The Songs of the South is an anthology first compiled in the second century A.D. Its poems, originating from the state of Chu and rooted in Shamanism, are grouped under seventeen titles and contain all that we know of Chinese poetry's ancient beginnings. The earliest poems were composed in the fourth century B.C. and almost half of them are traditionally ascribed to Qu Yuan.
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Although Chu Ci is an anthology of poems by many poets, Qu Yuan was doubtless its central figure. Jiu Ge ("Nine Songs"), also attributed to Qu Yuan, is the first example of what could be called shamanic literature in China. It is in remembrance of the circumstances of his death that the annual Dragon boat races are held.
David Hawkes was Professor of Chinese at Oxford University from 1959 to 1971. From 1973 to 1983 he was a Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and subsequently became an Emeritus Fellow. He died in Oxford on Friday 31 July 2009.
Text: English, Chinese (translation)
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