All Lockers Must Be Emptied and Unlocked

Chen Fang — How to read a Chinese Poem

What gets lost when a poem is translated into another language? Poet Paul Valery once expressed a delicate sentiment: “The poem: a prolonged hesitation between sound and meaning.”

Mandarin is a tonal language with four basic tones. When the tone changes, the meaning changes, even all the other sounds are exactly the same. How to read a Chinese Poem is an exploration into a new way of reading Chinese poetry through the musicality of the tonal characteristics. This is conducted through imitating each tone through musical elements. Thus the non-Chinese speaker can interpret the poetry through sound, even when not understanding the original meaning.

This project is divided into three parts; in essence it is a form of family project around the topic. It consists of the musicality of Chinese poetry, Mandarin pronunciation teaching tools and an analyses of tonality. As a result, musicality is utilised in a stance against translation, which often is impossible in its omitting of meaning and detail, so as to discuss the role of sound and musicality in language in this specific Chinese poetry context.