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Malleable wire running through the stems and leaves allows you to bend and style your fauxs into an artistic arrangement. Save money by bulking out natural bouquets with fauxliage, or use it to decorate elsewhere around your home. Indulge your creative side by mixing and matching species that may not grow in the same season naturally. Fauxs are also pollen free; welcome news for allergy sufferers and pet owners flowers such as lilies and tulips can be poisonous to animals.

Our picks of the artificial bunch have been closely examined before recommendation, so you can rest assured your guests will never know your secret, and there's even something decent for all budgets.


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You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. This glorious bouquet of pastel pink dicentra, burgundy ranunculus and delicate roses will be a surefire hit for any gift, with the added surprise of finding out they last forever earning you extra brownie points.

Fat-headed blooms packed with expertly-dyed petals are offset by closed buds and others that have only just begun to unfurl, making for a brilliant deception that adds instant class with its cleverness. There is a variety of heights and textures, the array of leaves are convincing and some stems even have prickly plastic thorns. The only drawback is that all you want to do is stick your nose in and breathe in their scent. Try adding a few drops of oil or burning a floral-fragranced candle nearby.

Buy now. If you want to surprise a special someone but think roses would be too much, we recommend this classy bouquet from independent Shropshire boutique Wyld Home. Each arrangement is custom-made and hand-tied, with the stems wired for further personalisation. Delivery is free. You can also buy over 80 stems separately — this range is particularly good if you want to create a natural looking wild flower arrangement. This bestselling stem from maximalist hero Abigail Ahern is a strong staple to add to your collection as it looks lovely paired with anything, from more flamboyant flora to understated foliage.

Hand-painted fabric has been attached to resin stems that can be put in water to ramp up the illusory effect. She suggests stocking up on flowers of one type or colour if you are daunted by the prospect of arranging. Hong Kong and London-based Amaranthine Blooms has an impressive selection of high-quality stems. Amaranthine also offers bunches of six stems and bouquets if you need a helping hand with your display. Beaten in the romance stakes only by the rose, pretty peonies have long been a firm favourite of flower lovers.

These faux versions look every bit as delicate as the real deal but thankfully do not drop their petals at the slightest touch. The pliable stems are long at over 70cm, making them perfect for displaying in your favourite tall vase. Together, they create a chic burst of merriment to brighten a rainy day. Dramatise your interiors by picking up one of these moody dahlia stems from British company Bloom. Skillfully handmade, each petal has subtly different colouring, with no giveaway fraying off the edges.

Sometimes simplicity is best, so make a statement with a cloud of faux pussy willow. Three stems, each with four springs, are included in the price, but we recommend doubling up for real impact, especially if positioning it against a darkly-painted wall. The fluffy grey buds are fabulously tactile and the stems — among the most authentic on test — are long enough to add height and structure to any bouquet. They can be trimmed to your desired size with wire cutters if you are short on space. Born and raised in Thailand, Krititka quit her full-time job in to pursue her passion for artisanal handicrafts.

Each bendable, trimmable stem is entirely unique and so flawlessly produced it is hard to pull your eyes away from the artistic talent on display. Her elegant vintage roses are a favourite, as are the stunning white cherry blossoms. Anyway, this kid—this strange child with a taste for verse—also of course has parents, has a human environment.

It was a quiet house. Usually my mother was doing this or that, practical things around the house; while my father was usually out at work, away a forty- or forty-eight-hour week perhaps. He worked in the shipyard. A quiet man. He did the same job with some little promotions for forty years. Belfast was his life. The shipyard was his life. My mother the same. She was from Belfast. So they had what you might call blue-to-white-collar jobs in these two industries. My mother stopped working when she got married. She became a housewife.

She had only her husband and an infant to look after, but she became a housewife and very house-proud in the obsessive way that a woman in that position often is. The Yellow River, which in the old mythology was said to have its source in the Milky Way in the native idiom, "Cloudy" or "Silver River" , really rises in the K'un Lun Mountains of Central Asia; from thence its course lies through the country supposed to have been the cradle of the Chinese race.

It is constantly referred to in poetry, as is also its one considerable tributary, the Wei River, or "Wei Water," its literal name. The Yellow River is not navigable for important craft, and running as it does through sandy loess constantly changes its course with the most disastrous consequences.

