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This concise introduction to Chinese poetry serves as a primer for English-speakers eager to expand their understanding and enjoyment of Chinese culture. James J. Y. Liu first examines the Chinese language as a medium of poetic expression and, contrary to the usual focus on the visual qualities of Chinese script, emphasizes the auditory effects of Chinese verse. He provide This concise introduction to Chinese poetry serves as a primer for English-speakers eager to expand their understanding and enjoyment of Chinese culture. James J. Y. Liu first examines the Chinese language as a medium of poetic expression and, contrary to the usual focus on the visual qualities of Chinese script, emphasizes the auditory effects of Chinese verse. He provides a succinct survey of Chinese poetry theory and concludes with his own view of poetry, based upon traditional Chinese concepts. "[This] books should be read by all those interested in Chinese poetry."—Achilles Fang, Poetry "[This is] a significant contribution to the understanding and appreciation of Chinese poetry, lucidly presented in a way that will attract a wide audience, and offering an original synthesis of Chinese and Western views that will stimulate and inspire students of poetry everywhere."—Hans H. Frankel, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies "This is a book which can be recommended without reservation to anyone who wants to explore the world of Chinese poetry in translation."—James R. Hightower, Journal of Asian Studies


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This concise introduction to Chinese poetry serves as a primer for English-speakers eager to expand their understanding and enjoyment of Chinese culture. James J. Y. Liu first examines the Chinese language as a medium of poetic expression and, contrary to the usual focus on the visual qualities of Chinese script, emphasizes the auditory effects of Chinese verse. He provide This concise introduction to Chinese poetry serves as a primer for English-speakers eager to expand their understanding and enjoyment of Chinese culture. James J. Y. Liu first examines the Chinese language as a medium of poetic expression and, contrary to the usual focus on the visual qualities of Chinese script, emphasizes the auditory effects of Chinese verse. He provides a succinct survey of Chinese poetry theory and concludes with his own view of poetry, based upon traditional Chinese concepts. "[This] books should be read by all those interested in Chinese poetry."—Achilles Fang, Poetry "[This is] a significant contribution to the understanding and appreciation of Chinese poetry, lucidly presented in a way that will attract a wide audience, and offering an original synthesis of Chinese and Western views that will stimulate and inspire students of poetry everywhere."—Hans H. Frankel, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies "This is a book which can be recommended without reservation to anyone who wants to explore the world of Chinese poetry in translation."—James R. Hightower, Journal of Asian Studies

39 review for The Art of Chinese Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Poetry in a tonal language is a completely different enterprise than it is for an inflected one. Fortunately, Professor Liu was familiar with the Chinese, ancient Greek, French and English traditions. It helps when a writer can compare Wang Wei with Keats. First, he dispatches the notion of Ernest Fenollosa that Ezra Pound made famous; just because a character is partially built from another with meaning does not mean that the Chinese writer is thinking of that component character when writing. Poetry in a tonal language is a completely different enterprise than it is for an inflected one. Fortunately, Professor Liu was familiar with the Chinese, ancient Greek, French and English traditions. It helps when a writer can compare Wang Wei with Keats. First, he dispatches the notion of Ernest Fenollosa that Ezra Pound made famous; just because a character is partially built from another with meaning does not mean that the Chinese writer is thinking of that component character when writing. Chinese poetry may lack a few of the standard characteristics that matter much to the interpretation of English: subject, an indicator of singular or plural, or even a verb. So Wang Wei, the great T'ang Buddhist can write: "Empty mountain not see people/Only hear people not talk sound." The construction gives the poetry that sense of the power of nature that so informs Chinese painting, along with the impersonality of all those huge, ragged mountains and deep valleys with tiny houses or travelers. Still, even within these constraints, the poetry can describe the same river quite differently, as with the Buddhist Wang Wei: The river's flow lies beyond heaven and earth The mountain's color between being and non-being. In the hands of the solitary, drinking traveler Li Po: The mountains, following the wild plan, come to an end; The river, entering the great waste, flows. From the more worldly Tu Fu, Li Po's contemporary and friend: The stars drooping, the wild plain is vast, the moon rushing, the great river flows. Chinese poetry does use some of the same aural resources as the West, such as alliteration and rhyme, as well as allusion. The role of tradition and allusion in Chinese poetry is so strong that it can seem invisible to the reader of a translation. Imagine trying to read old Western poetry without the shared vocabulary of the classic and Judaeo-Christian traditions. Thus, "Willow of Chang Terrace" becomes parting from a house of courtesans (the willow-twig was presented on departure). A metaphor for wine by a Sung Dynasty poet--"the broomstick that sweeps away sorrow" becomes, centuries later, this in the hands of a Yuan Dynasty dramatist: "'This 'sorrow-sweeping broomstick' cannot sweep away my melancholy." It does seem at times as though Chinese poetry is awash in nature metaphors, or wine, or images of parting, and Liu candidly admits that some of that becomes pedestrian. The good poets, though, know how to use them, as in this contrast by a dramatist as an Emperor bids farewell to his favorite: "Brief as the golden bridle is our former love/Long as the jade-handled whip our present sorrow." Or this revitalization of a theme that might otherwise seem hackneyed, in which a sing-song girl in a play states: "You say the parrot in the golden cage can recite verse/This is a fit comparison for me;/The clever one is, the harder to get out of the cage." Liu's selection of poems is as useful as his analysis, which in itself is revelatory. The discussions of the theory of Chinese poetry can sometimes grow long, but the selections and their discussion are luminous. Although he argues that Western critics have overemphasized the role of male friendship and underestimated the wealth of poems about love between man and woman (of which he supplies a plenitude), one cannot help but finish with a poem from one great wandering poet to another, namely Tu Fu to Li Po: "O Po, whose poetry none can emulate/Whose thoughts soar above the common crowd/...The spring trees north of the river Wei,/The evening clouds east of the Great River./When will we, over a jug of wine,/Discuss in detail the art of writing again."

  2. 5 out of 5

    James

    Helpful. Helpful. (more later)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  5. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  6. 5 out of 5

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  7. 4 out of 5

    Leyre

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

  10. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Borhañian

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brian Katz

  12. 4 out of 5

    Barry

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lin

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pippa

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen Chung

  17. 4 out of 5

    Balaclava Nine

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wuxia Wanderings

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Christman

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ken Benesh

  23. 5 out of 5

    Meiying Li

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marica Dell'Olio

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nathaniel

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  27. 5 out of 5

    Siddartha

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Kong

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mei Hua

  31. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Zizys

  32. 5 out of 5

    Will Green

  33. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  34. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

  35. 5 out of 5

    85203909

  36. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  37. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  38. 5 out of 5

    Ehnaton

  39. 5 out of 5

    Sean

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