Cosmology in Chinese Poetry

Francois Cheng [tooltip content= “Chinese Poetic Writing: With an Anthology of T’ang Poetry (Indiana University Press, 1982″] [source][/tooltip] [green_message] The eminent role which poetry played in China is well known. This eminence is due not only to the important functions, both aesthetic and social, which poetry has always had, but also to a more essential phenomenon: the quasi-sacred veneration devoted to the ideographic writing itself in China. This writing was perceived not as an arbitrary invention of man, but as the result of supernatural revelation. Ancient myths report that on the day when Ts’ang Chieh, inspired by divinatory figures, traced the ?rst signs, Heaven and Earth trembled, and gods and demons wept. For, through the magical trickery of the written signs, man would henceforth share in the secrets of Creation. (Chinese thought , is, then, as much marked by the myth of Ts’ang Chieh, who steals the I signs of written language, as is Western thought by the myth of Prometheus, who stole fire.) From this perspective, poetry, which transforms written signs into song (“a sung writing”), has as its highest function the rejoining of the human spirit to the original and vital forces of the Universe. Let us listen to Chung Hung, of the sixth century, from the introduction to his Shih P’in: “The Breaths animate beings and things; these in their turn inspire man. Pushed by the impulsions and feelings which dwell within him, man expresses himself through dance and song. His song is a light which illuminates the Three Spirits (Man-Earth-Heaven) as well as the ten thousand creatures. Thus it constitutes an offering to the spirits, and makes manifest the hidden mystery. For upsetting Heaven and Earth, for moving the Gods, nothing equals poetry.” [/green_message]