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Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology

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With this groundbreaking collection, translated and edited by the renowned poet and translator David Hinton, a new generation will be introduced to the work that riveted Ezra Pound and transformed modern poetry. The Chinese poetic tradition is the largest and longest continuous tradition in world literature, and this rich and far-reaching anthology of nearly five hundred With this groundbreaking collection, translated and edited by the renowned poet and translator David Hinton, a new generation will be introduced to the work that riveted Ezra Pound and transformed modern poetry. The Chinese poetic tradition is the largest and longest continuous tradition in world literature, and this rich and far-reaching anthology of nearly five hundred poems provides a comprehensive account of its first three millennia (1500 BCE to 1200 CE), the period during which virtually all its landmark developments took place. Unlike earlier anthologies of Chinese poetry, Hinton’s book focuses on a relatively small number of poets, providing selections that are large enough to re-create each as a fully realized and unique voice. New introductions to each poet's work provide a readable history, told for the first time as a series of poetic innovations forged by a series of master poeets. From the classic texts of Chinese philosophy to intensely personal lyrics, from love poems to startling and strange perspectives on nature, Hinton has collected an entire world of beauty and insight. And in his eye-opening translations, these ancient poems feel remarkably fresh and contemporary, presenting a literature both radically new and entirely resonant.


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With this groundbreaking collection, translated and edited by the renowned poet and translator David Hinton, a new generation will be introduced to the work that riveted Ezra Pound and transformed modern poetry. The Chinese poetic tradition is the largest and longest continuous tradition in world literature, and this rich and far-reaching anthology of nearly five hundred With this groundbreaking collection, translated and edited by the renowned poet and translator David Hinton, a new generation will be introduced to the work that riveted Ezra Pound and transformed modern poetry. The Chinese poetic tradition is the largest and longest continuous tradition in world literature, and this rich and far-reaching anthology of nearly five hundred poems provides a comprehensive account of its first three millennia (1500 BCE to 1200 CE), the period during which virtually all its landmark developments took place. Unlike earlier anthologies of Chinese poetry, Hinton’s book focuses on a relatively small number of poets, providing selections that are large enough to re-create each as a fully realized and unique voice. New introductions to each poet's work provide a readable history, told for the first time as a series of poetic innovations forged by a series of master poeets. From the classic texts of Chinese philosophy to intensely personal lyrics, from love poems to startling and strange perspectives on nature, Hinton has collected an entire world of beauty and insight. And in his eye-opening translations, these ancient poems feel remarkably fresh and contemporary, presenting a literature both radically new and entirely resonant.

30 review for Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eadweard

    Like visiting old friends... CONTENT: THE BOOK OF SONGS (c. 15th to 6th century B.C.E.) TAO TE CHING (c. 6th century B.C.E.) THE SONGS OF CH’U (c. 3rd century B.C.E.) LATER FOLK–SONG COLLECTIONS (c. 2nd century B.C.E. to 4th century C.E.) Music-Bureau Folk-songs (c. 2nd to 1st centuries B.C.E.) Nineteen Ancient-Style Poems (c. 1st to 2nd centuries C.E.) Lady Midnight Songs of the Four Seasons (c. 4th century C.E.) FIRST MASTERS: THE MAINSTREAM BEGINS (4th to 5th centuries C.E.) Tao Ch’ien Hsieh Ling-yün T Like visiting old friends... CONTENT: THE BOOK OF SONGS (c. 15th to 6th century B.C.E.) TAO TE CHING (c. 6th century B.C.E.) THE SONGS OF CH’U (c. 3rd century B.C.E.) LATER FOLK–SONG COLLECTIONS (c. 2nd century B.C.E. to 4th century C.E.) Music-Bureau Folk-songs (c. 2nd to 1st centuries B.C.E.) Nineteen Ancient-Style Poems (c. 1st to 2nd centuries C.E.) Lady Midnight Songs of the Four Seasons (c. 4th century C.E.) FIRST MASTERS: THE MAINSTREAM BEGINS (4th to 5th centuries C.E.) Tao Ch’ien Hsieh Ling-yün T’ANG DYNASTY I: THE GREAT RENAISSANCE (c. 700 to 800) Meng Hao-jan Wang Wei Li Po Tu Fu Han Shan Wei Ying-wu T’ANG DYNASTY II: EXPERIMENTAL ALTERNATIVES (c. 800 to 875) Meng Chiao Han Yu Po Chu-I Li Ho Tu Mu Li Shang-yin Yu Hsuan-chi SUNG DYNASTY: THE MAINSTREAM RENEWED (c. 1000 to 1225) Mei Yao-ch'en Wang An-shih Su Tong-p'o Li Ch'ing-chao Lu Yu Yang Wan-li

