The Book of Songs

the book of songsHistory:
As the first collection of poems in china, The Book of Songs (shÄ« jÄ«ng 诗经) recorded a total of 305 poems created over a period of 500 years or so, from the early Western Zhou Dynasty (xÄ« zhōu 西周) (11th century BC-771BC) to the middle of the Spring and Autumn Period (chÅ«n qiÅ« shí qÄ«  æ˜¥ç§‹æ—¶æœŸ). It was said that specific officials were appointed with a sole role of collecting poems among the mass. There was also a rule requiring officials to compose poems and present them to the emperor at that time. The anthology came into being after further compilation. According to the story, all the poems in The Book of Songs were lyrics of the ancient days.
At the very beginning, The Book of Songs was known as Poems (shÄ« 诗) or Three Hundred Poems (shÄ« sān bǎi 诗三百). The great thinker Confucius (kǒng zǐ 孔子) used it as a textbook to teach his disciples. It was named as The Book of Songs after the Han Dynasty (hàn cháo 汉朝).

Structure
The Book of Songs was written in four-character lines. All the songs were original in wording, harmonious in rhythm, concise in style, and pleasant to read. The three major literary figures or styles employed in the poems were Fu (fù 赋), Bi (bǐ 比) and Xing (xÄ«ng 兴). It is divided into four main sections:the book of songs
    1. GuoFeng (guó fēng 国风)(Lessons from the States):
        Poems or folk songs from ordinary people.
    2. XiaoYa (xiǎo yǎ 小雅)(Minor Odes of the Kingdom): 
        Poems or songs concerning life of the nobility. 
    3. DaYa (dà yǎ 大雅)(Greater Odes of the Kingdom):
        Poems or songs of praise of the rulers and their life. 
    4. Song (sòng 颂)(Odes of the Temple and the Altar):
        Hymns written for religious ceremonies of the court.

Contents
The Book of Songs was rich in contents, which was also the source of Chinese verse and the starting point of the Chinese epic. Including history poems, satirical poems, narrative poems, love songs, odes, seasonal songs and work songs, It covered all aspects of the society of the Zhou Dynasty, such as work and love, war and corvée, oppression and resistance, customs and marriage, sacrifices and feasts, astronomical phenomena and landforms, animals and plants. Therefore, The Book of Songs was not only a mirror reflecting the Zhou Dynasty (zhōu cháo 周朝), but also the most valuable and important material in the study of the Chinese language from the 11th century to the 6th century B.C.
The Book of Songs has spread widely in China and abroad. It has been translated into many foreign languages such as English, French, Japanese, and Russian. Jacob Lee"s The Chinese Classics is the earliest translation in English, which was published during 1861-1871 in Hong Kong. Arthur Waley’s The Book of Songs, though published later (in 1954), is a better version.

Appreciation

the book of songs

 

The Reeds and Rushes (part)
《秦风· 兼葭》(节选)
When reed and rush grew green, grew green,
蒹葭苍苍,
And dews to hoar-frost changed,
白露为霜。
One whom they speak of as "that man"
所谓伊人,
Somewhere the river ranged.
在水一方。
Upstream they went in quest of him,
溯洄从之,
A long and toilsome way;
道阻且长。
Downstream they went in quest of him;
溯游从之,
In mid-stream there lay!
宛在水中央。


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《诗经》

the book of songs

      《诗经》是我国第一部诗歌总集,共收入自西周初年至春秋中叶大约五百多年的诗歌三百零五篇。《诗经》共分风(160篇)、雅(105篇)、颂(40篇)三大部分。它们都得名于音乐。“风”的意义就是声调。古人所谓《秦风》、《魏风》、《郑风》,就如现在我们说陕西调、山西调、河南调、“雅”是正的意思。周代人把正声叫做雅乐,犹如清代人把昆腔叫做雅部,带有一种尊崇的意味。大雅小雅可能是根据年代先后而分的。“颂”是用于宗庙祭的乐歌。
思想内容 《诗经》全面地展示了中国周代时期的社会生活,真实地反映了中国奴隶社会从兴盛到衰败时期的历史面貌。其中有些诗,如《大雅》中的《生民》、《公刘 》、《绵》、《皇矣》、《大明》等,记载了后稷降生到武王伐纣,是周部族起源、发展和立国的历史叙事诗。 
     æœ‰äº›è¯—,如《魏风• 硕鼠》、《魏风• 伐檀》等,以冷嘲热讽的笔调形象地揭示出奴隶主贪婪成性、不劳而获的寄生本性,唱出了人民反抗的呼声和对理想生活的向往,显示了奴隶制崩溃时期奴隶们的觉醒。有些诗,如《小雅• 何草不黄》、《豳风• 东山》、《唐风• 鸨羽》、《小雅 • 采薇》等写征夫思家恋土和对战争的哀怨;《王风• 君子于役 》、《卫风• 伯兮》等表现了思妇对征人的怀念。它们从不同的角度反映了西周时期不合理的兵役制度和战争徭役给人民带来的无穷痛苦和灾难。有些诗,如《周南• 芣苢》完整地刻画了妇女们采集车前子的劳动过程;《豳风• 七月》记叙了奴隶一年四季的劳动生活;《小雅• 无羊》反映了奴隶们的牧羊生活。 the book of songs
      还有不少诗表现了青年男女的爱情生活,如《秦风• 兼葭》表现了男女之间如梦的追求;《郑风• 溱洧》、《邶风• 静女》表现了男女之间戏谑的欢会;《王风• 采葛》表现了男女之间痛苦的相思;《卫风• 木瓜》、《召南• 摽有梅 》表现了男女之间的相互馈赠;《鄘风• 柏舟》、《郑风• 将仲子》则反映了家长的干涉和社会舆论给青年男女带来的痛苦。另如《邶风• 谷风》、《卫风•æ°“》还抒写了弃妇的哀怨,愤怒谴责了男子的忘恩负义,反映了阶级社会中广大妇女的悲惨命运。
      《诗经》以四言为主,兼有杂言。在结构上多采用重章叠句的形式加强抒情效果。每一章只变换几个字,却能收到回旋跌宕的艺术效果。在语言上多采用双声叠韵、叠字连绵词来状物、拟声、穷貌。“以少总多,情貌无遗”。此外,《诗经》在押韵上有的句句押韵,有的隔句押韵,有的一韵到底,有的中途转韵,现代诗歌的用韵规律在《诗经》中几乎都已经具备了。
      《诗经》是中国现实主义文学的光辉起点。由于其内容丰富、思想和艺术上的高度成就,在中国以至世界文化史上都占有重要地位。它开创了中国诗歌的优秀传统,对后世文学产生了不可磨灭的影响。

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