In this lecture, the world’s foremost living translator of Chinese literature, Emeritus Professor John Minford, explores four great works in the Chinese tradition that he believes best reveal the ancient lineaments and undercurrents still running through the hearts and spirits of Chinese people today.
Professor Minford examines:
· The I Ching c. 700 BC;
· The Tao Te Ching c. 300 BC;
· A selection of the most famous Chinese poems; and
· The Story of the Stone c. 1750-90.
Professor Minford then discusses:
*The peculiarity, as he terms it, of the I Ching, the most ancient Chinese classic, which he says is ‘really a spirit’ and which the Chinese say ‘is not a book at all’.
*The I Ching’s exploration of two polarities, yin and yang, and how they impact on all environments and situations.
*Tao or Dao, the ultimate logos and goal of all virtue, the fundamental concept of Chinese philosophy.
*The curious form of the Tao Te Ching, the ‘great mystical classic of Daoism’, which Prof. Minford reads as a composite of ‘ecstatic hymns’ and which teach that the Dao cannot be known intellectually but only through experience and embodiment.
*The contrast between Chinese and Western poetry, with Chinese poetry ‘very much about being absorbed into the universe rather than standing apart and having wonderful, deep, emotional feelings’.
*Why he believes the epic The Story of the Stone, a very long autobiographical novel by an 18th-century aristocrat, is the most influential work in Chinese civilisation, far surpassing any works relating to Confucianism, and equivalent in stature and influence to Shakespeare, Goethe, Tolstoy and Homer all rolled into one.
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