Montreal is well known as an artist's city. The rent is cheap, events are often free, and you can share a beer with your buds in the park.
So I wasn't totally surprised to hear that someone had written a poem on the platform of Lionel-Groulx station... though I was even more intrigued when I found out the poem was written in Mandarin.
TL;DR A man was spotted writing Chinese characters on the platform of Lionel-Groulx metro this morning! We did some hunting and translating and managed to find out the poem that he was writing. Check it out below!
The poem is a classic rhyming poem from the Tang dynasty, and the photo and video were submitted to us from an MTL Blog reader who spotted the man in the midst of his work.
The poem featured in the photo above is the beginning of the poem, "Night Mooring at Maple Bridge" by Zhang Ji, a Chinese poet who lived sometime between 730 and 780 A.D.
What's so interesting about this poem, and poems of this kind, are the endless possibilities for translation, because the Chinese characters are simple descriptions of the setting around the narrator.
However, here is one translation to consider:
The moon sets, crows cry in the frosty air.
Under maple trees by the river, a fisherman’s light disturbs my sleep.
Outside Suzhou city, from Hanshan Temple
The midnight bell comes to my boat.
These types of poems are meant to be read aloud and are usually written in short, five-character sets that are straightforward and descriptive.
The man above seems to be painting the poem with water onto the salt-covered ground of the metro station.
There is something so meditative about imagining this man travelling the metro stations, drawing lines of his favourite poems, and then stepping back onto the train and leaving them a poem for other passengers.
Until, eventually, the water will evaporate, passengers will come and go and the poem will sink back into the salty ground.
Check out the sources below for more insight into the meaning of the poem and the history of Tang poetry.
And if you encounter this man on your commute, thank him for making our city an even more beautiful place!