A synthesis : rhythm, syntax, and vision of Chinese poetry

Document Type

Book chapter

Source Publication

How to read Chinese poetry: A guided anthology

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Columbia University Press


While line configuration provides the foundation for the creation of poetic vision, poetic vision breathes life into poetic lines, making them dynamic and engaging. Traditional Chinese critics became aware of this con-nection long ago. As early as the sixth century, Zhong Rong (ca. 469–518) pointed out the connection between pentasyllabic lines and new pleasurable, inexhaustible tastes of poetry.1 More than a millennium later, the Qing critic Liu Xizai (1813–1881) went one step further to explore the deeper connection between internal rhythms of tetrasyllabic, pentasyllabic, and heptasyllabic lines and different poetic visions.2 In a way, our close reading of the 143 poems in this anthology is an inno-vative continuation of this millennia-old critical endeavor. Drawing from modern linguistic and aesthetic theories, many of us have sought to understand why poetic lines, if configured in certain manners, can yield ineffable aesthetic experience. Here I shall synthesize our findings and present a broad outline for a systematic study of the rhythms, syntax, and visions in Chinese poetry.

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2008 Columbia University Press

Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9780231139410

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version



Recommended Citation

Cai, Z.-q. (2008). A synthesis: Rhythm, syntax, and vision of Chinese poetry. In Z.-q. Cai (Ed.), How to read Chinese poetry: A guided anthology (pp.379-399). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.