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Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology

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With this groundbreaking collection, translated and edited by the renowned poet and translator David Hinton, a new generation will be introduced to the work that riveted Ezra Pound and transformed modern poetry. The Chinese poetic tradition is the largest and longest continuous tradition in world literature, and this rich and far-reaching anthology of nearly five hundred p With this groundbreaking collection, translated and edited by the renowned poet and translator David Hinton, a new generation will be introduced to the work that riveted Ezra Pound and transformed modern poetry. The Chinese poetic tradition is the largest and longest continuous tradition in world literature, and this rich and far-reaching anthology of nearly five hundred poems provides a comprehensive account of its first three millennia (1500 BCE to 1200 CE), the period during which virtually all its landmark developments took place. Unlike earlier anthologies of Chinese poetry, Hinton’s book focuses on a relatively small number of poets, providing selections that are large enough to re-create each as a fully realized and unique voice. New introductions to each poet's work provide a readable history, told for the first time as a series of poetic innovations forged by a series of master poeets. From the classic texts of Chinese philosophy to intensely personal lyrics, from love poems to startling and strange perspectives on nature, Hinton has collected an entire world of beauty and insight. And in his eye-opening translations, these ancient poems feel remarkably fresh and contemporary, presenting a literature both radically new and entirely resonant.


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With this groundbreaking collection, translated and edited by the renowned poet and translator David Hinton, a new generation will be introduced to the work that riveted Ezra Pound and transformed modern poetry. The Chinese poetic tradition is the largest and longest continuous tradition in world literature, and this rich and far-reaching anthology of nearly five hundred p With this groundbreaking collection, translated and edited by the renowned poet and translator David Hinton, a new generation will be introduced to the work that riveted Ezra Pound and transformed modern poetry. The Chinese poetic tradition is the largest and longest continuous tradition in world literature, and this rich and far-reaching anthology of nearly five hundred poems provides a comprehensive account of its first three millennia (1500 BCE to 1200 CE), the period during which virtually all its landmark developments took place. Unlike earlier anthologies of Chinese poetry, Hinton’s book focuses on a relatively small number of poets, providing selections that are large enough to re-create each as a fully realized and unique voice. New introductions to each poet's work provide a readable history, told for the first time as a series of poetic innovations forged by a series of master poeets. From the classic texts of Chinese philosophy to intensely personal lyrics, from love poems to startling and strange perspectives on nature, Hinton has collected an entire world of beauty and insight. And in his eye-opening translations, these ancient poems feel remarkably fresh and contemporary, presenting a literature both radically new and entirely resonant.

30 review for Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eadweard

    Like visiting old friends... CONTENT: THE BOOK OF SONGS (c. 15th to 6th century B.C.E.) TAO TE CHING (c. 6th century B.C.E.) THE SONGS OF CH’U (c. 3rd century B.C.E.) LATER FOLK–SONG COLLECTIONS (c. 2nd century B.C.E. to 4th century C.E.) Music-Bureau Folk-songs (c. 2nd to 1st centuries B.C.E.) Nineteen Ancient-Style Poems (c. 1st to 2nd centuries C.E.) Lady Midnight Songs of the Four Seasons (c. 4th century C.E.) FIRST MASTERS: THE MAINSTREAM BEGINS (4th to 5th centuries C.E.) Tao Ch’ien Hsieh Ling-yün T Like visiting old friends... CONTENT: THE BOOK OF SONGS (c. 15th to 6th century B.C.E.) TAO TE CHING (c. 6th century B.C.E.) THE SONGS OF CH’U (c. 3rd century B.C.E.) LATER FOLK–SONG COLLECTIONS (c. 2nd century B.C.E. to 4th century C.E.) Music-Bureau Folk-songs (c. 2nd to 1st centuries B.C.E.) Nineteen Ancient-Style Poems (c. 1st to 2nd centuries C.E.) Lady Midnight Songs of the Four Seasons (c. 4th century C.E.) FIRST MASTERS: THE MAINSTREAM BEGINS (4th to 5th centuries C.E.) Tao Ch’ien Hsieh Ling-yün T’ANG DYNASTY I: THE GREAT RENAISSANCE (c. 700 to 800) Meng Hao-jan Wang Wei Li Po Tu Fu Han Shan Wei Ying-wu T’ANG DYNASTY II: EXPERIMENTAL ALTERNATIVES (c. 800 to 875) Meng Chiao Han Yu Po Chu-I Li Ho Tu Mu Li Shang-yin Yu Hsuan-chi SUNG DYNASTY: THE MAINSTREAM RENEWED (c. 1000 to 1225) Mei Yao-ch'en Wang An-shih Su Tong-p'o Li Ch'ing-chao Lu Yu Yang Wan-li

