Classical Chinese Poetry

An Anthology

Translated and Edited by David Hinton

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

With this groundbreaking collection, translated and edited by the renowned poet and translator David Hinton, a new generation will be introduced to the work that riveted Ezra Pound and transformed modern poetry. The Chinese poetic tradition is the largest and longest continuous tradition in world literature, and this rich and far-reaching anthology of nearly five hundred poems provides a comprehensive account of its first three millennia (1500 BCE to 1200 CE), the period during which virtually all its landmark developments took place. Unlike earlier anthologies of Chinese poetry, Hinton’s book focuses on a relatively small number of poets, providing selections that are large enough to re-create each as a fully realized and unique voice. New introductions to each poet's work provide a readable history, told for the first time as a series of poetic innovations forged by a series of master poeets. From the classic texts of Chinese philosophy to intensely personal lyrics, from love poems to startling and strange perspectives on nature, Hinton has collected an entire world of beauty and insight. And in his eye-opening translations, these ancient poems feel remarkably fresh and contemporary, presenting a literature both radically new and entirely resonant.


Read an Excerpt

(c. 15th to 6th century B.C.E.)
THE EARLIEST GATHERING from China’s oral tradition is The Book of Songs (Shih Ching), an anthology of 305 poems. This collection was compiled, according to cultural legend, by no less a figure than Confucius (551 to 479 B.C.E.), who selected the poems from a total of about 3,000 that had been gathered from China’s various component states, each of which spoke its own dialect. The poems are traditionally dated between the twelfth and sixth centuries B.C.E., but any poem in the oral tradition evolves over time, and the origins of


Praise for Classical Chinese Poetry

“In the way of the pioneer translators of Chinese poetry during the past century—of Arthur Waley, Burton Watson, Willis Barnstone—David Hinton has heard and lured into English a new manner of hearing the great poets of that long glory of China’s classical age. His achievement is another echo of the original, and a gift to our language.” —W. S. Merwin

“Hinton has established himself as the premier Chinese translator of our generation . . . He is a national treasure.” —William Mullen, The New York Sun

“I don’t know if [Hinton’s Selected Poems of Po Chü-i] is superior to the original or not, but it’s superior to anything I’ve ever seen in Chinese, and about the same for English.” —A. R. Ammons

“Hinton’s music is subtle, modulated . . . He has listened to the individual tone of each poet, and his craft is equal to his perception . . . He continues to enlarge our literary horizon.” —Rosemary Waldrop, citation for the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award

“[The Late Poems of Meng Chiao] affords us what is all too rare in Chinese translations: the sustained, recognizable resonance of a single voice at a single moment . . . This is a real contribution to the small body of genuine poetic translation.” —Richard Howard


“Given the magnitude of his ability and his overall project, Hinton is creating nothing less than a new literary tradition in English, an event of truly major importance not only to English literature but also to the literature of my own language.  I cannot recommend the value of his work too highly.”— Bei Dao

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Translated and Edited by David Hinton

  • David Hinton’s translations of classical Chinese poetry have earned him a Guggenheim fellowship, numerous NEA and NEH fellowships, and both of the major awards given for poetry translation in the United States, the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, from the Academy of American Poets, and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, from the PEN American Center. He is also the first translator in over a century to translate the four seminal works of Chinese philosophy: the Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Analects, and Mencius. He lives in Vermont.



Available Formats and Book Details

Classical Chinese Poetry

An Anthology

Translated and Edited by David Hinton