The Problem of Beauty: Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China 0674022645, 9780674022645

During the Northern Song dynasty (960-1126), new ground was broken in aesthetic thought, particularly in the fields of a

346 92 20MB

English Pages 382 [432] Year 2006

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

The Problem of Beauty: Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China
 0674022645, 9780674022645

Citation preview

-

,':~'

THE

PROBLEM OF

BEAUTY'

Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China

Harvard East Asian Monographs

271

"

-

,':~'

THE

PROBLEM OF

BEAUTY'

Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China

Harvard East Asian Monographs

271

"

~2q1

J

"~ ' r ,

,.

,

' J

&~1~ THE

PROBLEM OF

BEAUTY ·~

;

j

-.,i'.~io,d,

'Hr.t

:,.'

Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China

..1J~f,~

Ronald Egan

Published by the Harvard University Asia Center and distributed by Harvard University Press



Cambridge (Massachusetts) and London, J:. ;. \II

S3~.1l/

2006

~ tiH~ ~

1\ I1\1111\1111\ III 1\111\11\ IIII \111 \1 \11\1 III 1\1\111\ IIII 1\11\11

A541 221 0089 ?33?B

}

~2q1

J

"~ ' r ,

,.

,

' J

&~1~ THE

PROBLEM OF

BEAUTY ·~

;

j

-.,i'.~io,d,

'Hr.t

:,.'

Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China

..1J~f,~

Ronald Egan

Published by the Harvard University Asia Center and distributed by Harvard University Press



Cambridge (Massachusetts) and London, J:. ;. \II

S3~.1l/

2006

~ tiH~ ~

1\ I1\1111\1111\ III 1\111\11\ IIII \111 \1 \11\1 III 1\1\111\ IIII 1\11\11

A541 221 0089 ?33?B

}

I q)

1

.1.,.,

2006 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College

~

I

Printed in the United States of America

Acknowledgments

The Harvard University Asia Center publishes a monograph series and, in coordination with the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, the Korea Institute, the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, and other faculties and institutes, administers research projects designed to further scholarly understanding of China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, and other Asian countries. The Center also sponsors projects addressing multidisciplinary and regional issues in Asia. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Egan, Ronald, 1945The problem of beauty: aesthetic thought and pursuits in Northern Song dynasty China I Ronald Egan. p. cm. - (Harvard East Asian monographs; 271) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-674-02264-5 (alk. paper) I. China--Civilization-96o-1644. 2. Aesthetics. I. Title. n. Series. OS750.72.E.43 2006 709.51'09021222 2006000347 Index by the author

@ Printed on acid-free paper Last figure below indicates year of this printing 16 15 14 13 12

11

10 09 08 07 06

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies for permission to use quotations from James R. Hightower's translation and discussion of Liu Yong in Chapter 5.

R.E.

I q)

1

.1.,.,

2006 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College

~

I

Printed in the United States of America

Acknowledgments

The Harvard University Asia Center publishes a monograph series and, in coordination with the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, the Korea Institute, the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, and other faculties and institutes, administers research projects designed to further scholarly understanding of China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, and other Asian countries. The Center also sponsors projects addressing multidisciplinary and regional issues in Asia. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Egan, Ronald, 1945The problem of beauty: aesthetic thought and pursuits in Northern Song dynasty China I Ronald Egan. p. cm. - (Harvard East Asian monographs; 271) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-674-02264-5 (alk. paper) I. China--Civilization-96o-1644. 2. Aesthetics. I. Title. n. Series. OS750.72.E.43 2006 709.51'09021222 2006000347 Index by the author

@ Printed on acid-free paper Last figure below indicates year of this printing 16 15 14 13 12

11

10 09 08 07 06

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies for permission to use quotations from James R. Hightower's translation and discussion of Liu Yong in Chapter 5.

R.E.

Contents

Introduction I

2

3

Rethinking "Traces" from the Past: Ouyang Xiu on Stone Inscriptions A New Poetry Criticism: The Creation of "Remarks on Poetry"

7

60

The Peony's Allure: Botanical Treatises and Floral Beauty

4 Art Collecting and Its Discontents in the Lives of

Su Shi, Wang Shen, and Mi Fu 5 The Song Lyric, Part

I:

The Trouble with Love

6 The Song Lyric, Part

2:

A New Critical Discourse,

a New Male Voice

237 295

Conclusion: The Aesthetics of Social Class, Marketplace, and Gender

349

Reference Matter

I

!

Works Cited

38 5

Index

397

Contents

Introduction I

2

3

Rethinking "Traces" from the Past: Ouyang Xiu on Stone Inscriptions A New Poetry Criticism: The Creation of "Remarks on Poetry"

7

60

The Peony's Allure: Botanical Treatises and Floral Beauty

4 Art Collecting and Its Discontents in the Lives of

Su Shi, Wang Shen, and Mi Fu 5 The Song Lyric, Part

I:

The Trouble with Love

6 The Song Lyric, Part

2:

A New Critical Discourse,

a New Male Voice

237 295

Conclusion: The Aesthetics of Social Class, Marketplace, and Gender

349

Reference Matter

I

!

