Papers on Premodern Literature VII

Poetry II
Thursday
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room C

  • Zornica Kirkova, “Poetry, Meteorology, and Politics—Rhapsodies on the Wind-vane from the Early Western Jin”
  • Baoli Yang, “Poeticising Nativist Sentiments: References to Han 漢 and the Construction of Chineseness in Early Tang Poetry”
  • Loredana Cesarino, “Female Authors and the Literary Canon of the Tang Dynasty (618–907): The Case of the Courtesan Chang Hao”
  • Chunxiao Liu, “The Musicality of guóxiù jí Poems and Beyond”

Zornica Kirkova, “Poetry, Meteorology, and Politics—Rhapsodies on the Wind-vane from the Early Western Jin”

After the Han dynasty rhapsodies on things (yongwu fu 詠物賦) became the most favoured form of rhapsodies fu 賦. These were shorter pieces in simpler style composed on one single subject,—either from the natural world or man-made objects. Soon after the establishment of the Western Jin 晉 (265–316) numerous rhapsodies were composed by leading poets and scholars of the period (Fu Xuan 傅玄, Fu Xian 傅咸, Zhang Hua 張華, Pan Yue 潘岳, and others) on the topic of the meteorological instrument xiangfeng 相風 (wind-vane). During Sima Yan’s (265–290) rule more rhapsodies are known to have been produced on the xiangfeng than on any other implement, nevertheless, this topic was never picked up again in later poetry. Rhapsodies on things, as yongwu poetry in general, have traditionally been considered as dealing merely with outer description of things and being devoid of deeper intentions and personal feelings. In this paper I will take a closer look at the surviving rhapsodies on the xiangfeng in a wider intellectual context and investigate their possible political connotations and the reasons for the sudden but shortlived popularity of the topic. My aim is to show how these compositions not only “investigate reality,” but may also present an attempt by a group of scholars to define the values of the new dynasty and their own role in the contemporary politics.

Baoli Yang, “Poeticising Nativist Sentiments: References to Han 漢 and the Construction of Chineseness in Early Tang Poetry”

Although Chinese cultural elites have maintained a keen eye on recognising the Chinese monarchy and making arguments on state craftsmanship in their writings since the beginning of Chinese writing history, it was not until the early Tang (617–906) when Chinese poets began to prominently utilise the word Han in their poems. Before the Tang, Chinese poetry discusses politics by aestheticising the suffering people in relation to the exploiting ruling class like in those in the Book of Odes or by lyricising the sublimity of the palaces, capitals, and imperial huntings in the Han rhapsody. Nevertheless, in the Tang dynasty, the imageries associated to Han appeared gradually more often in the works of Chen Zi’ang, Du Fu, Bai Juyi, among many others. The Han sometimes referred to the previous historical Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), insinuated the Tang dynasty, or functioned as a synecdoche for the Han Chinese ethnicity. Why did Han, originally a dynastic name, become such a signifier with multiple meanings in the Tang poetry? To address this question, this paper first discusses why writing related to the word Han in the Tang poetry differed from writing on other political issues in previous poetic panegyrics in terms of expressing the Chinese identity in pre-modern China. Then it focuses on one early Tang poet Chen Zi’ang to explore how his poems complicated the significance of the Han. I argue that Chen attached a nativist sentiment to the Han which was also the ideal historical period for him.

Loredana Cesarino, “Female Authors and the Literary Canon of the Tang Dynasty (618–907): The Case of the Courtesan Chang Hao”

According to S. Owen (2007, p. 309), the literary canon of the Tang dynasty (618–907) “has been filtered not through a tradition of scholarly preservation, but through acts of partial copying largely determined by the period taste”.
Starting from this assumption, this paper analyses three of the four poems ascribed to the Tang dynasty courtesan Chang Hao 常浩 (9th c.) using J. R. Tung’s (2000) “masculine mode of women’s representation” and Kolbas’s (2001) theory of the literary canon as a theoretical framework. It argues that Chang Hao’s poems have been included in the poetic canon of the dynasty because they were in line with the literary conventions used by the male literati and, as such, they did not represent a threat to the social and political order of the time, nor a violation of the so-called “male province of literature” (Feldman & Gordon 2006).

References:
Feldman, M., & Gordon, B. (eds). (2006). The courtesan’s arts: cross-cultural perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kolbas, E. D. (2001). Critical Theory and the Literary Canon. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
Owen, S. (2007). The Manuscript Legacy of the Tang: The Case of Literature. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 67 (2), 295–326.
Tung, J. R. (2000). Fables for the Patriarchs: Gender Politics in Tang Discourse. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.

Chunxiao Liu, “The Musicality of Guóxiù jí Poems and Beyond”

An anthology selects, categorises and preserves. Among the commonly recognised thirteen anthologies of Táng poetry compiled during the Táng dynasty extant today, the Guóxiù jí 國秀集 [A Collection of the Ripened Talents of the State] (compiled 744–745) stands out as it relied on musicality as a key principle of its selection. The more than 200 poems in this anthology thus serve as a fine corpus to explore the relationship between poetry and music during the Early and High Táng periods. The proposed paper traces the singability of Guóxiù jí poems based on whether it can be supported by further records (e.g. Dūnhuáng manuscripts), or whether it is suggested by formal features, the contents or titles of the poems. Since the musical implications evidenced by these poems are of varying degrees and appear in very diverse forms, special attention is paid to cases like exam poems (fèngshì 奉試), night-duty poems (yùzhí 寓值), and ‘mouth-howling’ poems (kǒuháo 口號) etc. It is found that although the precise performative modes of the Guóxiù jí poems are not yet retrievable, their singability is in most cases undeniable. This would seem to support the idea that the “adaptability to pipe and string music” (kěbèi guǎnxián 可被管絃) was indeed a basic criterion against which the poems were selected. More importantly, the Guóxiù jí offers a glimpse of how music and poetry, closely interrelated, played an important role in the social life of Táng literati.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room C
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Poetry I