The Tao of Chinese Poetry

poster for Pari Center's Longing for Wholeness

This is an excerpt from one of the presentations featured in the Pari Center’s event Longing for Wholeness, in Pari from August 27 to September 3, 2024.

Classical Chinese language is an extraordinary medium for poetry. Its characters possess many layers of meaning and are only minimally constrained by grammatical and syntactic rules. They are like iridescent gems, assuming a different colour depending on the angle from which you look at them. Each character is the core of an idea (or of a bundle of ideas), and not its specification in terms of person, gender, number, tense or mode. Each character is, in a sense, a potential metaphor.

In this workshop we will read and comment on some poems of the Tang dynasty (600-900 CE). The images of these poems float in a liminal space between presence and absence and can be approached at various levels of rarefaction. In their center we catch a glimpse of a luminous void, a creative emptiness without name or form.

Finally we will allow ourselves to play along those same lines, composing our own ‘Chinese poems’.

Shantena Augusto Sabbadini is a physicist, philosopher and a scholar of Chinese classics. As a physicist he worked at the University of Milan on the foundations of quantum physics and at the University of California on the first identification of a black hole. In the 1990s he has been scientific advisor of the Eranos Foundation, an East-West research center founded by C.G. Jung and Olga Froebe-Kapteyn in 1933. From 2017 to 2021 he was the Director of the Pari Center. He is the author of Pilgrimages to Emptiness. Rethinking Reality through Quantum PhysicsTao Te Ching: a guide to the interpretation of the foundational book of Taoism and The Original I Ching or Book of Changes: The Eranos I Ching Project.