Basho and the Dao: The <i>Zhuangzi</i> and the Transformation of <i>Haikai</i>
264pp. July 2005
Basho and the Dao: The Zhuangzi and the Transformation of Haikai
Author: Qiu, Peipei;
Although haiku is well known throughout the world, few outside Japan are familiar with its precursor, haikai (comic linked verse). Fewer still are aware of the role played by the Chinese Daoist classics in turning haikai into a respected literary art form. Bashō and the Dao examines the haikai poets’ adaptation of Daoist classics, particularly the Zhuangzi, in the seventeenth century and the eventual transformation of haikai from frivolous verse to high poetry. The author analyzes haikai’s encounter with the Zhuangzi through its intertextual relations with the works of Bashō and other major haikai poets, and also the nature and characteristics of haikai that sustained the Zhuangzi’s relevance to haikai poetic construction. She demonstrates how the haikai poets’ interest in this Daoist work was rooted in the intersection of deconstructing and reconstructing the classical Japanese poetic tradition.

Well versed in both Chinese and Japanese scholarship, Qiu explores the significance of Daoist ideas in Bashō’s and others’ conceptions of haikai. Her method involves an extensive hermeneutic reading of haikai texts, an in-depth analysis of the connection between Chinese and Japanese poetic terminology, and a comparison of Daoist traits in both traditions. The result is a penetrating study of key ideas that have been instrumental in defining and rediscovering the poetic essence of haikai verse.

Bashō and the Dao adds to an increasingly vibrant area of academic inquiry—the complex literary and cultural relations between Japan and China in the early modern era. Researchers and students of East Asian literature, philosophy, and cultural criticism will find this book a valuable contribution to cross-cultural literary studies and comparative aesthetics.

"A wonderful analysis. Qiu has accomplished her goal, and the book will serve students and scholars of Chinese and Japanese literature for generations to come." —China Review International (13:2, fall 2006)

"A book that will give serious students of haiku a clearer understanding of what haiku is, and isn’t" —Simply Haiku (winter 2005) (Read full review)

"[Qiu] has been able to make a real contribution to our understanding of a major Chinese text, the Zhuangzi, in the formation of the ideals and practices of a major poetic genre." —Donald Keene, Columbia University

Author: Qiu, Peipei;
Peipei Qiu is associate professor of Japanese at Vassar College. (Read an interview with the author)
Read the introduction (PDF).