The Golden Age of Poetry in China was during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD). One book of Chinese Love Poetry edited by Jane Portal (© 2004) was published by Barnes & Noble Books (ISBN 0-7607-4833-0).
I’m sure that most people outside of China don’t think of love poems when they think of China. However, there has to be a reason for more than 1.3 billion people, other than the Great Wall of China, the Pacific Ocean and the biggest mountain range on the planet, the Himalayas, which helped shelter China from some of the violence that rocked the rest of the world for centuries—at least until the Opium Wars.
For poetry lovers, Chinese Love Poetry imparts a sense of the private passion that beats in the Chinese heart. The three arts of poetry, calligraphy and painting, the Triple Excellence, are represented on the pages.
The following painting, lady weeping at parting from husband, 17th century, comes from the Qing Dynasty and the book says it is a color woodblock print on paper.
Chinese poetry is frequently personal and often linked to a particular occasion (page 9).
Deeply in love, but tonight
we seem to be passionless;
I just feel, before our last cup of wine
a smile will not come.
The wax candle has sympathy –
weeps at our separation:
Its tears for us keep rolling down
till day breaks.
by Du Mu (803-852 AD)
As you can see, the Chinese are a passionate people—they just don’t dramatize these passions publicly as many Westerners do—at least until the West invaded China to force—if possible—a different set of values on China’s collective culture.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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Good blog. I like your words: “a sense of the private passion that beats in the Chinese heart.” Nice succinct summary. Thanks.
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