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A collection of translated classical Chinese poems might seem like a rather academic, dry, book targeted towards a professional readership and not something newsworthy for the mass media, however, David Hinton is considered the dean of scholars of Chinese poetry and what he has provided us here is a consummate and rewarding volume for anyone interested in poetry, even those without a specific interest in classical Chinese literature. As one would expect from such a book, Hinton provides not only A collection of translated classical Chinese poems might seem like a rather academic, dry, book targeted towards a professional readership and not something newsworthy for the mass media, however, David Hinton is considered the dean of scholars of Chinese poetry and what he has provided us here is a consummate and rewarding volume for anyone interested in poetry, even those without a specific interest in classical Chinese literature. As one would expect from such a book, Hinton provides not only his translations of a variety of Chinese poems spanning a broad time period, but introductions to various eras, poets, and styles to inform the reader of both the literary and sociocultural background to the poems he is about to encounter. In doing so, the poems themselves are easily approached by the lay-reader yet the serious student or expert will find plenty of new information and the fruits of Hinton's ample research on these pages also. The real pleasure though is coming to these poems simply as poems and to read Hinton's adroit translations into English as if one was reading any other English-language poetry. While reading a poem telling of a warrior's longing to return to his home from the battlefield, it struck me that the language and feeling found in this poem could represent the emotions of many a U.S. service-member in Iraq right now, despite having been written in another place and time and about another conflict. Hinton has not attempted to update or at all alter these poems as such would defeat his primary goal in presenting them in English, yet many are so heartfelt that they do not require anything beyond the gravitas of astute translation to impart their meaning (and often stark beauty) to the contemporary reader in English. T'ao Ch'ien's poetry, in example, resonates with emotion that implores empathy while Meng Chiao's work reflects nature in much the way that Robert Frost has in our own language. The influence of Taoist and Buddhist thought in many of the poems collected here is very apparent and expected but the diversity of approaches taken by the poets considered are ample and Hinton has collected enough poems from each major poet included to provide a real introduction to these poets' work, a nice touch given how many anthologies of this nature skip around and seem to attempt a broad scope of the writers covered over the depth of the work included. Li Po, the classical Chinese poet who is perhaps best known today in the West, demonstrates exactly why the poems included here are still important and why in English-language translation they still hold a haunting ability to communicate the splendors of nature. Li Po wrote, as did most of the classical Chinese poets, mainly about personal reflection in nature and poems such as his "Spring Thoughts" illustrate the beauty and common joy found in natural settings by Chinese poets. Philosophy and poetry were especially close in their communication with each other for the early Chinese writers and in the classical age of Chinese poetry we find many of the origins of longstanding, even contemporary, outlooks on nature and society in China. Hinton also provides helpful explanations of key terms such as "wu-wei" and "hsin" in an included glossary which are essential to develop a more nuanced understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of these poems, yet such a deep understanding is not required to simply enjoy the poems on their own grounds of beauty. Still, the inclusion of this glossary and other additional devices to help explore and understand the poetry is most welcome and certainly needed by students, scholars, and certain other readers. Meo Yao-Ch'en, another poet of roughly the same period as Li Po, explores complex concepts about nature and the role of the poet in society and Hinton does a sterling job of translating what has to have been very difficult concepts into English in a manner which results in Yao-Ch'en's voice sounding both original and easy to approach. When Yao-Ch'en speaks of renting a place not far from a temple, we can imagine his mountain retreat in vivid terms and understand his desire for solace. Despite the centuries between his time and our own and despite the vast differences in language and society, David Hinton has brought the core thoughts and concepts of this talented poet into the current day and done so with grace and depth. For their part, the publishers, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, have presented this volume in a sturdy, attractive, edition that is a pleasure to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    James

