Huang on Cai’s How to Read Chinese Poetry in Context

Over at China Channel, Yunte Huang’s enthusiastic review of How to Read Chinese Poetry in Context: Poetic Culture from Antiquity Through the Tang, edited by Zong-qi Cai, is now live.

Huang writes:

It may come as no surprise to scholars well versed in Sinology, but the central thesis that emerges from this eclectic collection of essays bears repeating: poetry played a unique, indispensable role in the making of Chinese culture. Percy Shelley’s romantic hyperbole that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” would have been a shrewd ethnographic description of ancient China, if we were to delete the word “unacknowledged.” As Cai puts it in his succinct preface to the volume, poetry indeed permeated every corner and layer of Chinese society: in the public arena, poetry played a key role in diplomacy, court politics, empire building, state ideology and education; in the private sphere, poetry was used by people of different social classes “as a means of gaining entry into officialdom, creating self-identity, fostering friendship, and airing grievances.”

Click the image to link to the full review.

Mazanec on Learning Classical Chinese

Tom Mazanec has posted a blog entry about “How and Why to Learn Classical Chinese.” He writes:
Classical Chinese is an intrinsically interesting language. It refers to the written language of the premodern Chinese tradition and covers a period of some 2500 years (500 BCE~1920 CE) … It served  as the shared language of the elites in premodern China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Knowledge of classical Chinese opens you up to new worlds. It represents the human experience of something like 1/5 of the people who ever walked the earth.
More practically speaking, knowledge of classical Chinese will also greatly improve your modern Chinese. The two are distinct languages (at least, by any meaningful definition of “language”), but the modern Chinese languages grew out of their classical ancestor and still bear its imprint. Most of the set phrases (chengyu 成語) that mark one’s speech as refined in modern Chinese are summaries of or quotations from classical sources and therefore obey classical structures. Many of the puzzling usages in formal, written Mandarin (the kind used in newspapers) make perfect sense with a basic knowledge of classical Chinese.
In addition, he provides links for recommended learning materials–some of them free–by the likes of David Hawkes, David Knechtges, Edwin Pulleyblank, Mark Edward Lewis, Michael Fuller, Paul Kroll, Paul Rouzer, Richard Mather, Stephen Owen, Zong-qi Cai 蔡宗齊, and Hugh Stimson, to help with reading classical Chinese poetry and prose (I guess it’s time for some women to publish materials on learning classical Chinese).
Click the image above to link to the entry.

On the Mountain: Two versions of Wang Wei

The online mag. I recently came across an old page on Hilobrow, starting with this:

The Taiyi summit     nears the seat of heaven
linked mountains     stretch to brink of sea


The Taiyi summit nears the seat of heaven;
linked mountains stretch to brink of sea.

Two versions of the opening couplet of a Wang Wei 王維 poem by Hilobrow cofounder Matthew Battles, the second in the style of David Hinton. “We’re always struggling with the apparent multivalence of classical Chinese poetry,” Battles writes, “the way the openness of the language seems to permit so many readings, combined with the difficulty of translocating the tonal, lexical, and ideographic effects of the originals into alphabetically-styled verse without either losing much of the force or going all specious with talk about picture-writing and orientalist exoticism”—and he mentions books by Eliot Weinberger and Yunte Huang to shore up his point. But in the end, after a weekend on Maine’s Mount Katahdin,

In the Wang Wei I found echoes of the work the mountain did on me: the braided vistas merging, the gulfs and abysses seducing, the zones of forest succession merging and disappearing into one another as one moves up and down slope.

Click the image above to read more.

Inaugural issue of Journal of Chinese Literature & Culture

The Journal of Chinese Literature & Culture, edited by Yuan Xingpei 袁行霈 and Zong-qi Cai 蔡宗齊, has just published vol. 1, no. 1-2.

It includes articles on poetry such as “The Life and Afterlife of Ling Zhiyuan (1831–1852) and Her Poetry Collection” by Grace S. Fong, “Primers and Poetry in Ancient China: Shenglü fameng and Beyond” by Zhang Jian 張健, Dandan Chen 陳丹丹, “Tao Yuanming: A Symbol of Chinese Culture” by Yuan Xingpei and Alan Berkowitz, and “Poetry and Diplomacy in the Zuozhuan” by Wai-Yee Li 李惠儀.

Click the image for links to download the articles.

Forum on Chinese Poetic Culture

The Forum’s primary mission is to establish an open platform for promoting the learning and teaching of Chinese poetry and poetic culture.  The Forum strives to provide a broad range of services for students, scholars, and all Chinese poetry lovers.  In particular, it shall assist with information sharing, publicity, publication, collaboration as a translator/re-writer, networking, and price discounts.
A co-sponsor of Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture (with Peking Univ. in collaboration with Duke Univ. Press), the Forum gladly extends the above-mentioned services to all other sub-fields of Chinese literature and culture.
I would be most grateful if you could take a close look at these proposed services and offer your valuable suggestions for improvement. I sincerely hope that you will endorse the mission of FCPC and decide to join us in our various endeavors.
Zong-qi Cai
Forum Host

Click on the image above or any of the links for more information.