Full text of "The book of the peony"

Its source lies among the mountains of the Tibetan border, where it is known as the "River of Golden Sand. The river is then doubly dangerous, as even great pinnacles of rock are concealed by the whirling rapids. Near this point, the Serpent River, so-called from its tortuous configuration, winds its way through deep ravines and joins the main stream. As may be imagined, navigation on these stretches of the river is extremely perilous, and an ascent of the Upper Yangtze takes several months to perform since the boats must be hauled over the numerous rapids by men, called professionally "trackers," whose work is so strenuous that they are bent nearly double as they crawl along the tow-paths made against the cliffs.

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In spite of the precipitous nature of the banks, many towns and villages are built upon them and rise tier on tier up the mountain sides. The remarkably fertile country on either side is intersected by water-ways, natural and artificial, used instead of roads, which latter do not exist in the Yangtze Valley, their place being taken by paths, some of which are paved with stone and wide enough to accommodate two or three people abreast. As travel has always been very popular, every conceivable form of water-borne craft has sprung up, and these the poets constantly used as they went from the capital to take up their official posts, or from the house of one patron to another, the ancient custom being for the rich to entertain and support men of letters with whom they "drank wine and recited verses," the pastime most dear to their hearts.

The innumerable poems of farewell found among the works of all Chinese poets were usually written as parting gifts from the authors to their hosts. As it nears the sea, the river makes a great sweep round Nanking and flows through what was once the State of Wu, now Kiangsu. Plum-trees flower even while the rare snow-falls turn the ground white, and soon after the New Year, the moment when, according to the Chinese calendar, Spring "opens," the fields are pink with peach-blooms, and gold with rape-blossom, while the air is sweetly scented by the flowers of the beans sown the Autumn before.

Walls and fences are unknown, only low ridges divide the various properties, and the little houses of the farmers are built closely together in groups, as a rule to the South of a bamboo copse which acts as a screen against the Northeast winds prevailing during the Winter; the aspect of the rich plain, which produces three crops a year, is therefore that of an immense garden, and the low, grey houses, with their heavy roofs, melt into the picture as do the blue-coated people who live in them. Life is very intimate and communistic, and the affairs of every one in the village are known to every one else.

The silk industry being most important, mulberry-trees are grown in great numbers to provide the silk-worms with the leaves upon which they subsist, and are kept closely pollarded in order that they may produce as much foliage as possible. Shantung, the birthplace of Confucius, is arid and filled with rocky, barren hills, and the provinces of Chili, Shansi, Shensi, and Kansu, which extend Westward, skirting the Great Wall, are also sandy and often parched for lack of water, while Szechwan, lying on the Tibetan border, although rich and well irrigated, is barred from the rest of China by tremendous mountain ranges difficult to pass.

One range, called the "Mountains of the Two-Edged Sword," was, and is, especially famous. It formed an almost impassable barrier, and the great Chu Ko-liang, therefore, ordered that a roadway, of the kind generally known in China as chan tao a road made of logs laid on piers driven into the face of a cliff and kept secure by mortar be built, so that travellers from Shensi might be able to cross into Szechwan.


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These varied scenes among which the poets lived differed again from those which flashed before their mental eyes when their thoughts followed the soldiers to the far Northwest, to the country where the Hsiung Nu and other Mongol tribes lived, those Barbarians, as the Chinese called them, who perpetually menaced China with invasion, who, in the picturesque phraseology of the time, desired that their horses should "drink of the streams of the South. This defence could, however, merely mitigate, not avert, the evil; only constant effort, constant fighting, could prevent the Mongol hordes from overrunning the country.

Beyond the Jade Pass in Kansu, through which the soldiers marched, lay the desert and the steppes stretching to the very "Edge of Heaven," and on this "edge" stood the "Heaven-high Hills"; while, on the way, surrounded by miles of sand, lay the Ch'ing Hai Lake Green, or Inland, Sea , a dreary region at best, and peopled by the ghosts of countless soldiers who had fallen in battle on the "Yellow Sand Fields.

In addition to these backgrounds of reality, that of the Fertile Empire and that of the Barren Waste, there was another — that of the "Western Paradise" inhabited by the Hsi Wang Mu Western Empress Mother and those countless beings who, after a life in this world, had attained Immortality and dwelt among the Hsien , supernatural creatures living in this region of perfect happiness supposed to lie among the K'un Lun Mountains in Central Asia. Thus the topography of Chinese poetry may be said to fall into three main divisions, and allusions are made to The beautiful scenes in the Eighteen Provinces.