    The only downsides of this book are (1) that it doesn't have enough poems in it - sure, it's got 400 pages or so of poems, but I want more and I want them now - and (2) that Hinton uses the word "isolate" as a noun a dozen or so times. His introductions are helpful - personal, in the sense that his voice and interests as a scholar come through loud and clear, but also very authoritative - and his translations are mighty fine. Mighty mighty fine. (OK, the third thing wrong with this book is that t The only downsides of this book are (1) that it doesn't have enough poems in it - sure, it's got 400 pages or so of poems, but I want more and I want them now - and (2) that Hinton uses the word "isolate" as a noun a dozen or so times. His introductions are helpful - personal, in the sense that his voice and interests as a scholar come through loud and clear, but also very authoritative - and his translations are mighty fine. Mighty mighty fine. (OK, the third thing wrong with this book is that the Chinese original texts are not there, too. But I realise that most readers would not gain much from that.) So fine that I read this anthology through cover to cover, rather than dipping in, as one is perhaps supposed to do with an anthology. Basically Hinton seems to have created a whole new literature, and brought something very real across. The cries of the poor, the lovers, the widowed, the lonely, the environmentalists, the prostitutes, the protesters, the advocates, the cranes, geese, pigs, horses, and Uncle Tom Cobbley are all there, along with the mountains, mist and lakes one might have supposed to be the bread and butter of Chinese poetry. It is sheer folly to quote one or two poems as if they were representative or could do justice to this nigh-perfect book, but I will do so anyway... UNTITLED (1st century BC, p.76) Give birth to a boy - don't give him a care. Give birth to a girl - feed her meat dainties. Haven't you seen, beneath the Great Wall, all those bleached bones propped together? INSCRIBED ON MASTER LAKE-SHADOW'S WALL (Wang Anshi, p.358) Thatch-eave paths are always well-swept, pure, free of moss, and with your hands, flowering orchards planted themselves. A creek meanders by, snug curve cradling jade green fields. Two mountains push a door open, sending azure-green inside.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    My Love’s Gone Off to War My love’s gone off to war, who knows how long gone or where O where. Chickens settle into nests, an evening sun sinks away, oxen and sheep wander in— but my love’s gone off to war and nothing can stop these thoughts of him. My love’s gone off to war, not for days or even months, and who survives such things? Chickens settle onto perches, an evening sun sinks away, oxen and sheep wander home— but my love’s gone off to war if hunger and thirst spared him that long. ———————— By Heaven Above My Love’s Gone Off to War My love’s gone off to war, who knows how long gone or where O where. Chickens settle into nests, an evening sun sinks away, oxen and sheep wander in— but my love’s gone off to war and nothing can stop these thoughts of him. My love’s gone off to war, not for days or even months, and who survives such things? Chickens settle onto perches, an evening sun sinks away, oxen and sheep wander home— but my love’s gone off to war if hunger and thirst spared him that long. ———————— By Heaven Above By heaven above I want us together always, heart and mind, my love, want it destiny on and on, without breach or fail. Not till mountains have no peaks and rivers run dry, not till thunder fills winter days and summer rains turn to snow, not till all heaven and earth blur together, my love, will I part from you. ———————— Inscribed on a Wall at Summit-Top Temple Staying the night at Summit-Top Temple, you can reach out and touch the stars. I venture no more than a low whisper, afraid I’ll wake the people of heaven. ———————— In Idleness, Facing Rain All dark mystery, I embrace it replete, alone, night thinning into morning. In this empty library, I face tall trees, sparse rain soaking through rustling leaves. Nesting swallows flutter, wet. Orchid petals blur across stone steps. It’s quiet. Memories come, and grief suddenly caught and buffeted in wind. ————————

  5. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    I gave this five stars, mostly because the verse is lovely, steeped in image and harboring shades of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy. Hinton provides historical and biographical context for each of the poets he features as well as explanations for his editorial choices. You might be tempted to skip some of these and get right to the verse. But I'd recommend you don't. The information adds depth and breadth to the verse. That, and you'll likely learn some stuff about Chinese history. At least I di I gave this five stars, mostly because the verse is lovely, steeped in image and harboring shades of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy. Hinton provides historical and biographical context for each of the poets he features as well as explanations for his editorial choices. You might be tempted to skip some of these and get right to the verse. But I'd recommend you don't. The information adds depth and breadth to the verse. That, and you'll likely learn some stuff about Chinese history. At least I did. But then, I know absolutely nothing about Chinese history. That said, I have no deep knowledge of Asian or Chinese poetry nor can I comment intelligently on how true or accurate the translations are. So if you have nitpicks about that stuff, take it up with Hinton, not me. Bottom line: Highly recommended, particularly if you want to expand your horizons beyond Western poetry or you like imagists and Modernists like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The advantages of the broad span and excellent selections of this anthology are only surpassed by the fascinating historical context given for each poet or time period. I have to admit to feeling something of a stereotype for classic Chinese poetry. I expected tranquil poems with natural metaphors and deep, mindful insights. Naturally, a number of the poems and poets collected here do follow that vein, but there are also poems protesting wars, calling for social change, waxing lyrical about wine The advantages of the broad span and excellent selections of this anthology are only surpassed by the fascinating historical context given for each poet or time period. I have to admit to feeling something of a stereotype for classic Chinese poetry. I expected tranquil poems with natural metaphors and deep, mindful insights. Naturally, a number of the poems and poets collected here do follow that vein, but there are also poems protesting wars, calling for social change, waxing lyrical about wine instead of the moon, and some fairly purple stuff about women losing their robes. I found something of a favorite in Meng Chiao (751-814 C.E.) for his unexpectedly passionate--almost violent--work. Young clear-voiced dragons in these gorges howl. Fresh scales born of rock, they spew froth of fetid rain, breath heaving, churning up black sinkholes. Strange new lights glint, and hungry swords await. This venerable old maw still hasn't eaten its fill. Ageless teeth cry a fury of cliffs, cascades gnawing through these three gorges, gorges full of jostling and snarling, snarling. Writing during a century long civil war--a war that lasted longer than his own life--Chiao's poetry is not the intellectual scribblings of a hermit on a mountain or a scholar in a garden. It retains the natural metaphor and measured form of much Chinese poetry, but it is really something quite different. This book is complete enough to give someone like me--not well versed in poetry to say the least--a real appreciation for artists like Chiao and the other men and women whose work has traveled down through thousands of years and multiple languages to find a modern audience. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in history, poetry, Tao, Buddhism, or China.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

