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This Spinning World (43 stories from far and wide), Jim Potts; ISBN 978-1-912788-02-6

I am pleased to say that my book has now been published and is available from Colenso Books (write to colensobooks@gmail.com ) and...

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Relaxing in Zagori; China and Greece

After the panigyri, time to sit around under the plane tree.

Chris King and I made friends with a Chinese family we'd met in Kipi. Shaobo Yang, an art historian, is making a comparative study of Ancient Greek Mythology (Homer, Hesiod, the tragedians) and Chinese Calligraphy, representing for him the high points of two great civilizations. His wife is a film critic and expert on the films of Angelopoulos.

The conversation flowed, ranging from Tang Dynasty Poetry and the Ancient Chinese Lyre to Confucius, Calligraphy, Mahler (The Song of the Earth) and the Greek Miroloi.

Confucius said:

"The wise take pleasure in rivers and lakes, the virtuous in mountains" .

Yang give me a calligraphy brush and a recording of "Mountain and Flowing Water" played on the Chinese lyre. I gave him a copy of my book "The Ionian Islands and Epirus", and his wife a DVD of Angelopoulos' "Travelling Players". Chris presented him with his CD collection of Epirot music, Five Days Married and Other Laments.

Yang and his wife say they intend to translate parts of my book into Chinese and to have them published, along with some of my poems. They came to inspect my calligraphic scroll of a poem by Zhang Ji.

A normal day in a Zagori village!

Mooring at Night by Maple Bridge

(A version of the poem by Zhang Ji translated, with the help of a Chinese journalist, from a Chinese calligraphy roll bought in Beijing)

The moon is setting; the cawing of crows.
Cold air; frost's coming.

A fisherman's lamp hangs on the boat.
Frosted late Autumn leaves above him,
A stranger fell asleep: sad thoughts.

From Hanshan Temple outside Gusun City
Comes the continuous sound of a bell at midnight,
Reaching the stranger's boat; pitch blackness.

Music for Meditation, Fishermen's Song At Eventide, Xiang Sihua

A poem of my own, which I shared with Yang:

A Hermit in Vitsa

Reading Chinese poems
Of Wang Wei, Zhang Ji;
Japanese haiku by the monk Ryokan,
I'm glad to be alone
In my mountain retreat.
They talk to me of the simple life.
I shut my books. Where is my wife?

Confucius and Buddha

And a little Lao Tzu for good measure, from the Tao Te Ching:

"He who has room in him for everything is without prejudice.
To be without prejudice is to be kingly;
To be kingly is to be of heaven;
To be of heaven is to be in Tao".


  1. "Sublime" is indeed the right word for the Pindus mountains around Zagori, and the Vikos Gorge. Ancient Chinese poetry provides the ideal counterpoint, after hearing a deeply sad miroloi (lament) played on violin or klarino. For some more poems, see: