Wangchuan ji

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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 :辋川集; traditional Chinese :輞川集; 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.

Simplified Chinese characters standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau, and in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.



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.

A quatrain is a type of stanza, or a complete poem, consisting of four lines.

Pei Di was a Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty, and a contemporary of Wang Wei, although younger by fifteen years. 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 him 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 his 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.

Lantian County County in Shaanxi, Peoples Republic of China

Lantian County is under the administration of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, China. It is the easternmost and second-most spacious of the 13 county-level divisions of Xi'an. The county borders the prefecture-level cities of Weinan to the northeast and Shangluo to the southeast, Lintong District to the north, Chang'an District to the west, and Baqiao District to the northwest.

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]

Wuwei, Gansu Prefecture-level city in Gansu, Peoples Republic of China

Wuwei is a prefecture-level city in northwest central Gansu province. In the north it borders Inner Mongolia, in the southwest, Qinghai. It is centrally located in between three western capital cities, Lanzhou, Xining, and Yinchuan, making it an important business and transportation hub for the region. Because it is positioned along the Hexi Corridor, historically the only route from central China to western China and the rest of Central Asia, many major railroads and national highways pass through Wuwei, nowadays.

Changan ancient city of China

Chang'an was an ancient capital of more than ten dynasties in Chinese history, today known as Xi'an. Chang'an means "Perpetual Peace" in Classical Chinese since it was a capital that was repeatedly used by new Chinese rulers. During the short-lived Xin dynasty, the city was renamed "Constant Peace" ; the old name was later restored. By the time of the Ming dynasty, a new walled city named Xi'an, meaning "Western Peace", was built at the Sui and Tang dynasty city's site, which has remained its name to the present day.

The Zhongnan Mountains, sometimes called the Taiyi Mountains or Zhounan Mountains, are a branch of the Qin Mountains located in Shaanxi Province, south of Xi'an, China that extend from Wugong County in the east of the province to Lantian County. At 2604 meters the range's highest point is the Cui Hua Mountain. Other notable peaks and places in the Zhongnan mountains include Lou Guan Tai,, as well as Nan Wutai and Guifeng.

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:

Xian Prefecture-level & Sub-provincial city in Shaanxi, Peoples Republic of China

Xi'an is the capital of Shaanxi Province, China. A sub-provincial city on the Guanzhong Plain in northwestern China, it is one of the oldest cities in China, and the oldest of the Four Great Ancient Capitals, having held the position under several of the most important dynasties in Chinese history, including Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui, and Tang. Xi'an is the starting point of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Shaanxi Province

Shaanxi, is a province of the People's Republic of China. Officially part of the Northwest China region, it lies in central China, bordering the provinces of Shanxi, Henan (E), Hubei (SE), Chongqing (S), Sichuan (SW), Gansu (W), Ningxia (NW), and Inner Mongolia (N). It covers an area of over 205,000 km2 (79,151 sq mi) with about 37 million people. Xi'an – which includes the sites of the former Chinese capitals Fenghao and Chang'an – is the provincial capital. Xianyang, which served as the Qin dynasty capital, is located nearby. The other prefecture-level cities into which the province is divided are Ankang, Baoji, Hanzhong, Shangluo, Tongchuan, Weinan, Yan'an and Yulin.

...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.

Sutra a text in Hinduism or Buddhism. Often a collection of aphorisms or formulae.

Sutra in Indian literary traditions refers to an aphorism or a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual or, more broadly, a condensed manual or text. Sutras are a genre of ancient and medieval Indian texts found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

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

Modern influence

The Wheel River poems record the poets' journey, ostensibly 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).

Eliot Weinberger is a contemporary American writer, essayist, editor, and translator. His work regularly appears in translation and has been published in more than thirty languages.

Octavio Paz Mexican writer laureated with the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature

Octavio Paz Lozano was a Mexican poet and diplomat. For his body of work, he was awarded the 1981 Miguel de Cervantes Prize, the 1982 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and the 1990 Nobel Prize in Literature.

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)

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