Nature and religion in ancient Chinese poetry

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Journal article

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Journal of Asian History

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What is usually understood as “Nature” refers to the physical world existent before and functioning beyond the constructions of human culture. It is within Nature that human life and ideas began to take shape, and to study ancient perceptions of Nature is to explore the roots of human culture. In the Chinese context, discussion of nature poetry or the cultural conception of Nature usually take their earliest point of departure from the first collection of Chinese verse, the Classic of Poetry (Shi jing, c.11th – 6th century BC). As humanity’s cradle and source of livelihood, however, Nature has played an important part in Chinese poetry from its ancient beginnings. What is referred to as “ancient” here does not entail any fixed time boundary or definition of periodization in literary history; suffice it to say that as a working concept, ancient Chinese poetry may be seen as the earliest stages of Chinese versification, from the first attempts at rhythmic language to more formalized ways of expression that include a few early pieces in the Shi jing.

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Kwong, Y. T. (2004).Nature and Religion in Ancient Chinese Poetry. Journal of Asian History, 37(1), 33-69.