|Author||(trad.) Qu Yuan, Song Yu|
|Country||Zhou dynasty (China)|
|Literal meaning||"Words of Chu"|
The Chu Ci, variously translated as Verses of Chu or Songs of Chu, is an anthology of Chinese poetry traditionally attributed mainly to Qu Yuan and Song Yu from the Warring States period (ended 221 BC), though about half of the poems seem to have been composed several centuries later, during the Han dynasty.The traditional version of the Chu Ci contains 17 major sections, anthologized with its current contents by Wang Yi, a 2nd-century AD librarian who served under Emperor Shun of Han. The early (pre-Qin dynasty) Classical Chinese poetry is mainly known through the two anthologies, the Chu Ci and the Shi Jing (Classic of Poetry or Book of Songs).
Chu Ci was named after a form of poetry that originated in the State of Chu, which was located in what is now central China, but was then in the southern fringe of the Chinese cultural area. The territory of Chu was known for its blend of culture from the Central Plains, or "north", with other cultural influences, associated with the "south". Thus, north Chinese sometimes viewed the Chu as part of "the south", which had a reputation for various exotic features. The Chu Ci verses characteristically strongly feature the presence of the exotic. A Chinese form of shamanism was prominent in Chu, and a large number of the Chu Ci verses describe "spirit journeys". However, southern influence was extremely insignificant, only limited to the ideas of shamanism and burial objects which were from the south; other than that literature, poetry, clothing and architecture all remained northern.
Other references to the exotic include encounters with various magical or fragrant plants and interaction with various spirits and deities, and travel to various exotic locations, such as the heavens, the ends of the earth, Bactria, and the Mount Kunlun of mythology.
The collection of poems by Qu Yuan and Song Yu included in Chu Ci, as well as works by other Chu poets (or poets writing in the Chu style), represent a certain development of an older tradition which eventually achieved a period of popularity and imperial favor during the Western Han Dynasty. The Book of Han noted 106 Chu poets with 1,318 compositions. Many established Han poets also wrote in the chu ci style, producing their fair share of notable poems: the term Chu Ci can generically refer to the type of verse in this formal style of this type of verse. Other chu ci style verses were written, including some which survive, but are not generally included in the standard anthology. Wang Yi made an extensive commentary on the Chu Ci, as well as appending his own "Nine Longings", as the seventeenth and final section.
Although Chu Ci is an anthology of poems by many poets, Qu Yuan was its central figure, both as author of the The Lament section and in the persona of protagonist. There are various other authors which are also thought to have written various sections of the Chu Ci, as well as some sections which may derive from some traditional source. Various scholarly sources propose solutions for who wrote what, in the Chu Ci, with more doubt or questions about some sections than others. Besides the actual authorship of the diverse material of the Chu Ci, another scholarly concern is in regard to the history of who and when these pieces were collected and anthologized into one work, and also what other editorial work was done. Besides the authorship of the actual content, much commentary has been written in regard to the Chu Ci, some of which is traditionally incorporated into the printed editions.
The name "Qu Yuan" does not occur in any text prior to the Han dynasty (202 BC –AD 220). According to common tradition, Qu Yuan was an administrative official in the court of King Huai of Chu (r. 328–299 BC) who advocated forming an alliance with the other states against the increasingly dominant power of the Qin kingdom, during the Warring States period; however, his advice was not taken and he was slandered by other officials in court: seeing the corruption of his colleagues and the inability of his king to appreciate his true worth, Qu Yuan went into exile and then finally committed suicide by wading into the Miluo River with a heavy rock, when Qin general Bo Qi sacked the Chu capital, Ying, 278 BC, forcing the royal court to relocate with considerable loss of territory. It is also traditionally said that it is in remembrance of the circumstances of Qu Yuan's death that the annual Dragon boat races are held.
During his days of exile, Qu Yuan is thought to have written The Lament. The authorship, as in many a case of ancient literature, can be neither confirmed nor denied. Written in 373 verses containing 2490 characters, The Lament is a long Chinese poem.
Also, among the other Chu Ci works sometimes attributed to Qu Yuan, the Jiu Ge ("Nine Songs") exemplify shamanic literature in China. (See Arthur Waley, The Nine Songs: A Study of Shamanism in Ancient China.)
