The Naxi and Ezra Pound concept of Paradise


Ezra Pound was one of the most important American poets of 20th century. His main work, "The Cantos", composed during more than 50 years of a life devoted to poetry, is so full of symbolism and hidden meanings that since his death, in 1972, critics are wondering about the real objective of his vast work.

The relation of Pound with China goes back to the first steps of his literary career. The fascination that Chinese characters produced on him has been treated in numerous works. But hidden to the general reader is the influence that the knowledge of the Naxi world, through the books of J.F. Rock, had over the last part of The Cantos.

In a recently published book Su Jinmei (1) suggests that the theme that support the whole narrative structure of The Cantos is the search for a Confucian paradise, and the reject of a world cemented in the greed of the Western corporations.

The Naxi, in their unspoiled environment, become the living example of this paradise Pound was longing for.

"The harmony between man and nature the Nakhi community established sets against the American "trailer life", which is "non-productive / non-agricultural."

Su Jinmei, p. 107

"It seems that the Nakhi world had been dwelling in Pound's mind during the years he wrote the last cantos. The Nakhi community appears in Canto CX "it reappears in the fragment "From CXII" which depicts the Nakhi paradisiacal landscape."

Su, p. 108

"The Nakhi world with clear air, spring water, flowing "jade stream", luxuriant forest and the magnificent Mount Hsian Shan or Elephant Mountain becomes the symbol of the earthly paradise. "The firm voice amid pine wood", shows that man is but an inseparable part of the world."

Su p. 109

The idea of paradise is manifested in two Cantos that make explicit reference to the life of the Naxi. In Canto CI and CIV. Many researchers on the works of Pound have before Su Jinmei, realized the importance that the Nakhi culture had in the last part of The Cantos, but she, making the search for a Confucian paradise the main theme of the works, makes the Naxi paradise in the realization of this dream.

As one of the critics who have studied more the works of Pound, Ira Bruce Nadel (2) writes:

"He envisioned a succeeding volume of Cantos … with a full treatment of the Nakhi."

Bruce Nadel (2), p 125

The pristine environment where the Naxi live, their zeal to preserve nature, the integration of men in nature, are all aspects of Naxi way of live reflected in Pound's Cantos.

(1) Su Jinmei.- Confucianism in Pound's Cantos. Nankai University Press. Tianjin. 2003
(2) Nadel, Ira Bruce.- The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound. Cambridge University Press. 1999

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