preface by Lucas Klein, translated from the Chinese by Burton Watson
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.Lucas Klein, translated from the Chinese by Burton Watson
To translate the fu into English is by no means an easy task, and Professor Watson should be congratulated on his commendable achievement in handling these difficult and recondite materials....The translations as a whole are both accurate and enjoyably readable.
—Journal of Asian Studies
Burton Watson's lifelong dedication to Chinese literature [is] a gift to us all.
His erudition, his deep familiarity with and his evident love of the source, and the delicacy and precision of his own English have given us an invaluable body of renderings from the vast tradition of Chinese poetry.
Burton Watson is a superb translator because he knows what literature is.