The desolate region beyond the Jade Pass. The glorious "Western Paradise. Ideals determine government, and government determines social life, and social life, with all that the term connotes, is the essence of every literature. The theory upon which the Chinese State was established is exceedingly interesting, and although the ideal was seldom reached, the system proved enduring and brought happiness to the people who lived under it. The Emperor was regarded as the Son of the Celestial Ruler, as Father of his people, and was supposed to direct his Empire as a father should direct his children, never by the strong arm of force, but by loving precept and example.

In theory, he held office only so long as peace and prosperity lasted, this beneficent state of things being considered a proof that the ruler's actions were in accordance with the decree of Heaven. The "divine right of kings" has never existed in China; its place has been taken by the people's right to rebellion. This system created a very real democracy, which so struck the Dutchman, Van Braam, when he conducted a commercial embassy to the Court of Ch'ien Lung in , that he dedicated his account of the embassy to "His Excellency George Washington, President of the United States," in the following remarkable manner:.

Travels among the most ancient people which now inhabits this globe, and which owes its long existence to the system which makes its chief the Father of the National Family, cannot appear under better auspices than those of the Great Man who was elected, by the universal suffrage of a new nation, to preside at the conquest of liberty, and in the establishment of a government in which everything bespeaks the love of the First Magistrate for the people.

Permit me thus to address the homage of my veneration to the virtues, which in your Excellency, afford so striking a resemblance between Asia, and America. I cannot shew myself more worthy of the title of Citizen of the United States, which is become my adopted country, than by paying a just tribute to the Chief, whose principles and sentiments, are calculated to procure them a duration equal to that of the Chinese Empire. The semi-divine person of the Emperor was also regarded as the "Sun" of the Empire, whose light should shine on high and low alike. In reading Chinese poetry, it is important to keep these similies in mind, as the poets constantly employ them; evil counsellors, for instance, are often referred to as "clouds which obscure the sun.

The Son of Heaven was assisted in the government of the country by a large body of officials, drawn from all classes of the people. How these officials were chosen, and what were their functions, will be stated presently. At the moment, we must take a cursory glance at Chinese history, since it is an ever-present subject of allusion in poetry.

Two favourite, and probably mythical, heroes, the Emperors Yao and Shun, who are supposed to have lived in the semi-legendary period two or three thousand years before the birth of Christ, have been held up ever since as shining examples of perfection. He was successful, and in his "Announcement to the Ten Thousand Districts," set forth what we should call his platform in these words: "The way of Heaven is to bless the good and punish the wicked.

It sent down calamities upon the house of Hsia to make manifest its crimes. Therefore I, the little child, charged with the decree of Heaven and its bright terrors, did not dare forgive the criminal. It is given to me, the one man, to ensure harmony and tranquillity to your State and families; and now I know not whether I may not offend the Powers above and below.

I am fearful and trembling lest I should fall into a deep abyss. T'ang made a great and wise ruler. The Dynasty of Shang, which he founded, lasted until B. The first of these, "The Rise," ran from B. Starting under wise rulers, it gradually sank through others less competent until by B. During the "Age of Feudalism," the numerous States were constantly at war, but eventually the strongest of them united in a group called the "Seven Masculine Powers" under the shadowy suzerainty of Chou. Although, from the political point of view, this period was full of unrest and gloom, from the intellectual it was exceedingly brilliant and is known as the "Age of Philosophers.

To these men, China owes the two great schools of thought upon which her social system rests. Is it to be wondered at that the scholars demurred? The literary class were in perpetual opposition to the Emperor, who finally lost patience with them altogether and decreed that all books relating to the past should be burnt, and that history should begin with him. This edict was executed with great severity, and many hundreds of the literati were buried alive.

Although he held learning of small account, this "First Emperor," to give him his bombastic title, was an enthusiastic promoter of public works, the most important of these being the Great Wall, which has served as an age-long bulwark against the nomadic tribes of Mongolia and Central Asia. These tribes were a terror to China for centuries.

They were always raiding the border country, and threatening a descent on the fertile fields beyond the mountains. The history of China is one long struggle to keep from being overrun by these tribes. There is an exact analogy to this state of affairs in the case of Roman Britain, and the perpetual vigilance it was obliged to exercise to keep out the Picts. Shih Huang Ti based his power on fear, and it is a curious commentary upon the fact that the Ch'in Dynasty came to an end in B.

