Song poetry

Last updated
Song Huizong's "Listening to the Qin". Songhuizong8.jpg
Song Huizong's "Listening to the Qin".

Song poetry refers to Classical Chinese poetry of or typical of the Song dynasty of China (960–1279). The dynasty was established by the Zhao family in China in 960 and lasted until 1279.

Contents

Many of the best known Classical Chinese poems, popular also in translation, are from the Song dynasty poets, such as Su Shi (Dongpo), Ouyang Xiu, Lu You and Yang Wanli. This was also a time of great achievement in painting and literature, and many artists were accomplished in more than one of these, as well as often being government officials.

Historical background

The Song dynasty (960–1279) was the first time that China was unified into one state since the Tang dynasty, the two dynasties were separated from each other by the Tang-Song transition period, known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, a period of disunity. The Song period is divided into two parts, the first being the Northern Song (960–1127) which consisted of the China as reunified by the dynastic founder Emperor Taizu of Song. The second part of the Song period, known as the Southern Song (1127–1279) because the northern part of the empire was ceded to the military forces of the Jurchens, who formed their own Jin dynasty (1115–1234) out of this former Song imperial territory. The Southern Song then faced a protracted struggle against the Mongol Empire before finally succumbing to the Mongol forces, who then established themselves as the Chinese Yuan dynasty. Despite the constant military pressure and its numerous foreign affairs difficulties, the Song dynasty was generally a time of growing population, economical prosperity, and excellence in the fine arts.

The poetic tradition

The poets of the Song dynasty drew on a long tradition of poetry in China, but particularly upon forms prevalent in the Tang dynasty, or in the case of the ci form, that developed toward the end of the Tang dynasty and the period immediately before the Song dynasty, especially seen in the works of Li Yu of the Southern Tang dynasty. One of the new developments was a large increase in the popularity of the Ci form of poetry, a form based on the traditional forms and rhythms, ultimately drawn from popular songs, but with new words. Another development was an increasing fusion of painting and poetry, such as in the various Eight Views of the Xiao Xiang series of matched paintings and poems. Many of the Song Dynasty poets were greatly affected by the politics of the time.

Poetry and politics

During the Northern Song many of the government officials/poets were caught up on one side or the other over the controversial reformism of the powerful government minister Wang Anshi. One of those affected by his opposition to Wang Anshi's policies was Su Shi, who got his nickname "Dongpo" from his place of banishment during his first period of exile, in which his poems were used against him as evidence of disloyalty to the empire, in what has been known as the Crow Terrace Poetry Trial. Su Shi's poetry also was much affected by his second period of banishment to what was then an extremely remote imperial outpost on the far southern island of Hainan. During the Southern Song, much of the political controversy was waged around the issue of the status of the occupied northern part of the empire, which had been lost in the Jurchen invasion. Lu You was one of the poets who considered reconquering the north his patriotic duty and wrote poems in this regard.

Poets

Famous Song dynasty poets include Lu You, Cai Xiang, Chao Chongzhi, Fan Chengda, Fan Zhongyan, Emperor Gaozong of Song, Gong Kai, Han Shizhong, Lady Huarui, Jiang Kui, Lu You, Li Houzhu, Li Qingzhao, Lin Bu, Liu Kezhuang, Lu You, Mei Yaochen, Mi Fu, Lu You, Ouyang Xiu, Qian Chu, Qin Guan, Shao Yong, Shen Kuo, Song Qi, Su Shi, Su Zhe, Wang Anshi, Wang Yucheng, Wen Tianxiang, Wen Tong, Xin Qiji, Yan Yu, Yang Wanli, Yue Fei, Zeng Gong, Zhang Xian, Lu You, Zhu Shuzhen, and Zhu Xi.

Poetry, painting, and calligraphy

Mi Fu, calligraphy detail. Mi Fei Chan Chi Ming Tie1.jpg
Mi Fu, calligraphy detail.
Mi Fu, c. 1100, Indian ink and color on paper. Mi Fei 001.jpg
Mi Fu, c. 1100, Indian ink and color on paper.

The Song Dynasty is known for its achievements in terms of combining poetry, painting, and calligraphy, called the three perfections, into a shared art form, or as complementary activities. One renowned practitioner of this combination of talents was Mi Fu (also known as Mei Fu). This practice was perhaps more of a rule then an exception for the Song Dynasty poets. Involvement in the writing of prose works was also not uncommon for the Song Dynasty poets; Song Qi and Ouyang Xiu collaborated on the now classic history of the Tang Empire New Book of Tang .

The Ci form

The Ci as a poetic form perhaps reached a high point during the Song Dynasty. The ci is a kind of lyric Classical Chinese poetry using a poetic meter based upon some 800 prototypical fixed-rhythm forms, originally tunes of songs, each having a traditional title. Each song title therefore came to specify particular fixed pattern of tone, rhythm, number of syllables (or characters) per line and the number of lines. Therefore, it is common for several ci to share the same title, which often has little or nothing to do with the topics of those poems, but rather the patterns that the lyrics follow. Many of its prime proponents were female poets, such as Li Qingzhao. Su Shi was another prominent Song poet famous for writing in the ci form.

