Poem by Yuan Chun
Spring Full Moon in Qin
From Pheonix Tower, spring's full moon is beautiful
While, below, the palace is severe.
I enter the garden. Trees stand in the rain.
But to the south, sky is clearing beyond the peaks.
Everywhere I walk -- scattered blossoms.
Fresh, clear air grows heavy in the dusk.
I am happy to see that the times are at rest,
That even the extravagant enter quietly upon the Way.
From her epitaph found at Dunhuang and her poems, we can create a least-true sketch of Yuan Chun's life. She was born during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong (712-756) around 720, probably in Luoyang, the Eastern Capital. Her father was an official and may have been well-off as she mentions living on an estate. Yuan enters a Daoist nunnery in Luoyang (Southern Hill?) around 740. Her epitaph says she entered because of her interest in immortality. At this time, Daoism was the state religion and women could achieve quite a bit of freedom by becoming nuns. It is at least as likely that she became a nun to escape an arranged marraige as that she wanted to eat a lot of red mercury to live forever at 20 years of age. She remained a nun, eventually becoming the abbess of Zhide Monastery in the capital, Chang'an. In old age, she returns to Luoyang and dies around 780.
She lived through the An Lushan rebellion (755-763) which caused the Tang to abandon Chang'an. So this poem is probably written after 763 and before Yuan Chun returns to Luoyang. Calling the palace "severe" is probably praise and not criticism. "Fallen blossoms" is probably the state of the city following sieges and depredations. What I translate "extravagance" is actually a reference to "rainbow garments." This was a song and dance that was very popular among the courtiers in Xuanzong's somewhat decadent court. The peace she is feeling lasted only briefly. The extravagant did not continue upon the Way.