+ About the Speakers

The Book of Songs and China's Literacy Tradition

Legends of the Zhou and the Nature of Chinese Society

The Han Dynasty Codification

"The Great Preface" and Five Notions about Poetry


"Boat of Cypress"

Robert Oxnam :: The Book of Songs itself is still read today for the vibrancy of the human voices within it.

Stephen Owen :: Even though the Book of Songs is the earliest and perhaps the most important Confucian text, one shouldn't see it too much as a voice for easy Confucian values, even though it can always be interpreted to produce sort of what is known as later Confucian values. Very often, it is the voice of the individual against society, declaring oneself, you know, I will not listen to what my brothers say.

And there's a beautiful poem called Cypress Boat, which goes --

Excerpt from "Boat of Cypress," from the Book of Songs

This heart of mine is no mirror,
it cannot take it all.
Yes, I have brothers,
but brothers will not be my stay.
I went and told them of my grief and met only with their rage.

This heart of mine is no stone;
you cannot turn it where you will.
This heart of mine is no mat;
I cannot roll it up within.
I have behaved with dignity,
in this, no man can fault me.

Oh Sun! and you Moon!
why do you each go dim in turn?
These troubles of the heart are like unwashed clothes.
I think on it in the quiet, I cannot spread wings to fly away.

Stephen Owen :: There are rather strong voices, declaring one's identity, the strength of one's feelings, and declaring oneself in distinction from the community or mediating between one's own feelings and the demands of the community.