Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom by Red Pine

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Red Pine
Mercury House
Date of release


Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom

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Book review

"It is one of the very first art books which helped artists develop the aptitude for seeing the inner essence of various natural phenomena."—Shambhala Sun

"Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom could fit neatly into any number of contemporary-sounding categories: hybrid text, art book, lyric essay, etc. It is a book that relies on interdependence of image and text, of history and the present, of evocation and concrete image."—The Rumpus

"Red Pine introduces Western readers to both the text itself and the traditions it has inherited."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"All lovers of Asian poetry, mysterious history, divine drawing, and plum blossoms will enjoy this book. Thank you once again, Red Pine, for deep translation."—Michael McClure

Through a series of brief four-lined poems and illustrations, Sung Po-jen aims at training artistic perception: how to truly see a plum blossom. First published in AD 1238, Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom is considered the world's earliest-known printed art books. This bilingual edition contains the one hundred woodblock prints from the 1238 edition, calligraphic Chinese poems, and Red Pine's graceful translations and illuminating commentaries.

"Tiger Tracks"

winter wind bends dry grass
flicks its tail along the ridge
fearful force on the loose

don't try to braid old whiskers

Red Pine's commentary: "The Chinese liken the north wind that blows down from Siberia in winter to a roaring tiger. China is home to both the Siberian and the South China tigers. While both are on the verge of extinction, the small South China tiger still appears as far north as the Chungnan Mountains, where hermits have shown me their tracks."

Sung Po-jen was a Chinese poet of the thirteenth century.

Red Pine (a.k.a. Bill Porter) is one of the world's foremost translators of Chinese poetry and religious texts. His published translations include The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain, Lao-tzu's Taoteching, and Poems of the Masters. He lives near Seattle, Washington.

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