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The Book of Songs
    2007-01-12 15:15:17     CRIENGLISH.com
Broadcasting Time: 2007-01-12

It's the fashion today to read classics through others eyes. We have Professor Yi Zhongtian giving us his interpretation of the Romance of Three Kingdoms, and Yu Dan explains The Analects of Confucius. The book Zhong Qiu is talking about this week is An Yiru's interpretation of The Book of Songs, 安意如的《思无邪》.

All my knowledge about The Book of Songs comes from my text books in middle school. 《诗经》, for people of my generation, it is not a book you'll casually pick up from a book shelf and read for your enjoyment. I've never even thought of reading it. It's written in language of three thousand years ago. So when I heard that a girl in her 20's interpreted this book, I became really curious.

The book 《思无邪》didn't disappoint me. For a novice reader on this topic like me, it does serve as a good introduction, or guide to the classic.

The young writer tells us not to be intimidated by the holy status of the book in Chinese history. After all, it's only old folk songs and they used to be an intimate part of daily life.

She interprets the songs in an easy and enjoyable way. She doesn't get herself and her readers lost in the specific explanations and pronunciations of those ancient words, but immerse them in the beauty of the rhythm and atmosphere created by the songs.

For me, at least, this is the best way to appreciate a song, a poem. Following An Yiru, I find myself becoming the young man singing for the beauty in his heart, or a wife waiting for her husband to come home at sunset.

How many works in the Book of Songs are love songs? I have no idea. However, they are the ones I love most. "蒹葭苍苍, 白露为霜。所谓伊人, 在水一方", "桃之夭夭, 灼灼其华", "巧笑倩兮, 美目盼兮" Three thousand years later, we still don't have any better words than those to describe beauty and love.

《思无邪》 has also helped me find that The Book of Songs is not that far away from us. Many of the expressions in it are still widely used today, although very often we don't realize their origins, such as “他山之石,可以攻玉”。

An Yiru is far from an expert of The Book of Songs. However, she has found the right way to convey her understanding and love of the book to people who don't too much about it. Her writing style is pretty good; her words tend to flow. She doesn't hesitate to tell us her opinion on things that happened several thousand years ago, judging by her contemporary standard. Still, she has understanding and compassion for the ancient people.

One thing I don't like about her writing is sometimes it's too casual. But all and all I found it a well written book and enjoyable read.

(Photo: joyo.com)
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