Review: Book of Songs (trans. James Trapp)

Sometimes a publisher and author together create a beautiful book, a keepsake as well as a joy to read, and Amber Books (London, UK 2021) has done just that in publishing a selection from the ancient Chinese Book of Songs (“Shi-Jing“). Highly recommended.

Set in a bright yellow, cloth-like-covered book the size and firmness of a wooden paddle, these poems are filled with refrains of loving and longing, and subtle music of the seasons at home and of travel, and of life at court. The wonderful dressing making them feel as real as water flowing over stone as you bend down and retrieve a bright pebble from a normally shallow, now gushing summer stream bed.

While I myself enjoy the ancient Chinese poets in translation, especially those books translated by Red Pine gifted to us through Copper Canyon, I have not beforehand dipped into the Book of Songs.

This selection is not overwhelming and refreshing. The care of the binding, the rich smooth interior paper, makes it feel like someone has brought precious music and knowledge from far away, and left it at your doorstep.