The Birth of China Seen Through Poetry

The Birth of China Seen Through Poetry

Language: English

Pages: 264

ISBN: 9814335339

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The book introduces Chinese culture to readers of English, using poetry from the various periods rendered into English verse to bring back to life past Chinese society as it developed from about 1000 B.C to the form we see today. With China's increasing importance on the world stage today, many readers, no doubt, would want to learn more about its ancient culture. However, to learn about a culture from its history alone, especially one as long as that of China, is time-consuming and requires a historian's expert skill. This book offers the general reader a direct glimpse into the human core of it via the universally accessible channel of poetry. It provides an outline of Chinese history from prehistoric times to the present printed mostly on left-hand pages, accompanied on the right by a selection of Chinese poems of the corresponding periods translated into English verse by the author. The poems total about eighty in number and come mostly from the classical phase dating from around 1000 B.C. to 1200 A.D.

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as an independent art form. The lyric poem, of which Cartwheels, Vultures, Home-coming, Even Hungry – I’ ll not Feed with Tigers, and Promise are examples, has generally lines of different lengths with three to seven characters in each, and an irregular rhyming pattern. A poem of the other type, on the other hand, such as Parting at Dawn and A Length of Silk, is more regular, with five characters in each line and rhymes every other line. In either case, the new forms allowed both tonal quality

of the three, holding sway over the then more populous and advanced half of China north of the Changjiang. The founder of Wei was Cao Cao (155 - 220 A.D.), a charismatic though ruthless figure - a brilliant general, astute politician and no mean poet. It was also he who paid the ransom to repatriate Cai Yan, the poetess of the last entry. Though having brought the major part of China under his control, he continued to pay lip service to the last Han emperor. It was only after his death that his

allowing the south to survive and preserve its independence. There, dynasties of Han-ethnic rulers followed one another, and although few had the vigour even to attempt a return to the Middle Kingdom, they at least managed to maintain some semblance of the original Middle Kingdom civilization, which was bound in the end to attract the attention of the increasingly sophisticated rulers in the north from other ethnic groups. These began first to admire and then to emulate what the Hans had achieved

china.indb 92 2/22/2011 4:49:33 PM FA Reading Wei Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties 魏晋南北朝 (220–624 A.D.) ■ 93 A String my Zither Broke Yu Xin In Jinling once I had a home near county-hall. To Chang’ an married since, now here they me instal. With tear-filled eyes, I far horizons daily search But where, in which direction, does my old home fall? This dust from foreign climes — ah when will it subside? And when, the Han full moon, will it again befall? Because I found you knew this

which most Chinese scholars can recite by heart. One tells the romanticised story of the beautiful Yang Guifei, the favourite of the emperor Li Longji, whose love for her was blamed for much of the ills which befell the country in the latter half of his reign. The other tells of the poet’s chance encounter while in exile in the south with a pipa (a string instrument) player and of her performance on a moonlit night on the River. The first runs to 120 lines and the second to 88, which lengths, for

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