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A collection of translated classical Chinese poems might seem like a rather academic, dry, book targeted towards a professional readership and not something newsworthy for the mass media, however, David Hinton is considered the dean of scholars of Chinese poetry and what he has provided us here is a consummate and rewarding volume for anyone interested in poetry, even those without a specific interest in classical Chinese literature. As one would expect from such a book, Hinton provides not only A collection of translated classical Chinese poems might seem like a rather academic, dry, book targeted towards a professional readership and not something newsworthy for the mass media, however, David Hinton is considered the dean of scholars of Chinese poetry and what he has provided us here is a consummate and rewarding volume for anyone interested in poetry, even those without a specific interest in classical Chinese literature. As one would expect from such a book, Hinton provides not only his translations of a variety of Chinese poems spanning a broad time period, but introductions to various eras, poets, and styles to inform the reader of both the literary and sociocultural background to the poems he is about to encounter. In doing so, the poems themselves are easily approached by the lay-reader yet the serious student or expert will find plenty of new information and the fruits of Hinton's ample research on these pages also. The real pleasure though is coming to these poems simply as poems and to read Hinton's adroit translations into English as if one was reading any other English-language poetry. While reading a poem telling of a warrior's longing to return to his home from the battlefield, it struck me that the language and feeling found in this poem could represent the emotions of many a U.S. service-member in Iraq right now, despite having been written in another place and time and about another conflict. Hinton has not attempted to update or at all alter these poems as such would defeat his primary goal in presenting them in English, yet many are so heartfelt that they do not require anything beyond the gravitas of astute translation to impart their meaning (and often stark beauty) to the contemporary reader in English. T'ao Ch'ien's poetry, in example, resonates with emotion that implores empathy while Meng Chiao's work reflects nature in much the way that Robert Frost has in our own language. The influence of Taoist and Buddhist thought in many of the poems collected here is very apparent and expected but the diversity of approaches taken by the poets considered are ample and Hinton has collected enough poems from each major poet included to provide a real introduction to these poets' work, a nice touch given how many anthologies of this nature skip around and seem to attempt a broad scope of the writers covered over the depth of the work included. Li Po, the classical Chinese poet who is perhaps best known today in the West, demonstrates exactly why the poems included here are still important and why in English-language translation they still hold a haunting ability to communicate the splendors of nature. Li Po wrote, as did most of the classical Chinese poets, mainly about personal reflection in nature and poems such as his "Spring Thoughts" illustrate the beauty and common joy found in natural settings by Chinese poets. Philosophy and poetry were especially close in their communication with each other for the early Chinese writers and in the classical age of Chinese poetry we find many of the origins of longstanding, even contemporary, outlooks on nature and society in China. Hinton also provides helpful explanations of key terms such as "wu-wei" and "hsin" in an included glossary which are essential to develop a more nuanced understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of these poems, yet such a deep understanding is not required to simply enjoy the poems on their own grounds of beauty. Still, the inclusion of this glossary and other additional devices to help explore and understand the poetry is most welcome and certainly needed by students, scholars, and certain other readers. Meo Yao-Ch'en, another poet of roughly the same period as Li Po, explores complex concepts about nature and the role of the poet in society and Hinton does a sterling job of translating what has to have been very difficult concepts into English in a manner which results in Yao-Ch'en's voice sounding both original and easy to approach. When Yao-Ch'en speaks of renting a place not far from a temple, we can imagine his mountain retreat in vivid terms and understand his desire for solace. Despite the centuries between his time and our own and despite the vast differences in language and society, David Hinton has brought the core thoughts and concepts of this talented poet into the current day and done so with grace and depth. For their part, the publishers, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, have presented this volume in a sturdy, attractive, edition that is a pleasure to read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    J

