Wangchuan ji

Last updated
Landscapes in the Manner of Old Masters (in the manner of Wang Wei). Album leaf. Dong Qichang. 1621-24. Dong Qichang.Landscapes in the Manner of Old Masters (Wang Wei). Album leaf.1621-24 Nelson-Atkuns Museum.jpg
Landscapes in the Manner of Old Masters (in the manner of Wang Wei). Album leaf. Dong Qichang. 1621-24.

The Wangchuan ji (simplified Chinese : 辋川 ; traditional Chinese : 輞川 ; pinyin :Wǎngchuān jí; Wade–Giles :Wang-ch'uan) is a collection of Tang poetry written by the two poets Wang Wei (王維) and Pei Di (裴迪), also known in other ways, such as Wheel River Collection. The verses are based on a series of twenty scenes, inspired by the sights available at Wang Wei's retirement estate: each one forms the topic for a pair of one five-character quatrains, one by each of the poetic pair, first Wang Wei, then Pei Di. Besides the long-term interest in these verses, in China, this anthology has created much interest around the world, including numerous translations, especially Wang's version of "Deer Park". Several complete translations of the whole work have been done, in English . A series of "Twenty Scenes" of Wangchuan were done as a painting series. The Wangchuan poems (and related artworks) form an important part of traditional Chinese Shan shui landscape painting and Shanshui poetry development. There are clear indications of the influence of the Six Dynasties poet early exemplar of landscape genre poetry Xie Lingyun's poems on topics, partly inspired by his family estate, in what is today Zhejiang. The considerable influence of Pei Di and Wang Wei's Wangchuan ji shows in much subsequent painting, music, and poetry.



Some of Wang Wei's most famous poetry was done as a series of quatrains written by him to which his friend Pei Di wrote replying double couplets. Together, these form a group titled the Wang River Collection. Note that "Wang" as in the river is a different character that the "Wang" of Wang Wei's name. Wang literally refers to the outside part of a wheel, chuan means "river" and ji means a collection. Sometimes, also, these are sometimes referred to as the "Lantian poems", after the real name of Wang's estate's location, in Lantian County.

Wang Wei's career as a government official had its ups and downs. One of his early positions was serving in Liangzhou, which then was a term used to refer to the larger area of Wuwei. After completing his service there and returning to the capital city of Chang'an, Wang Wei took the opportunity of his temporary lack of official posting to explore the countryside to the south of the capital, in the Lantian area of the Zhongnan Mountains. As well, Wang Wei then made friends with Pei Di. [1] In 740-741 Wang resumed his successful governmental career, including an inspection tour of Xiangyang, Hubei, and then he held various positions in Chang'an. Besides the official salary connected with this government work, he had received financial rewards as an artist; thus he was able to acquire a sizable estate in Lantian, formerly owned by the poet Song Zhiwen (approximately 660–712), an estate known as Wang Chuan. [2] Upon his Lantian estate Wang Wei established a shrine for sake of his Buddhist mother, and after his mother died, in 747-748, he spent the traditional three-year morning period for the death of a parent in this location, during which time he was reportedly so afflicted by grief as to having been reduced almost to a skeleton. [3]

Inspired, in part, by Wang's Lantian home and features found in its neighborhood and their correspondences with other places and features, the collection includes such pieces as the poem often translated "Deer Park" (literally, "Deer Fence"). However, the poems tend to have a deceptive simplicity to them, while they actually have great depth and complexity upon closer examination. Part of the complexity derives from the ironic juxtaposition of imagination and exaggeration with the realities of a retired official's situation at the time. In these poems, there is a theme of metaphorical comparison between features of Wang's estate and places well known to the poets to the poets and their audience to have famously existed elsewhere in the world as known to them. Wang Wei may have had a fence to keep deer out of his vegetable garden, but an actual deer park (as in Europe at the time) would have been a royal prerogative; however, in the poets' imagination the two become one. The real life location of Wang Wei's retirement home was in the foothills of the Qinling Mountains, south of the Tang capital city of Chang'an, in what is now Lantian County, of Xi'an Sub-provincial city, of Shaanxi. The poems tend to literally describe the posh and palatial features of a fantastic and enormous estate; however these specific details should be viewed within the context of poetic flights of fancy (and a dry humour): as art critic and Chinese scholar John Ferguson put it, in regards to the Wheel River property as describe by the two poets:

...such a place as is depicted existed only in the realm of fancy. Wang Wei's imagination, helped by the genius of his two intimate friends, P'ei Ti and Mêng Hao-jan, clothed a barren hillside with beautiful rare trees, with spacious courtyards, and with a broad stream upon which boats plied and on whose banks stood a pretty fishing pavilion, with a deer park, with storks and birds––all of the delights of the eye and ear were brought together in this one lovely spot by the fancy of a brilliant genius.

