Like Water or Clouds
The T'ang Dynasty and The Tao
A. S. Kline
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Like Water or Clouds - A. S. Kline. Illustrated edition.
Classical Chinese culture was inextricably linked to the three distinct but complementary approaches to life and thought enshrined in Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Though each later developed the rituals and trappings of a religion, all three began as exemplary ways of living in a world without personal deity. The three greatest Chinese Classical poets, Li Po (Li Bai), Wang Wei, and Tu Fu (Du Fu) lived under the T’ang dynasty during the 8th century AD, and each aligns with one of the three ways of life. Li Po exemplifies Taoist spontaneity and vivacity, Wang Wei was attuned to the Buddhist apprehension of impermanence and the need to eliminate undue clinging to being, while Tu Fu followed Confucius in his engagement with society, his sense of responsibility, and his humanistic tendency.
‘Like Water or Clouds’ presents a brief history of the T’ang dynasty, interwoven with biographies of the three poets, new translations of many of their major poems, and an explanation and discussion of the three ways of life. The indebtedness of all three poets to the view of the natural world represented by Taoism, China’s indigenous mode and most pervasive cultural expression, is a constant theme, one most beautifully captured in the wealth of painting of natural subjects during the T’ang and later dynasties.
The present work is offered not merely as a description of Classical China’s greatest poetic age, and the profound contemplation of life found there, but as an initial approach for the modern reader to ways of thought which continue to provide inspiration as to how we might live and approach life in a scientific age, and in an intentionless universe.
This and other texts available from Poetry in Translation (www.poetryintranslation.com).