Refreshing Culture.

Ming Aretê presents

Chinese Poetry

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What is covered in Ming Aretê Poetry

Each Lesson includes:

  • A video discussion of the poem
  • Recitation video of the poem in Chinese(Mandarin)
  • Recitation video of an English translation of the poem.
  • Quizzes for each video to test retention and understanding

Explore Chinese poetry lessons now

Chinese Poetry Library

David Hawkes’ 1967 volume A Little Primer of Tu Fu is a short book, as the title suggests. However, it remains an extraordinarily useful and stimulating guide for readers with little or no Chinese who want to get a sense, in Hawkes’ words, of “what Chinese poetry is really like and how it works.” Du Fu (“Tu Fu” in the Wade-Giles system of transliteration used in Hawkes’ title), who lived from 712 to 770, is widely considered to be the greatest Chinese poet. Hawkes’ method was to present the Chinese texts of all thirty-five of the Du Fu poems included the famous anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems, together with pinyin transliterations, character-by-character glosses,  a short discussion of each poem’s formal characteristics and historical background, and spare but illuminating prose translations. Hawkes’ analyses are a joy to read, and his book belongs on the shelf of every non-Chinese reader who wants to learn “what Chinese poetry is really like.”

These volumes provide a wealth of information about the character and development of Chinese poetry during the Tang. (Owen also wrote a volume on The Poetry of the Early Tang, but that one’s only for scholars or for obsessive amateurs like me.)

These wonderful translations from the work of a Tang-era recluse haven’t aged since they were published in the Evergreen Review in 1958.

A fascinating discussion of various translator’s versions of the same famous quatrain by Wang Wei. The Mexican poet Octavio Paz’s commentary on his version is particularly interesting, as I recall. I’ll also want to review Weinberger’s The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry, which brings together translations by Pound, William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, and David Hinton.

Pound’s 1915 masterpiece, a short collection that inaugurated an important tradition in twentieth-century poetry and also had an important impact on some Latin Americans (Octavio Paz, José Emilio Pacheco). I’ll be reviewing the wonderful new critical edition by Timothy Billings.

Graham was a noted scholar of Warring States-era philosophical texts. Some of the translations in this little book, first published by Penguin in the 1960s, strike me as among the most beautiful ones that I have come across. (I’ll have to check, but I seem to recall reading that Roger Waters quoted or alluded to Graham’s versions on one of the early Pink Floyd albums.)

Burton Watson (1925-2017) played a crucial role in expanding the audience for classical Chinese (and Japanese) literature in the United States. This 1984 volume lays out a helpful road-map for beginners interested in exploring the Chinese poetic tradition.

A wonderful collection by a translator whose work is marked by its vigor, delicate aural patterning, and avoidance—at almost any cost!—of the commonplace.

This book is a must-have for students trying to learn Chinese poetry on their own. Together with two subsequent volumes edited (or co-edited by Cai), it’s among the most useful and illuminating resources I have come across.

This posthumously-published volume by a professor at Durham University in England strikes me as a pedagogical masterpiece. I worked my way through it while living in Vietnam, writing out the end-of-chapter exercises in a series of little green notebooks. Together with Cai’s books and Paul Kroll’s A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, it’s one of the books that people studying on their own really shouldn’t do without.

Despite periodic attempts to spread the word among the uninitiated, the English poet Basil Bunting (1900-1985) remains far less well-known than he deserves. This outstanding and illuminatingly-annotated edition, edited by the poet Don Share, seeks to rectify this scandalous state of affairs. For it is a scandal: Bunting, sometimes dismissed as an eccentric Northumbrian disciple of Ezra...