John C. Ferguson, describing limited literal reality of the Wang (Wheel) River Collection [4]

Jerome Ch'en and Michael Bullock describe Wang Wei's studio:

In this lonely studio of his there were little else but his tea service, drug crucibles, sutra desk, incense burner, pouffe and hammock. He had one or two boys to attend to the household duties.

Jerome Ch'en and Michael Bullock describing Wang Wei's studio [5]

The Wangchuan landscape described in the Tang dynasty poems had a correspondence in painted imagery. Guo Zhongshu was one such painter, who flourished not long after the fall of the Tang.

A pictoral interpretation of Wangchuan Villa by Guo Zhongshu (c. 929 - 977) with labels for topical features. Guo Zhongshu. Copy After Wang Wei Wangchuan Villa, Ming or Qing dynasty copy, NPM Taipei.jpg
A pictoral interpretation of Wangchuan Villa by Guo Zhongshu (c. 929 – 977) with labels for topical features.
Another pictoral interpretation by Guo Zhongshu, said to be after a painting by Wang Wei Guo Zhongshu, Wangchuan Villa. After Wang Wei's painting..jpg
Another pictoral interpretation by Guo Zhongshu, said to be after a painting by Wang Wei

Modern influence

The Wheel River poems record the poets' journey, that of Wang Wei and his close friend Pei Di. They are far more universal than a few simple day trips to admire the scenery and have inspired generations of poets since, including recent adaptations such as Pain Not Bread's [6] and Eliot Weinberger and Octavio Paz's 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei [7] is an essay concerning more than 19 translations of Wang Wei's "Deer Park". Furthermore, the imaginary series of views inspired subsequent series of "Twenty Views of Wang Chuan" paintings or panoramas including the twenty views (actually the painting tradition for some reason contains a variant set of the twenty scenes of the poems).

See also


  1. Chang, 60
  2. Chang, 61
  3. Chang, 61
  4. Ferguson, 73-74
  5. Ch'en & Bullock, 52
  6. Introduction to the Introduction to Wang Wei ( ISBN   1-894078-09-8), Barry Gifford's Replies to Wang Wei ( ISBN   0-88739-441-8) and Gary Blankenship's A River Transformed ( ISBN   1-4116-6227-X).
  7. ( ISBN   0-918825-14-8)

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wang Wei (Tang dynasty)</span> Tang-dynasty Chinese poet, musician, painter, and statesman

Wang Wei was a Chinese poet, musician, painter, and politician during the Tang dynasty. He was one of the most famous men of arts and letters of his time. Many of his poems are preserved, and twenty-nine were included in the highly influential 18th-century anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Du Fu</span> 8th-century poet and politician in Tang China

Du Fu was a Chinese poet and politician of the Tang dynasty. Along with his elder contemporary and friend Li Bai, he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His greatest ambition was to serve his country as a successful civil servant, but he proved unable to make the necessary accommodations. His life, like the whole country, was devastated by the An Lushan Rebellion of 755, and his last 15 years were a time of almost constant unrest.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Du Mu</span> Chinese calligrapher, poet and politician (803–852)

Du Mu (Chinese: 杜牧; pinyin: Dù Mù; Wade–Giles: Tu4 Mu4; 803–852) was a Chinese calligrapher, poet, and politician who lived during the late Tang dynasty. His courtesy name was Muzhi (牧之), and art name Fanchuan (樊川). He is best known for his lyrical and romantic quatrains.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">King Ling of Zhou</span> King of China

King Ling of Zhou, personal name Ji Xiexin, was the twenty-third king of the Chinese Zhou dynasty and the eleventh of Eastern Zhou. He died in 545 BC.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Meng Haoran</span>

Meng Haoran was a major Tang dynasty poet, and a somewhat older contemporary of Wang Wei, Li Bai and Du Fu. Despite his brief pursuit of an official career, Meng Haoran mainly lived in and wrote about the area in which he was born and raised, in what is now Hubei province, China. Meng Haoran was a major influence on other contemporary and subsequent poets of the High Tang era because of his focus on nature as a main topic for poetry. Meng Haoran was also prominently featured in the Qing dynasty poetry anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems, having the fifth largest number of his poems included, for a total of fifteen, exceeded only by Du Fu, Li Bai, Wang Wei, and Li Shangyin. These poems of Meng Haoran were available in the English translations by Witter Bynner and Kiang Kanghu, by 1920, with the publication of The Jade Mountain. The Three Hundred Tang Poems also has two poems by Li Bai addressed to Meng Haoran, one in his praise and one written in farewell on the occasion of their parting company. Meng Haoran was also influential to Japanese poetry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Xie Lingyun</span> Jin Dynasty poet

Xie Lingyun, also known as the Duke of Kangle (康樂公), was one of the foremost Chinese poets of the Southern and Northern Dynasties and a famous practitioner of the Six Dynasties poetry.

