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Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown

Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown: Poems by Zen Monks of China

Charles Egan
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown
    Book Description:

    Compiled by a leading scholar of Chinese poetry, Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown is the first collection of Chan (Zen) poems to be situated within Chan thought and practice. Combined with exquisite paintings by Charles Chu, the anthology compellingly captures the ideological and literary nuances of works that were composed, paradoxically, to "say more by saying less," and creates an unparalleled experience for readers of all backgrounds.

    Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown includes verse composed by monk-poets of the eighth to the seventeenth centuries. Their style ranges from the direct vernacular to the evocative and imagistic. Egan's faithful and elegant translations of poems by Han Shan, Guanxiu, and Qiji, among many others, do justice to their perceptions and insights, and his detailed notes and analyses unravel centuries of Chan metaphor and allusion. In these gems, monk-poets join mainstream ideas on poetic function to religious reflection and proselytizing, carving out a distinct genre that came to influence generations of poets, critics, and writers.

    The simplicity of Chan poetry belies its complex ideology and sophisticated language, elements Egan vividly explicates in his religious and literary critique. His interpretive strategies enable a richer understanding of Mahayana Buddhism, Chan philosophy, and the principles of Chinese poetry.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52098-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Dynastic Timeline
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on Pinyin Romanization
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-1)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 2-56)

    Poems in the short, fixed-length forms that dominate classical Chinese poetry are designed to encapsulate momentary states of mind of an individual—emotional reactions, philosophical insights, or flashes of religious illumination. All of the traditional Chinese scholarly arts can be termed “lyrical”—not just poetry, but calligraphy, painting, and music as well; artistic creation has since ancient times been viewed as a spontaneous internal response to external stimuli.¹ A poem succeeds when the subject matter and the poet’s personal sensibility seamlessly fuse in form and language. Creation opens a window to the artist, and interpretation allows us to look through....

  8. Poems

    • Tang Dynasty (618–907) and Five Dynasties (907–960)
      (pp. 58-109)
    • Song Dynasty (960–1279)
      (pp. 110-143)
    • Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) and Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)
      (pp. 144-166)
    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
  9. Introductions to the Poets and Explanatory Notes
    (pp. 167-270)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 271-276)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 277-288)
  12. Index
    (pp. 289-306)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-310)