Ideographic Myth and Misconceptions about Chinese Poetic Art

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What is unique about Chinese poetic art? To what extent has the Chinese language given rise to it? These questions were not raised by traditional Chinese critics working exclusively within their own tradition. Not until Chinese poetry came to the West in the eighteenth century did such questions begin to emerge and engage Sinologists and lovers of Chinese culture. In the early twentieth century, Ezra Pound brought out Ernest Fenollosa’s essay “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry.” This not only gave a new direction to modern American poetry,1 but inspired an upsurge of efforts by mid-century Sinologists to unlock the secret of Chinese poetic art by tracing its roots to Chinese writing. Seminal in this vein are Peter A. Boodberg on the “semasiology” of Chinese political and literary concepts,2 and Ch’en Shih-hsiang’s and Chow Tse-tsung’s etymological studies of key characters associated with poetry-making.3 By now this linguistic approach to Chinese poetry has been widely embraced by Chinese scholars and Sinologists alike.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTensions in World Literature : Between the Local and the Universal
EditorsWeigui Fang
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9789811306358
ISBN (Print)9789811306341
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


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