Meng Haoran is considered the first great poet of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in China. His poetry influenced later writers and affected Chinese poetic sensibilities for centuries to come, securing Meng lasting literary fame in China. Meng’s contemporaries and later Chinese poets have admired his keen eye for specific features of the natural landscape, particularly mountains and rivers, and the personal emotion infused in his poems, which are rich in literary allusions. These allusions are not surprising; a classical Chinese poet would be expected to demonstrate mastery of earlier literary traditions.
Meng has been credited with invigorating Chinese poetry by bringing a carefully shaped measure of originality to the conventions of Chinese lyrics established in the fourth and fifth centuries. His poetry inspired his friends and subsequent Tang poets to attempt more innovative work and launched a great flowering of Chinese poetry. Even though only 270 of his poems have survived, in part because he destroyed many poems he deemed faulty, Meng’s poems were widely anthologized in various collections after his death. His most famous poems were continuously read, appreciated, and studied by subsequent generations of Chinese poets and scholars.
Hinton, David, trans. and ed. Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China. New York: New Directions, 2005. This collection of poetry contains an introduction to Meng’s poetry and a representative selection in translation. Places Meng in the context of Tang and Song Dynasty poets with similar poetic interests. Map, introduction, notes, and bibliography.
Kroll, Paul W. Meng Hao-jan. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Full-length study of the poet and his works; offers translations of many of Meng’s most famous poems. Relates Meng’s poetry to his native place, his friends, culture, society, and religion, and illustrates his wide range of subjects. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, and index.
Levy, Andre. Chinese Literature, Ancient and Classical. Translated by William H. Nienhauser, Jr. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000. Chapter 3,“Poetry,” briefly discusses the achievement of Meng and indicates his place within the poetry of the Tang Dynasty, an era that had a lasting effect on Chinese poetry. Index.
Meng Haoran. The Mountain Poems of Meng Hao-jan. Translated and edited by David Hinton. New York: Archipelago Books, 2004. Contains a translation of sixty-six poems by Meng. Hinton’s introduction places the poet in the context of Tang Dynasty culture and poetry, focusing on Meng’s association with Zen Buddhism and explaining how this and Daoism inform the content and form of his poetry. Map, notes, and bibliography.