The Chinese Translations: The Works of Witter Bynner: (The Jade Mountain and The Way of Life According to Laotzu) (Paperback)
Lyrical translations of two famous Chinese works - Chu Sun's Three Hundred Poems of the T'ang and Laozu's Tao Te Ching - as interpreted by renowned poet Witter Bynner.
In 1918, while visiting the University of California, Berkeley, Witter Bynner met Kiang Kang-hu, a professor of Chinese. They would spend the next eleven years collaborating on English translations of T'ang Dynasty poems, a partnership that involved visits to China to ensure that "in spirit and expression the poems remain as close as we could keep them to what the originals mean in China."
Years later, Bynner felt compelled to revisit their work on his own. Sifting through a dozen subsequently published literal translations, Bynner deliberated on the texts' original meanings and applied his poet’s sensibility to create new interpretations that were, in Dr. Kiang's estimation, "so simple and yet so profound." Bynner's "American versions" soon became the most popular translations among Western readers being introduced to Chinese literature and philosophy for the first time.
The Chinese Translations includes two notable works. The first, The Jade Mountain, is a translation of T'ang shih san pai shou (Three Hundred Poems of the T'ang), an anthology compiled by Chu Sun in the eighteenth century that was tremendously popular in China. The second, The Way of Life According to Laotzu, is Bynner’s version of the Tao Te Ching, one of the most beloved interpretations of the classic text attributed to the sixth-century philosopher and sage.
Purist translators may have scoffed, but Bynner's emotive interpretations evoked the poems' original subtle form and philosophy in a way that made Western readers appreciate Chinese poetry not as a foreign curiosity but as a rich literary tradition in its own right.
About the Author
Witter Bynner (1881-1968) was an American poet and translator well known for his support of other artists and authors. He served as president of the Poetry Society of America, where he established a prize to encourage young poets. Bynner’s own work included poetry (An Ode to Harvard), plays (Cake), and memoirs (Journey with Genius). With Dr. Kiang Kang-hu, he translated dozens of Chinese poems from the Tang Dynasty. Originally from New York City, Bynner traveled extensively in East Asia before settling in New Mexico, where he hosted artists and authors including D. H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, Georgia O’Keefe, and Igor Stravinsky