The traditional view of the Chu ci, which went largely unchallenged until the 20th century, was that Qu Yuan wrote about half of the pieces in the Chu ci, with the other half being ascribed to other poets associated with him or writing in his style.Modern scholars have devoted long studies to the question of the Chu ci pieces' authorship, but there is no consensus on which may actually be by Qu Yuan himself.
Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian mentions five of Qu Yuan's works: The Lament (or "Encountering Sorrow"), Tian Wen , Zhao Hun ("Summoning of the Soul"), Ai Ying ("Lament for Ying"), Huai Sha.
According to Wang Yi of the Eastern Han dynasty, a total of 25 works can be attributed to Qu Yuan: The Lament , Jiu Ge (consisting of 11 pieces), Heavenly Questions (Tian Wen) , Jiu Zhang (all 9 pieces), Yuan You , Pu Ju , and Yu Fu .
Wang Yi chose to attribute Zhao Hun to another contemporary of Qu Yuan, Song Yu; most modern scholars, however, consider Zhao Hun to be Qu Yuan's original work, whereas Yuan You , Pu Ju , and Yu Fu are believed to have been composed by others. Similarly, Wang's attribution of the Qijian to Dongfang Shuo is suspect.
There are questions or uncertainties as to how the Chu Ci came to be collected into its present form; however, at least some outlines of this historical process have been presented in scholarly literature. Another important aspect of Chu Ci studies is the editorial history. One regard is the order in which the various titles appear. There are also reasons to believe that some of the sections (juan) were subject to editing for various reasons, including to suit the verses to theatrical performance and due to the nature of the textual process of ancient China, involving writing lines of text on individual bamboo strips which were bound together, but when the bindings broke were subject to editorial decisions as to what their original order was.
Wang Yi's selections of certain specific verses to anthologize in the modern Chu Ci has remained standard since its publication, towards the end of the Han Dynasty. During the reign of Emperor Cheng, Liu Xiang apparently arranged and compiled the poems of Qu Yuan and Song Yu (working probably from an earlier compilation by Liu An), as well as those of Han poets including Wang Bao (王褒), Jia Yi (賈誼), Yan Ji (嚴忌) and Liu Xiang himself, into the Chu Ci anthology largely as it is known today.
One of the important aspects of the Chu Ci is the body of commentary in this regard. Much of the initial surviving annotation of the standard editions of the Chuci was provided by Wang Yi, the Han Dynasty royal librarian.
The Chu Ci consists of seventeen main sections, in standard versions, with some accompanying commentary standard. Chu Ci begins with "The Lament", a poem which assumes biographical material about Qu Yuan with his relationship with the person of King Huai, ruler of Chu. Critics historically often interpret The Lament as political allegory, yet religious and mythological aspects arise, which derive from the culture of Chu.Text (in Chinese): 離騷. The second section, in standard modern order, the "Nine Songs" ("Jiu Ge"), despite the "Nine" in the title, actually includes eleven discrete parts or songs. These seem to represent some shamanistic dramatic practices of the Yangzi River valley area involving the invocation of divine beings and seeking their blessings by means of a process of courtship. Text (in Chinese): 九歌. "Heavenly Questions" ("Tian Wen"), also known as Questions to Heaven, addressed to Tian (or "Heaven"), consists of series of questions, 172 in all, in verse format. The series of questions asked involves Chinese mythology and ancient Chinese religious beliefs. In general, the text of the Heavenly Questions asks questions; but, the text does not include answers, except, in some cases, in hints. (Text (in Chinese): 天問).
"Nine Pieces" ("Jiu Zhang") consists of nine pieces of poetry, one of which is the "Lament for Ying" ("Ai Ying"). Ying was the name of one of the traditional capital cities of Qu Yuan's homeland of Chu (eventually, Ying and Chu even became synonymous). However, both the city of Ying and the entire state of Chu itself experienced doom due to the expansion of the state of Qin, which ended up consolidating China at the expense of the other former independent states: including Qu Yuan's home state — hence the "Lament". "Jiu Zhang" includes a total of nine pieces (Text in Chinese: 九章).
