Han poetry

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CMOC Treasures of Ancient China exhibit - a rare surviving fragment of the Xiping Stone Classics, a series which included the Shijing poetry anthology, which was part of the legacy of poetry contributing to the Han dynastic era. CMOC Treasures of Ancient China exhibit - fragment of Xiping stone classics.jpg
CMOC Treasures of Ancient China exhibit – a rare surviving fragment of the Xiping Stone Classics, a series which included the Shijing poetry anthology, which was part of the legacy of poetry contributing to the Han dynastic era.

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 (9–23 AD). The final years at the end of the Han era (known by the name Jian'an, 196–220) 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 ; [1] 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; [2] and, finally, towards the end of the Han Dynasty, the development of a new style of shi poetry, [3] 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.

Han dynasty 3rd-century BC to 3rd-century AD Chinese dynasty

The Han dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms period. Spanning over four centuries, the Han period is considered a golden age in Chinese history. To this day, China's majority ethnic group refers to themselves as the "Han Chinese" and the Chinese script is referred to as "Han characters". It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han, and briefly interrupted by the Xin dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang. This interregnum separates the Han dynasty into two periods: the Western Han or Former Han and the Eastern Han or Later Han (25–220 AD).

Wang Mang, courtesy name Jujun, was a Han Dynasty official and consort kin who seized the throne from the Liu family and founded the Xin Dynasty (新朝), ruling 9–23 AD. The Han dynasty was restored after his overthrow, and his rule marks the separation between the Western Han Dynasty and Eastern Han Dynasty. Some historians have traditionally viewed Wang as a usurper, while others have portrayed him as a visionary and selfless social reformer. Though a learned Confucian scholar who sought to implement the harmonious society he saw in the classics, his efforts ended in chaos.

End of the Han dynasty Historical era of China

The end of the Han dynasty refers to the period of Chinese history from 189 to 220 AD, which roughly coincides with the tumultuous reign of the Han dynasty's last ruler, Emperor Xian. During this period, the country was thrown into turmoil by the Yellow Turban Rebellion (184–205). Meanwhile, the Han Empire's institutions were destroyed by the warlord Dong Zhuo, and fractured into regional regimes ruled by various warlords, some of whom were nobles and officials of the Han imperial court. Eventually, one of those warlords, Cao Cao, was able to gradually reunify the empire, ostensibly under Emperor Xian's rule, but the empire was actually controlled by Cao Cao himself. Cao Cao's efforts to completely reunite the Han empire were rebuffed at the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208 / 209, when his armies were defeated by the allied forces of Sun Quan and Liu Bei. The Han dynasty formally ended in 220 when Cao Cao's son and heir, Cao Pi, pressured Emperor Xian into abdicating in his favour. Cao Pi became the emperor of a new state, Cao Wei. A year later, in response to Cao Pi's usurpation of the Han throne, Liu Bei declared himself emperor of Shu Han; and in 229, Sun Quan followed suit, declaring himself emperor of Eastern Wu. The period from Emperor Xian's abdication in 220 to the partial reunification of China under the Jin dynasty in 265 was known as the Three Kingdoms era in Chinese history.


General background

A Han Dynasty terracotta horse head (1st-2nd century AD). HanHorse.jpg
A Han Dynasty terracotta horse head (1st–2nd century AD).
Map of the Western Han Dynasty in 2 AD. 1. Darkest blue are the principalities and commandaries of the Han Empire. 2. Light blue is the Tarim Basin protectorate. 3. Sky blue areas are under fluctuating control. 4. Crenelations are the Great Wall of China during the Han Dynasty. Han Dynasty Map with greatwall protectorates and other areas.PNG
Map of the Western Han Dynasty in 2 AD. 1. Darkest blue are the principalities and commandaries of the Han Empire. 2. Light blue is the Tarim Basin protectorate. 3. Sky blue areas are under fluctuating control. 4. Crenelations are the Great Wall of China during the Han Dynasty.

