Three Chinese Poets

ISBN: 0670058483
ISBN 13: 9780670058488
By: Vikram Seth

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About this book

The three T'ang dynasty poets translated here are among the greatest literary figures of China, or indeed the world. Responding differently to their common times, Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu crystallize the immense variety of China and the Chinese poetic tradition and, across a distance of twelve hundred years, move the reader as it is rare for even poetry to do.

Reader's Thoughts


Intense images of ancient verse,Through three poets who leave souls stirring,Conjured with lines so sparse,To drink of more, one was left yearning.


A moving collection, giving pause and forcing reflection.

Sashankh Kale

My first book by the author; very lyrical and interesting..


Aside from an introduction with biographies and a few annotations, this book is composed of brief selections from three Tang dynasty poets: Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu. Eighth-century near-contemporaries, the three poets produced some strikingly beautiful verse. Seth’s translation replicates the rhyme, and so tries to translate the assonance as well as the meaning of the poems. Of the three --- “Buddhist recluse, Taoist immortal, and Confucian sage” respectively, I think I prefer Du Fu’s bleakly realistic moral plaints (“The great are always paid in disuse and neglect”). But Li Bai’s ecstatic odes to life and wine are far from flat: “Cook a sheep, slaughter an ox, and for our further pleasure / Let’s drink three hundred cups of wine down in a single measure... We’ll dissolve the sorrows of a hundred centuries.” Simply beautiful, timeless pieces from twelve hundred years ago


These are a sample of some of the finest chinese classical poetry and i'm not sure which is better, the poetry itself or the translation by Vikram Seth.They ask me why I live in the green mountains,I smile and don't reply; my heart's at easePeach Blossims flow downstream, leaving no trace -And there are other earths and skies than these.Li BaiIt's the skill of the translator that he can bring a 7th Century Chinese poet alive.Great poetry, great translation

Claudia f. Savage

This traslation of Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu is one of the most amazing I've ever read. The introduction describing the time period is alone worth the read. I spent one evening reading it to John after dinner. He describes how the Empress Wu started the requirement of poetry exams for civil servants. Can you imagine postal employees, police officers, and your city commissioner having to write their own poetry in order to get their jobs? I love this guy. The translations are beautiful and he has a page showing how he translated one poem from Chinese. Masterful, reverent, wonderful! I'll definitely be referring to it again and again. "I fear yours is no living soul./ How could it make this distant flight? You came: the maple woods were green./ You lft: the pass was black with night." Whew.

Danish Mishra

A most excellent translation. I don't know if it does justice to the original works but these poems are splendid work in themselves.


Excellent, especially for the Wang Wei offerings.

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