Also included are "Far-off Journey" ("Yuan You") (遠遊), "Divination" "Bu Ju" (卜居), "The Fisherman" "Yu Fu" (漁父), "Nine Changes" (九辯), "Summons of the Soul" "(Zhao Hun)" (招魂), "The Great Summons" (大招), "Sorrow for Troth Betrayed" (惜誓), "Summons for a Recluse" (招隱士), "Seven Remonstrances" (七諫), "Alas That My Lot Was Not Cast" (哀時命), "Nine Regrets", consisting of nine sections (九懷), "Nine Laments" (九歎), and "Nine Longings" (九思).
The poems and pieces of the Chu Ci anthology vary, in formal poetic style. Chu Ci includes varying metrics, varying use of exclamatory particles, and the varying presence of the luan (envoi). The styles of the Chu Ci compare and contrast with the poems of the Shi Jing anthology (Book of Songs, or "Song" style), with the typical Han poetry styles, and with Qu Yuan's style in The Lament.
Some Chuci poems use the typical Book of Songs (Shijing) four syllable line, with its four equally stressed syllables:
This is sometimes varied by the use of a pronoun or nonce word in the fourth (or final) place, in alternate lines, thus weakening the stress of the fourth syllable of the even lines:
where "tum" stands for a stressed syllable and "ti" stands for the unstressed nonce syllable of choice.Heavenly Questions (Tian wen), Summons of the Soul (Zhao hun), and The Great Summons (Da Zhao) all have metrical characteristics typical of the Shijing. Generally, the Shijing style (both in Shijing and in Chuci) groups these lines into rhymed quatrains. Thus, the standard building block of the Song style poetry is a quatrain with a heavy, thumping sound quality:
The variant song style verse (one type of "7-plus") used seven stressed (or accented) syllables followed by an unstressed (or weakly accented) final syllable on alternate (even) lines:
"Heavenly Questions" shares the prosodic features typical of Shijing: four character lines, a predominant tendency toward rhyming quatrains, and occasional alternation by using weak (unstressed) line final syllables in alternate lines.
The "Great Summons" and the "Summons for the Soul" poetic form (the other kind of "7-plus") varies from this pattern by uniformly using a standard nonce word refrain throughout a given piece, and that alternating stressed and unstressed syllable finals to the lines has become the standard verse form. The nonce word used as a single-syllable refrain in various ancient Chinese classical poems varies: (according to modern pronunciation), "Summons for the Soul" uses xie and the "Great Summons" uses zhi (and the "Nine Pieces" uses xi). Any one of these unstressed nonce words seem to find a similar role in the prosody. This two line combo:
tends to produce the effect of one, single seven character line with a caesura between the first four syllables and the concluding three stressed syllables, with the addition of a weak nonsense refrain syllable final
Within the individual songs or poems of the "Nine Pieces", lines generally consist of various numbers of syllables, separated by the nonce word. In this case, the nonce word of choice is 兮 (pinyin :xī, Old Chinese: *gˤe). This, as opposed to the four-character verse of the Shi Jing, adds a different rhythmic latitude of expression.
Some verses tend towards the sao style, based on imitation of the "The Lament". The sao style features long line lengths optimized for poetic oral recitation, with a concluding luan (or, envoi).
The scholar and translator David Hawkes divides the verses of what seem to be of the earlier (pre-Han era), into two types, each type being characterized by one of two characteristic metrical forms (with the exception of the mixed poetry and prose narratives of the "Divination" and of "The Fisherman").
Direct influences of the Chu Ci verses can be seen in the saoti (騷體) style of prosody as seen in the "Epilog" of the Cantong qi (the "Luanci", 亂辭), and in anthologies such as the Guwen Guanzhi . Furthermore, the verses of the Chu Ci would have been recited using distinctive linguistic features of the Chu version of Chinese language, together with various rare characters, which together with some of the vocabulary and the characters themselves also vary from the typical northern literature; thus, the poems of the Chu Ci remain as a major factor in the study of Classical Chinese poetry, cultural, and linguistic history, and the various poems or prose-poems influenced subsequent literature, including other poetry of the Han Dynasty, and subsequent Classical Chinese poetry.