    The only downsides of this book are (1) that it doesn't have enough poems in it - sure, it's got 400 pages or so of poems, but I want more and I want them now - and (2) that Hinton uses the word "isolate" as a noun a dozen or so times. His introductions are helpful - personal, in the sense that his voice and interests as a scholar come through loud and clear, but also very authoritative - and his translations are mighty fine. Mighty mighty fine. (OK, the third thing wrong with this book is that The only downsides of this book are (1) that it doesn't have enough poems in it - sure, it's got 400 pages or so of poems, but I want more and I want them now - and (2) that Hinton uses the word "isolate" as a noun a dozen or so times. His introductions are helpful - personal, in the sense that his voice and interests as a scholar come through loud and clear, but also very authoritative - and his translations are mighty fine. Mighty mighty fine. (OK, the third thing wrong with this book is that the Chinese original texts are not there, too. But I realise that most readers would not gain much from that.) So fine that I read this anthology through cover to cover, rather than dipping in, as one is perhaps supposed to do with an anthology. Basically Hinton seems to have created a whole new literature, and brought something very real across. The cries of the poor, the lovers, the widowed, the lonely, the environmentalists, the prostitutes, the protesters, the advocates, the cranes, geese, pigs, horses, and Uncle Tom Cobbley are all there, along with the mountains, mist and lakes one might have supposed to be the bread and butter of Chinese poetry. It is sheer folly to quote one or two poems as if they were representative or could do justice to this nigh-perfect book, but I will do so anyway... UNTITLED (1st century BC, p.76) Give birth to a boy - don't give him a care. Give birth to a girl - feed her meat dainties. Haven't you seen, beneath the Great Wall, all those bleached bones propped together? INSCRIBED ON MASTER LAKE-SHADOW'S WALL (Wang Anshi, p.358) Thatch-eave paths are always well-swept, pure, free of moss, and with your hands, flowering orchards planted themselves. A creek meanders by, snug curve cradling jade green fields. Two mountains push a door open, sending azure-green inside.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    My Love’s Gone Off to War My love’s gone off to war, who knows how long gone or where O where. Chickens settle into nests, an evening sun sinks away, oxen and sheep wander in— but my love’s gone off to war and nothing can stop these thoughts of him. My love’s gone off to war, not for days or even months, and who survives such things? Chickens settle onto perches, an evening sun sinks away, oxen and sheep wander home— but my love’s gone off to war if hunger and thirst spared him that long. ———————— By Heaven Above My Love’s Gone Off to War My love’s gone off to war, who knows how long gone or where O where. Chickens settle into nests, an evening sun sinks away, oxen and sheep wander in— but my love’s gone off to war and nothing can stop these thoughts of him. My love’s gone off to war, not for days or even months, and who survives such things? Chickens settle onto perches, an evening sun sinks away, oxen and sheep wander home— but my love’s gone off to war if hunger and thirst spared him that long. ———————— By Heaven Above By heaven above I want us together always, heart and mind, my love, want it destiny on and on, without breach or fail. Not till mountains have no peaks and rivers run dry, not till thunder fills winter days and summer rains turn to snow, not till all heaven and earth blur together, my love, will I part from you. ———————— Inscribed on a Wall at Summit-Top Temple Staying the night at Summit-Top Temple, you can reach out and touch the stars. I venture no more than a low whisper, afraid I’ll wake the people of heaven. ———————— In Idleness, Facing Rain All dark mystery, I embrace it replete, alone, night thinning into morning. In this empty library, I face tall trees, sparse rain soaking through rustling leaves. Nesting swallows flutter, wet. Orchid petals blur across stone steps. It’s quiet. Memories come, and grief suddenly caught and buffeted in wind. ————————