A few years of struggle, during which no Son of Heaven occupied the Dragon Throne, succeeded the fall of the Ch'in Dynasty; then a certain Liu Pang, an inconsiderable town officer, proved strong enough to seize what was no one's possession and made himself Emperor, thereby founding the Han Dynasty. An extraordinary revival of learning took place under the successive Emperors of Han.

The greatest of them, Wu Ti B. Learning always follows trade, as has often been demonstrated. During the Han Dynasty, which lasted until A. Expeditions against the harassing barbarians were undertaken, and for a time their power was scotched. It was under the Han that Buddhism was introduced from India, but deeply as this has influenced the life and thought of the Middle Kingdom, I am inclined to think that the importance of this influence has been exaggerated. This period, and those immediately preceding it, form the poetic background of China.

The ancient States, constantly referred to in the poems, do not correspond to the modern provinces. In order, therefore, to make their geographical positions clear, a map has been appended to this volume in which the modern names of the provinces and cities are printed in black ink and the ancient names in red. There were many States, but only those are given in the map which are alluded to in the poems published in this book. The names of a few of the old cities are also given, such as Chin Ling, the "Golden Mound" or "Sepulchre," and Ch'ang An, "Eternal Peace," for so many centuries the capital.

Its present name is Hsi An-fu, and it was here that the Manchu Court took refuge during the Boxer madness of Little more of Chinese history need be told. Following the Han, several dynasties held sway; there were divisions between the North and South and much shifting of power. At length, in A. This period is often called the Golden Age of Chinese Learning.

The literary examinations introduced under the Han were perfected, poets and painters were encouraged, and strangers flocked to the Court at Ch'ang An. The reign of Ming Huang A. Auspiciously as this reign had begun, however, it ended sadly. The account of their love story — a theme celebrated by poets, painters, and playwrights — will be found in the note to "Songs to the Peonies.

Broken-hearted, the Emperor complied, but from this date the glory of the dynasty was dimmed. Throughout its waning years, the shadow of the dreaded Tartars grew blacker and blacker, and finally, in A. Later history need not concern us here, since most of the poems in this book were written during the T'ang period. Though these poems deal largely with what I have called the historical background, they deal still more largely with the social background and it is, above all, this social background which must be understood.

If the Emperor were the "Son of Heaven," he administered his Empire with the help of very human persons, the various officials, and these officials owed their positions, great and small, partly to the Emperor's attitude, it is true, but in far greater degree to their prowess in the literary examinations. The curious thing is that these examinations were purely literary. They consisted not only in knowing thoroughly the classics of the past, but in being able to recite long passages from them by heart, and with this was included the ability to write one's self, not merely in prose, but in poetry.

Every one in office had to be, perforce, a poet. No one could hope to be the mayor of a town or the governor of a province unless he had attained a high proficiency in the art of poetry. This is brought strikingly home to us by the fact that one of the chief pastimes of educated men was to meet together for the purpose of playing various games all of which turned on the writing of verse.

The examinations which brought about this strange state of things were four. The first, which conferred the degree of Hsiu Ts'ai , "Flowering Talent," could be competed for only by those who had already passed two minor examinations, one in their district, and one in the department in which this district was situated.

The Hsiu Ts'ai examinations were held twice every three years in the provincial capitals. The holders of it were entitled to wear a dress of blue silk, and in Chinese novels the hero is often spoken of as wearing this colour, by which readers are to understand that he is a clever young man already on the way to preferment.

This degree enabled its recipients to hold office, but positions were not always to hand, and frequently "Promoted Men" had to wait long before being appointed to a post; also, the offices open to them were of the lesser grades, those who aspired to a higher rank had a farther road to travel. The dress which went with this degree was also of silk, but of a darker shade than that worn by "bachelors.

The men so fortunate as to pass were allowed to place a tablet over the doors of their houses, and their particular dress was of violet silk. The fourth, which really conferred an office rather than a degree, was bestowed on men who competed in a special examination held once in three years in the Emperor's Palace. This elaboration of degrees was only arrived at gradually. During the T'ang Dynasty, all the examinations were held at Ch'ang An.

The analogy is so far from close, however, that most modern sinologues prefer to render them indiscriminately, according to context, as student, scholar, and official. By means of this remarkable system, which threw open the road to advancement to every man in the country capable of availing himself of it, new blood was continually brought to the top, as all who passed the various degrees became officials, expectant or in being, and of higher or lower grade according to the Chinese measure of ability.

