know someone is here.
Inner alchemist, free and unrestrained,
Alone and intimate of twilit mists.
Once he only wanted to live free.
Now they say he's engulfed in emptiness.
His distant mind he sends to the bright moon.
His white hair has again turned dark.
I've come out of respect for his accomplishments,
Recklessly pushing myself on.
Inner alchemy is Daoist meditative practice. In practical terms, it leads to one's generation of bodily heat and in some cases the opposite. One of Bai Juyi's friends could keep himself warm in winter and cool in summer. The poet Yu Xuanji was able to produce this warmth. But these are merely consequences of a pursuit, of walking a particular path. Buddhist or Daoist, both are upon the path. And Meng Jiao is searching for someone whose practical demonstration exceeds his own. Such people are always hard to find. In this poem, at least, Recluse Pei remains unfound.