The various rhapsodies or poetic expositions of the Han dynasty known as Han fu are replete with passages from the classic Chinese poetry collection the Shijing, or Book of Poetry. The reverse is also true: Shijing scholarship has likewise cited Han fu in many of its exegetical works. As a result, the various editions of the Han fu are important sources in the study of the Confucian classics, a discipline commonly known in Chinese as jingxue. The classical citations of the Shijing throughout the Han fu can be placed into one of two categories: “language citation” and “meaning citation”, while the “ironic citation” of Han fu in exegeses of the Shijing that is prevalent in the interpretative system of the Confucian classics can be further broken down into three types: “meaning and principle”, “verification and justification” and “language and exposition”. In the meaning-based citations of the Shijing by the Han fu – especially those of “persuasive remonstrance” and “hymns and eulogies” – the conveyed messages were ironically cited by later generations of interpreters of Confucian classics, which helped form new meanings and principles. The main themes, subject matter, emotional expression and language style of Han fu are lifted heavily from the Shijing. Later generations of Confucian scholars then cited text from the Han fu, thereby constructing new forms of language and exposition. The unique characteristics of fu to “describe things and express themselves clearly” and reference a wide range of “names and things” were used by later Confucian scholars who sought to better understand a whole host of signifiers referred to in the classic texts, from herbs, trees and birds, to beasts, insects and fish. Meanwhile, the perception of fu as knowledge-laden texts inspired Confucian scholars to carry out textual research on them. Scholarly comparisons in premodern China between the Shijing as a Confucian classic, the Shijing as a literary corpus, and Han fu developed during a process of ordinary citation and ironic citation. This resulted in the practice of “complementary citations” of meaning and principle, verification and justification, and language and exposition. A scholarship cycle was thus formed in which the classics were used to revere the fu, then the classics were used to enrich the fu, and interpretations of the fu started to be used to transmit canonical messages. It was a cycle that was imbued with a cross-permeation of neo-Confucian, historical and literary dimensions, eventually resulting in the construction of a new interpretative system for premodern Chinese scholarship of classic texts.
Yang Xiong lived through the collapse of the Former Han and emergence of the Later Han dynasty. His fu poetry creations and their critiques reflect significant shifts in thinking and new ideas, a very prominent one of which is the establishment of a particular ethical perspective. Yang Xiong’s callbacks to the virtues of the Zhou dynasty exhibited in his fu poetry were used to establish his concept of “virtues of the Han”. This is reflected most conspicuously in his “Sweet Springs Palace” and his “Tall Poplars Lodge”. These demonstrate the formation of his standard for literary criticism called lize麗則 – poetry consistent with Confucian morals – which highlights and elevates fu poetry by true fu poets rather than rhetoricians. The system of ethical thought established by Yang Xiong appears to have been based on his ideas on the Confucian Classics and discussions of fu poetry. This system became a source of imitation and guidance amongst the other great “fu masters” such as Ban Gu and Zhang Heng of the Eastern Han. Yang Xiong’s views went on to become a major focus of fu poetry studies and the fu style as a post-Wei and Jin legacy. Yang Xiong’s original work in establishing his fu poetry’s ethical system still has insights to yield to us.
Apocryphal chenwei ideas and beliefs rose to prominence in the Han dynasty as a political and cultural movement that became closely intertwined with orthodox classical scholarship. These ideas and beliefs profoundly influenced the literature and literary theory of this period, and their influence must be taken into consideration – alongside that of classical scholarship – when undertaking Han dynasty literary and cultural research. A comprehensive understanding of Han dynasty literature and literary thought can only be obtained when connections to both chenwei themes and classical scholarship have been recognized. Accordingly, this article seeks to shed light on the strong links between chenwei concepts and Han dynasty literary thought through an examination of chenwei influence on Han dynasty poetry and literary theories.
