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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Chinese Makars

10th November 2016

It would be true to say that publishing in Scots has seen a significant increase over the last decade, and that is particularly true of stories for children. But now and again something comes along that is a little different. The book ‘Chinese Makars’ is one of those publications that is more unusual. Robert Crawford, who is based at the University of St Andrews, has translated Chinese poets, namely Du Fu, Li Bai, Wang Wei and Xue Tao, who all flourished during the Tang era between AD 618 and 907. These are well known today in Chinese schoolrooms and represent the master poets of their day, or, as we say in Scots, makars.

Crawford has produced Scots versions of the Chinese originals – short, straightforward poetry on a number of universal themes – accompanied by English prose translations. There are a number of black and white photographs, of which some are by John Thomson (1837-1921), a Scot who took pictures of life in China under the Manchus, and some by contemporary photographer Norman McBeath in Scotland. Crawford describes this project as an example of ‘photopoetry’.

Many of the poems take a delight in simple daily events, and observations, a trait that has endeared Robert Burns to readers in China. An example of one of the short verses from this work includes a translation of Li Bai ‘Oan seein an aigle lowsed’ –

Heich i September’s winds owre the mairch

Yon unhoodit aigle flichts, alane,

Ae flaucht a hunner Scots mile awa,

A smitch o hairst i its een.

Chinese Makars is 72pp and available in hardback (ISBN 978 0 95522859 5 0) from Easel Press at the price of £25. For more information, or to order a copy, please contact .