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Five Hundred Years of Chinese Poetry, 1150-1650

Five Hundred Years of Chinese Poetry, 1150-1650: The Chin, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties

Yoshikawa Kōjirō
Translated with a Preface by John Timothy Wixted
Including an Afterword by William S. Atwell
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Five Hundred Years of Chinese Poetry, 1150-1650
    Book Description:

    Five Hundred Years of Chinese Poetryoffers the only historical survey, in any language, of this important span of Chinese poetry. Written by the foremost Japanese sinologist of this century, and translated here in a lucid analogue to his famous prose style, the work provides a brief but comprehensive review of the period's literary history, a sketch of its political and social history in relation to literature, and a rendering of more than one hundred and fifty poems.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6046-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Translator’s Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    Chinese poetry of the later imperial period—that is, of the Chin, Yuan, Ming, and Ching dynasties—has not received favorable treatment at the hands of literary historians in recent times. The standard view has been that the period’s drama and vernacular fiction are what is important and that its poetry can either be slighted or ignored.

    The literary history of this period is different from that of the preceding age. Earlier, that is, from Han times, passing through the Six Dynasties and T’ang periods, up to and including the Sung dynasty, poetry and nonfiction prose comprised the entire realm...

  6. Chapter 1 Chinese Poetry of the Later Imperial Dynasties
    (pp. 8-14)

    I hope to outline in this volume and in a subsequent one the history of Chinese poetry from Chin and Yuan times, through the Ming period, up to the end of the Ch’ing dynasty—that is, from the mid-twelfth century until our own. This volume treats roughly the first half of this period, until the end of the Ming dynasty.¹ It marks a continuation of my earlier study of Sung period poetry.²

    What is meant by “poetry” here is the termshihin its narrow sense in Chinese. That is to say, it refers to poems in the three genres...

  7. Chapter 2 Chin Dynasty Poetry: Reaction to the Mongol Incursion, 1150–1250
    (pp. 15-43)

    The most important event in thirteenth-century Chinese history, indeed of world history of the time, was the series of foreign conquests carried out by Mongol tribes under the leadership of Chinggis-qan (Genghis Khan) and his successors,¹ which swept the world like a violent storm. China, being situated next to the Mongol homeland, was of course affected. To the east, the Mongols reached Japan, where they were referred to asGenkō, or “Yuan bandits”; to the west, they swept over the western fringes of Asia, pressing on as far as Eastern Europe. The Chin dynasty, which had beenestablished by Jurchen tribes...

  8. Chapter 3 Southern Sung Loyalist Poetry, 1250–1300
    (pp. 44-75)

    While North China was falling victim to Mongol advances in the early thirteenth century, to the south the Southern Sung remained untouched. The dynasty’s capital of Hangchow prospered and, along with it, the poetry of its urban populace. A prevailing ignorance of outside affairs bred a kind of indifference and seems even to have helped bring about a flourishing of townsman literature.¹

    During the reign of Ögödei-qan (r. 1229–1241), son of Chinggis-qan (Genghis Khan) and second in the ruling line, Mongol cavalry were occasionally spotted along Southern Sung borders. However, events were soon to remove the Mongols and their...

  9. Chapter 4 The Maturation of Yuan Poetry, 1300–1350
    (pp. 76-101)

    The political history of the first half of the fourteenth century offers a period of respite. Although the effects of the Mongol depredations of the previous century continued in the form of rule carried out under the Mongols, there was peace throughout China.

    After Qubilai died in 1294, his grandson, great-grandsons, and great-great-grandsons succeeded one another to the throne in periods of short reign. Only one later ruler, the last Yuan emperor, Shun-ti (Toghon-temür), was on the throne for an extended period, from 1332 to 1368. As before, leading government figures were either Mongols or peoples from the Western Regions;...

  10. Chapter 5 The Early Ming, 1350–1400
    (pp. 102-120)

    The prediction that the Mongol barbarians would not last a century proved true.¹ Fewer than one hundred years after Qubilai successfully united all of China, the Yuan dynasty collapsed. For the greater part of his thirty-six-year reign the last Yuan emperor, Shun-ti (Toghon-temiir), was harassed by rebellions in the south. Rebel leaders initially suffered from rivalry among themselves, but the leader from Feng-yang in Anhwei, Chu Yuan-chang, was successful in overcoming all rivals. Having consolidated control in the south, he turned his forces northward and sent Shun-ti fleeing from Peking to the desert wastes further north. The year was 1368....

  11. Chapter 6 The Middle Ming (I): Stagnation and Revival, 1400–1500
    (pp. 121-136)

    The two preceding chapters dealt with the late Yuan and early Ming period, when Yang Wei-chen, Yü Chi, Kao Ch’i, and Liu Chi were luminaries. Not only did poetry flourish, the new vernacular genres of drama and vernacular fiction also came to maturity. The great works of “southern-style drama” (nan-hsi), including Kao Ming’sP’i-p’a, chi, orAccount of the Lute, as well as the compilation of China’s first Mi-length novels, theShui-hu ehuanandSan-kuo-chih yen-i, date from this fourteenth-century period.¹ Ch’ü Yu’s series of stories of the supernatural, theChienteng hsin-hua, orNew Storiesfor When the Lampwicks Are Trimmed,...

  12. Chapter 7 The Middle Ming (II): The Age of Old Phraseology, 1500–1600
    (pp. 137-176)

    Sixteenth-century China was dominated by an archaist literary movement called Old Phraseology (Ku-wen-tz’u). The movement advocated the use of models to recapture the intensity and strength of past literature. Only a very limited range of works from the core of the classical tradition was considered acceptable for imitation. Specifically, writings of the Ch’in and Han dynasties were deemed the proper model for prose writing, especially theShih chi, orRecords of the Historian, completed in the first century b.c. For poetry eighth-century High T’ang verse was the ideal, particularly the poetry of Tu Fu; also acceptable as a model, but...

  13. Chapter 8 The Late Ming, 1600–1650
    (pp. 177-190)

    The first half of the seventeenth century marks the final decades of the Ming dynasty. When the century began, the longest-ruling Ming sovereign, the Wan-li emperor, was already in the twenty-eighth year of a reign that was to last an additional twenty years. His tenure was followed by the seven-year one of the T’iench’i emperor (r. 1620–1627). Finally, the Ch’ung-chen emperor’s seventeen-year span brought the dynasty to an end in 1644. The political history of the period, from the late years of the preceding century until the dynasty’s fall, is one of incessant feuding between bureaucratic groups. Factional feuds,...

  14. Afterword
    (pp. 191-196)
    William S. Atwell

    Wen shih pu fen chia, ‘Literature and History do not divide their patrimony,’ says an old Chinese academic maxim, or more simply, literature and history are inseparable. The wisdom, indeed the necessity, of observing this is widely recognized but inadequately followed.” So wrote the historian Frederick W. Mote in the introduction to his elegant biography of the poet Kao Ch’i (1336–1374), which was published by Princeton University Press in 1962. In that path-breaking work Mote demonstrated just how important a careful study of poets and their poetry could be to an understanding of the intellectual, cultural, and political worlds...

  15. Index
    (pp. 197-215)