Not only have the various poems or prose-poems influenced subsequent literature, but the contents of this material are a major primary source for historical information about the culture and religious beliefs in the territorial area of the former Kingdom of Chu.Some sections of the Chu songs consist of especially dense mythological material, such as the "Heavenly Questions". More general religious or philosophical questions such as regarding the existence of soul or spirit receive some poetic treatment in the Chu Ci.
Information on mythological beings in early Chinese mythology is often based upon references from the Chu Ci as one of a few surviving primary sources from ancient times: among which are references to the ambiguously horned dragon ( qiulong ), crocodilian dragon ( jiaolong ), the immortal xian and zhenren of later Daoist fame, the giant bashe serpent, the hong rainbow dragon, the feilong flying dragon, and the zhulong Torch Dragon. Also, information of the meaning of and in regard to the Chinese characters used for the teng , the shi and chi also has been derived from the Chu Ci as a primary source.
The myths of Nüwa, Tian, the ancient sovereign Shun, and the Great Flood are among those importantly receiving treatment in the Chu Ci material. Among these are materials relating to the Xiang River goddesses and the legendary tale of how spotted bamboo got its spots.
The contents of the Chu Ci material are a major primary source for historical information about the culture and religious beliefs in the territorial area of the former Kingdom of Chu.The beliefs reflected in these poems seem to be related to the beliefs of the preceding Shang and the Zhou dynasties; but, yet to have retained indications of shamanistic practices. Themes of flight or excursion are typical of shamanism and are frequently encountered throughout the Chu ci verses. Both "Encountering Sorrow" and the "Nine Songs" share a floral symbolism together with flights through the air involving intimate meetings with divine beings.
The Chuci material, or at least some of it, has been a major influence on Classical Chinese poetry. It has also been translated into a number of other languages, including English, which has extended its influence even further.
The Chu Ci never became a canonical work, not in the sense as did the Shi Jing. As David Hawkes puts it, "[t]he Chu Ci poems, however popular, belonged to no canon, dealt in matters that were outlandish and unorthodox, and originated outside of the area of sanctified Western Zhou tradition."However, part of the Chu Ci tradition includes a Confucian outlook, glorifying the loyal minister who prefers death over compromising his integrity. Following its Han Dynasty publication, the Chu Ci was subject to various editorial treatment, including various commentaries and editions. The order in which the sections of the Chu Ci are currently generally arranged was established through editorial re-arrangement during or following the tenth or eleventh century. However, this is not true of the The Lament. In the Wang Yi edition, it is titled "Lisaojing". The other works (juan) of the Chu Ci anthology generally fall in the category of zhuan, or exegesis or amplification upon the original "classic" text.
The influence of the Chu Ci projects itself through the works of poets, including Jia Yi, Shen Quanqi, Zhang Yue, Du Fu, Han Yu, Liu Zongyuan, and Su Shi.
In addition to the translations by David Hawkes cited above, translations into English include:
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Chinese poetry is poetry written, spoken, or chanted in the Chinese language. While this last term comprises Classical Chinese, Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Yue Chinese, and other historical and vernacular forms of the language, its poetry generally falls into one of two primary types, Classical Chinese poetry and Modern Chinese poetry.
Qu Yuan was a Chinese poet and politician in the State of Chu during the Warring States period. He is known for his patriotism and contributions to classical poetry and verses, especially through the poems of the Chu Ci anthology : a volume of poems attributed to or considered to be inspired by his verse writing. Together with the Shi Jing, the Chu Ci is one of the two greatest collections of ancient Chinese verse. He is also remembered in connection to the supposed origin of the Dragon Boat Festival.
"The Lament" is a Chinese poem from the anthology Chuci, dating from the Warring States period of ancient China, generally attributed to Qu Yuan.
Jiu Ge, or Nine Songs, is an ancient set of poems. Together, these poems constitute one of the 17 sections of the poetry anthology which was published under the title of the Chuci. Despite the "Nine", in the title, the number of these poetic pieces actually consists of eleven separate songs, or elegies. This set of verses seems to be part of some rituals of the Yangzi River valley area involving the invocation of divine beings and seeking their blessings by means of a process of courtship. Though the poetry consists of lyrics written for a performance, the lack of indications of who is supposed to be singing at any one time or whether some of the lines represent lines for a chorus makes an accurate reconstruction impossible. Nonetheless there are internal textual clues, for example indicating the use of costumes for the performers, and an extensive orchestra.
