Associate 2012-13

Zong-Qi Cai

East Asian Languages & Cultures

Chinese Poetry as Art: A Comprehensive Study Through 100 Famous Poems

Over the past two decades Professor Cai has worked to reinvigorate the research and teaching of Chinese poetry in the English-speaking world. During his Center appointment he plans to complete a book manuscript titled Chinese Poetry as Art, applying modern linguistics to analyze the synchronic and diachronic interconnectedness of four essential aspects of Chinese poetic art: rhythm, syntax, structure, and vision.

Since antiquity these four aspects of Chinese poetic art have been studied largely in isolation from one another. In Chinese Poetry as Art, Professor Cai argues that there are inherent connections between rhythm and syntax; between syntax and structure; and between rhythm, syntax, structure, and poetic vision. The art of poetry, he suggests, is in effect the art of organizing words on prosodic, syntactic, stanzaic, and structural levels in a mutually-enhancing manner to create a unique poetic vision. His discussion of these connections forms an introductory chapter to the book.

The remaining fourteen chapters present 100 of the best-loved Chinese poems by genre and subgenre. Each of the poems is a gem of poetic beauty and also a fine specimen of the Chinese language for reading aloud and recitation. Professor Cai identifies and analyzes the distinctive rhythms, syntax, and structure of each genre and examines how their dynamic play yields new kinds of poetic vision. He also integrates commentaries that highlight traditional Chinese critics of the poems. The reader can thus simply appreciate any of the poems or study the poems as a whole to gain a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of Chinese poetic art.

Together with his previous books, How to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided Anthology (2008) and, co-authored with his student, Jie Cui, How to Read Chinese Poetry Workbook (2011), Chinese Poetry as Art will round out Professor Cai’s poetry studies for Columbia University Press.