RITES OF ETERNITY

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Otrzymałem właśnie od zaprzyjaźnionego tłumacza wspaniały przekład na język angielski mojego Posłowia do książki znakomitego poety chińskiego Jidiego Majii. Przyjaźnię się z nim od 2009 roku, kiedy to spotkaliśmy sie po raz pierwszy na Wyżynie Tybetańskiej. Ilustruję ten tekst moimi zdjęciami ludzi z narodowości Nousu, z której wywodzi się Majia i której jest wieszczem.

Jidi Majia – one of most eminent contemporary poets of China – creates cultural poetry, deeply rooted in the tradition of the Nuosu nation, in ancient magical consciousness, moderated by bimo priests and ghosts of forefathers. They create the invisible, spiritual space, with which the people of the mountains remain in constant touch, which specifies them and, with time, becomes great human longing for purity and fullness. Living in the presence of the magnificent and natural beauty, they continually endeavor to reflect the depth in their fate, giving themselves to it, and connecting it to great cosmogonic systems and elemental mechanisms of persistence. This means sensing the eternal existence, and at the same time completing days and nights, remaining in human body with its morbidity and pain, this is retaining the human form being subject to the elements and the destructive force of time. Rarely does it happen that human awareness appears so vividly in poetry, twinkling and taking the form of a bright ray, permeating enormous time divisions, scanning the space in all its shapes and metamorphoses. Majia can write a poem delicate like flutter of dragonfly’s wings, and at the same time create vast panoramas reflecting the spirit of the whole epoc, ethos of free existence among mountains and lakes, in harmony with animals, birds and all living creatures. Every new lyrical scene continues the story of the tribe and one entity, exclude from it, as if nominated to proclaim its glory. The poet is well aware that he was chosen out of many and is trying to fulfill what fate appointed him – he might as well have lived among the mountains of Liangshan, he might have gone hunting with a gun and live his life peacefully and torpidly in his native clan. He might have danced by the bonfire and looked into the distance from mountaintops, but his fate led him to the worldly poets, where he started to praise the earth and the nation in the distant corners of the world. He might have sung in huts far away from frosty, cosmic voids, he might have listened to the stories of sages and medicine men, but his task was to face the world and repeat the elemental truth of existence: I am Nuosu! This is his great task, and at the same time, a kind of prayer passed from one generation to another, this is a chain of reminders and uplifts, distant echo of ancient stories, which have come about and which will come to be.

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Cultural rites play an important role in this poetry, where most important are ceremonies connected with transformation of carnal being to spiritual one, and crossing the border of life.  The dead bodies undergo cremation and go through the elemental fire in the act of cosmic metamorphosis, once again they become cosmic matter, microscopic element of the land of mountains, lakes and inconceivably enormous universe. The poetry repeats the motif of body cremation, which is a reference to ancient rituals of burning bodies on the stake, but at the same time it is an element of faith in reincarnation, return to of the spiritual form to the childhood land and to the first love, wandering of the released entity among the peaks and slopes, spreading the one and only ephemeral consciousness in the enormity of space. Cremation becomes the central moment for limited existence, but at the same time depicts the horizon of existence for the spirit, sets it in motion and increases its momentum, takes it the places of first initiations and keeps sending it into the cosmos. Fire purifies, but at once turns cosmic, initiating the breakdown of complex innate structures, introducing them again into the unimaginative dimensions, indistinguishable and ever changing worlds, giving birth to galaxies, supernovas and asteroids. The poet is obviously fascinated with the moment of destruction of the mortal form ad entering the circle of elemental structures of the matter, final merging with rock, with black earth and clay, loam and dust. Fire becomes the sign of eternity, momentarily bounded by human form. Cremation becomes its most important rite, and at the same time an element of reconciliation with the world, consent to breakdown of particles and confirmation that the emperor, the medicine man or the leader will surrender to the same cosmic mechanisms; and whatever they attempt , they will not stop the time and its  final resolution.