The ruling dynastic family of the Han dynasty was the Liu family, founded by Liu Bang, whose career ranged from being a minor official (sort of like a local sheriff during the rapid disintegration and chaos of the final years of the Qin dynasty) to being an outlaw and a rebel hiding out in the hills, to being the King of Chu during the Division of Qin into 18 states, or kingdoms. He was posthumously honored as Han High Founder or Han Great Ancestor (Gaozu) Emperor. Despite his folksy background, general lack of literacy, and what were considered generally vulgar ways, Liu Bang had a great regard for literature and learning. His patronage of literature and the arts, as well as his connections with the unique culture of Chu would set a precedent for the rest of the dynasty which he founded, and which managed to keep much of the political power in the hands of the Liu family: often this was implemented by allowing Liu family princes a great deal of autonomy in their local areas, thus encouraging the development of subsidiary royal courts, besides the main imperial court; and, in some cases, this encouraged princely patronage of literature and the arts, with some greater diversity and cross-fertilization of artistic genres and styles. Other important features of the Han era include the location of the capital in Chang'an during Western Han, and its move to Luoyang in Eastern Han, the extension of the Han empire into new regions, and contact with new peoples and cultures, a development which was extended by the further explorations by people such as Zhang Qian of the Silk Roads fame who in the 2nd century BC got as far as Bactria and Dayuan (Ferghana, in modern eastern Uzbekistan), and among other things brought back alfalfa and grapes to China. Also important in the history of the Han dynasty is the method of recording words, such as poems. Brushing characters with ink is archeologically attested to during the Han period, including on silk, hemp paper, and bamboo slips. The bamboo (or wood) slips were tied together carefully with delicate string cords. When these rotted and broke, the individual slips would become mixed up, and the text which was written upon them thus have often become scrambled. Methods such as stamping or marking on clay or engraving on stone were also used; and, though relatively durable required fairly elaborate craftsmanship to produce. Little poetry from the Han dynasty survives as originally recorded or published, instead most of the preserved poems exist as passed on to the future by the Six Dynasties poetry era anthologies.

Liu Surname list

/ is a Chinese surname. The Liu as transcribed in English can represent several different surnames written in different Chinese characters:

Emperor Gaozu of Han Founding emperor of the Han Dynasty (256 BC – 195 BC)

Emperor Gaozu of Han, born Liu Bang (劉邦), was the founder and first emperor of the Han dynasty, reigning from 202 – 195 BCE. "Gaozu of Han" is his temple name, meaning "The High Ancestor of Han". Liu Bang was one of the few dynasty founders in Chinese history who was born in a peasant family.

Qin dynasty Dynasty that ruled in China from 221 to 206 BC

The Qin dynasty was the first dynasty of Imperial China, lasting from 221 to 206 BC. Named for its heartland in Qin state, the dynasty was founded by Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of Qin. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the Legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the fourth century BC, during the Warring States period. In the mid and late third century BC, the Qin state carried out a series of swift conquests, first ending the powerless Zhou dynasty, and eventually conquering the other six of the Seven Warring States. Its 15 years was the shortest major dynasty in Chinese history, consisting of only two emperors, but inaugurated an imperial system that lasted from 221 BC, with interruption and adaptation, until 1912 CE.

Poetic background

An important part of the poetic legacy received by Han dynasty poets was the Shijing verse style, typified by its "classic" four-character line verse. The influences of the Shijing verses during the Han era were directed towards important aspects of Classical Chinese poetry, such as use of the direct voice of immediate experience which was intended to provide a window into expressing a person's soul. [4] Another important legacy received by the Han poets was that of the Chu Ci genre of poetry with innovations in some of its verse forms, such as varied line lengths, a body of material which was expanded by further additions by Han poets, and then published in an edited anthology. Furthermore, there was a received tradition of orally transmitted folk songs and folk ballads. The imperial court of the preceding primitive Qin dynasty was not known for its poetry: the primitive Qin, instead, preferred the primitive activity known as the burning of books and burying of scholars (Chinese: 焚書坑儒; pinyin: fénshū kēngrú) and, in the end, the "fires of Qin" extended to the destruction of its imperial library. There was little or no direct poetic influence from that source. The extension of the Han empire into new areas introduced new and exotic concepts and material objects, which sometimes became the topics of works in the fu prose-poetry literary form. Also, during the Han dynasty, state policies in regard to the philosophical dialog associated with Confucius focused a certain amount of public attention and public funding supporting the Shijing (Classic of Poetry) , which from then on was regarded as one of the few members of the select list of canonical classic works.

