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Poems of the Masters: China's Classic Anthology of T'ang and Sung Dynasty Verse (Mandarin Chinese and English Edition) (Mandarin Chinese) Paperback – September 1, 2003

4.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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About the Author

Red Pine (aka Bill Porter) is one of the world's leading translators of Chinese literary and religious texts. After dropping out of a Columbia University Ph.D. program, Red Pine moved to a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan; he eventually became a popular radio journalist in Hong Kong, famous for his descriptions of traveling around mainland China.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, English
  • ISBN-10: 1556591950
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556591952
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Bill Porter (aka "Red Pine") is widely recognized as one of the world's preeminent translators of Chinese poetry and religious texts; he assumes the pen name "Red Pine" for his translations.

Bill Porter was born in Los Angeles in 1943 and grew up in the Idaho panhandle. He served a tour of duty in the U.S. Army (1964-67), graduated from the University of California with a degree in anthropology in 1970, and attended graduate school at Columbia University. Uninspired by the prospect of an academic career, he dropped out of Columbia and moved in 1972 to a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. After four years with the monks and nuns, he struck out on his own and eventually found work at English-language radio stations in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where he produced over one thousand programs about his travels in China. In 1993 he returned to America with his family and has lived ever since near Seattle, Washington.

Writing as Bill Porter, he is the author of several travelogues, including Road to Heaven, which focuses on his interactions with Taoist hermits in the mountains of China; Zen Baggage; and his Guggenheim project, Finding Them Gone: Visiting China's Poets of the Past.

Writing as Red Pine, he was the first translator to ever translate the entirety of Han-shan's oeurve into English, published as The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. Red Pine was also the first to translate into English the entirely of The Poems of the Masters. He has also translated several of the major Buddhist sutras, including the Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, and Platform Sutra.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
Red Pine's translation of the Ch'ienchiashih is quite impressive. I've found too many translations from Chinese that are overdone, full of themselves; here is a volume of clear, elegant poetry. Even a beginning Chinese language student can follow along and understand the original text, his translation is so well constructed. And yet these 224 poems lose nothing of their poetic quality.
The poems are presented with the Chinese facing the English, with biographical and relevant explanatory notes accompanying each. Includes preface (definitely worth reading), map (very helpful for following some of the more prolific poets), and Tang/Song timeline. This has very quickly become my favourite book of translations.
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Format: Paperback
Another gift from Red Pine (Bill Porter) whose love for Chinese verse and the Dharma have shaped him into one of the foremost translators of the old poets. This Chinese classic has been around for eight centuries, but is here finally available in English! The volume offers 123 poets, 224 poems. Adjacent Chinese text and critical notes are provided for each poem. Included at the end are a timeline of the Dynasties from c. 2200 BCE to 1368, a complete index of the poets, and a complete index of the titles. This is a monumental work and an extraordinary gift from the translator. A typical verse from this collection, called In Reply, by a poet called The Ancient Recluse:

Somehow I ended up beneath pines

sleeping in comfort on boulders

there aren't any calendars in the mountains

winter ends but who counts the years

A sincere thank you to Red Pine and Copper Canyon Press for providing these treasures.
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Format: Paperback
Red Pine (Bill Porter) has beautifully translated this important collection of Chinese verse. His commentaries, too, are well worth reading.

This book would be an excellent text for those who wish to learn to read T'ang and Sung poetry, and classical literary Chinese in general. The Chinese and English poems are presented on facing pages. Each poem is sufficiently brief to allow students the opportunity to (begin to) learn a complete work of literature without the intimidation that can accompany larger texts -- and there are 224 such poems in this translation, which gives ample scope for learning in nice, easy steps. (Of course this will have to be done using a dictionary like Mathews', and the student will need some familiarity with looking characters up by radical -- this is not a teaching text with a glossary and explanatory notes about language usage.)

Even if one does not desire to use this collection to learn Chinese, the English translations are certainly beautiful poems in their own right, and are worth spending time with. And meanwhile, the Chinese texts are always there, extending a gentle invitation to the curious.

Surely every lover of Chinese (and English!) poetry will treasure this book.
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Format: Paperback
Previous reviewers have already summarized the more obvious qualities of this book; I agree with their comments. I found that for the student of Chinese culture, Chinese education, or Chinese thought, the book is a stunning introduction to a way of expressing observations and meaning in compact forms. In particular, the poetry seems both denser and more graceful than similar forms in English poetry, and more complex than the haiku forms descended from it. Chinese speakers I know vouched for the sensitive transliteration.

Basho advised a haiku student to "read Chinese poetry" to write better haiku. I came to this work after struggling with haiku for a long time. I found Basho's advice to be good and this book to be a remarkable way to begin. The historical text snippets offered with the poems make further reflection easy without attempting to "define" all that the poem means.
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Format: Paperback
Poetry, it is claimed in the Introduction to this excellent anthology, is China's greatest art form. The poems included in this collection provide strong support for this statement. They date from the Tang and Sung dynasties, from the 600's to the 1200's, and include some of the most famous of all Chinese poems, by some of the most revered poets. Each poem is presented in the original Chinese and then with a facing English translation by Red Pine, the pen name of the American Bill Porter.

If you know how to use a Chinese dictionary (on-line dictionaries are available which are more likely to have some of the older characters no longer included in modern dictionaries), you can try your hand at translating these poems yourself. They are all fairly short, so you can look up the characters in about an hour or two. This is an interesting and enlightening exercise, and is guaranteed to increase your respect for professional translators, especially of these sometimes enigmatically short and terse verses.

My favorite concerns a rural village celebrating a traditional holiday, no doubt a welcome pause from what must have been a difficult life of almost non-stop, back-breaking physical labor. The women are shepherding their drunken husbands home at the end of the day. Coming to us across the many centuries from a mysterious foreign land, this poem is so ..... human!
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