Poems of the Masters: China's Classic Anthology of T'ang and Sung Dynasty Verse

Bill Porter (Red Pine), trans.

Poems of the Masters is a classic Chinese poetry anthology, presented in a handsome English-Chinese format. Poetry is China’s greatest art, and for the past eight centuries Poems of the Masters has been that country’s most studied and memorized collection of verse. For the first time ever in English, here is the complete text, with an introduction and extensive notes by renowned translator, Red Pine. Over one hundred poets are represented in this bilingual edition, including many of China’s celebrated poets: Li Pai, Wang Wei, Tu Fu, Wang Po, and Ou-yang Hsiu. Poems of the Masters reflects the culture of the Sung dynasty (960–1278), a time when poetry became the defining measure of human relationships and understanding.

ISBN: 9781556591952

Format: Paperback

Seeing Off a Friend

Translated from the original by Li Pai

Dark hills stretch beyond the north rampart
clear water circles the city’s east wall
from this place where farewell begins
a tumbleweed leaves on a thousand-mile journey
drifting clouds in a traveler’s thoughts
the setting sun in an old friend’s heart
as we wave and say goodbye
our parting horses neigh

About the Translator

Bill Porter assumes the pen name Red Pine for his translation work. He was born in Los Angeles in 1943, grew up in the Idaho Panhandle, served a tour of duty in the US Army, graduated from the University of California with a degree in anthropology, and attended graduate school at Columbia University. Uninspired by the prospect of an academic career, he dropped out of Columbia and moved to a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. After four years with the monks …

Read more


“In a time embarrassingly rich in versified private musing, a book like this might be overlooked as a mere historical or cultural artifact. But when looking for instruction on how to read poets as different as Gary Snyder and Li-Young Lee, this valuable text will help us appreciate the richness of poetic imagination and experience.” —Book Magazine

“[Poems of the Masters] includes the Chinese originals, along with commentaries on imagery, various social conventions, historical background—all absolutely essential to a full appreciation of the texts… the best way to approach them is to pick one out and let it drop like a pebble into the well of your mind and hear how it resonates.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“I yell to a woodcutter across the stream. This is the last line of a poem in which the 8th century Taoist recluse Wang Wei describes patterns of cloud and light in the mountains. Just so, the poems in this remarkable anthology speak to us—across an immense distance of time and space—of loneliness, beauty, the consequences of political action, the stillness of autumn. Red Pine’s wonderful translations and the clarity of his accompanying notes make these poems accessible and intimate to all of us. In another poem about watching clouds, Tu Fu concludes, I’ve always been drawn to the past/but this time my heart trembled. This anthology will evoke the same response in any reader. Red Pine and the good people at Copper Canyon deserve a place in the Taoist paradise for bringing us this beautiful book.” —Karl Pohrt, nomination for Booksense Recommends

“The precise, distilled words of the poets are wonderfully complemented by the knowledgeable, companionable tone of the commentaries that run throughout.” —Elliott Bay Booknotes

“For those not familiar with the depth and beauty of Chinese poetry, Poems of the Masters will serve as a welcome introduction conducted by a knowledgeable guide… Here is a rare chance to steep yourself in a classic work that has finally been completely translated.” —John Bradley