<i>Chu Ci</i> literary work

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, 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 Classical Chinese poetry is mainly known through the two anthologies, the Chu Ci and the Shi Jing.

Burning of books and burying of scholars event that occurred in ancient China

The burning of books and burying of scholars refers to the supposed burning of texts in 213 BCE and live burial of 460 Confucian scholars in 212 BCE by the Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty of Imperial China. The event caused the loss of many philosophical treatises of the Hundred Schools of Thought. The official philosophy of government ("legalism") survived.

<i>Fu</i> (poetry) literary genre

Fu, often translated as "rhapsody" or "poetic exposition", is a form of Chinese rhymed prose that was the dominant literary form during the Han dynasty. Fu are intermediary pieces between poetry and prose in which a place, object, feeling, or other subject is described and rhapsodized in exhaustive detail and from as many angles as possible. Classical fu composers attempted to use as wide a vocabulary as they could, and often included great numbers of rare and archaic words in their compositions. Fu poems employ alternating rhyme and prose, varying line length, close alliteration, onomatopoeia, loose parallelism, and extensive cataloging of their topics.

Han dynasty poets

Some well-known poets from Han times are known; however, many of the poets are anonymous, including the poets behind the Music Bureau collections including the Nineteen Old Songs, as is typical of verses from the folk ballad tradition. Important individual Han era authors of poetry include Zhang Heng and Liu Xiang. Many of the Han poets who wrote in their own personal voice under their own name or pen-name wrote in the fu style, in the sao (Chuci) style, or both. In other cases, poems have been attributed to specific Han dynasty persons, or written in perspective of their persona, but the real author remains unknown. For example, the cases of the poems attributed to Su Wu and Consort Ban are not determined. Other Han poets include Sima Xiangru, Ban Gu, and Mi Heng.

Zhang Heng famous astronomer of ancient China

Zhang Heng, formerly romanized as Chang Heng, was a Han Chinese polymath from Nanyang who lived during the Han dynasty. Educated in the capital cities of Luoyang and Chang'an, he achieved success as an astronomer, mathematician, scientist, engineer, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar.

Liu Xiang (scholar) Chinese government official, scholar and writer

Liu Xiang, born Liu Gengsheng and bearing the courtesy name Zizheng, was a Chinese politician, historian, and writer of the Western Han Dynasty. Among his polymathic scholarly specialties were history, literary bibliography, and astronomy. He is particularly well known for his bibliographic work in cataloging and editing the extensive imperial library.

A persona, in the word's everyday usage, is a social role or a character played by an actor. The word is derived from Latin, where it originally referred to a theatrical mask. The Latin word probably derived from the Etruscan word "phersu", with the same meaning, and that from the Greek πρόσωπον (prosōpon). Its meaning in the latter Roman period changed to indicate a "character" of a theatrical performance or court of law, when it became apparent that different individuals could assume the same role, and legal attributes such as rights, powers, and duties followed the role. The same individuals as actors could play different roles, each with its own legal attributes, sometimes even in the same court appearance. According to other sources, which also admit that the origin of the term is not completely clear, persona could possibly be related to the Latin verb per-sonare, literally: sounding through, with an obvious link to the above-mentioned theatrical mask, which often incorporated a small megaphone.

Sima Xiangru

Sima Xiangru (179–127 BC, also known as Szu-ma Hsiang-ju) was one of the most important poets of the Han dynastic era, writing in both the Chuci and the fu styles.

Sima Xiangru was a Chinese poet, writer, musician, and politician who lived during the Western Han Dynasty. Sima is a significant figure in the history of Classical Chinese poetry, and is generally regarded as the greatest of all composers of Chinese fu rhapsodies. His poetry includes his invention or at least development of the fu form, applying new metrical rhythms to the lines of poetry, which he mixed with lines of prose, and provided with several of what would in ensuing centuries become among a group of common set topics for this genre. Sima Xiangru was also versatile enough to write in the Chu ci style, while it was enjoying a renaissance, and he also wrote lyrics in what would become known as the yuefu formal style.

