Prof Cai Zong-qi launches classical Chinese poetry podcasts in English to promote Chinese culture to the world

25 Feb 2022

Prof Cai Zong-qi launches classical Chinese poetry podcasts in English to promote Chinese culture to the world

After the success of the first six books in his ten-volume series How To Read Chinese Literature, published by Columbia University Press in the US, Prof Cai Zong-qi, LU’s Lee Wing Tat Chair Professor of Chinese Literature and Director of the Advanced Institute for Global Chinese Studies, is collaborating with more than 10 renowned scholars on podcasts giving an even wider audience the chance to appreciate classical Chinese poetry.


From 1 February 2022, a 15-minute podcast based on How To Read Chinese Literature will be available each week on platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Ximalaya.


The full 52-episode series covers the major poetic genres that have evolved over almost three millennia, stretching from early Zhou all the way to Qing, the last of China’s dynasties, which ended in 1911. Specialists will guide listeners through the rich heritage of Chinese poetry, genre by genre, and dynasty by dynasty.


In each episode, between one and three magnificent poems will be read and discussed in English, and their cultural milieu explored. Each will also be recited in Putonghua, and, for Tang and Song poetry, in Cantonese as well, by a professional reader, over a background of classical Chinese guqin music.


By organising the episodes into 20 topics within dynastic periods, listeners will receive a holistic impression of Chinese poetry from antiquity to the modern era, and see the place of each individual poem within this arc. The podcasts will target an educated English-speaking audience, with little knowledge of these works rather than just college students.


“We want to help the listener go beyond pure translation,” Prof Cai explains, noting that some subtleties are lost in translation. “You do not really get the same aesthetic pleasure from a translated text, as you would get from the original, particularly for some hyper-condensed type of poetry.”


While podcasts allow this ancient art form to be more widely appreciated, Prof Cai is already looking ahead to a visual version for video channels.


Click here to listen to the podcast.