Jiu Zhang is a collection of poems attributed to Qu Yuan and printed in the Chu Ci.
Song Yu was a Chinese poet from the late Warring States period, and is known as the traditional author of a number of poems in the Verses of Chu . Among the Verses of Chu poems usually attributed to Song Yu are those in the Jiu Bian section. Also credited to Song Yu, somewhat improbably, are several fu collected in the 6th century literary anthology Wen Xuan.
Classical Chinese poetry forms are poetry forms or modes which typify the traditional Chinese poems written in Literary Chinese or Classical Chinese. Classical Chinese poetry has various characteristic forms, some attested to as early as the publication of the Classic of Poetry, dating from a traditionally, and roughly, estimated time of around 10th–7th century BC. The term "forms" refers to various formal and technical aspects applied to poems: this includes such poetic characteristics as meter, rhythm, and other considerations such as vocabulary and style. These forms and modes are generally, but not invariably, independent of the Classical Chinese poetry genres. Many or most of these were developed by the time of the Tang Dynasty, and the use and development of Classical Chinese poetry and genres actively continued up until the May Fourth Movement, and still continues even today in the 21st century.
Han poetry as a style of poetry resulted in significant poems which are still preserved today, and which have their origin associated with the Han dynasty era of China, 206 BC – 220 AD, including the Wang Mang interregnum. The final years at the end of the Han era often receive special handling for purposes of literary analysis because, among other things, the poetry and culture of this period is less than typical of the Han period, and has important characteristics of its own, or it shares literary aspects with the subsequent Three Kingdoms period. This poetry reflects one of the poetry world's more important flowerings, as well as being a special period in Classical Chinese poetry, particularly in regard to the development of the quasipoetic fu; the activities of the Music Bureau in connection with the collection of popular ballads and the resultant development of what would eventually become known as the yuefu, or as the rhapsodic formal style; and, finally, towards the end of the Han Dynasty, the development of a new style of shi poetry, as the later development of the yuehfu into regular, fixed-line length forms makes it difficult to distinguish in form from the shi form of poetic verse, and at what point specific poems are classified as one or the other is somewhat arbitrary. Another important poetic contribution from the Han era is the compilation of the Chuci anthology, which contains some of the oldest and most important poetic verses to be preserved from ancient China, as well as the transmission of the Shijing anthology.
The Heavenly Questions or Questions to Heaven is a piece contained in the Classical Chinese poetry collection of Chu Ci, which is noted both in terms of poetry and as a source for information on the ancient culture of China, especially the area of the ancient state of Chu. Of all the poems attributed to Qu Yuan, "Tianwen" contains more myths than any of the other pieces which may be attributed to him; however, due to the formal structure of "Tianwen" as a series of questions, information regarding the myths alluded to appear more as a series of allusive fragments than as cohesively narrated stories.
King Huai of Chu was from 328 to 299 BC the king of the state of Chu during the Warring States period of ancient China. He was born Xiong Huai and King Huai was his posthumous title.
Wang Yi, courtesy name Shushi, was a Chinese poet during the Eastern Han dynasty who was employed in the Imperial Library by the Later Han emperor Shun Di. Wang Yi is known for his work on the poetry anthology Chu Ci. Although with varying reliability, his commentaries on this work are a main source of information regarding some of its often obscure textual references.
Nine Longings form one of the 17 major sections of the ancient Chinese poetry collection, the Chu ci. The "Nine Longings" consists of ten poems, each individually titled, written according to the style of the earlier pieces in the Chu ci anthology. It is one of the several collections of poems grouped under the title of "Nine" something-or-others, most but not all of which consist of 9 pieces of poetry. One of the older of them, Jiu ge consists of 11 individual pieces: "nine" in antiquity was often used as a synonym for "many", and in the context of the Chu ci generally refers to a musical arrangement with "nine" modal changes. The "Nine Longings" poems were written by the Han Dynasty royal librarian, Wang Yi, who is more famous for his commentary on the Chu ci than he is for these original works which he appended to his published annotated copy.
