This collection of nature poems of China includes nearly 250 poems by thirty-three poets over two millennia.
Part One provides selections from the two oldest anthologies: the Shi Jing (Classic of Songs) and the Chu Ci (Songs of the South).
Included in this part are folk songs of ancient China as well as two long poems by Qu Yuan (340?-278?
BCE), the first known poet of China. Part Two begins with Tao Yuanming of the Eastern Jin (317-420), and includes not only the well-known poets of the Tang (618-906) and Song (960-1279) periods, such as Wang Wei, Li Bai, Du Fu, Bai Juyi, Su Shi and Lu You, but also over twenty lesser known poets.
Traditionally, there are two genres of nature poems in China: tianyuan shi (field/garden poems) and shan shui shi (mountain/water poems).
These poems are often read in light of the Daoist philosophy.
However, no philosophical understanding of nature is necessary to appreciate what our nature poets sing.
Anyone who has seen Chinese landscape paintings should be able to enjoy it.
But most of the poems in this collection are not ordinary lyrical songs but more often than not songs of longing, in which the reader may hear also the life spirits protest against the oppression of human civilisation.
In his long poem Oh, Let Me Return, Tao Yuanming is singing his longing for return to nature, away from the net of dust.