Xiaoxiang: poems of exile

Part of the imaginary tour through Xiao-xiang by Li from the 12th century. Scroll, 30.3 cm x 400.4 cm. Ink on paper. Located at Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo. Imaginary tour through Xiao-xiang.jpg
Part of the imaginary tour through Xiao-xiang by Li from the 12th century. Scroll, 30.3 cm x 400.4 cm. Ink on paper. Located at Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo.

As in Tang times, many were the poems written by poets, who found, then lost, or never received the high paying and socially prestigious governmental positions that they desired or expected from the imperial court for their perceived abilities, talents, or application thereof: verified through the civil service examinations, actual political management services, or personal perception. Although service to the imperial court (and to the people which it theoretically represented) was a general societal ideal and frequent personal ideal, the arbitrary nature of the imperial power system, its censorial powers, and the vicissitudes of the historical process resulted in a poetic tradition of a strong but subtle dissent. The Xiaoxiang genre of poetry dates back at least to the third century, BCE. [1] It continued to develop to new levels of subtle expressions of discontent through the Song Dynasty era.

See also

Notes

  1. Murck, 6

Related Research Articles

Wang Anshi Song Dynasty chancellor and poet (1021-1086)

Wang Anshi ; Chinese: 王安石; December 8, 1021 – May 21, 1086), courtesy name Jiefu, was a Chinese politician, poet and prose writer during the Song dynasty. He served as chancellor who attempted major and controversial socioeconomic reforms known as the New Policies. These reforms constituted the core concepts of the Song-Dynasty Reformists, in contrast to their rivals, the Conservatives, led by the Chancellor Sima Guang.

Chinese poetry literary tradition of China

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.

Classical Chinese poetry

Classical Chinese poetry is traditional Chinese poetry written in Classical Chinese and typified by certain traditional forms, or modes; traditional genres; and connections with particular historical periods, such as the poetry of the Tang Dynasty. Its existence was documented at least as early as the publication of the Classic of Poetry. Various combinations of forms and genres exist. Many or most of these were developed by the end of the Tang Dynasty, in 907 CE.

Su Shi Chinese writer

Su Shi, courtesy name Zizhan, art name Dongpo, was a Chinese calligrapher, gastronome, painter, pharmacologist, poet, politician, and writer of the Song dynasty. A major personality of the Song era, Su was an important figure in Song Dynasty politics, aligning himself with Sima Guang and others, against the New Policy party led by Wang Anshi.

Li Qingzhao Chinese writer

Li Qingzhao, pseudonym Householder of Yi'an (易安居士), was a Chinese poet and essayist during the Song dynasty. She is considered one of the greatest poets in Chinese history.

Ouyang Xiu Chinese poet, historian and statesman (1007-1072)

Ouyang Xiu, courtesy name Yongshu, also known by his art names Zuiweng and Liu Yi Jushi, was a Chinese essayist, historian, poet, calligrapher, politician, and epigrapher of the Song dynasty. A much celebrated writer, both among his contemporaries and in subsequent centuries, Ouyang Xiu is considered the central figure of the Eight Masters of the Tang and Song. It was he who revived the Classical Prose Movement and promoted it in imperial examinations, paving the way for future masters like Su Shi and Su Zhe.

is a type of lyric poetry in the tradition of Classical Chinese poetry. use a set of poetic meters derived from a base set of certain patterns, in fixed-rhythm, fixed-tone, and variable line-length formal types, or model examples. The rhythmic and tonal pattern of the ci are based upon certain, definitive musical song tunes. They are also known as Changduanju and Shiyu.

Huang Tingjian Chinese artist during the Song Dynasty (1045-1105)

Huang Tingjian was a Chinese calligrapher, painter, and poet of the Song dynasty. He is predominantly known as a calligrapher, and is also admired for his painting and poetry. He was one of the Four Masters of the Song Dynasty, and was a younger friend of Su Shi and influenced by his and his friends' practice of literati painting, calligraphy, and poetry.

Arts of China

The arts of China have varied throughout its ancient history, divided into periods by the ruling dynasties of China and changing technology, but still containing a high degree of continuity. Different forms of art have been influenced by great philosophers, teachers, religious figures and even political leaders. The arrival of Buddhism and modern Western influence produced especially large changes. Chinese art encompasses fine arts, folk arts and performance arts.

Culture of the Song dynasty aspect of Chinese history

The Song dynasty was a culturally rich and sophisticated age for China. It saw great advancements in the visual arts, music, literature, and philosophy. Officials of the ruling bureaucracy, who underwent a strict and extensive examination process, reached new heights of education in Chinese society, while general Chinese culture was enhanced by widespread printing, growing literacy, and various arts.

Du Fu Thatched Cottage

Du Fu Thatched Cottage is a 24-acre (97,000 m2) park and museum in honour of the Tang dynasty poet Du Fu at the western outskirts of Chengdu, adjacent to the Huanhua Xi. In 1961 the Chinese government established Du Fu Thatched Cottage as a National Heritage site.