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tatyana

    "Sad ones can’t bear the slow years. It’s those with no joy and no sorrow — they trust whatever this life brings." - PO CHÜ-I (772 to 846), from “After Lunch” "And the old have no tears. When they sob, autumn weeps dewdrops." - Meng Chiao (751 to 814), from “Autumn Thoughts” "I gaze out through empty space, tangles of the heart all cold scattered ash." - Wei Ying-wu (c. 737 to 792), from “Autumn Night” "It’s quiet. Memories come, and grief suddenly caught and buffeted in wind" - Wei Ying-wu (c. 737 to 792), "Sad ones can’t bear the slow years. It’s those with no joy and no sorrow — they trust whatever this life brings." - PO CHÜ-I (772 to 846), from “After Lunch” "And the old have no tears. When they sob, autumn weeps dewdrops." - Meng Chiao (751 to 814), from “Autumn Thoughts” "I gaze out through empty space, tangles of the heart all cold scattered ash." - Wei Ying-wu (c. 737 to 792), from “Autumn Night” "It’s quiet. Memories come, and grief suddenly caught and buffeted in wind" - Wei Ying-wu (c. 737 to 792), from “In Idleness, Facing Rain” "Search out through all eight horizons: you find nothing anywhere but isolate emptiness, departure and return one movement, one ageless way of absence." - Tu Fu (712 to 770), from “Thoughts” "… but I’m still alive, still in one piece, though even now, on cold dark nights full of wind and rain, I’m sleepless all night long with pain and still awake at dawn. Sleepless with pain but free of regrets …" - HAN YÜ (768 to 824), from “NEW YÜEH-FU "A wanderer — O all year this wanderer that I am …" - Tu Fu (712 to 770), from “Seven Songs at Gather Valley” "People all hope their kids will grow up to be so clever and wise, but I’ve been consumed by clever-and-wise. It’s ruined my life." - SU TUNG - P (1037 to 1101), from “Bathing my son” "A darkness disease has seized my eyes. On bright clear days, I walk through fog" - YÜ HSÜAN-CHI (c. 840 to 868), from “Eyes Dark” "Never arriving, what can we understand, and always leaving, what’s left to explain ?" - SU TUNG - P (1037 to 1101), from “AFTER T’AO CH’IEN’S “DRINKING WINE”” "I’ll never reach you, even in dreams, my ruins of the heart, thoughts of you unending." - Li Po (701 to 762), from “Thoughts of you unending” "you’re lovely as a blossom born of cloud" - Li Po (701 to 762), from “Thoughts of you unending” "Strength failing all at once, as if cut loose, and ravages everywhere, like weaving unraveled, I touch thread-ends. No new feelings. Memories crowding thickening sorrow, how could I bear southbound sails, how wander rivers and mountains of the past ?" - Meng Chiao (751 to 814), from “Autumn Thoughts” "Dusk light goes dark in the empty room. Not a single word: I sit alone, all stillness, all deep silence." - HAN YÜ (768 to 824), from “Pond In A Bowl” "The night deepens. The moon emerges, then goes on shepherding stars west." - YÜ HSÜAN-CHI (c. 840 to 868), from “Farewell” "My long-ago life rises into lone thoughts and drifts windblown — too much for me." - TU MU (803 to 853), from “Thoughts After Snow In Hsiang-Yang” "Coming is an empty promise, and departure leaves no trace" - LI SHANG-YIN (c. 813 to 858), from “Untitled” "It seems the fiercest love is no love at all, in the end. Sipping wine together, we feel nothing now but absent smiles. Candles, at least, still have hearts. They grieve over goodbye, cry our tears for us until dawn-lit skies." - TU MU (803 to 853), “Goodbye” "Messengers carrying letters in rain, someone heartbroken at the window" - YÜ HSÜAN-CHI (c. 840 to 868), from “Orchid fragrance, sent far away” "I’m sending thoughts of you a thousand miles of moonlight: scraps of light along canyon streams, haze of steady rain." - TU MU (803 to 853), from “Sent Far Away” "O song already sad enough, winds come from the furthest sky grieving my grief." - Tu Fu (712 to 770), from “Seven Songs at Gather Valley”

