Page:Columbia University Lectures on Literature (1911).djvu/103

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89
CHINESE LITERATURE

the Chinese. K'li Yiian's poetry set the example to some of his contemporaries, whose effusions were miited to his under the title "Elegies of Ch'u."

The second subdivision is entitled "Individual Collections," the "Œuvres completes" of certain writers. They contain Literature of every description, and some of China's greatest poets, especially those of that classical eighth century a.d. Among these we find the Chinese Anacreon Li T'ai-po, Tu Fu, Po Kii-i, and other poets of the T'ang dynasty. Professor Giles, to whose judicious collection of extracts called "Gems of Chinese Literature," I would refer, says of this period: "It was the epoch of glittering poetry (untranslatable alas!), of satire, of invective, and of opposition to the strange and fascinating creed of Buddha. Imagination began to flow more easily and more musically, as though responsive to the demands of art."

This poetry is chiefly of the lyrical kind; and if I were asked to find a characteristic word for some of its characteristic specimens, I would select that untranslatable German word "Stimmung." Chinese poems are often pointless; but they introduce us into some distinct frame of mind as the picture of a clever landscapist introduces us to some distinct condition of nature. The little poems of Wang Wei, who was one of the greatest artists as well as a distinguished poet of that period, may be called typical in this respect, and Su Tung-po, the great poet of the eleventh century, could not have expressed this idea better than when he indorsed one of his paintings with merely two lines:—

"Hark to Wang Wei's odes, and ye will behold his pictures; Look at Wang Wei's pictures, and ye will hear his odes."

The Chinese have no epic, and the drama did not originally exist in China. It was introduced by the Mongols, who held the throne of China for a century (1264-1368), and during