Tang poetry is poetry written in the characteristic style of China's Tang dynasty, (618–907), a time period considered as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry, and when poetry remained an important part of social life at "all levels" of society. Some 49,000 Tang poems were written by over 2,200 authors, according to the ◦Quan Tangshi anthology.
During that dynasty, scholars were required to master poetry for the civil service exams, but the art was available to many others too. This led to a large record. Three of the most famous poets of the period were Tu Fu (Du Fu), Wang Wei and Li Po (Li Bai).
Tang poetry keeps influencing world literature and modern and quasi-modern poetry today as well. Here are some Chinese Tang poems - mainly fragments. Books are at the bottom of the page.
Zhang Jiuling's THOUGHTS 1A sole swan from the sea flies,
No clothes invite pointing fingers -
High climbers roam the limitless sky.
Zhang Jiuling - ORCHID AND ORANGE 1Will you think that a forest-hermit,
Well content with beauty,
Would be inferior to a flowering orchid?
Zhang Jiuling - THOUGHTS 3The hermit in his lone abode
Nurses his thoughts cleansed of care.
Only vain and ill people are not moved by sincerity,
And prayer is for keeping sincerity too.
With Li Bai - DOWN THE EMBLA MOUNTAIN TO THE KIND PILLOW AND BOWLDown the mountain in the evening,
Moonlight my homeward escort.
I was passing a farm-house of a friend,
When children called -
Vines that gladly caught and held my clothes.
Drink with my friend the wind in the pines;
With Li Bai - THINKING ALONG WITH THE MOONThe moon was unable to drink
And for a while I had this friend.
To cheer me I sang. The moon encouraged me so.
We were such companions, the moon and I.
With Li Bai - SWEET SPRINGI have prepared for returning home,
My heart is almost broken.
But not by the silk on my bed.
With Du Fu - FLYING HOMEThe Great Tweak was stirred by the Twin Forces
Balancing along I bared my breast
After the pattern of birds flying home.
Near the top the complete landscape may be taken on
In a few captivating glances.
With Du Fu - TO A RETIRED ALLYTonight is a rare event,
Fit for candlelights
Turning grey at the temples.
I have been on my way, you could say.
With Du Fu - ALONE IN HER GOSSIPWho is barer than a vacant valley from a robust family
Humbled so greatly that ducks walking and quacking side by side look better, talk better?
With Du Fu - SEEING BILLY IN A DREAMYou came to me last night in a dream,
Venturing so long a journey
Through forest greens
How could you lift your wings and use them?
I woke, wild and tossing.
There were dragons and riverbed monsters.
With Du Fu - AS REAL AND DENSE AS RUBBERThis cloud has drifted like a wanderer,
And as real as the rising into it,
You rubbed your white head
Something kept puzzling you. Who says that the heavenly net never fails? It has brought you ill fortune, No more years of fame.
With Wang Wei - PARTINGWhere are we going and why - Ask me no questions without end.
With Wang Wei - NO HERMITS IN CRISPIANITYIn Crispianity there should be no hermits;
That gave up at the Gate of Hell
Or the bosom friends.
Your purpose happened to fail,
With Wang Wei - A GREEN STREAM - TO BE A WOMANI have sailed some River Misses born by rapids hums
Where the basis light grows dim and weeds are lush along the banks.
Doomed to cast fishing-nets without end.
With Wang Wei - SHEEP TRAILS THROUGH THE WOODSCattle and sheep trail home along
A rugged old man
That leans on a staff and thinks of his son or full wheat-ears, The farmers, returning with hoes on their shoulders,
Hail a simple life by their works.
With Wang Wei - THE BEAUTIFUL SHEShould we remain humbly at home?
Washing clothes in the evening?
No more powder in her face?
Wisdom-washed beside the well?
With Meng Haoran - ON AUTUMN CLIMBINGWildgeese flow my heart.
Not so brisk and clear.
The ferry returns;
Come and meet me.
Dogs hate us.
With Meng Haoran - SUMMER THINKINGThe mountain-light from the lake afar
Open my window and lie down a while.
I would play if I could.
Allen, Clement Francis Romilly, tr. The Book of Chinese Poetry, Being the Collection of Ballads, Sagas, Hymns, and Other Pieces Known as the Shih Ching or Classic of Poetry. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., 1891.
Giles, Herbert A. tr. Chinese Poetry in English Verse. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1898.
Hawkes, David. A Little Primer of Tu Fu. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.
Obata, Shigeyoshi. The Poems of Li Po, the Chinese Poet. New York: Dutton and Co, 1922. ⍽▢⍽ With translations of 124 of Li Po's poems, an introduction to his work and the Tang period he lived in, and biographical notes on Li Po by Chinese authors.
Owen, Stephen. The Making of Early Chinese Classical Poetry. London: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006. ⍽▢⍽ Professor Owen has a reputation for being an erudite and prolific scholar and translator of Chinese poetry and poetics. A reviewer, David McCraw, admits formerly mistaken notions: "Some of the oldest verses turn out to be the youngest." Dr Owen shows how fragments from poetry that was composed between the end of the first century BCE and the third century CE was reshaped in later generations to suit the conventional tastes then - how early poetry comes to us through reproduction reproduction by those who knew the poem and transmitted it, by musicians who performed it, and by scribes and anthologists all of whom changed texts to suit their needs, as it is pointed out.
Seaton, J. P. tr. Bright Moon, White Clouds: Selected Poems of Li Po. Boston: Shambhala, 2012. ⍽▢⍽ Li Po (Li Bai) became the first of the Chinese poets to be widely appreciated in the West. He influenced artists like Ezra Pound and Gustav Mahler. He and his friend Tu Fu (IDu Fu) (712–770) were the two most prominent figures of Chinese poetry in the flourishing Tang dynasty during a "Golden Age of China".
Waley, Arthur, tr. A Hundred and Seventy Chinese Poems and More Translations from the Chinese. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1919.
Waley, Arthur, tr. More Translations from the Chinese. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1919.
Watson, Burton, tr. Cold Mountain: 100 Poems by the T'ang Poet Han-shan. Columbia University Press, 1970. ⍽▢⍽ A recommended book.
Xu, Yuan-zhong, Bei-yei Loh, Juntao Wu, eds. Tang Shi San Bai Shou. 300 Tang Poems. Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1987. ⍽▢⍽ 290 English translations in it are from The Jade Mountain: A Chinese Anthology, Being Three Hundred Poems of the T'ang Dynasty, 618-906. Tr. Witter Bynner, from the Texts of Kiang Kang-hu. (New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 1929). Seven translations are made for this work, and three verses are from "Perspectives on the Tang" edited by Arthur Wright and Denis Twitchett, published by Yale University Press, 1973.
Yin-nan, Chang, and Lewis C. Walmsley, trs. Poems by Wang Wei. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1958.
Young, David, tr. Wang Wei, Li Po, Tu Fu, Li Ho, Li Shang-yin: Five T'ang Poets. Oberlin OH: Oberlin College Press, 1990.
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