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Burns

    I enjoyed this for the most part. I tend to go for very direct and simply written poetry that says something straightforward without fucking around with all these silly rhyming and rhythmical patterns. For the most part I find that all pre-20th century poetry is stuck in these formal confines. The minds of poets contorted by artifice. What are they trying to say? Who even knows. The structural language of poetry is so dense that all the meaning is squeezed out like a well-juiced orange. It turns I enjoyed this for the most part. I tend to go for very direct and simply written poetry that says something straightforward without fucking around with all these silly rhyming and rhythmical patterns. For the most part I find that all pre-20th century poetry is stuck in these formal confines. The minds of poets contorted by artifice. What are they trying to say? Who even knows. The structural language of poetry is so dense that all the meaning is squeezed out like a well-juiced orange. It turns out that chinese poets have been writing in the correct way for thousands of years. They may have some peculiar traits, throwing in one random sentence after another. I am old. I am drunk. The river flows eastward forever. The clouds in the hills make no sound. I can't be bothered to write any more poetry today. Maybe my friend will come and see me and we will talk late into the night. But somehow it all still works. The poem is a wisp of smoke or a clear mountain stream that runs through the mind, picking things up and dropping them again as it moves. It comes and goes like a white spirit and once it is gone nothing is remembered. The cloud that moves through the mind and tells you everything of what you are. Yet the information is useless and meaningless. They are strong in the Tao. Sculptures of beautiful minds and loveable nature. Chinese poetry is always beautiful. Often it is vague and aimless and pointless and boring. I have an affinity for these poets, all of them, although I don't really care for any of them, exept perhaps Yu Xuanji. I don't know if I would recommend it. The translations often seemed a bit specific and long-winded. It seems like the translator favoured accuracy of meaning over feel and tone and concision. You get a sense of what they are saying but you don't get the same atmosphere that you get from other translators. Chinese poetry generally seems to be more about the feeling of a moment in time, and less about distinct ideas, so it seems a waste to favour meaning over feeling in your translation. I think I would encourage readers to have a look at chinese poetry. I'm not sure If this particular volume is the best place to look.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    I gave this five stars, mostly because the verse is lovely, steeped in image and harboring shades of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy. Hinton provides historical and biographical context for each of the poets he features as well as explanations for his editorial choices. You might be tempted to skip some of these and get right to the verse. But I'd recommend you don't. The information adds depth and breadth to the verse. That, and you'll likely learn some stuff about Chinese history. At least I I gave this five stars, mostly because the verse is lovely, steeped in image and harboring shades of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy. Hinton provides historical and biographical context for each of the poets he features as well as explanations for his editorial choices. You might be tempted to skip some of these and get right to the verse. But I'd recommend you don't. The information adds depth and breadth to the verse. That, and you'll likely learn some stuff about Chinese history. At least I did. But then, I know absolutely nothing about Chinese history. That said, I have no deep knowledge of Asian or Chinese poetry nor can I comment intelligently on how true or accurate the translations are. So if you have nitpicks about that stuff, take it up with Hinton, not me. Bottom line: Highly recommended, particularly if you want to expand your horizons beyond Western poetry or you like imagists and Modernists like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams.

  8. 4 out of 5

    C Settles

    Wonderful book of classical Daoist and Buddhist poetry spanning the wide history of those movements. Most poems are short. Hinton is a master translator of classical Chinese. In this volume he provides background on the authors and periods in history so that an appropriate understanding of the poety can be attained. His sense of poetry, form and meaning, has produced a truly memorable anthology.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard Marney