"Sorrow for Troth Betrayed" is one of the poems anthologized in the ancient Chinese poetry collection, the Chu ci, which together with the Shijing comprise the two major textual sources for Classical Chinese poetry. The "Sorrow for Troth Betrayed" describes a shamanistic or Daoist type of flight over an area including the axis mundi, Bactria, and the Middle Kingdom, during which the wise and virtuous narrator observes the evils rampant in the world with grief, concluding that in such a case that withdrawal from the world is the only valid option. The poem appears to have been preserved in a somewhat fragmentary form, with several lacunae. The authorship of the "Sorrow for Troth Betrayed" poem has been attributed to both Qu Yuan and Jia Yi ; but, based on internal evidence, Sorrow for Troth Betrayed appears to have been written by an anonymous author after the lifetimes of both Qu Yuan and Jia Yi.
"Nine Regrets" is the 11th of the 17 major sections of the ancient Chinese poetry collection Chu ci, also known as The Songs of the South or The Songs of Chu. The "Nine Regrets" consists of nine verses plus an envoi (luan), each individually titled, written according to the Han Dynasty literary revival style based upon the earlier (pre-Han) pieces in the Chu ci anthology. The "Nine Regrets" is one of the several collections of poems grouped under the title of "Nine" something-or-others, which do not necessarily consist of 9 pieces of poetry. Nine Regrets consists of nine main pieces plus a luan, or envoi. The "Nine Regrets" poems are attributed to the Shu poet Wang Bao who flourished during the reign of Emperor Xuan.
"Nine Laments" is one of the 17 major sections of the ancient Chinese poetry collection Chu ci, also known as The Songs of the South or The Songs of Chu. The "Nine Laments" consists of nine verses, each with an individual name, and each with a main part, paired with a concluding "lament". The "Nine Laments" is one of the several collections of poems grouped under the title of "Nine" something-or-others, which do not necessarily consist of 9 pieces of poetry. One of the older of them, Jiu Ge consists of 11 individual pieces: "nine" in antiquity was often used as a synonym for "many", and in the context of the Chu ci generally refers to a musical arrangement with "nine" modal changes. The "Nine Laments" poems are attributed to Liu Xiang.
"Nine Changes" is one of the 17 major sections of the ancient Chinese poetry collection Chu ci, also known as The Songs of the South or The Songs of Chu.
"Summons for a Recluse" is one of the 17 major sections of the ancient Chinese poetry collection Chu ci, also known as The Songs of the South or The Songs of Chu. The "Summons for a Recluse" is a short but influential poem. The actual poet is not known; but, Liu An or an associate are likely as authors.
Wang Bao, courtesy name Ziyuan (子淵), was a Chinese poet during the Western Han Dynasty. He was well versed in the Classical Chinese poetry tradition. He was involved in the Chu Ci poetry revival which took place in the second part of Emperor Xuan's reign, and which led to the creation of poetry that would eventually form part of the early poetry anthology by the same name, compiled by Wang Yi. Chu Ci means "literature of Chu", Chu being the area of a former independent kingdom, located in what was from the viewpoint of the Han Dynasty the south of China. Wang Bao is particularly known today as the author of the Chu Ci section "Nine Regrets". His poetry was not as famous as "Li Sao" or "Heavenly Questions". Indeed sometimes Qu Yuan has been credited as the author of his poetry. Wang Bao's works were included in one of the two major early anthologies of Chinese poetry which has helped to secure Wang Bao's legacy as a poet and author. Wang Bao became famous during the reign of Han Dynasty emperor Emperor Xuan, and he attended the courts of the emperor and the prince, his presumptive heir.
Ju Song is a Classical Chinese poem which has been preserved in the Nine Pieces section of the ancient Chinese poetry anthology, the Chu ci, or The Songs of Chu. The poem has been translated into English by David Hawkes as "In Praise of the Orange-Tree". In the poem, the orange-tree is used as a metaphor for certain human qualities, such as "steadfastness". Hawkes explains this by the tradition that this type of orange tree is supposed to grow naturally only in the part of China of which the ancient land of Chu was included in. The particular orange-tree (ju) mentioned is what David Hawkes calls "citrus nobilis"; but, this type of orange is now usually botanically referred to as Citrus reticulata, or else by the common name of "mandarin orange".
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