Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chinese Sybolism

Chinese (and Eastern) Symbolism … is very different from the West … this must be considered in any understanding of text (whether or not poetic) …

English poetry has developed over hundreds of years, certain symbolic meanings have attached themselves to such things as colours, places, times, and animals …the same can be said for Chinese poetry …

Here are some examples where there are clear differences in association …

In English poetry a rose would identify with beauty and woman … the equivalent flower in Chinese imagery would be the magnolia, in China a dove represents fidelity but in English poetry (and art) a dog is more appropriate …

More examples of Chinese Symbols and there meaning …

Courage and Bravery

Pine TreesLongevity, Steadfastness, and Self-Discipline



TortoiseLongevity & Immortality

GooseMarried Bliss


CicadaImmortality, Life after Death


CraneLongevity. A Pair of Cranes symbolizes "Long Marriage", as Cranes mate for life

DragonMale Vigor and Fertility, also the symbol for The Emperor …

… and more on the Dragon … as this is perhaps one of the most well know of Chinese symbols …

Ancient Chinese Dragons are ultimate symbols of cosmic Chi (energy). It is said to be the most potent symbol of good fortune in the Chinese pantheon of symbols. As one of the four creatures of the world's directions, the Dragon stands for new beginnings. The Dragon also has the power to release water to parched lands, and which in turn stands for abundance & relief. Continued success, high achievement, and prosperity are also listed among the Dragon's arsenal of good qualities, which rank it one of the most popular of Asian signs.
(Website link ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon)

Symbolism is important in poetry … it represents something else, either by association or by resemblance. It represents a deeper meaning than the words themselves … figurative meaning compared to literal meaning …

Example 1 … Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ … here is the first line … Two roads converged in a yellow wood,
In this poem the two roads are far more than two roads …representing a decision … in this case a clear choice of two … there is a coming together representing the closeness of the decision … but a decision must be made … … for those that know the poem the road not taken will be remembered reflecting on what would it have been like to have taken the alternative.

Example 2 … We could speak of depression as a black dog …black has obvious association with negativity … but why is a dog more appropriate than, say, a cat?

Footnote …Of course any poet can develop his or her own personal symbolism.

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