Ways with Words presents interpretive essays by scholars from different disciplines on seven core, premodern classical Chinese texts. The remarkable diversity of these works--drawn from literature, philosophy, religion, and art history--challenges the presumption of a monolithic Chinese tradition that has been promoted by scholars and popular culture alike, both in China and the West.
The texts themselves include a poem from the Classic of Poetry compiled in the sixth century b.c.e.; passages from Mencius and Zhuangzi; the Heart Sutra; a poem by Du Fu and the Biography of Yingying by Yuan Zhen, both written during the Tang dynasty; and Notes on the Method for the Brush, a tenth-century text attributed to Jing Hao. Both the original Chinese versions and the translations are provided for each primary text. There are at least two essays--when possible from scholars in different fields--on each work. The volume as a whole demonstrates the various ways in which the modern Western reader can confront the impressive variety of texts from the classical Chinese tradition.