Tang Dynasty Poems

The Tang Dynasty is considered to be one of the greatest dynasties of the Chinese history and many historians rank them right behind the Han Dynasty, a golden age of cosmopolitan culture.

The Tang Dynasty attached great importance to education, and it is believed that the Tang women were granted the same rights to, and opportunities for, education as men. This splendid dynasty is probably most celebrated for its wealth of great poets. The Complete Poetry of the Tang contains over 50,000 poems written by more than 2,000 poets, of whom at least 20 were influential figures in the history of Chinese literature. Li Bai is arguably the most famous of all ancient Chinese poets.

During the Tang dynasty, writing poetry was not merely the privilege pursuit of the nobles, but was also practiced by those of common origins

I was exposed to a few Tang dynasty poems as a child. I have always wanted to learn more about the rich and meaningful poems from the Tang dynasty, but I never found the time.

The beauty of poems from Tang dynasty is that it is so simple and rhythms so well that even small children can recite them, yet so full of meaning.

A two and half year old Danish-Chinese girl from my Chinese playgroup is able to recite some of the Tang dynasty poems already. Her mother basically just narrates the poems to her, and she is able to remember it and say it. It gives a lot of encouragement to me to trust that Joshua will have a chance to learn Chinese well too.

In my quest and determination to teach Joshua Chinese, I have decided that now is the time I start getting familiar with it.

This series contains my compilation of the Tang dynasty poems. My thanks to Yang Li, who provided me with the Chinese poems.

The English literal translation section is my own after studying the poem. The English modern translation section is derived from studying the Chinese translation. My After-Thought section contains some of my personal thoughts and analysis.

How to Make Reciting Tang Dynasty Poems Fun for Your Child?

I believe that learning Tang dynasty poems is very useful, as it helps young children to develop the understanding of the tones, rhythm and pronunciation of the Chinese language. But traditional recital of Tang dynasty poems by rote learning may be too boring for young children. Here are some tips I have learned over a long period while experimenting with Joshua and our Chinese Children's Playgroup:

1. Use hand-signs and gestures

Invent hand actions that go along with the poems

2. Recite in different speeds and tones

I learn this technique from Joshua's Danish music class ( I find that this method captures the child's attention effectively. Start by reciting it in regular voice, then recite it in silence, showing only mouth movement, then recite it loudly, then recite it fast and lastly recite it slowly. Joshua always laughs, when I do this.

3. Recite by leaving out a certain words or phrase

I learn this technique from singing the children Christian song - With Christ in the Vessel - from Singapore's Wesley Methodist Church's Sunday School ( Recite the first few words of the first line, and then stop abruptly, and let your child continue. In this way, you can learn his/her progress. Continue in the same manner with the second line and so on.

4. In a group, recite one at a time the successive lines of the poem.

I learn this technique from the book "Phonemic Awareness in Young Children" to seat the children in a circle, and ask them to recite successive lines of the poem, one at a time, in turn.

5. In a group, recite one at a time the successive words of the poem.
I learn this technique from the book "Phonemic Awareness in Young Children" to seat the children in a circle, and ask them to recite successive words of the poem, one at a time, in turn.

6. Use a puppet theatre play stage

Recite the poems behind a puppet theatre play as if you are performing by reciting the poems for your child on stage. This will create a fun element and help your child feel comfortable about performing on stage.

7. Video record the recital of the poems

When reciting the Tang dynasty poems, video-record it, then put on YouTube or simply play back and watch it with your child.

6. Sing it if you can

This can be a challenge, and takes time to compose a tune for the poems, but it can be very effective. So far, I only manage to have one Tang dynasty poem in a song, but it is not composed by me, but by a famous Chinese singer.

You can find blog posts of the Tang Dynasty Poems here:

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