Su Wu

Su Wu in foreign captivity, where he was forced to herd sheep or goats. From the Long Corridor. Long Corridor-Su Wu.jpg
Su Wu in foreign captivity, where he was forced to herd sheep or goats. From the Long Corridor.

Su Wu (140 – 60 BC) was held captive for 19 years, returning to China in 81 BC: 4 poems collected in the Wen Xuan are only questionably attributed to him. [5] However, at the time, it was not uncustomary to confuse the persona of a poem with the person of the author. There is a story about Su Wu which became a common allusion in Chinese poetry. According to this story, during the beginning of his captivity in the Xiongnu empire Su Wu was treated harshly, to the point it is said of having to eat the lining of his coat for food and to drink snow which he melted for water. Later Su was elevated in status, even it is said given a wife who bore him children. Upon the Han emperor sending an ambassadorial mission toward the territory in which he was being held, the Xiongnu ruler (the chanyu) wished to conceal the presence of Su Wu, presumably in order avoid diplomatic complications; but, Su Wu hearing of this tricked the chanyu by claiming that he had sent a message to the emperor by tying it to the leg of a goose, and accordingly, that since his presence was already known to the Chinese delegation that any attempts at concealing his presence would be viewed as unseemly. This is at least part of the origin of the use of the image of a flying goose as a messenger, carrying tied to its foot (perhaps symbolically) a letter between two people separated so far seasonally north and south that a migrating goose could be conceived as a possible mode of communication.

Su Wu Han Dynasty politician

Su Wu was a Chinese diplomat and statesman of the Han Dynasty. He is known in Chinese history for making the best of his mission into foreign territory. During his mission he was captured and then detained for nineteen years, enduring major hardship at least in the early years of his captivity. Nevertheless, he endured this treatment while remaining faithful to his mission and his homeland.

<i>Wen Xuan</i> literary work

The Wen Xuan, or Selections of Refined Literature, is one of the earliest and most important anthologies of Chinese poetry and literature, and is one of the world's oldest literary anthologies to be arranged by topic. It is a selection of what were judged to be the best poetic and prose pieces from the late Warring States period to the early Liang dynasty, excluding the Chinese Classics and philosophical texts. The Wen Xuan preserves most of the greatest fu rhapsody and shi poetry pieces from the Qin and Han dynasties, and for much of pre-modern history was one of the primary sources of literary knowledge for educated Chinese.

Xiongnu an ancient confederation of nomadic Steppe peoples

The Xiongnu were a tribal confederation of nomadic peoples who, according to ancient Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern Eurasian Steppe from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD. Chinese sources report that Modu Chanyu, the supreme leader after 209 BC, founded the Xiongnu Empire.

Ban Jieyu (Lady Pan)

Ban Jieyu also known as Lady Pan (Pan Chieh-Yü) was a concubine to Emperor Cheng of Han (reigned 33–7 BC) and the great-aunt of the poet, historian, and author Ban Gu. A well-known poem in the Wen Xuan is attributed to her. Although most unlikely to actually be by her (especially since it is not in her grand-nephew Ban's biography of her), [6] it is certainly written as if it could have been written by her or someone in her position. It is an important early example of the secluded palace lady genre of poetry.

Ban Gu

Ban Gu was a 1st-century Chinese historian and poet best known for his part in compiling the historical compendium the Book of Han . Ban Gu also wrote a number of fu , which are anthologized in the Wen Xuan .


One of the most important Han era contributions to poetry is the compilation of the Chuci anthology of poetry, which preserves many poems attributed to Qu Yuan and Song Yu from the Warring States period (ended 221 BC), though about half of the poems seem to have been in fact composed during the Han Dynasty. [7] The meaning of Chuci is something like "The Material of Chu", referring to the ancient Land of Chu. 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, who appended his own verses derivative of the Chuci or "sao" style at the end of the collection, under the title of Nine Longings . The poems and pieces of the Chu Ci anthology vary in their formal poetic styles, including varying line metrics, varying use of exclamatory particles, the use or not of titles for individual pieces within a section, and the varying presence of the luan (or, envoi). Other Han period poets besides Wang Yi the librarian who are known or thought to be contributors of poems collected in the Chuci include the poet Wang Bao and the scholar Liu Xiang. Liu An, the Prince of Huainan, and his literary circle were involved with the Chuci material, but the attribution of authorship of any particular poems is uncertain.


