Here's a Chinese poem by Ikkyū from his time literally wandering in the wilderness (well, Mount Yuzuriha); please excuse artless translation:


Stilling my voice I go through ogre's gate pass
Wolf and tiger tracks are many on the old road
Despite my sing-staff, in the end no wind or moon [i.e. poetic inspiration] arises
The underworld borders on the mountain before me

Ishii Kyōji 石井恭二, editor of the book I'm reading here (Ikkyū oshō taizen - Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 2008), points out that this is a big ol' metaphor for Zen practice. He also explains that "ogre's gate pass" (鬼門関) is a reference to a place in Jiaozhi/Giao Chi which was legendarily hazardous to travelers. But don't take my word for it — check the "Old Vietnam" section of the Tongdian 通典:


Thirty-odd li south of [Rongzhou] there are two rocks facing each other, shaped like a frontier pass, thirty paces apart, known popularly as "ogre's gate pass." When the Han "General Who Calms the Waves/Queller of the Deep" Ma Yuan subjugated the Lâm Ấp, he passed this way. The monuments and inscriptions are still there. In days of old, all who went to Jiaozhi did so via this pass. South of it, malaria and illness are rife, and those who depart seldom manage to return. Thus the common saying: "If ten depart through ogre's gate pass, nine will not return."

Interestingly that last one was also a rejected Australian Tourism Board slogan.

But wait, what actually interested me about this poem was the word 吟杖 ginjō, "sing-staff." I remembered seeing it in another Ikkyū poem (looking it up, it was the line 吟杖青鞋孤枕中: "Sing-staff, straw sandals, sleeping alone..."), but I don't recall encountering it in any other poet's work. The Nihon Kokugo Daijiten charmingly defines it as "a staff that poets use when thinking of poetry while walking," and their earliest citation is... this poem. They do note that there is similar phrasing in a 13th-century poem by Wen Tianxaign, but no direct line of descent is proposed.

Popularity factor: 3


Any way of knowing where Rongzhou was? I'd like to locate the pass if I could.


Quite far from Vietnam actually:



Thanks, and it sure is!

Aime la vérité, mais pardonne à l'erreur

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