    OK, I'm currently more or less reading both this book and the Mountain Poems book also translated by Hinton, and this compendious volume has for me what I would take in a backpack up Mount Kalesh or some mythic mountain in China, were I to do so... in my imagination at least these days. It has incredible introductions and an overall opening intro that truly illuminates how Chinese poetry works in Chinese, and then astoundingly Hinton manages to transfer some of this essence over into English. Th OK, I'm currently more or less reading both this book and the Mountain Poems book also translated by Hinton, and this compendious volume has for me what I would take in a backpack up Mount Kalesh or some mythic mountain in China, were I to do so... in my imagination at least these days. It has incredible introductions and an overall opening intro that truly illuminates how Chinese poetry works in Chinese, and then astoundingly Hinton manages to transfer some of this essence over into English. The most exciting aspect of this poetry is that due to the somewhat open-ended grammar of the lines, the reader brings into its spatial interstices his or her own experience and interpretive possibilities. Truly exciting for me... Plus the book itself has a great "feel" to it, its weight, its pages, something, dear friends, I ween is still impossible with them Kindles and iPads... but I'm no expert, not having one... yet.

  8. 5 out of 5

    James Violand

    This was a thoroughly entertaining book. I have come to appreciate the Classic Chinese poets to such a degree, that I recommend this book to everyone. The heritage of Tao colored with Buddhism gave the poet a perspective sadly lacking in the Western tradition. For the most part, they focused on nature and concisely evoked a deep reaction in the reader. They could say so much by writing so little and they used the nonexistent real to describe the world. Amazing. This will be a work I will read ag This was a thoroughly entertaining book. I have come to appreciate the Classic Chinese poets to such a degree, that I recommend this book to everyone. The heritage of Tao colored with Buddhism gave the poet a perspective sadly lacking in the Western tradition. For the most part, they focused on nature and concisely evoked a deep reaction in the reader. They could say so much by writing so little and they used the nonexistent real to describe the world. Amazing. This will be a work I will read again and again.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Feehly

    Excellent anthology of classics of Chinese poetry. Great modern translations with concise introductions to the various poets, dynasties, religious, philosophic, and literary schools of ancient, Tang, and Sung China. Also a heartbreaking section on the fate of women poets in the Chinese canon: so many talents with thousands of poems lost because women's words were deemed unworthy of preservation.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    this is the type of thing: that needs to be everywhere. this is the type of thing: that feels simultaneously like a foundation and the highest most slender vaulted skies. and if you are a maniac for Tao translations.... and a maniac like Li Po..... than you are.....

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Cullivan

    I know nothing about Chinese poetry, but I found this collection interesting and informative -- and I enjoyed the selection of poems (and the poems themselves).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Spenser

  13. 5 out of 5

    Wang Wei

  14. 5 out of 5

    Clai.lasher

  15. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

  16. 5 out of 5

    Moon

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ford

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rana

  20. 5 out of 5

    Will

  21. 4 out of 5

    Donovan

  22. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kenny B.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Middlethought

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carl

  26. 4 out of 5

    Broeleon Antonius

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dale

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aashish Kaul

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kieran

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