Old Chinese poetry illustrates the fact.
Don't we have similar poems in our languages too?
The Odes represents those of peasants—perspectives not seen in Zhou inscriptions. In addition to the view seen from the top, the Odes also includes songs showing ordinary people at work: the men clearing weeds from the fields, plowing, planting, and harvesting; the girls and women
gathering mulberry leaves for the silkworms, making thread, and carrying food
hampers out to the fields for their men to have lunch. There is much about millet—
both the eating variety and that used for brewing wine for use in rites. There
are joyful references to granaries full of grain and to the men gathering thatch for
their roofs in the off-season. Mention is made of lords’ fields and private fields, and
a bailiff is referred to, but the details of the system are not provided. There are also,
more strikingly, odes of political protest. One compares tax collectors to big rats:
Another tells of the hardships of military service: men constantly on the march,
living in the wilds like rhinoceroses and tigers, day and night without rest. Sometimes
a soldier survives the hardships and dangers of war and returns home only to find
that his wife has given him up for dead and remarried. Consider the following:
We plucked the bracken, plucked the bracken;
who lived at the mercy of what was becoming an increasingly inhospitable
In addition to royal and peasant perspectives, the Odes is also famous for its
love poetry, which often reveals a feminine perspective:
In the wilds, a dead doe.
as this ode reveals:
To be sure, with these odes, as with all poetry, much depends on the vision of
the translator and interpreter. For Liu Wu-chi, the ode tells of “the tragedy of
love.” In the mind of another contemporary scholar, Wai-lim Yip, the first ode
cited in the last paragraph is an “animated pastiche of a lovely rural