Tang poetry refers to poetry written in or around the time of or in the characteristic style of China's Tang dynasty, and/or follows a certain style, often considered as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry. The Quantangshi includes over 48,900 poems written by over 2,200 authors. During the Tang dynasty, poetry continued to be an important part of social life at all levels of society. Scholars were required to master poetry for the civil service exams, but the art was theoretically available to everyone. This led to a large record of poetry and poets, a partial record of which survives today. Two of the most famous poets of the period were Li Bai and Du Fu. Tang poetry has had an ongoing influence on world literature in modern times.

Classical Chinese poetry genres

Classical Chinese poetry genres are those genres which typify the traditional Chinese poems written in Classical Chinese. Some of these genres are 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 BCE, in what is now China, but at that time was composed of various independent states. The term "genres" refers to various aspects, such as to topic, theme, and subject matter, what similes or metaphors were considered appropriate or how they would be interpreted, and other considerations such as vocabulary and style. These genres were generally, but not always independent of the Classical Chinese poetry forms. Many or most of these forms and genres were developed by the Tang Dynasty, and the use and development of Classical Chinese poetry genres actively continued up until the May Fourth Movement, in 1919, and still continues even today in the 21st century.

Xiaoxiang poetry

Xiaoxiang poetry is one of the Classical Chinese poetry genres, one which has been practiced for over a thousand years. It is a poetry of scenic wonders, a poetry of officials exiled for their views and beliefs, and a poetry of dissent against submitting to government control. Xiaoxiang poetry is geographically associated with the Xiaoxiang region, around and south of Dongting Lake. The Xiaoxiang genre of literature is often associated with similarly themed Chinese calligraphy and Chinese painting. Famous poets in this genre include Qu Yuan, Song Yu, Jia Yi, Wang Yi, Yu Xin, Shen Quanqi, Zhang Yue, Li Bai, Du Fu, Han Yu, Liu Zongyuan, and Su Shi.

Kuizhou

Kui Prefecture, Kuizhou Circuit, or Kuizhou was initially established in 619 CE, as a renaming of the existing Xin Prefecture. Kuizhou was an important area from the beginning and through the end of the Tang Dynasty of China, when it was alternatively part of several of the Circuits which made up typical large scale political structural organizations of the Tang era. Kuizhou continued as a political entity through the end of the Song Dynasty, during which it was of Provincial level, a typical large scale political organization of Song era. Kui Prefecture was located in what is now eastern Chongqing. During the Song Dynasty, Kuizhou's capital was located in what is now Fengjie County, Chongqing, and the extent of the province was to what today includes Chongqing, eastern Sichuan, and Guizhou. Part of the importance of Kuizhou was related to its prominent location along the Yangzi River. Kui was also known for its spectacular scenerary, and being a location in which exiled poets wrote their laments.

"Autumn Day in Kui Prefecture" is a poem by 8th-century Chinese poet Du Fu (712–770). The full title of this poem is Autumn Day in Kui Prefecture, A Song Submitted to Supervisor Zheng and Advisor Li, in One Hundred Rhymes. As a poem, "Autumn Day in Kui Prefecture" is an example of Tang poetry, which received considerable attention during the Song dynasty, in Song poetry, and later, even through modern times. During the Song dynasty Du Fu's "Autumn Day in Kui Prefecture" received particular attention, with the poem being subtly alluded to through rhyme-scheme referencing by Su Shi and his circle: in other words, Su Shi and the poets of his circle wrote poems which utilized the same rhyming words from Du Fu's poem, thus subtly referencing the sense and sentiment of Du Fu's line, but without overtly stating what might be censured as inappropriate. This allowed him and others to express opinions about government and society, without suffering the consequences, as Su Shi had previously done, in the Crow Terrace Poetry Trial, when his poetry was used as evidence resulting in his conviction and exile.

Wang Shen (Song dynasty)

Wang Shen, courtesy name Jinqing, was a Chinese calligrapher, painter, poet, and politician of the Song dynasty. He is best known for his surviving paintings, poetry, and calligraphy, and for his relationships with prominent statesmen and early amateur literati artists such as Su Shi, Huang Tingjian and Mi Fu.

Crow Terrace Poetry Trial Treason trial against Su Shi and others, in 1079

The Crow Terrace Poetry Trial was a trial on charges including treason and lèse majesté that occurred in the year 1079 of Song dynasty era in Chinese history. "Crow Terrace" refers to the nickname of the Imperial Office of the Censorate (御史臺), which prosecuted the case, citing Sung Criminal Code, Article 122: "Denouncing the Imperial Chariot". The most prominent figure of the dozens accused was the official and artist Su Shi, whose works of poetry were produced in court as evidence against him.

The Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song (唐宋八大家) refers to a grouping of prose writers, during the Tang and Song Dynasties, who were renowned for their prose writing, mostly in the essay form. Almost all of the eight masters are also accomplished in other aspects of Chinese politics and culture of their time.

References