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Awakened Cosmos:

The Mind of Classical Chinese Poetry





What is consciousness but the Cosmos awakened to itself?


This question is fundamental to the Taoist and Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist worldview that shapes classical Chinese poetry. A uniquely conceived biography, Awakened Cosmos illuminates that worldview through the life and work of Tu Fu (712-770 CE), China’s greatest classical poet. Tu Fu’s writing traces his life from periods of relative normalcy to years spent as an impoverished refugee amid the devastation of civil war. Exploring key poems to guide the reader through Tu Fu’s dramatic life, Awakened Cosmos reveals Taoist/Ch’an insight deeply lived across the full range of human experience.

    Each chapter presents a poem in three stages: first, the original Chinese; then, an English translation in Hinton’s masterful style; and finally, a lyrical essay that discusses the untranslatable philosophical dimensions of the poem. The result is nothing short of remarkable: a biography of the Cosmos awakened to itself in the form of a magisterial poet alive in T’ang Dynasty China.


     Thirty years ago, David Hinton published America’s first full-length translation of Tu Fu’s work. Awakened Cosmos is published simultaneously with a newly translated and substantially expanded version of that landmark translation: The Selected Poems of Tu Fu: Expanded and Newly Translated (New Directions).


                  — from the book jacket


Praise for Awakened Cosmos:

Hinton’s austerely beautiful translations . . . have always gone against the grain. He has been building, translation by translation, an English language for the Chinese conceptual world. . . In the twentieth century, Chinese poetry was translated into the American idiom by modernists like Ezra Pound and later poets including Kenneth Rexroth and Gary Snyder with a lightness of touch, a beguiling simplicity. Hinton is after the opposite: depth and boundlessness.

                 (The New York Review of Books: Madeleine Thien)



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