Love songs of early China

Sampson, Geoffrey (2006) Love songs of early China. Shaun Tyas. ISBN 9781900289757

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The songs or poems in this book are among the earliest literary works to have been written down anywhere in the world. They offer a rare window into the hearts of individuals in a distant country – China – almost three thousand years ago.

Because Old Chinese was an unusually simple language, the window is unusually transparent. The book translates the poems into straightforward English prose, and on facing pages it uses our alphabet to show them as they sounded in Old Chinese. Anyone who cares to read the poems aloud can hear the rhymes and rhythms heard by the original poets; it is easy to look up the words of the short lines in the glossary provided and see how the lines mean what the English says they mean. This is one of the few cases – perhaps the only case – where we can readily understand men and women speaking to us, in their own voices, across millennia.

The book contains 58 of the pieces found in a Chinese anthology whose title is commonly translated as The Book of Odes. The pieces chosen are linked by the theme of love.

The Book of Odes has been famous throughout Chinese history. But language changes down the ages have muffled its sound-music, destroying rhymes and eliminating onomatopoeia. And commentators interpreting the anthology in terms of the far more sophisticated culture of later Chinese history have sometimes obscured rather than clarified the original meaning. This book cuts away those complexities for Western readers. It displays the songs as their first hearers heard them and understood them.

Item Type: Book
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Depositing User: Geoffrey Richard Sampson
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:25
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2019 14:26
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