Readers of Chinese poetry in English translation have long been accustomed to seeing Wang Wei's quatrain “Lu zhai” as a microcosm of the Chinese poetic tradition. Thematically, it is also a world in miniature, including an “empty mountain,” “human voices,” and “returning shadows” at the end of day. And the historical series of its English translations offers a picture of ever more condensed and stripped-down utterance, as if straining at the borders of the sayable in the effort to display an exotic worldview. But the quatrain, famous though it is in isolation, is but one in a series of forty, a moment in a dialogue that also includes scroll painting and landscape architecture. Putting the quatrain in its expanded context affords it a greater comparability with the rolling, episodic, adventuresome structure of Gary Snyder's homage to Chinese landscape painting, Mountains and Rivers without End. When dealing with worlds in art, it is important to ask what kind of world, and whether this world is self-sufficient or is part of another world, which may be part of further worlds.

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