Works Cited

38 5

Index

397

THE

PROBLEM OF

BEAUTY

Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China

,I.i



THE

PROBLEM OF

BEAUTY

Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China

,I.i



I'

/

t\

THE

PROBLEM OF

BEAUTY

Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China

::;,

'I",'

I'

/

t\

THE

PROBLEM OF

BEAUTY

Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty China

::;,

'I",'

Introduction

!

I:

This volume consists of essays on aspects of aesthetic pursuits and thinking about them during the Northern Song dynasty (s>60-U26). The chronological focus is on the last one hundred years or so of the dynasty, from 1030 on. The topics treated in the essays include art collecting and writing about that activity (Chapters I and 4), a form of poetry criticism that appeared at the time called "remarks on poetry" "tt~ (Chapter 2), treatises on flowering plants (Chapter 3), and developments in the history and criticism of the song lyric, a leading literary form (Chapters 5 and 6). The essays in this book do not constitute a comprehensive history of the artistic pursuits or the aesthetic thought of the period. Rather, what are presented are selected topics in Song period aesthetics. Yet collectively the activities treated here· form an indispensable part of what is distinctive about Northern Song culture. Most of them also have legacies that extend far beyond their time and influenced the formation of Chinese civilization as we know it in the later imperial periods. Because of the range of topics covered, and the fact that some of them have not been studied previously, I have had to limit my discussions to a few salient points and representative primary sources. Much more could be written, and should be, on each of the topics I have chosen. Several of them warrant book-length studies of their own. My selection of topics was guided in part by my interest in studying what was new in the period. Nearly everything that is dealt with in these essays was in some important sense unprecedented in China at the time it appeared in the eleventh century. Consequently, in the way people involve themselves with these pursuits there is both excitement and anxiety. We find bold exploration coupled

Introduction

!

I:

This volume consists of essays on aspects of aesthetic pursuits and thinking about them during the Northern Song dynasty (s>60-U26). The chronological focus is on the last one hundred years or so of the dynasty, from 1030 on. The topics treated in the essays include art collecting and writing about that activity (Chapters I and 4), a form of poetry criticism that appeared at the time called "remarks on poetry" "tt~ (Chapter 2), treatises on flowering plants (Chapter 3), and developments in the history and criticism of the song lyric, a leading literary form (Chapters 5 and 6). The essays in this book do not constitute a comprehensive history of the artistic pursuits or the aesthetic thought of the period. Rather, what are presented are selected topics in Song period aesthetics. Yet collectively the activities treated here· form an indispensable part of what is distinctive about Northern Song culture. Most of them also have legacies that extend far beyond their time and influenced the formation of Chinese civilization as we know it in the later imperial periods. Because of the range of topics covered, and the fact that some of them have not been studied previously, I have had to limit my discussions to a few salient points and representative primary sources. Much more could be written, and should be, on each of the topics I have chosen. Several of them warrant book-length studies of their own. My selection of topics was guided in part by my interest in studying what was new in the period. Nearly everything that is dealt with in these essays was in some important sense unprecedented in China at the time it appeared in the eleventh century. Consequently, in the way people involve themselves with these pursuits there is both excitement and anxiety. We find bold exploration coupled

2

INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

with uncertainty of direction, and even some backsliding, in the way achievement is garnered. To be specific about the newness of it all: no one before Ouyang Xiu Et ~ ~ seems to have set out to assemble a comprehensive collection of the ancient calligraphy found on the stone inscriptions scattered through ancient temples, shrines, mountain tops, and burial sites of China (collected in the form of stone rubbings). In any case, certainly no one before Ouyang wrote about the significance of such a collection and the problems it posed to the extent that he did. What Ouyang accomplishes in his extensive notes on the hundreds of inscriptions he gathered is a new conception of calligraphy history, which stands in contrast to the imperially sponsored one of his day and has far-reaching implications regarding attitudes toward the past, assumptions about the distribution of artistic talent, and choices between ideological purity and aesthetic beauty. Ouyang Xiu was also the first person to compose a "remarks on poetry," which he did in the last years of his life. This new form of poetry criticism proved to have enormous appeal and proliferated rapidly in the decades after Ouyang's pioneering effort. In the following centuries, remarks on poetry became arguably the most important, and certainly the most voluminous, type of literary criticism in China. Of particular interest is the capacity the form had for attention to technical considerations in the crafting of poetry, an area of inquiry that is allotted little space in earlier treatises on literature. More than anything else, this ability of remarks on poetry to deal with matters of poetic tech.nique seems to be what excited writers and critics about it. Ouyang Xiu opened another new field of knowledge when he wrote his treatise on the peonies of Luoyang in 1034, providing information on the varieties of the plant, its cultivation, and the ways the residents celebrate the annual blossoming (a custom that continues in the city to this day). Soon, aficionados of other plants in other regions composed similar treatises or catalogues on their favorite blossom, expanding upon or competing with Ouyang's account. By the end of the Northern Song, China could be said to have developed the world's first literature on the cultivation and connoisseurship of flowers.

