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The Songs of the South: An Anthology of Ancient Chinese Poems by Qu Yuan and Other Poets (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 31, 2012


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140443754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140443752
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Songs of the South is cause for celebration. There is simply no substitute. The text is fundamental to the Chinese tradition, and Hawkes’s introduction itself is a work of wonder. It should be kept in print in perpetuity."
(Philip Kafalas, Associate Professor of Chinese, Georgetown University)

Language Notes

Text: English, Chinese (translation)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
This edition of "Songs of the South" is a revised form (1985) -- rather more extensively altered than Hawkes' modest description might suggest -- of a complete, and annotated, translation (first edition 1959) of one of the oldest anthologies of Chinese poetry. Among surviving poetic texts, the "Ch'u Tz'u" (Wade-Giles transliteration) is supposedly second in age only to the "Book of Songs," traditionally edited by Confucius himself. Time and layers of interpretation, mainly derived from an early commentary of uncertain reliability, have made it a difficult work, but it is reputed to contain poetry of great beauty. David Hawkes managed to capture at least some of that beauty, and to supply an interpretive framework, and a great deal of fascinating lore about early Chinese civilization.

Large portions of the "Songs of the South" in fact clearly belong to the Han dynasty, several centuries later. These sections are imitations and extensions of a group of poems supposed to be the work of a certain Qu Yuan (Ch'u Yuan), a minister of the state of Ch'u (Pinyin Qu) in "southern" (now more like central) China, around 300 B.C. These "original" poems are themselves supposed to be imitations of traditional religious songs of the region, written by the minister while in exile from the royal court, and intended as criticism of the king's policies, and treatment of the author. The shamans (men and women) who courted the gods are seen as the minister seeking the king. Their supposed author himself became the subject of a sentimental legend of a noble official who drowned himself rather than witness the destruction of his ruler and country, and was later still connected with the Dragon Boat Festival, which was said to re-enact the search for his body.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Manuel Del Rio Rodriguez on April 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Chinese classical literary tradition is quite unknown in the West, with the exception of some of the most famous poets of the T'ang dynasty like Li Po or Tu Fu. Nevertheless, when these and other luminaries made their first verses, literary Chinese already had accumulated a vast treasure trove of texts, and counted on more than 2.000 years of literacy. Its future manifestations would continue, using a very similar written standard, until the beginning of the 20th century.

The first poetry anthology in the language that has survived is the Book of Odes (Shih jing). The second oldest is the one we have here: the Ch'u T'zu (in the old Wade-Giles transcription. In today's pidgin, it is Chu Ci), usually translated as 'Songs of the South' or 'Elegies of Chu'.

The Kingdom of Chu was one of the 7 great states that carved up the Chinese territory in the period of the Warring States (475-221 b.C.). Situated next to the rivers Yangtze and Huai, Chu had a peculiarly distinct culture that differentiated it from the other, 'northern' Chinese kingdoms of the Yellow and Wei river valleys. One of the main differences was the importance of Shamanism in its religious practices: Shamans frequently practiced 'astral voyages' and summonings of souls for the locals. In fact, these oral, recitative practices were probably part of a quite impressive public performance and recitation, with gestures and mimics that remotely remind us modern Voodoo and Santería practices.

From the last years of the 4th to the middle of the 3rd century before our area is the lifespan of the Chu noble, courtier, public servant and poet Ch'ü Yüan (pidgin, Qu Yuan).
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2 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Louis Petrillo on June 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't really say much about the quality of the translation as compared to others (Waley, the Yangs, _ The White Pony _). It's main interest for me is the critical information provided about each set of poems and about the anthology overall. The only other book of which I'm aware that also tries to analyze the poems is Waley's, which may not even be in print any more.
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