Wang Wei, also known by her courtesy name Xiuwei, was a Chinese courtesan, poet, and traveller during the late-Ming dynasty.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yuan Zhen</span> Chinese novelist, poet, and politician (779–831)

Yuan Zhen, courtesy name Weizhi (微之), was a Chinese novelist, poet, and politician of the middle Tang Dynasty. In prose literature, Yuan Zhen is particularly known for his work Yingying's Biography, which has often been adapted for other treatments, including operatic and musical ones. In poetry, he is remembered for the inclusion of some of his poems by popular anthologies, his verses on exotic topics, and for being part of the group of "New Yuefu" poets, which often used poetry as a form of expression and protest, but one potentially subtle enough to avoid the likely repercussions of more direct criticism. The poetic circle in which Yuan Zhen was involved included Bai Juyi, among others. Politically Yuan Zhen was briefly chancellor, during the reign of Emperor Muzong.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wang Bo (poet)</span>

Wang Bo, courtesy name Zi'an (子安), was a Tang dynasty Chinese poet, traditionally grouped together with Luo Binwang, Lu Zhaolin, and Yang Jiong as the Four Paragons of the Early Tang. He died at the age of 26, possibly from drowning, while going back from Jiaozhi after meeting his father.

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 Quan Tangshi 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. The two most famous poets of the period were Li Bai and Du Fu. Through the Three Hundred Tang Poems, Tang poetry has remain familiar to educated Chinese in modern times.

Pei Di was a Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty, with one work included in the popular Three Hundred Tang Poems. Pei Di was a contemporary of Wang Wei, although younger by fifteen years. Pei Di has twenty preserved poems in the Wangchuan ji poetry collection, which collects twenty matching poems by Wang Wei and Pei Di. The poet's name is also rendered into English as "P'ei Ti" or "Pei Shidi". The close personal friendship between Wang Wei and Pei Di is preserved in a letter by Wang Wei inviting Pei for a Springtime visit together at Wang's country estate. This letter has been translated by Arthur Waley. Pei also had a poetic relationship with Du Fu. Other than through Pei Di's few surviving poems, and the poems addressed to him by Wang Wei and Du Fu, "pitifully little" is known about Pei Di, other than that he had a reasonably successful government career.

Wei Yingwu , courtesy name Yibo (義博), art name Xizhai (西齋), was a Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty. Twelve of Wei Yingwu's poems were included in the influential Three Hundred Tang Poems anthology. He was also known by his honorific name Wei Suzhou (韋蘇州), which was bestowed upon him as a result of his service as the governor of Suzhou.

Qian Qi was a Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty. Three of his poems have been included within the famous anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems. His courtesy name was Zhongwen.

Qiu Wei (traditional Chinese: 邱為; simplified Chinese: 邱为; pinyin: Qiū Wéi, 694–789? was a Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty, with one of his poems being included in the famous anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Orchid Pavilion Gathering</span>

The Orchid Pavilion Gathering of 353 CE, also known as the Lanting Gathering, was a cultural and poetic event during the Jin dynasty (266–420) of the Six Dynasties era, in China. This event itself has a certain inherent and poetic interest in regard to the development of landscape poetry and the philosophical ideas of Zhuangzi. The gathering at the Orchid Pavilion is also famous for the artistry of the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi, who was both one of the participants as well as the author and calligrapher of the Lantingji Xu. Sun Chuo also wrote a preface, which is somewhat less famous.

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 are 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.

Simians (Chinese poetry) Motif in Chinese poetry

Simians of various sorts are an important motif in Chinese poetry. Examples of simian imagery have an important place in Chinese poetry ranging from the Chu Ci poets through poets such as Li Bai, Wang Wei, Du Fu, and more. Various poetic concepts could be communicated by the inclusion of simian imagery in a poem, and the use of simian allusions can help provide key insights into the poems. The use of simians in Chinese poetry is part of a broader appearance of macaques and other monkeys in Chinese culture as well as the monkey-like gibbons and sometimes monkey-like creatures from Chinese mythology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jonathan Chaves</span>

Jonathan Chaves, B.A. Brooklyn College, 1965; M.A. Columbia University, 1966; PhD Columbia University, 1971, is Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He is a translator of classic Chinese poetry.