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The Book of Songs (China: History, Philosophy, Economics) [Paperback]

The Arthur Waley Estate , Arthur Waley
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 28.00
Price: 24.25 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

14 May 2011 China: History, Philosophy, Economics
First published in 1937.
The Book of Songs is a collection of ancient Chinese songs, dating from 800 to 600 B.C. Until this was published in 1937 it had not been translated into English since the middle of nineteenth century, when sinology was still in its infancy. For the first time the original meaning of 290 out of the 305 songs is given, use being made of the advances in the study of old Chinese. The result is not merely a clear picture of early Chinese life, but also the restoration to its proper place in world literature of one of the finest collection of traditional songs.

Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Reprint edition (14 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415612659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415612654
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,002,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Waley's translation of the Shi Jing is finally presented here in the order of the original text. It reads wonderfully, both as a artistic work in itself and as a academic aid. Joseph Allen's commentary, added notes and translations are very valuable additions, which are well-research and succinctly written. Also, the foreword by Stephen Owen is an excellent overview to the place of this work in the Chinese classics. I can recommend this book not only to the general public, but also to the student of the ShiJing (of which I am one!)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction to a Difficult Book 6 Nov 2001
By Thomas F. Ogara - Published on
The Book of Songs (Shi Jing) is one of the seminal works of Chinese Civilization, along with the Book of Changes (Yi Jing), the Book of History (Shu Jing) and the Book of Rites (Li Chi). All four of these books were already old when Confucius flourished, and tradition states that they were edited by him into their present form.
Old indeed they are, and virtually inaccessible even to those fairly proficient in Chinese. A mere knowledge of the Classical idiom is no guarantee of understanding them; The Yi Jing in its original Chinese is little more than a skein of characters strung together, each one of them generally to be understood on its own rather than as part of a sentence. The Shi Jing is a book of poetry, but it is poetry from a remote antiquity; it contains many words that occur nowhere else in Chinese literature, the poems usually don't rhyme any more (yes, Chinese poetry rhymes!) and no doubt some of the poems date back to an extremely remote shamanistic past in Chinese history. They are venerated for the moral message contained in them, and also for the spontaneity to life that they express - a quality that is prized so highly in East Asian culture. It is a taproot of East Asian thought, just as the psalms and Homer are for the West.
Which makes Waley's translation all the more amazing, in that he could actually produce a work that is so absorbing and edifying. Waley was something of a genius of translation; he never visited the Far East - he claimed it would ruin his impression of it - but he translated so much of the best of Chinese and Japanese literature, and he did it so well. Some of the items he translated have never been attempted by anybody else, and while there are other translations of the Shi Jing his is far and away the best one to read.
Those who are familiar with Waley's other works may find the book a disappointment, which is unfortunate. This is an extremely difficult work to translate, much harder than the Analects, to say nothing of the popular Chinese novels that Waley also did into English. The problem is bringing the material to life, and I feel that Waley did as much as could be done with it.
This book was, I believe, out of print for quite a few years. I'm glad to see it's back.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book - amazing translations 3 May 2013
By Paul in Guangzhou - Published on
How do you give a star rating to a book that has influenced a major culture in such an astounding way? The Book of Songs is similar, in some ways, to the Bible -- a wide variety of texts edited together, used as scripture by many generations, influencing the language and thoughts of hundreds of generations. This edition is wonderful, due to the excellent translations and the intelligent re-ordering of the poems into their original order. Before you read "Dream of the Red Chamber" or any other more recent Chinese classics, read this.
0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing is an understatement 10 Aug 2013
By Constant Reader - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Whatever I was searching for in this book, I didn't find it. I should have remembered that Arthur Waley took great liberty in his translations. I was so annoyed with this selection that I took it straight down to the laundry room in the basement of my apartment building, where we have shelves for books that might find an appreciative home elsewhere.
6 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Of historic interest, but dead boring. 3 Jun 2010
By P. Wing - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found most of the poems in this collection to be dry and boring, on topics that were not timeless. I imagine a historian might find them more engaging.

I have had better luck with Kenneth Rexroth's translations of Chinese and Japanese poems. Perhaps he has chosen poems that I found more engaging than those in this collection.
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