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Shī Jīng (詩經), translated variously as the Classic of Poetry, the Book of Songs or the Book of Odes, is the first major collection of Chinese poems. It comprises 305 poems divided into 160 folk songs (or airs - feng (风); 74 minor festal songs (or odes - ya 小雅), traditionally sung at court festivities; 31 major festal songs (大雅), sung at more solemn court ceremonies; and 40 hymns and eulogies (sòng - 颂), sung at sacrifices to gods and ancestral spirits of the royal house.
The work is one of the Five Classics, canonized by the Han Dynasty, whose scholars framed the 305 poems as having been edited by Confucius from a total corpus of some three-thousand poems. The 305 poems had to be reconstructed from memory by classicists since the previous Qin dynasty had burned the poems along with other classical texts. (There are, in fact, a total of 308 poem titles that were reconstructed, but the remaining three poems only have titles without any extant text).
The poems are written in four character lines. The airs are in the style of folk songs, although the extent to which they are real folk songs or literary imitations is debated. The odes deal with matters of court and historical subjects, while the hymns blend history, myth and religious material.
Commentators have also given the Book of Songs a second tripartite division based on their use of literary figures and devices, into fu, bi and xing poems. Roughly, fu poems are those with a straightforward narrative content; bi are those with explicit comparisons; while xing are based on implied comparisons.
- The Book of Odes, in The Sacred Books of China, translated by James Legge, 1879
- The Book of Songs, translated by Arthur Waley, edited with additional translations by Joseph R. Allen , New York: Grove Press, 1996.
- ShiJing, translated by YunZhong Xu , edited by ShengZhang Jiang, Hunan, China: Hu Nan Chu Ban She, 1993.
- The Shi King: The Old "Poetry Classic" of the Chinese, translated by William Jennings, New York: Paragon Book, 1969.
- The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius, translated by Ezra Pound, Cambridge: Harvard U Press, 1954.
- The Book of Odes, translated by Bernhard Karlgren, Stockholm: The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1950.
- Legge's translation of the Shi Jing at Chinese text initiative
- The Book of Odes in Chinese arrayed with James Legge translation.
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