Laughing Lost in the Mountains

Poems of Wang Wei

Wang Wei

Wang Wei  was one of the most celebrated poets of China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907). An influential painter and practitioner of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, many of his poems contain concise and evocative descriptions of nature whose elegant minimalism offers subtle expression of a transcendence from everyday life. While this purity of poetic expression is what Wang Wei’s reputation is built upon, he lived a courtly life of highs and lows in a tumultuous era, suffering demotions and exile, imprisonment and rehabilitation, all of which are evidenced in his verse. Wang Wei’s poems grapple with the trappings of worldly life and the quest for enlightenment, painting a complex picture of both his psyche and his Chan discipline. Laughing Lost in the Mountains includes translations of poems running the spectrum of Wang Wei’s subjects, as well as an extensive introduction that sheds light on Wang Wei’s craft, spirituality, and historical context.

Paper: $19.95
ISBN-13: 9780874515640
Pages: 244 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: January 1, 1992


  • Wang Wei ranks with Li Po and Tu Fu and Po Chu-i—among the very greatest poets of T’ang dynasty China. He is the master of ‘impersonality,’ often completely disappearing into his poems of nature. His poetry is a record of a long struggle to be free of desire, free even of the desire to be free. This translation captures the sense of uncluttered aloneness—completeness—found in the original, the deceptive apparent ease of Wang’s poems as a whole. Laughing Lost in the Mountains is refreshing, the best Wang Wei available in English.

    Sam Hamill
  • Nothing close to this work has been done on Wang Wei. It is more than just a fine translation of the works of a major figure in world literature. It makes its own context.

    J. P. Seaton
  • The Barnstone translations read like poems in English, important poems, and consistently so. Through their illuminating study-the best examination of Wang Wei in English-and their translations, the Barnstones have established for our generation a new model of rendering a major Chinese poet in English. We have a world poet who at last has a consummate form in English.

    Anthony Kerrigan
  • Fulfilling the promise of its title, a fi ne mix of collaborative brains and sensitive imaginations quickly raises this book out of the ordinary. Through Wang Wei’s impersonated voice the triumphs of animism mount up over itself. ‘In the windy hiss of autumn rain / shallow water fumbles over stones. / Waves dance and fall on each other: / a white egret startles, then drops.’ In this necessary book for poets and lovers of poetry, Wang Wei arrives in simple modern dress between a long, meaty introduction and a lean set of telling afternotes.

    Edwin Honig

About the Author

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