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Creamtion is a kind of purifying the existence of sins, and the mourning rites confirm that the person being bid farewell was someone important for the world and constituted an essential, a kind of a particle of the eternal chain, momentarily taking the form of DNA, and after going through fire, returning to the realm of homogenous elements. Mother’s lamentation, bimo – medicine man’s prayer, brothers and sisters’ wailing, moaning of other relatives within the clan, are like eternal funeral song, reaching its peak at the moment of the body’s breakdown, farewell to the human form and birth of free spirit. Echo repeating sounds, takes them to distant mountains and it seems that the whole of nature is crying over the one who has just gout transformed and entered the circle of eternity for ever. The Nuosu attach a lot of weight to funeral ceremonies, which become a sort of celebrations of the whole society, and escorting the ashes to its burial place is like blessing these who are still alive, but soon will follow the same path and reunite with the deceased in the communion of elemental matter. Everything has its own meaning, beginning with colors and embroidery of clothes – blue, black and yellow – a ending with ritual singing and highlighting integral, tribal ties. In this poetry, cremation is the end of everything and at the same time gives birth to fear of eternity, which opens irretrievably and triumphs over life. This moment is painful and euphoric at the same time, it is a great sorrow and enormous joy, alpha and omega, decay and forming, oblivion and birth of a new form, its eternal rite of transformation.  Regardless of whoever they are and whatever they do, man will be depletes of their strengths, will be damaged by diseases and pain, and finally will die, and the mourners will prepare the cremation ceremony and take part in the funeral. This death will confirm eternal metamorphosis and common dying of beings, plants and animals, rock erosion, and most of all, disintegration of family and tribe relations, disappearing of earthly love and appearing of cosmic energy. At such a moment, one needs guides who will walk the consciousness to the gates of existence and for a moment will permeate the spiritual world to utter the last word of farewell, and return to the living. The Nuosu people believe that bimo are such priests, that is, shamans and wizards, ancient confidants of human sorrows, and storytellers relieving the pain of oblivion. Without doubt, the poetry of Jidi Majia is a kind of such a spell, and the poet grows into a symbol of one of the most important bimo of his nation. Standing proudly on a rock, leaning over the surface of a mountain lake, looking into dying eyes of deer, an eagle, a trout, he utters elemental truths and generates lyrical substance, which tugs at heartstrings and become an intellectual context for simple life in accordance with nature and ancient ceremonies, taking place in the homeland and in distant regions of the universe.

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These poems underline the inseparability of family and clan ties, testify to perseverance within a small, closed society, but at the same time open to the whole world. In this way they, they become a kind of lyrical announcement and confirmation of the fact that in distant Orient there live wonderful people having practiced cultural rites of passage for long, creating calendar and agrarian myths, but first of all attiring the shape of being in sanctity and praise of eternity. Besides bimo priests, parents and the next of kin to the poet, although the most important is mother. He makes notice of her senility and her visual elements, but at the same time unhesitantingly compares her to the mountains and rivers, attaching almost magical powers to her. It was her who carried him for nine months inside her womb and it was her who looked after him in his childhood, observing him diligently in the adolescence and young manhood – finally, it was her who became multiplication of all mothers in his poetic awareness and gained an epic dimension of Mother of Mountains, the creator of everything, the maker of existence and poetry, the strength and love energy, first and last wounds. We can easily imagine how important mother was for the poet when in a small house, lost among enormous mountains, she enveloped him in love, how important was her breast milk, smile on her face and the warmth of her embrace, how deeply the sweetness of her lips, constantly kissing him, sank into his memory, and her tender vigil by the cradle. It was her who became the foundation of days to come, it was her who first showed him the sky of blue, trees of green and distant fogs over mountainous lakes; it was her who taught him to speak and became a guarantee of poetic language, pointing at a flying swan, black boulders sliding from hills, a snow leopard vanishing in the distance and a mountain goat on a high rocky ledge. It was her who had been in him since the beginning and he was inside her, confirming the eternity of persistence in the shadows of peaks, in forks of great rivers and in the face of dangerous elements – it was she who created him, in the same way as the Invisible Maker created the whole universe and set the course of things running, giving momentum to births and dying. Undoubtedly, poem about mother written by Jidi Majia found its righteous place in the treasury of motherly lyric poetry; they are a confirmation of son’s love and vocation, his gratitude for granted life and for was about to happen after the miracle of birth. No-one else could comprehend the longings and desires of the poet to be, no-one gave him what she had given to him, letting him grow inside her body, and then delivering him to the world in labor pains and granting him cosmic love – no-one took such care of him and did not grant him safety among dangerous elements of nature, no-one watched him through tears walk away to distant towns. This is why Majia’s poems about mother become great paens in praise of longing and devotion, of pure love like water in the spring, sheer feeling like the view of distant, snow-capped peaks silhouetted against the blue sky. It was in mother’s body where the harmony came into being, which echoed in the poems to come, in poems about rivers and mountain chains, about an old bull in the arena, about deer and munjacs crossing the wilderness, about snow leopards and lynxes following them, it was in her, where, for the first time, sounded the tone which was to appear in the songs of Nuosu and his later poems.

