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“HALF AND HALF” SONG

by Li Mi'an (Years unknown, Qing Dynasty)
English translation: Fo Guang Shan International Translation Center

Life at midpoint has its ups and downs,
as the first half is greatly enriched;

Boundless leisure is still with the latter half,
within it, the vastness yet to be reached.


Split is humanity dwelling in cities and countryside,
the farming fields separated by mountains and water;

Divided is the time for plowing and studying,
the kinship of intellectuals and illiterates.


Tools are categorized by grades of refinement and crudeness,
gardens balanced by their aestheticism and practicality;

Dress is sorted out either as plain or flashy,
some meals are simple while others are extravagant.


Some helpers are capable while others are inept,
a wife can be witty and yet humble;

Half the mind is spiritual while the other materialistic,
the name can be prestigious and yet obscure.


Half the realm is encompassed by the sky and earth,
as the other half is dedicated to humankind;

Concern is equally given for betterment of the future,
and the fulfillment of the present.


The ideal is to drink wine half sweet,
flowers are most beautiful during mid-bloom;

A sail at half-mast prevents the boat from capsizing,
a horse is better controlled with a half grip.


The half that is scarce fulfills the taste buds,
while the half that is excessive repulses them;

Bitterness and sweetness have always blended well together,
shrewd are the ones who take advantage of the good half.

── from Shei Zuihui Xiangshou Rensheng (Who Can Enjoy Life the Most)