Military degrees corresponding to the civil were given; but, as these called for merely physical display, they were not highly esteemed. In towns and villages they were regarded with the reverence universally paid to learning by the Chinese, and many became teachers to the rising generation in whom they cultivated a great respect for literature in general and poetry in particular. The holders of degrees, on the other hand, entered at once upon a career as administrators. Prevented by an inexorable law — a law designed to make nepotism impossible — from holding office in their own province, they were constantly shifted from one part of the country to another, and this is a chief reason for the many poems of farewell that were written.

The great desire of all officials was to remain at, or near, the Court, where the most brilliant brains of the Empire were assembled. As may be easily imagined, the intrigues and machinations employed to attain this end were many, with the result that deserving men often found themselves banished to posts on the desolate outskirts of the country where, far from congenial intercourse, they suffered a mental exile of the most complete description.

Innumerable poems dealing with this sad state are found in all Chinese anthologies. There were nine ranks of nobility. The higher officials took the rank of their various and succeeding offices, others were ennobled for signal services performed. These titles were not hereditary in the ordinary sense, but backwards, if I can so express it. The desire to bask in the rays of the Imperial Sun was shared by ambitious fathers who longed to have their daughters appear before the Emperor, and possibly make the fortune of the family by captivating the Imperial glance.

This led to the most beautiful and talented young girls being sent to the Palace, where they often lived and died without ever being summoned before the Son of Heaven. Although numberless tragic poems have been written by these unfortunate ladies, many charming romances did actually take place, made possible by the custom of periodically dispersing the superfluous Palace women and marrying them to suitable husbands.

In striking contrast to the unfortunates who dragged out a purposeless life of idleness, was the lot of the beauty who had the good fortune to capture the Imperial fancy, and who, through her influence over the Dragon Throne, virtually ruled the Middle Kingdom. No extravagancies were too great for these exquisite creatures, and many dynasties have fallen through popular revolt against the excesses of Imperial concubines. The poems, it is true, generally allude to these moments, but the cares of state were many, and every day, at sunrise, officials assembled in the Audience Hall to make their reports to the Emperor.

Moreover, Court ceremonials were extremely solemn occasions, carried out with the utmost dignity. As life at Court centred about the persons of the Emperor and Empress, so life in the homes of the people centered about the elders of the family. The men of wealthy families were usually of official rank, and led a life in touch with the outer world, a life of social intercourse with other men in which friendship played an all-engrossing part.

This characteristic of Chinese life is one of the most striking features of the poetic background. Love poems from men to women are so rare as to be almost non-existent striking exceptions do occur, however, several of which are translated here , but poems of grief written at parting from "the man one loves" are innumerable, and to sit with one's friends, drinking wine and reciting verses, making music or playing chess, were favourite amusements throughout the T'ang period.

Wine-drinking was general, no pleasure gathering being complete without it. The wine of China was usually made from fermented grains, but wines from grapes, plums, pears, and other fruits were also manufactured. These cups, which were never of glass, were made of various metals, of lacquered or carved wood, of semi-precious stones such as jade, or agate, or carnelian; porcelain, the usual material for wine-cups to-day, not having yet been invented.

Custom demanded that each thimbleful be tossed off at a gulp, and many were consumed before a feeling of exhilaration could be experienced. That there was a good deal of real drunkenness, we cannot doubt, but not to the extent that is generally supposed. From the character of the men and the lives they led, it is fairly clear that most of the drinking kept within reasonable bounds. Unfortunately, in translation, the quantity imbibed at these wine-parties becomes greatly exaggerated.

That wine was drunk, not merely for its taste, but as a heightener of sensation, is evident; but the "three hundred cups" so often mentioned bear no such significance as might at first appear when the size of the cups is taken into account. Undoubtedly, also, we must regard this exact number as a genial hyperbole.

If husbands and sons could enjoy the excitement of travel, the spur of famous scenery, the gaieties of Court, and the pleasures of social intercourse, wives and daughters were obliged to find their occupations within the Kuei or "Women's Apartments," which included the gardens set apart for their use. The chief duty of a young wife was attendance upon her mother-in-law. With the first grey streak of daylight, she rose from her immense lacquer bed, so large as to be almost an anteroom, and, having dressed, took the old lady her tea.

