Nampo Jomyo, died at the age of seventy-four

In 1307, exactly a year before his death, Nampo wrote:

This year, the twenty-ninth of the twelfth
No longer has a place to come to.
The twenty-ninth of the twelfth next year
Already has no place to go.

These words were taken, after his death, as proof that Nampo knew he would die in a year. And so it was: on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth month, 1308, Nampo took up his brush, wrote the following poem, and died.
To hell with the wind!
Confound the rain!
I recognize no Buddha.
A blow like the stroke of lightning–
A world turns on its hinge.

Although the consciousness of death is in most cultures very much a part of life, this is perhaps nowhere more true than in Japan, where the approach of death has given rise to a centuries-old tradition of writing jisei or the "death poem." Such a poem is often written in the very last moments of the poet's life.

"Japanese Death Poems" is published by Tuttle Publishing and is available near the Hong Kung Temple, two steps away from the Inner Harbour and the river side, in the red wall store you have heard about for quite a while now.


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