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The poetry abounds also in extremely interesting hunting elements, which remind us that China is inhabited by ancestors of herding tribes, indigenous people, numerous ethnic groups which arrived from Central and Western Asia. Nuosu particularly concentrates on hunters, since they have always provided fresh meat, and most of all, they constituted  a closed clan of grown men wandering from one mountain pass to another, climbing enormous slopes, sleeping in lodges and caves among high peaks. They were the ones young girls sang about longing for great love; they were the ones their mothers had been waiting for when the set out to track a bear, an ibex, deer or a leopard. In Majia’s poetry, young hunters personify childhood dreams, they present great fascinations of the young ones. The child in the poems must stand for the very poet, who wanted to follow their example, follow them along mountain trails and hunt animals. On their return home, hunters had always told stories about inaccessible places, superhuman deeds, fights with powerful enemies. However, they also happened to tell stories about ghosts of the earth, about mystic happenings in a retreat by the Yangzi or the Huang He, gathering their momentum and swelling in the mountains. Then women and children perceived them as mythical heroes, ascending heroic myths from the real world, entering surreal regions neighboring the cosmos, on the edge of a rocky precipice and in a crystal-clear lake. And when they died, their bodies were cremated in a remote corner of Great Liangshan, they became the salt of earth, and at once set out to hunt in the spirit world. Transmigration occurs in poetry as natural continuation of earthly living, as extention of the family line and confirmation of belonging to the great family of Nuosu. Dreams of being hunter who on his own wanders around valleys intermingle with the tragedy of existence in extreme conditions, in the cold and the scorching heat from the sun; in the face of sudden cataclysms and the threat of the universe turning entities inside out, where stars opalesce and the moon shines with deadly light.

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Jidi Majia’s poetry neither seeks complex metaphors nor lures the reader with complexities of the language, it rather suggest a model of pure, narrative poesy, surprising with an accurate punchline and an ability to name ephemeral states of the mind, frames of mind, premonitions of ghosts in the beyond. This is constant highlighting of family ties and belonging to a definite ethnic group which retained its rituals and gave rise to an integral culture. Within these boundaries masterworks of art and subsequent parts of national epic, Hnewo Tepyy, passed amd modified in every generation by following bimo were created. Majia – following in their footsteps – creates modern poetry, which reaches wide masses in China and all over the world. There are more and more of translations of his poems, and each time it turns out that they perfectly fit new language. This happens due to the universalisms of topics and the lightness of the language, imitating prayer and mourning, extensive ode and light lyric. For centuries, China has been the land of real poetry, great thinkers and poets, this is a land well-oriented in the trends of contemporary verse. Achieving literary success is extremely difficult there, which is even more difficult due to a tendency of following the European or American patterns in snobbish way. Majia follows extraordinary models, cites great poets of the world, but never fails to forget the cultural poetry, which he acquired among small villages  on the border between Sichuan and Yunnan. Listening to stories of bimo, mothers and ancient people, hunters returning with  the kill, he developed particular sensitivity to elemental particles of nature and calling coming from distant voids of the cosmos. Listening to the echo of creation, deciding the proportions and naming hues, making out animals in the darkness, mountain ranges, highest peaks and valleys, poet is at the same time the creator and the last member of the clan, sadly reminiscing the world gone forever. And although it is born again in new poems and human minds of next generations, nothing will bring back the ashes of the dead to life. To be the poet of the Nuosu means to be the guardian of memory, a witness to beautiful deeds looking into the past and bright eyes – it means to pass, just like everything around, constantly creating a story about the time and the past, about the inevitable merging of being onto the death and eternity.

Translated by Wiesław Marcysiak

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