    Overwhelming. An absorbing survey of traditional Chinese poetry set well in its historical context. An important introduction to the genre for a wider readership.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The advantages of the broad span and excellent selections of this anthology are only surpassed by the fascinating historical context given for each poet or time period. I have to admit to feeling something of a stereotype for classic Chinese poetry. I expected tranquil poems with natural metaphors and deep, mindful insights. Naturally, a number of the poems and poets collected here do follow that vein, but there are also poems protesting wars, calling for social change, waxing lyrical about wine The advantages of the broad span and excellent selections of this anthology are only surpassed by the fascinating historical context given for each poet or time period. I have to admit to feeling something of a stereotype for classic Chinese poetry. I expected tranquil poems with natural metaphors and deep, mindful insights. Naturally, a number of the poems and poets collected here do follow that vein, but there are also poems protesting wars, calling for social change, waxing lyrical about wine instead of the moon, and some fairly purple stuff about women losing their robes. I found something of a favorite in Meng Chiao (751-814 C.E.) for his unexpectedly passionate--almost violent--work. Young clear-voiced dragons in these gorges howl. Fresh scales born of rock, they spew froth of fetid rain, breath heaving, churning up black sinkholes. Strange new lights glint, and hungry swords await. This venerable old maw still hasn't eaten its fill. Ageless teeth cry a fury of cliffs, cascades gnawing through these three gorges, gorges full of jostling and snarling, snarling. Writing during a century long civil war--a war that lasted longer than his own life--Chiao's poetry is not the intellectual scribblings of a hermit on a mountain or a scholar in a garden. It retains the natural metaphor and measured form of much Chinese poetry, but it is really something quite different. This book is complete enough to give someone like me--not well versed in poetry to say the least--a real appreciation for artists like Chiao and the other men and women whose work has traveled down through thousands of years and multiple languages to find a modern audience. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in history, poetry, Tao, Buddhism, or China.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

    OK, I'm currently more or less reading both this book and the Mountain Poems book also translated by Hinton, and this compendious volume has for me what I would take in a backpack up Mount Kalesh or some mythic mountain in China, were I to do so... in my imagination at least these days. It has incredible introductions and an overall opening intro that truly illuminates how Chinese poetry works in Chinese, and then astoundingly Hinton manages to transfer some of this essence over into English. OK, I'm currently more or less reading both this book and the Mountain Poems book also translated by Hinton, and this compendious volume has for me what I would take in a backpack up Mount Kalesh or some mythic mountain in China, were I to do so... in my imagination at least these days. It has incredible introductions and an overall opening intro that truly illuminates how Chinese poetry works in Chinese, and then astoundingly Hinton manages to transfer some of this essence over into English. The most exciting aspect of this poetry is that due to the somewhat open-ended grammar of the lines, the reader brings into its spatial interstices his or her own experience and interpretive possibilities. Truly exciting for me... Plus the book itself has a great "feel" to it, its weight, its pages, something, dear friends, I ween is still impossible with them Kindles and iPads... but I'm no expert, not having one... yet.

  12. 4 out of 5

    James Violand

    This was a thoroughly entertaining book. I have come to appreciate the Classic Chinese poets to such a degree, that I recommend this book to everyone. The heritage of Tao colored with Buddhism gave the poet a perspective sadly lacking in the Western tradition. For the most part, they focused on nature and concisely evoked a deep reaction in the reader. They could say so much by writing so little and they used the nonexistent real to describe the world. Amazing. This will be a work I will read This was a thoroughly entertaining book. I have come to appreciate the Classic Chinese poets to such a degree, that I recommend this book to everyone. The heritage of Tao colored with Buddhism gave the poet a perspective sadly lacking in the Western tradition. For the most part, they focused on nature and concisely evoked a deep reaction in the reader. They could say so much by writing so little and they used the nonexistent real to describe the world. Amazing. This will be a work I will read again and again.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    this is the type of thing: that needs to be everywhere. this is the type of thing: that feels simultaneously like a foundation and the highest most slender vaulted skies. and if you are a maniac for Tao translations.... and a maniac like Li Po..... than you are.....

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Cullivan

    I know nothing about Chinese poetry, but I found this collection interesting and informative -- and I enjoyed the selection of poems (and the poems themselves).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Spenser

  16. 5 out of 5

    Wang Wei

  17. 4 out of 5

    Clai.lasher

  18. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

  19. 4 out of 5

    Moon

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ford

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rana

  23. 4 out of 5

    Will

  24. 4 out of 5

    Prc Cghln

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kylle Aberin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Donovan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kenny B.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kim Looi

  30. 5 out of 5

    Middlethought

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