- Paperback: 376 pages
- Publisher: Duke University Press Books; 2nd Revised ed. edition (April 21, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0822319462
- ISBN-13: 978-0822319467
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,377,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Chinese Poetry, 2nd ed., Revised: An Anthology of Major Modes and Genres Paperback – April 21, 1997
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Text: English, Chinese (translation)
Original Language: Chinese --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
Bottom line, there should be more books of Eastern poetry in "translation" in this form: original text in original characters, a word-for-word bare bones rendition, and then the translator's extrapolation of those bones. A fantastic learning tool for any writer.
For the person who wishes to gain an understanding of Chinese poetry, this is an excellent first volume. For those literate in Chinese, this volume (unlike many others) places the original Chinese alongside the english translations. For those who are not literate in Chinese, this volume, in most cases, provides as good a translation as can be found anywhere.
Upon completing this volume (which you will undoubtedly come back to many times), you will not only have a knowledge of the great poems of the Chinese literary tradition (such as Su Shi's "The Beautiful Nien Nu") but you will also have a good understanding of the structure of the various genres of Chinese poetry. In addition, this volume is full of gems of poetry which are to be in few other volumes. Lastly, the reader will come to appreciate richness, subtely, passion, variety and depth of Chinese poetry.
Wai-lim Yip, Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego, is a poet, a sophisticated thinker, and a brilliant translator, critic, and theorist. As heir to one of the richest and most subtle literatures in the world, he has always been understandably concerned about the often inferior quality of Western translations from Chinese, an inferiority he attributes to a misreading of the Chinese sensibility, and a reading into it of invalid Western assumptions. In other words, Western translators who do not understand the classical Chinese mind, can only represent it as operating more or less like their own minds, and in thus representing it end up by grossly misrepresenting it.
Professor Yip earlier devoted an entire study to this subject : 'Diffusion of Distances : Dialogues Between Chinese and Western Poetics' (1993). In the present book he has given the essentials of his argument in an introductory essay that bears careful reading : 'TRANSLATING CHINESE POETRY : The Convergence of Language and Poetics - A Radical Introduction' (pp.1-27).
In the Preface to his book, Professor Yip tells us that : "Underlying the classical Chinese aesthetic is the primary idea of noninterference with Nature's flow [cf., the Taoist 'Wu Wei']. As reflected in poetic language, this idea has engendered freedom from the syntactical rigidities often found in English. . . . This opens up an indeterminate space for readers to enter and reenter for multiple perceptions rather than locking thm into some definite perspectival position or guiding them in a certain direction" (page xiii).
This opening up of spaces in which all things, including the reader, are allowed to become themselves may sound a bit abstract to some, but its marvelous effects will be felt by anyone who sincerely opens themselves to the poems in this anthology.
The anthology contains 150 poems, drawn from all major modes and genres, which span two thousand years - from the 'Book of Songs' (c. - 600) to the poems of the Yuan Dynasty (+ 1260-1368). Each poem is printed with the original Chinese text in Professor Yip's beautiful brushed calligraphy, co-ordinated with word-by-word glosses, and followed by his spare and powerful translations. The effect is to correct more than a century of distortion caused by translators who were blind to the intricacies and aesthetics of the Chinese language, and to let English readers finally enter into the dynamics of the originals. Each section of the book is preceded by a short essay on the mode or genre to follow, and a useful 5-page Bibliography rounds out the book.
Here, as an example of Yip's style, is his rendering of a poem by Wang Wei on page 228. The Chinese text is given first at the top of the page, then the word-by-word translation which I shall omit, and then the final translation in four lines (numbered by Yip for the convenience of readers, and with my obliques added to indicate line breaks) :
"1. High on tree-tips, the hibiscus. / 2. In the mountain sets forth red calyxes. / 3. A home by a stream, quiet. No man. / 4. It blooms and falls, blooms and falls."
The poem's spareness opens up a space which allows each of us to generate our own vividly realized scene, and to entertain different ideas at different readings. Wang Wei, who was Buddhist, rather than getting in the way and trying to control things, is allowing them to come forward and declare themselves, and his procedure gains in meaning if we set it alongside an observation made by Dogen (+ 1200-1253), who wrote:
"Conveying the self to the myriad things to authenticate them is delusion; the myriad things advancing to authenticate the self is enlightenment" (Tr., F. H. Cook, 'Sounds of Valley Streams,' page 66).
In a word, Professor Yip's "noninterference."
So here is a truly marvelous book by a highly competent authority in which the English reader can finally find out what Chinese poetry is really all about. The book is beautifully printed on excellent strong paper, bound in a sturdy decorative wrapper, but sadly has a glued spine instead of the stitching that would have given us a book that could have been held open without effort.
Apart from the spine, my only complaint is that Professor Yip's calligraphy, though beautiful, is brushed in a cursive style which tends to make the structure of the more complex and less common characters hard to discern for beginners. Ideal in a book of this nature would have been to give the Chinese texts in large printed characters along with their romanized transcriptions.
But you can't have everything, and we should certainly be grateful for the labors that went into this unique anthology of Chinese poems, a book designed to give the English reader true access to the dynamics of one of the most subtle and interesting literatures in the world.