Liangyuan Gathering: Song dynasty painting of a Han dynasty literary gathering in the Liang Garden of Liu Wu, Prince of Liang. Liang was one of the principalities of the Han empire, and an area (like its Prince Liu Wu) associated with great literary attainment. Liangyuan Gathering.jpg
Liangyuan Gathering: Song dynasty painting of a Han dynasty literary gathering in the Liang Garden of Liu Wu, Prince of Liang. Liang was one of the principalities of the Han empire, and an area (like its Prince Liu Wu) associated with great literary attainment.

One of the major forms of literature during the Han dynasty was the fu (sometimes translated as "rhapsody"), a kind of eclectic grab bag of prose and verse, not easy to classify in English as being either poetry or prose. In Chinese, the fu is classified as wen rather than shi, however these terms do not correspond to English categories of prose and verse (one of the differences in the traditional Chinese categorization being that shi was sung or chanted, whereas the fu was not, at least according to the Hanshu ), the credibility of this being enhanced by the fact that one of the compilers of the Hanshu (also known as Book of Han or History of the Former Han Dynasty) was Ban Gu, who was himself a practitioner of the fu style. [8] The Han fu derived from the Chuci , [9] which was traditionally considered to be the work of Qu Yuan, who was a wanderer through the countryside and villages of the Kingdom of Chu, after his exile from court. In this context the " Li Sao " is particularly relevant. The Han fu of the second and first centuries BCE were intimately associated with the courts of the emperor and his princes. [10] In other words, they were refined literary products, ornate, polished, and with an elite vocabulary; and, often the subject matter includes topics such as life in the palaces of the Han capital cities. The development of the fu form of literature during the Han dynasty shows a movement toward later more personal poetry and the poems of reclusion, typical for example, of Tao Yuanming, the Six Dynasties poet. [11] The famous Han dynasty astronomer, mathematician, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar Zhang Heng (78–139 CE) wrote a fu about his own, personal experience (real or imagined) of getting out of the city and its politics and getting back to the country and nature. [12] The fu form continued to be popular in the centuries following the demise of the Han imperial power.

Oral tradition folk ballads

An important aspect of Han poetry involves the influence of the folk ballad tradition, which can be seen in the poetry collections Nineteen Old Poems and the yuefu of the Music Bureau.

Nineteen Old Poems of Han

One of the stylistically most important developments of Han poetry can be found in the Nineteen Old Poems collection. Although extant versions exist only in later collections, particularly the Wen Xuan literary compendium, the 19 poems themselves appear to be from the Han period. They are influential both toward the gushi ("old style") poetic form, but also for their "tone of brooding melancholy....Anonymous voices speaking to us from a shadowy past, they sound a note of sadness that is to dominate the poetry of the centuries that follow." [13] Many versions of these 19 poems thus continued to be reinvented in post-Han times, including a major revival in Tang poetry times. As Nineteen Old Poems literally means "19 gushi, poetry written in inspiration by this style were referred to as being in the gushi style, or simply labeled gushi (also transcribed as ku-shi, in English).

Music Bureau (Yuefu)

Another important aspect of Han poetry involved the institution known as the Music Bureau, or, in Chinese, Yuefu (or, Yüeh-fu). This is contrast with the "literary yuefu", which are written in the general style of Music Bureau's collection of yuefu, or derived from particular pieces thereof. The Music Bureau was a Chinese governmental institution existing to historical and archeological evidence at various times during the history of China, including an incarnation during the Qin dynasty. The Han dynasty largely adopted the Qin institutions for their own organizational model, and in particular Han Wudi is associated with a revival or an elevation in the status of the Music Bureau, which he relied upon for the elaborately spectacular ceremonial performances conducted under his regime. The traditional functions of the Music Bureau included collecting music and poetry lyrics from around the empire, and conducting and choreographing their performance for the emperor and his court. Poetry verses published by the Music Bureau are known as "Music Bureau" pieces, later works modeled on the style of the Music Bureau pieces are known as "Music Bureau style" pieces (yuefu); and, some of these "literary yuefu" and "new yuefu" poems were written by some of the best of the subsequent poets. The Han era Music Bureau (yuefu) pieces were collected and transmitted to future times in such (mostly Six Dynasties era) anthologies as the Wen Xuan and the New Songs from the Jade Terrace .

