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The Late Tang

The Late Tang

Chinese Poetry of the Mid-Ninth Century (827–860)

Stephen Owen

ISBN 9780674033283

Publication date: 03/31/2009

The poetry of the Late Tang often looked backward, and many poets of the period distinguished themselves through the intensity of their retrospective gaze. Chinese poets had always looked backward to some degree, but for many Late Tang poets the echoes and the traces of the past had a singular aura.

In this work, Stephen Owen resumes telling the literary history of the Tang that he began in his works on the Early and High Tang. Focusing in particular on Du Mu, Li Shangyin, and Wen Tingyun, he analyzes the redirection of poetry that followed the deaths of the major poets of the High and Mid-Tang and the rejection of their poetic styles. The Late Tang, Owen argues, forces us to change our very notion of the history of poetry. Poets had always drawn on past poetry, but in the Late Tang, the poetic past was beginning to assume the form it would have for the next millennium; it was becoming a repertoire of available choices—styles, genres, the voices of past poets. It was this repertoire that would endure.


  • Over the last several decades, Owen has distinguished himself as one of the world’s foremost scholars of the poetry of the Tang dynasty (618–906)… As always, Owen’s analysis of literary history is keen and penetrating, and his translations from the Chinese are both readable and faithful to the original poems. This is one of the most important studies on Tang poetry to appear in recent years.

    —J. M. Hargett, Choice


  • Stephen Owen is James Bryant Conant University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 596 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center

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