Prefaces to fu compositions originated and developed during the Han Dynasty. Their beginnings can be traced to the Western Han when Sima Qian added brief introductions to Jia Yi’s fu in the Shiji. This marked the creation of the commentator’s preface. During the late Western and early Eastern Han, a transitional form of preface – in-between a commentator’s and an author’s preface – began to appear. Important examples can be found in Yang Xiong’s “Autobiography” and Huan Tan’s New Treatise where the authors commented on fu pieces they themselves had composed earlier in life. The use of author’s prefaces eventually became popular during the Eastern Han. In addition to instructing the reader on the background of a composition, Han fu prefaces possessed a variety of additional functions. They served to clarify the central themes and outline the main contents of a fu, display the author’s personal viewpoints, emotions, and literary talent and help attract potential readers. This shows an awareness of the reading experience of the recipients on the part of the authors. The basic characteristics of fu prefaces as a literary form can be described as richness of content, the use of diverse writing techniques as well as a versatility in literary style. Han fu prefaces additionally played a distinct role in the development of the literary genre of xiaopin wen.
When it comes to the favorite food of the outlaws of Mount Liang, beef is the undisputed champion. The 120-chapter edition of Water Margin has nearly 50 scenes that depict the heroes feasting heartily on beef. The next most frequently evoked type of meat is mutton, but the number of times it is mentioned is only half that of beef and the relevant scenes are depicted with far less detail. Because cattle slaughter and the sale of beef were strictly forbidden during the Song dynasty, an expanding community of researchers considers this choice of food as a subtle reflection of the bandits’ defiance of law and order. However, this school of thought has yet to sufficiently take into account several elements, including the extent to which this law was enforced during the Song dynasty, when the adventures of Song Jiang and his sworn brothers took place; society’s attitude toward beef consumption during this same period; the compilation of the novel in the Ming dynasty and the author’s awareness of historical facts; and the limited presence of beef in the Song-Yuan antecedents of the novel.
Taking these points into consideration, this article reexamines the motif of beef consumption in Water Margin and the development of this theme through a historical lens. To do so, it first focuses on the legal issues pertaining to cattle slaughter and the sale of beef during the Song dynasty. Particular attention is paid to the enforcement of relevant laws and the circulation and popularity of black-market beef during this period. Then, it highlights the discrepancies between the way in which beef consumption is presented in the Ming novel and historical facts, followed by a discussion of the portrayal of meat consumption in Yuan dramas featuring Song Jiang and his gang of outlaws. In the end, by thoroughly considering the presentation of food in the developmental history of Water Margin, from Yuan dramas to the Ming novel, this article sheds light on the importance of this subject as a literary motif in medieval Chinese literature.
Xie Lingyun was the first of China’s great nature poets. As the most celebrated poet in fifth-century China and a histrionic scion of the illustrious Xie clan of the Eastern Jin, he had cultural influence that extended beyond the literary into religion and philosophy. This article examines Xie’s poetic exploration of the concept of “return” – an important rhetorical trope throughout the history of Chinese literature. By close reading, annotating, and analyzing a selection of Xie’s poems, the article sheds light on the poet’s obsession with instability in the meaning of “return” and argues that beneath the compliant poetic surface lies a saliently dissenting voice. Xie’s distinctive imagery and ideation emerge from an intricate deployment of earlier texts, among which the Classic of Changes is of paramount importance.
The present study traces the changing meanings of Su Shi’s Qiuchi rock in Song poetry. As an aesthetic artifact, the rock may be gifted and exchanged through literati social interactions. At a more personal level, the rock reminds Su of a mysterious dream and symbolizes a place of retreat, described as his homeland in Shu, a Daoist grotto heaven, and a utopia that is superior to Peach Blossom Spring. The rock also serves as Su’s most faithful companion in the dark days of his exile to the far south. In the poems of Southern Song poets, who experienced the trauma of the fall of northern China to the Jurchens, the rock turns into a nostalgic object but also prompts acute reflections on petrophilia as a morally and philosophically problematic passion.