Chinese poetry does not follow the form and rhythmic patterns that Western eyes and ears are accustomed to. It is stripped of all grammatical syntax – there are, for example, no past, present or future tenses. The poet forms a regular pattern of perhaps six lines of five (Chinese) characters.
Each character represents one syllable which may have meaning on its own, or it may be part of a character group – it may also have one meaning in isolation, but a different meaning when followed by another character or characters. Each character, or character group, represents a (possibly ambiguous) object, or an abstract idea, or a tenseless verb. Unlike the Roman script of Western languages, where the letters are merely writing codes which have no meaning until they are combined to form words, Chinese characters have more intrinsic meaning.
The poetry is formed in the mind of the reader, and thus may be different for each reader, or even for the same reader on different occasions. This results in many pitfalls for those not thoroughly familiar with Chinese style and language. Continued page 10/32