- Series: Translations from the Asian Classics
- Paperback: 1376 pages
- Publisher: Columbia University Press; Revised ed. edition (April 15, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0231074298
- ISBN-13: 978-0231074292
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,165,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature Revised ed. Edition
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Innovative, talented, lively, and splendidly readable. (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society)
The list of translators reads like a Who's Who of Western Sinology. This is a book one can open at any page and immediately be drawn in by its great and appealing content. It is at once a reference book, with examples drawn from the huge corpus of Chinese literature, and a book which guarantees superb reading pleasure. (New Asia Review)
A lifetime spent reading Chinese literature has produced this enormous, enthralling, canon-exploding book.... Often, the funniest and liveliest entries are translated by the editor himself, who has an uncanny ability to capture puns and rhymes even in English translation.... [W]onderful. (Revue Bibliographique de Sinologie)
About the Author
Victor H. Mair is professor of Chinese languages and literature in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Among his many publications are Tun-huang Popular Narratives; Painting and Performance: Chinese Picture Recitation and Its Indian Genesis; T'ang Transformation Texts: A Study of the Buddhist Contribution to the Rise of Vernacular Fiction and Drama in China; Tao Te Ching: The Chinese Book of Integrity and the Way; and (with J. P. Mallory) The Tarim Mummies.
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Since i wasn't familiar with the literature, I wasn't searching much. In the table of contents poets are listed with their works, though their works are not all going to be in the same category.
This is eastern thought with a much less aggressive way of looking at things so I wasn't sure what to make of it. Some Lotus sutra or buddhist text was pretty difficutl to read because i wasn't that interested in it. Other parables or stories were more humorous.
These are just excerpts of longer pieces of fictional or possibly early historical writing. Mair will offer you 2 chpaters out of a hundred. If gives some idea of whether you'd like to read further or not.
You can follow the changes in the Chinese kingdom up until about 1900 when it became a communist country. Modern literature is not included.
279 selections ~1250pages
As for the translations, Mair tells us that almost all of them were done by "professional sinologists teaching in American universities." These lightly annotated academic translations range in quality from the excellent work of scholars of the caliber of Burton Watson and Leon Hurvitz, through to the rather pedestrian efforts of the less inspired, in fairly equal balance. The selections are preceded by an interesting and informative 10-page Preface by the Editor, and a double-page Map of the Provinces of China.
The book is rounded out with a table of the Principal Chinese Dynasties and Periods, and a Wade-Giles to Pinyin conversion table. Since this information is readily available elsewhere, neither of these tables are really necessary, though Mair is to be commended on his decision to employ a modified Wade-Giles system of transcription throughout the anthology, in preference to the "extremely repulsive" (Needham) Pinyin so beloved by most modern sinologists.
Since Mair felt that they would be "useless and out of place," no Chinese characters (sinographs) have been given for any of the Chinese names, book titles, etc. A far more serious omission is the complete absence from this book of an Index. We are given neither an Index of Names, nor an Index of Titles - not even a General Index in which they could been bundled together. We have not even been given a List of Contributors (there are over one hundred) except on the back of the dust-jacket where we learn that among the non-academic translators are luminaries such as Pound, Snyder, and Rexroth. This makes the book extremely difficult to use.
Locating specific items involves repeated and tiresome searches through the 14-page 258-item Table of Contents. For example, Mair tells us in his Preface that because of its great popularity he has included some selections from Lin Yutang's translation of 'Six Chapters of a Floating Life.' But it will take you some time to find out where they are. And if, as I am, you happen to be interested in a specific translator such as Lin Yutang, since the translators' names are not shown in the Table of Contents, you will have to leaf through all 1300 pages to find their contributions. It will also take you a lot of searching to determine, for example, whether or not Lu Chi's 'Wen fu' (Essay on Literature) has been included in the book. So far as I can see, it hasn't - but I could be wrong. And if it hasn't been included, I wonder why?
The book is stitched and well-printed in a readable font on excellent paper. Anyone who is looking for a comprehensive anthology of traditional Chinese Literature understood in its broadest sense, and in scholarly and exact (though not always inspired) translations with informative notes, will find much that is of very real interest and value in this book. I've enjoyed reading many of the selections, and have benefited from their brief and interesting notes.
And Professor Mair is certainly to be more than commended on his decision to employ the older and elegant - though imperfect - Wade-Giles system of transcription, rather than the trendy and ugly - and just as imperfect - modern Pinyin system. But I do wish the book had included at least a General Index!