History G380            HOMEWORK #1           NAME________________________

This is an informal exercise in close reading. The poem below is taken from the Book of Poetry, an anthology of lyrics for folk and art songs, political and religious odes composed between about the tenth and sixth centuries B.C. It is a window through which we can catch a direct glimpse of early Chinese society, but, as with all ancient texts, itís easy to miss what we can see because we may read it too quickly or inattentively. Every ancient text is an invitation to close detective work. We usually don't notice most of what we actually see when we read a text, counting on familiar contexts to keep us oriented. An important part of this course will be learning about China by looking at poems, stories, statements, and narratives by authors writing from contexts very different from our own; the more sensitive an observer you become, the more you'll learn. Read closely, try to identify elements that seem revealing, puzzling, or interesting, and note them on your page. (Be sure you look up any words that you're unsure of and consider whether you have read words with the appropriate meaning [e.g., "audience"].) Check the "Sample Poetry Exercise" to see how this type of exercise is supposed to work. 

While you may have no more knowledge of ancient China than you pick up from the initial course readings, mark and make a note on this sheet about any points in this poem that seem to give you information about ancient society, or that catch your interest in any way (you're free to say anything you want). However, avoid guessing answers to questions you don't know. The goal here is to hear the text, not to decode it. Print out this sheet and mark it up with pen or pencil however you like (use the back too, if you wish). Hand it in at the start of class, Friday, August 24.

                                                             The Audience

                    They first appeared before their king

                    To seek the emblems of their rank  

                     Dragon-banners bright blazing,

                     Chariot-bells clear jingling,

                     Bridle-straps sharp snapping,

                     Glorious gifts all glimmering.

                     They show their shining ancestors,

                     And filial make them offerings,

                     Seeking long-eyebrowed age

                     And everlong protection.

                     "Oh, give much glimmering grace,

                     Bright-patterned lords of yore!

                     Comfort us with blessings full,

                     Great glories gleaming ever on."