To buy at Barnes and Noble, click here

     To buy at Powell's Books, click here

Review from The Library Journal:

This small book accounts for most of Chinese poetry, from the 12th century B.C.E. to the present. Some 40 pages are devoted to an excellent description of Chinese prosody, although some discussion of ancient meter will be lost on those who do not know Chinese. Helpful indexes and tables give the alternate spellings in different transliteration systems (Tu Fu is Du Fu; Mao Tse-tung is Mao Zedong). The chronologically sequenced translations begin with the Zhou dynasty (1122-256 B.C.E.) and continue through the present, with each dynasty and poet introduced with historical background and biographies. More than 1000 poems by 125 poets are included. Many of the poems are translated by editors Barnstone (creative writing & American literature, Whittier Coll.) and Ping (Coll. of Wooster), with others by well-known translators such as Mabel Lee and Burton Watson, as well as earlier translators Willis Barnstone and Arthur Waley. This monumental work should be in all public and academic libraries.-Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.




This anthology attempts to put into one volume the essence of Chinese poetry, stretching from its beginnings in the Book of Songs (the ancient anthology of folk songs supposedly collected by Confucius himself) and culminating in the political and experimental poetics of the contemporary Chinese poets, many of whom are in political exile in the post-Tiananmen Square massacre diaspora. Our concerns in making this selection are in part to represent in fine translation the well-established canon of great Chinese poems, and in part to deviate from that canon in ways we found interesting. In this volume, you will find many of the familiar classical gems, popular favorites, and anthology pieces, and yet we have chosen to cut out old touchstones that don't fare well in translation, preferring to represent Chinese poetry with poems that read in English as poems in and of themselves.

We have also attempted to adjust the canon, here and there, to shine a spotlight on fine poets whose work is often overlooked, and especially to make room for the poems of Chinese women in this book. In the classical Chinese anthologies, the voices of women were largely neglected, relegated to a small selection at the end of the volumes, and so they have survived the ravages of the centuries at significantly lower rates than those of men. The work of many of the finest Chinese women poets has been lost, and we know them only by a few poems or a few dozen poems, if we are lucky (while for many male poets hundreds or even thousands of poems survive). Perhaps one could argue that we are skewing the canon by including a fifth of the 50 extant poems of a great woman poet such as Li Qingzhao, while only including one thousandth of the poems of a poet like Lu You, who wrote over 10,000 poems. However, our goal is not to be merely representative in this anthology. We have chosen to swell the selections of poets whose work we particularly admire (Tao Qian, Wang Wei, Li Bai, Du Fu, Bai Juyi, Han Shan, Su Dongpo, Mao Zedong, Bei Dao, and others) , so that the reader can truly come to know their work. We consider such larger selections to be "pillars" that support the book, little books or chapbooks within the larger book that show the range and development and depth of the finest poets of this extraordinary tradition.

In order to aid the general reader (as well as students and scholars of Chinese) in navigating such a large selection of work by so many poets, we have provided both Pinyin and Wade-Giles transliterations of the authors' Chinese names, and have presented titles and author names both in English and in Chinese characters in the Table of Contents. One peculiar characteristic of Chinese poetry is that since so many Chinese poems have the same title, a title index is actually less useful than a first line index. Therefore, we have provide the book with an index of first lines in English and Chinese characters. Finally, in order to help give readers the context necessary to ground their reading of this selection from two millennia of Chinese poetry, we have outfitted the book with historical introductions to each major period, a history of the development of Chinese literary forms, and an essay on the key issues that confront the English-language translator of classical and contemporary Chinese poetry.

I would like to thank the poet and novelist Ha Jin for generously putting in touch with Anchor Books and helping this project to find a home. I would also like to thank our editor, LuAnn Walther, and John Siliciano at Anchor Books, for their patience with the book's slow development, and for making the project possible. Although the majority of the translations in the volume are team-translated by Chou Ping and myself, I supplemented our translations with a smattering of others by my father, Willis Barnstone, and by other poet-scholar-translators of Chinese, such as Arthur Waley, Sam Hamill, Kenneth Rexroth, David Hinton, Xu Haixin, Newton Liu, Ko Ching-p'o, Burton Watson, Michelle Yeh, Arthur Sze, Gregory B. Lee, John Cayley, Bonnie S. McDougall, Chen Maiping, James A. Wilson, and Ho Yung. Although the selection by other translators is small, it is meant as a tribute to them for their extraordinary work in carrying Chinese poetic genius across oceans and centuries and transplanting it in American soil. It has meant a lot to me as a reader, and I would like to thank all these translators for allowing me to reprint their Chinese translations here. Finally, I would like to thank my co-editor and primary co-translator for his good humor and insight, which has made it a pleasure to work with him on this and other projects since we first met in my small apartment in Beijing, twenty years ago, in the winter of 1984.

---Tony Barnstone


Back to Tony's Page


copyright 2003 | Barnstones. | all rights reserved