Jian'an poetry and the future of Yuefu

Picture of later calligraphy of a poem attributed to Cao Bin, younger brother of Cao Zhen. CaoBinpoetry.jpg
Picture of later calligraphy of a poem attributed to Cao Bin, younger brother of Cao Zhen.

The final regnal era of Han was called Jian'an. At this period the political structure of Han was breaking down, while new developments in poetry were arising. This Jian'anyuefu poetry style continued on into the Three Kingdoms and Six Dynasties era, as did the lives of some of the authors of poetry such as Cao Cao, who was born during the Han dynasty but survived it. The Han Music Bureau style which developed out of the models of the Music Bureau poetry was a particularly important feature of Jian'an poetry and the subsequent Six Dynasties poetry: the evolutionary trajectory of this poetry was towards the regular, fixed-length line verse which reached such acclaim in its Tang realization. Poetry preserved from the Han dynastic era not only exists as a monument to the achievement and skill of the poets of that time, but also serves as a link in a poetic legacy that was explicitly valued during the Tang dynastic era (during which the poems developed in the tradition of this style were known to critics as ("new yuefu"), and continued to be valued in subsequent Classical Chinese poetry, and on to the poetry of today; which is in turn, another link in a long chain of development in the field of poetry, to which the poets known and anonymous made their unique contributions.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Davis, xlvi
  2. Birrell, 5–13
  3. Watson, 7
  4. Hinton, 8
  5. Davis, vi
  6. Davis, vi
  7. Hawkes, 28.
  8. Davis, xlvi
  9. Davis, xlviii
  10. Davis, xlviii
  11. Davis, xlix
  12. Davis, xlix–xl
  13. Watson, 30–32

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<i>Li Sao</i>

"Li Sao" is a Chinese poem dating from the Warring States period of ancient China. The early poetic tradition of China survives mainly through two anthologies, one being the Chuci, the other being the formally distinct Classic of Poetry. The poem "Li Sao" is the lead poem and the main inspiration for the Chuci collection. This famous piece was written by the person generally known as Qu Yuan, an aristocrat of the Kingdom of Chu, who died about 278 BCE. In his signature poem "Li Sao", Qu Yuan manifests himself in a poetic character, which is a major landmark in the tradition of Classical Chinese poetry, contrasting with the anonymous poetic voices encountered in the Shijing and the other early poems which exist as preserved in the form of incidental incorporations into various documents of ancient miscellany. The rest of the Chuci anthology is centered on the "Li Sao", the purported biography of its author Qu Yuan, and often its innovative epic poetic lines. In the "Li Sao", the poet despairs that he has been plotted against by evil factions at court with his resulting rejection by his lord and then recounts a series of shamanistic spirit journeys to various mythological realms, engaging or attempting to engage with a variety of divine or spiritual beings, with the theme of the righteous minister unfairly rejected sometimes becoming exaggerated in the long history of later literary criticism and allegorical interpretation. Dating from the time of King Huai of Chu, in the late third century BCE, the poem "Li Sao" is a remarkable example of Chinese poetry.

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Nineteen Old Poems, also known as Ku-shih shih-chiu shou is an anthology of Chinese poems, consisting of nineteen poems which were probably originally collected during the Han Dynasty. These nineteen poems were very influential on later poetry, in part because of their use of the five-character line. The dating of the original poems is uncertain, though in their present form they can be traced back to about 520 CE, when these poems were included in the famous literary analogy Wen Xuan, a compilation of literature attributed to the Liang Crown Prince Xiao Tong. The Nineteen Old Poems have been supposed to date mainly from the second century CE. The gushi, or old style, poetry developed as an important poetic form of Classical Chinese poetry, in subsequent eras. The authorship of the "Nineteen Old Poems" is anonymous, however there are indications as to the authorship in terms of class and educational status, such as the focus on "the carriages and fine clothing, the mansions and entertainments of the upper classes", together with the literary references to the Shijing. One of the tendencies of these poems is towards a "tone of brooding melancholy."

