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Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology Paperback – February 2, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


In the way of the pioneer translators of Chinese poetry during the past century--of Arthur Waley, Burton Watson, Willis Barnstone--David Hinton has heard and lured into English a new manner of hearing the great poets of that long glory of China's classical age. His achievement is another echo of the original, and a gift to our language. (W. S. Merwin)

Hinton has established himself as the premier Chinese translator of our generation . . . He is a national treasure. (William Mullen, The New York Sun)

I don't know if [Hinton's Selected Poems of Po Chü-i] is superior to the original or not, but it's superior to anything I've ever seen in Chinese, and about the same for English. (A. R. Ammons)

Hinton's music is subtle, modulated . . . He has listened to the individual tone of each poet, and his craft is equal to his perception . . . He continues to enlarge our literary horizon. (Rosemary Waldrop, citation for the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award)

[The Late Poems of Meng Chiao] affords us what is all too rare in Chinese translations: the sustained, recognizable resonance of a single voice at a single moment . . . This is a real contribution to the small body of genuine poetic translation. (Richard Howard)

Given the magnitude of his ability and his overall project, Hinton is creating nothing less than a new literary tradition in English, an event of truly major importance not only to English literature but also to the literature of my own language. I cannot recommend the value of his work too highly. (Bei Dao)

About the Author

David Hinton's translations of classical Chinese poetry have earned him a Guggenheim fellowship, numerous NEA and NEH fellowships, and both of the major awards given for poetry translation in the United States, the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, from the Academy of American Poets, and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, from the PEN American Center. He is also the first translator in over a century to translate the four seminal works of Chinese philosophy: the Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Analects, and Mencius. He lives in Vermont.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374531900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374531904
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Maynard on March 3, 2009
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This anthology is itself a work of American literature---not something that can be said with any degree of confidence of most such compilations. For many years now Hinton has been quietly and tenaciously amassing a body of translations of classical Chinese poetry that is provocatively different from the Poundian model (which tends to favour a style that is spare, pellucid, minimalist and---by definition---'Imagist').

Hinton's versions, by contrast, are knotty, thoughtful, muscular and torsive. They are also intensely musical. They restore a measure of sheer passion and 'difficulty' to Chinese poems that, while it suits certain poets better than others, is always highly compelling. Hinton is steeped in Chinese philosophy (particularly Daoism) and this has led him to develop his own private 'philosophical' diction, which he uses pretty consistently throughout. We general readers sometimes forget how allusive Chinese poetry is, not just to Chinese history, astrology, medicine etc., but also to Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism.

My only (very minor) reservation about this admirable collection, is that his style is so distinctive that it might be thought to impose a degree of homogeneity on his chosen source texts; and that this could be seen as a little misleading. The same charge could of course be laid against Waley's translations, or Burton Watson's---or even Ezra Pound's. Nor, when one looks more closely at the text as a whole, does it seem quite fair: Hinton's Shi Jing poems are unlike anything he's ever done before, for instance; and his renderings of Li He are likewise noticeably different from those of Du Fu or Meng Jiao.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By L. liu on August 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
Parents should pick this book and read this book with their kids;
Our government should mandate schools to educate our pupils with this book.
I remember my own childhood as a Chinese kid, how my parents read me simple Tang poems, and wow! now Mr. David Hinton has done it for English speaking people and world and my idols too. His book holds great treasure for kids, after reading it they simple become educated, elegant and classy. and how often we call it a translation for all Chinese poetry anthology? and we again and again tell ourselves that poetry cannot be translated, but Mr. Hinton not only give us a translation, but the actual poems that my Chinese masters done, all in English.
I stay in US try to learn English and hope one day I can translate Chinese poems into English, but after reading some of Hinton's work I burn my stack of translated works, coz I am happy there are a few awesome translators work the best as I can see. and one of best of Chinese poetry is across culture, it does not emphasize on religion, even a spiritual content that relates to humanism (inner), society(political), and nature all combines into one speech, and thru this translation it seems nothing is lost to me. and even though many readers miss many allusive terms such as evening sun, autumn for old age or nation's end, spring means love and romance and favor of emperor.... still you won't miss the motion pictures that each great artist has done for you, those directors don't need millions dollar to shoot a film, just a few characters and words to bring all the thoughts and emotion that echoes in your heart. And I bet most kids want to be a poet after reading it, coz they want to create movie with their words too.
This book you cannot miss, it is for everyone.
Now I can happily go back to my books and wine and my brocade qin and acoustic guitar to sing the autumn moon and spring bloom, under the setting sun beyond green mountains.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Creek on March 6, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been reading Chinese and loving Chinese poetry for about 25 years, over half my life now. I have also read many books of translations, for better and worse, but nothing in English so alive, so understanding and wide as this. I have an old experience of reading Chinese poems and thinking - this poem is so amazing, o if I could tell them... & had long given up the thought that I would ever see a group of translations I could so enthusiastically share with my non-Chinese speaking friends. Now I am buying this book for that purpose. When you sit long enough with a good thought you never know what exactly will happen. This is how I feel about this book.

Regarding the book itself, it is miraculous to have such an English translation of so many poems at once, and to have the poems so intelligently selected and ordered to illustrate the changes in style and thought over time. It is completely delicious. It is like innocently visiting those Chinese places, those rivers, mountains and temples, in an English language time machine. I feel this especially with the Chan era poems of the Tang and Sung, with their emphasis on rendering immediate experience. In the context of their immediacy, they arrive as timeless, and so translate amazingly well in the hands of such a gifted translator.

Technically, Hinton does a good job of dealing with the impossible problem, of rendering the natural multivalence of Chinese imagery and syntax while maintaining the life-stream of fluency and clarity these poems have. I agree with the previous reviewer Maynard here, and like his adjectives for this translation: "knotty, thoughtful, muscular and torsive...musical." Maynard talks of the earlier Pound translations as "pellucid and minimalist." This is also the case.
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