【E外桃源】Musing on Chinese Poetry(雙語)

楼主 (文学城)

Dear Muse,


My fiancee just threw me a curveball, asking me why traditional Chinese poetry still matters today. OK. I am a baseball player. Let's see if I can hit it out of the park. (Actually, I am keeping my fingers crossed.)


In traditional Chinese poetry, each and every monosyllabic character is a moving part, which yearns for being in Great Harmony with its counterparts. In Great Harmony, individual characters earn all due respect when serving the common good. Well, in the West, it took millennia to have the 18th-Century economist Adam Smith echo Great Harmony without knowing it ("Individual ambition serves the common good").


Great Harmony is where the Chinese heritage is rooted, on account of which the tree of traditional poetry was in full bloom. Was. Why the past tense? Because it is no longer the case, unfortunately. That doesn't mean traditional poetry has to be sacrified on the altar of modernity, though. 


Contemporary Japanese are still very much in the Tang mood, challenging the Tang descendants with their Kanshi in a friendly way. I personally felt compelled to answer their poetic call, which I did, even though I am just 50% Chinese. I take comfort in believing that the Great Tang, like ancient Athens and Rome, has transcended all man-made barriers. It should, anyway.


By the way, can we imagine a Tang devoid of poetry? We may not be living in the Great Tang, but we have the obligation, I would argue, to keep the Great Tang dream alive by paying tribute to traditional Chinese poetry.


To those who think that it is a fool's errand writing traditional Chinese poetry, I have this to say: Tang poetry has inspired modernism in American literature. I might talk more about it in the future. Stay tuned.


To be fair, I expect myself to practice what I preach. So, let me have the following ci poem of mine inscribed on a kite. My fiancee and I will fly it, taking advantage of the easterly winds with which spring rhymes. Please consider it as our air mail for you. 


I just heard you say COOL. You're picking up American English really fast. Kudos to you!


Yours truly, always,


Lingyang Jiang





















—— 颺