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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 eight 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.
About the Author
Charles Egan is associate professor of Chinese at San Francisco State University, where he is also the director of its Chinese program. He has published extensively on the development of Chinese poetic genres and is a frequent translator.
Table of Contents
Dynastic Timeline ix
A Note on Pinyin Romanization xi
List of Illustrations xv
Historical and Religious Background 6
Chan Poetry 34
Note on the Translations 47
Tang Dynasty (618-907) and Five Dynasties (907-960) 58
Song Dynasty (960-1279) 110
Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) 144
Introductions to the Poets and Explanatory Notes 167
What People are Saying About This
Charles Egan's presentation does a real service, providing the latest perspectives rather than a rehash of traditional, received accounts. His translations, which form the heart of this book, read smoothly and well. The introduction and the annotations are very well done and make this anthology one to be enjoyed, savored, and learned from.