The Music Bureau served in the capacity of an organ of various imperial government bureaucracies of China: discontinuously and in various incarnations, the Music Bureau was charged directly, by the emperor, or indirectly, through the royal government to perform various tasks related to music, poetry, entertainment, or religious worship. These tasks included both musical and lyrical research and development, and also directing performances.

Jianan poetry

Jian'an poetry, or Chien'an poetry (建安風骨), refers to those styles of poetry particularly associated with the end of the Han dynasty and the beginning of the Six Dynasties era of China. This poetry category is particularly important because, in the case of the Jian'an poetic developments, there is a special difficulty in matching the chronology of changes in poetry with the usual Chinese dynastic chronology based on the political leadership of the times. For example, according to Burton Watson, the first major poet of the new shi style that emerged at this time was Cao Zhi, one of the sons of Cao Cao, a family which came into power at the end of Han and developed further during the Three Kingdoms era of the Six Dynasties period.

Six Dynasties poetry refers to those types or styles of poetry particularly associated with the Six Dynasties era of China. This poetry reflects one of the poetry world's more important flowerings, as well as being a unique period in Classical Chinese poetry, which, over this time period, developed a poetry with special emphasis on romantic love, gender roles, and human relationships. The Six Dynasties era is sometimes known as the "Age of Fragmentation", because China as a whole through this period lacked unification as a state, at least for any extended period of time; and, instead, many states rose and fell, often overlapping in existence with other states. Which of the various states and dynasties constituted the "6" dynasties of the Six Dynasties period varies somewhat according to which of the traditional selection criteria is chosen. The Six Dynasties era covers several somewhat overlapping main periods including all of the following: the Three Kingdoms (220–280), Jin dynasty, the Sixteen Kingdoms, and the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420–589). Sometimes, chronological discrepancies occur in regard to the turbulent political events of the time, from which these traditional historical-era designations derive, together with the somewhat different chronology of poetic developments. Thus, neither the lives of the poets nor the trends in their poetry fit gently and neatly together with these period dates. Furthermore, conversions to the Common Era dating system can create further complications. However, regardless of the chronological difficulties, major developments of poetry during the Six Dynasties include formalizing the distinction between the Jian'an era regular yuefu and the shi style poetry, further development of the fu, theoretical work on technique, and the preservation of both Six Dynasties and earlier poetry by collecting and publishing many of the pieces which survive today into various anthologies consisting all or in part of poetry.

Wang Yi, courtesy name Shushi, was a Han dynasty Chinese poet, editor, and annotator 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 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. 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 Regrets" poems are attributed to the Shu poet Wang Bao who flourished during the reign of Emperor Xuan.

Wang Bao, courtesy name Ziyuan (子淵), was a lyricist, writer, and a poet of the Classical Chinese poetry tradition, who was involved in the Chu Ci poetry revival which took place in the second part of Emperor Xuan's reign, and which led to development of parts of what would eventually be the final form 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". Although not as famous as "Li Sao" or "Heavenly Questions", and despite having sometimes having had Qu Yuan credited as author, having his works included in one of the two major early anthologies of Chinese poetry helped to secure Wang Bao's legacy as poet and author. Wang Bao became famous during the reign of Han Dynasty emperor Emperor Xuan, and he attended the emperor and the prince, his presumptive heir.

Geese in Chinese poetry

Geese are an important motif in Chinese poetry. Examples of goose imagery have an important place in Chinese poetry ranging from the Shijing and the Chu Ci poets through the poets of Han poetry and later poets of Tang poetry such as Li Bai, Wang Wei, Du Fu, and the Xiaoxiang poetry, especially in the poetry of the Song dynastic era. Various poetic concepts could be communicated by the inclusion of the imagery of geese in a poem, and the understanding of allusions to a goose or geese can help provide key insights into the poems of Classical Chinese poetry. Chinese sources typically distinguish between two types of geese, the domestic goose, and the wild goose: of the two, the wild goose is the more important for poetry, whether as significant of migratory seasonal change, or as "bearing a message of love from afar", by persons separated by a great distance, or as the "lone goose", bereft of both mate and flock.