She then returned to her own apartment to breakfast with her husband and await the summons to attend her mother-in-law's toilet, a most solemn function, and the breakfast which followed. These duties accomplished, she was free to occupy herself as she pleased. Calligraphy, painting, writing poems and essays, were popular pursuits, and many hours were spent at the embroidery frame or in making music. A lady, writing to her absent husband, mourns that she has no heart to "make the cloud head-dress," or writes, "looking down upon my mirror in order to apply the powder and paint, I desire to keep back the tears.

I fear that the people in the house will know my grief. I am ashamed. The occupations of the day were carried on in the Kuei ; but, when evening came, the husband and wife often read and studied the classics together. A line from a well-known poem says, "The red sleeve replenishes the incense, at night, studying books," and the picture it calls up is that of a young man and woman in the typical surroundings of a Chinese home of the educated class. Red was the colour worn by very young women, whether married or not; as the years advanced, this was changed for soft blues and mauves, and later still for blacks, greys, or dull greens.

A line such as "tears soak my dress of coarse, red silk" instantly suggests a young woman in deep grief. The children studied every day with teachers; the sons and daughters of old servants who had, according to custom, taken the family surname, receiving the same advantages as those of the master. These last were, in all respects, brought up as children of the house, the only distinction being that whereas the master's own children sat "above" the table, facing South, the children of the servants sat "below," facing North.

A curious habit among families, which extended even to groups of friends, was the designation by numbers according to age, a man being familiarly known as Yung Seven or T'sui Fifteen. It will be noticed that such designations often occur in the poems. Only four classes of persons were recognized as being of importance to society and these were rated in the following order: scholars, agriculturalists, labourers, and traders — officials, of course, coming under the generic name of scholars. Soldiers, actors, barbers, etc.

China, essentially an agricultural country, was economically self-sufficient, producing everything needed by her population. The agriculturalist was, therefore, the very backbone of the state. In rendering Chinese poetry, the translator must constantly keep in mind the fact that the architectural background differs from that of every other country, and that our language does not possess terms which adequately describe it.

Apart from the humble cottages of the very poor, all dwelling-houses, or chia , are constructed on the same general plan. A house is cut up into chien , or divisions, the number, within limits, being determined by the wealth and position of the owners. The homes of the people, both rich and poor, are arranged in three or five chien ; official residences are of seven chien ; Imperial palaces of nine.

Each of these chia consists of several buildings, the number of which vary considerably, more buildings being added as the family grows by the marriage of the sons who, with their wives and children, are supposed to live in patriarchal fashion to their father's house. If officials sometimes carried their families with them to the towns where they were stationed, there were other posts so distant or so desolate as to make it practically impossible to take women to them. In these cases, the families remained behind under the paternal roof. How a house was arranged can be seen in the plan at the end of this book.

Doors lead to the garden from the study, the guest-room, and the Women's Apartments. These are made in an endless diversity of shapes and add greatly to the picturesqueness of house and grounds. Those through which a number of people are to pass to and fro are often large circles, while smaller and more intimate doors are cut to the outlines of fans, leaves, or flower vases. I have already spoken of the Kuei , or Women's Apartments. In poetry, this part of the chia is alluded to in a highly figurative manner. The windows are "gold" or "jade" windows; the door by which it is approached is the Lan Kuei , or "Orchid Door.

Besides the house proper, there are numerous structures erected in gardens, for the Chinese spend much of their time in their gardens. No nation is more passionately fond of nature, whether in its grander aspects, or in the charming arrangements of potted flowers which take the place of our borders in their pleasure grounds. Among these outdoor buildings none is more difficult to describe than the lou , since we have nothing which exactly corresponds to it.

Lous appear again and again in Chinese poetry, but just what to call them in English is a puzzle. They are neither summer-houses, nor pavilions, nor cupolas, but a little of all three. Always of more than one story, they are employed for differing purposes; for instance, the fo lou on the plan is an upper chamber where Buddhist images are kept. The lou generally referred to in poetry, however, is really a "pleasure-house-in-the-air," used as the Italians use their belvederes. Another erection foreign to Western architecture is the t'ai , or terrace.

Many of these last were famous; I have given the histories of several of them in the notes illustrating the poems, at the end of the book. It will be observed that I have said practically nothing about religion. The reason is partly that the three principal religions practised by the Chinese are either so well known, as Buddhism, for example, or so difficult to describe, as Taoism and the ancient religion of China now merged in the teachings of Confucius; partly that none of them could be profitably compressed into the scope of this introduction; but chiefly because the subject of religion, in the poems here translated, is generally referred to in its superstitious aspects alone.

