Selected as One of the Sixty-five Masterpieces for the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works
The fu, or rhyme-prose, is a major poetic form in Chinese literature, most popular between the 2nd century b.c. and 6th century a.d. Unlike what is usually considered Chinese poetry, it is a hybrid of prose and rhymed verse, more expansive than the condensed lyrics, verging on what might be called Whitmanesque. The thirteen long poems included here are descriptions of and meditations on such subjects as mountains and abandoned cities, the sea and the wind, owls and goddesses, partings and the idle life.
Burton Watson is universally considered the foremost English-language translator of classical Chinese and Japanese literature for the past five decades. Gary Snyder calls him a “great and graceful scholar,” and Robert Aitken has written that “Burton Watson is a superb translator because he knows what literature is.” Here his seemingly effortless translations are accompanied by a comprehensive introduction to the development and characteristics of the fu form, as well as excerpts from contemporary commentary on the genre. A path-breaking study of pre-modern Chinese literature and an essential volume for poetry readers, the book has been out of print for decades. For this edition, Lucas Klein has provided a preface that considers both the fu form and Watson’s extraordinary work as a whole.
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