The superstitions which have grown up about Taoism particularly are innumerable. I have dealt with a number of these in the notes to the poems in which they appear. Immortals who live in the Taoist Paradises. Human beings may attain " Hsien-ship ," or Immortality, by living a life of contemplation in the hills.

In translating the term, we have used the word "Immortals. Beneficent beings who inhabit the higher regions. They are kept extremely busy attending to their duties as tutelary deities of the roads, hills, rivers, etc. A proportion of the souls of the departed who inhabit the "World of Shades," a region resembling this world, which is the "World of Light," in every particular, with the important exception that it has no sunshine. Kindly kuei are known, but the influence generally suggested is an evil one. Yao Kuai. A class of fierce demons who live in the wild regions of the Southwest and delight in eating the flesh of human beings.

There are also supernatural creatures whose names carry a symbolical meaning. A few of them are:. Ch'i Lin. A composite animal, somewhat resembling the fabulous unicorn, whose arrival is a good omen. He appears when sages are born. A symbol of the forces of Heaven, also the emblem of Imperial power. Continually referred to in poetry as the steed which transports a philosopher who has attained Immortality to his home in the Western Paradise. A glorious bird, symbol of the Empress, therefore often associated with the dragon.

The conception of this bird is probably based on the Argus pheasant. A Chinese author, quoted by F. Williams in "The Middle Kingdom," writes: "It resembles a wild swan before and a unicorn behind; it has the throat of a swallow, the bill of a cock, the neck of a snake, the tail of a fish, the forehead of a crane, the crown of a mandarin drake, the stripes of a dragon, and the vaulted back of a tortoise. The feathers have five colours which are named after the five cardinal virtues, and it is five cubits in height; the tail is graduated like the pipes of a gourd-organ, and its song resembles the music of the instrument, having five modulations.

It conveys, however, an entirely wrong impression of the creature. A supernatural bird sometimes confused with the above. It is a sacred creature, connected with fire, and a symbol of love and passion, of the relation between men and women. The "paired-wings bird," described in Chinese books as having but one wing and one eye, for which reason two must unite for either of them to fly. It is often referred to as suggesting undying affection. Yuan Yang. The exquisite little mandarin ducks, an unvarying symbol of conjugal fidelity. Li T'ai-po often alludes to them and declares that, rather than be separated, they would "prefer to die ten thousand deaths, and have their gauze-like wings torn to fragments.

Symbols of direct purpose, their flight being always in a straight line.


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As they follow the sun's course, allusions to their departure suggest Spring, to their arrival, Autumn. A complete list of the trees and plants endowed with symbolical meanings would be almost endless. Those most commonly employed in poetry in a suggestive sense are:. Ch'ang P'u. A plant growing in the Taoist Paradise and much admired by the Immortals, who are the only beings able to see its purple blossoms. On earth, it is known as the sweet flag, and has the peculiarity of never blossoming. Riches and prosperity. Although it rises from the mud, it is bright and spotless.

Literally "the first," it being the first of the "hundred flowers" to open. It suggests the beginnings of things, and is also one of the "three friends" who do not fear the Winter cold, the other two being the pine and the bamboo. A small epidendrum, translated in this book as "spear-orchid. In poetry, it is also used in reference to the Women's Apartments and everything connected with them, suggesting, as it does, the extreme of refinement.

Fidelity and constancy. In spite of frost, its flowers continue to bloom. This fungus, which grows at the roots of trees, is very durable when dried. Longevity, immutability, steadfastness. This plant has as many virtues as it has uses, the principal ones are modesty, protection from defilement, unchangeableness. A tree whose botanical name is sterculia platanifolia. Its only English name seems to be "umbrella-tree," which has proved so unattractive in its context in the poems that we have left it untranslated. It is a symbol for integrity, high principles, great sensibility.

When "Autumn stands," on August seventh, although it is still to all intents and purposes Summer, the wu-t'ung tree drops one leaf. Its wood, which is white, easy to cut, and very light, is the only kind suitable for making that intimate instrument which quickly betrays the least emotion of the person playing upon it — the ch'in , or table-lute. A prostitute, or any very frivolous person. Concubines writing to their lords often refer to themselves under this figure, in the same spirit of self-depreciation which prompts them to employ the euphemism, "Unworthy One," instead of the personal pronoun.

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Because of its lightness and pliability, it conveys also the idea of extreme vitality. Beautiful women and ill-success in life. The first suggestion, on account of the exquisite colour of the flower; the second, because of its perishability. Peach-tree Longevity. This fruit is supposed to ripen once every three thousand years on the trees of Paradise, and those who eat of this celestial species never die.

Also suggests a peaceful hamlet. Its leaves feed the silk-worms. Sadness and grief. Planted outside windows already glazed with silk, its heavy green leaves soften the glaring light of Summer, and it is often used for this purpose. Nothing has been more of a stumbling-block to translators than the fact that the Chinese year — which is strictly lunar, with and intercalary month added at certain intervals — begins a month later than ours; or, to be more exact, it is calculated from the first new moon after the sun enters Aquarius, which brings the New Year at varying times from the end of January to the middle of February.

For translation purposes, however, it is safe to count the Chinese months as always one later by our calendar than the number given would seem to imply. By this calculation the "First Month" is February, and so on throughout the year. The day is divided into twelve periods of two hours each beginning at eleven P. Ancient China's method of telling time was by means of slow and evenly burning sticks made of a composition of clay and sawdust, or by the clepsydra, or water-clock.

Water-clocks are mentioned several times in these poems. So much for what I have called the backgrounds of Chinese poetry. I must now speak of that poetry itself, and of Miss Lowell's and my method of translating it. Chinese prosody is a very difficult thing for an Occidental to understand. Chinese is a monosyllabic language, and this reduces the word-sounds so considerably that speech would be almost impossible were it not for the invention of tones by which the same sound can be made to do the duty of four in the Mandarin dialect, five in the Nankingese, nine in the Cantonese, etc.

Only two chief tones are used in poetry, the "level" and the "oblique," but the oblique tone is subdivided into three, which makes four different inflections possible to every sound. Of course, like English and other languages, the same word may have several meanings, and in Chinese these meanings are bewilderingly many; the only possible way of determining which one is correct is by its context. These tones constitute, at the outset, the principal difference which divides the technique of Chinese poetry from our own. Rhyme does exist, but there are only a little over a hundred rhymes, as tone inflection does not change a word in that particular.

Such a paucity of rhyme would seriously affect the richness of any poetry, if again the Chinese had not overcome this lingual defect by the employment of a juxtaposing pattern made up of their four poetic tones. And these tones come to the rescue once more when we consider the question of rhythm.

Monosyllables in themselves always produce a staccato effect, which tends to make all rhythm composed of them monotonous, if, indeed, it does not destroy it altogether. The tones cause what I may call a psychological change in the time-length of these monosyllables, which change not only makes true rhythm possible, but allows marked varieties of the basic beat. One of the chief differences between poetry and prose is that poetry must have a more evident pattern. The pattern of Chinese poetry is formed out of three elements: line, rhyme, and tone. The Chinese attitude toward line is almost identical with that of the French.

French prosody counts every syllable as a foot, and a line is made up of so many counted feet. Not so was this verse constructed; not so is it to be read. The number of syllables to a line is counted, that is the secret of French classic poetry; the number of syllables is counted in Chinese.

But — and we come to a divergence — this method of counting does, in French practice, often do away with the rhythm so delightful to an English ear; in Chinese, no such violence occurs, as each syllable is a word and no collection of such words can fall into a metric pulse as French words can, and, in their Chansons , are permitted to do. The Chinese line pattern is, then, one of counted words, and these counted words are never less than three, nor more than seven, in regular verse; irregular is a different matter, as I shall explain shortly. Rhyme is used exactly as we use it, at the ends of lines.

Internal rhyming is common, however, in a type of poem called a " fu ," which I shall deal with when I come to the particular kinds of verse. Tone is everywhere, obviously, and is employed, not arbitrarily, but woven into a pattern of its own which again is in a more or less loose relation to rhyme. I have before me a poem in which the tone-pattern is alike in lines one, four, and eight, of an eight-line stanza, as are lines two and six, and lines three and seven, while line five is the exact opposite of lines two and six.

In the second stanza of the same poem, the pattern is kept, but adversely; the tones do not follow the same order, but conform in similarity of grouping. I use this example merely to show what is meant by tone-pattern. It will serve to illustrate how much diversity and richness this tone-chiming is capable of bringing to Chinese poetry.