59

-

i

r

The collecting of painting and calligraphy during the time of Su Shi ,Ii.t;X and Mi Fu *-1# (a generation after Ouyang Xiu) , the subject of Chapter 4, was not as novel as these other activities. China had a long tradition of art collecting. What is unprecedented, however, is the extent to which the artists and critics of the day wrote about their habit of collecting, heatedly discussing the iSsues it raised concerning connoisseurship, the hierarchy of artistic forms, the nature of artistic merit, and the issue of the collector's possessiveness toward works of art. Su Shi's generation brought to a new height Chinese thinking about art collecting. The song lyric (ci -til) likewise had an earlier history before the period examined here. But so radically transformed was the song lyric in the course of the eleventh century, eventually reaching a breadth of expressive potential and stature it had previously not known, that it has ever after been associated with the dynasty, as its distinctive form and special achievement in literature. Chapters 5 and 6 trace the long process through which the song lyric was modified during the course of the eleventh century, in the hands of one author after another, while it gradually was accorded more stature in criticism, until it reached its culminating stage toward the period's end. The question naturally arises about the extent of the connection between these diverse subjects, belonging as they do to areas of thought and expression that we usually think of as distinct. As already mentioned, one person, Ouyang Xiu, played a formative role in the history of at least three of the fields under consideration. In fact, Ouyang was also a key contributor to the development of the song lyric in mid-century. In other words, the trajectory of the history of each of my topics passes through the life and creative energies of a single individual. Moreover, that same individual is generally recognized as being mentor to and important influence upon several leading figures of the generation that succeeded his. Certain of these younger men likewise figure prominently in more than one field dealt with here. My working hypothesis when I began these essays, therefore, was that there probably were significant linkages between the developments I intended to investigate, even if the writings in one field do not make explicit reference to the others.

2

INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

with uncertainty of direction, and even some backsliding, in the way achievement is garnered. To be specific about the newness of it all: no one before Ouyang Xiu Et ~ ~ seems to have set out to assemble a comprehensive collection of the ancient calligraphy found on the stone inscriptions scattered through ancient temples, shrines, mountain tops, and burial sites of China (collected in the form of stone rubbings). In any case, certainly no one before Ouyang wrote about the significance of such a collection and the problems it posed to the extent that he did. What Ouyang accomplishes in his extensive notes on the hundreds of inscriptions he gathered is a new conception of calligraphy history, which stands in contrast to the imperially sponsored one of his day and has far-reaching implications regarding attitudes toward the past, assumptions about the distribution of artistic talent, and choices between ideological purity and aesthetic beauty. Ouyang Xiu was also the first person to compose a "remarks on poetry," which he did in the last years of his life. This new form of poetry criticism proved to have enormous appeal and proliferated rapidly in the decades after Ouyang's pioneering effort. In the following centuries, remarks on poetry became arguably the most important, and certainly the most voluminous, type of literary criticism in China. Of particular interest is the capacity the form had for attention to technical considerations in the crafting of poetry, an area of inquiry that is allotted little space in earlier treatises on literature. More than anything else, this ability of remarks on poetry to deal with matters of poetic tech.nique seems to be what excited writers and critics about it. Ouyang Xiu opened another new field of knowledge when he wrote his treatise on the peonies of Luoyang in 1034, providing information on the varieties of the plant, its cultivation, and the ways the residents celebrate the annual blossoming (a custom that continues in the city to this day). Soon, aficionados of other plants in other regions composed similar treatises or catalogues on their favorite blossom, expanding upon or competing with Ouyang's account. By the end of the Northern Song, China could be said to have developed the world's first literature on the cultivation and connoisseurship of flowers.

59

-

i

r

The collecting of painting and calligraphy during the time of Su Shi ,Ii.t;X and Mi Fu *-1# (a generation after Ouyang Xiu) , the subject of Chapter 4, was not as novel as these other activities. China had a long tradition of art collecting. What is unprecedented, however, is the extent to which the artists and critics of the day wrote about their habit of collecting, heatedly discussing the iSsues it raised concerning connoisseurship, the hierarchy of artistic forms, the nature of artistic merit, and the issue of the collector's possessiveness toward works of art. Su Shi's generation brought to a new height Chinese thinking about art collecting. The song lyric (ci -til) likewise had an earlier history before the period examined here. But so radically transformed was the song lyric in the course of the eleventh century, eventually reaching a breadth of expressive potential and stature it had previously not known, that it has ever after been associated with the dynasty, as its distinctive form and special achievement in literature. Chapters 5 and 6 trace the long process through which the song lyric was modified during the course of the eleventh century, in the hands of one author after another, while it gradually was accorded more stature in criticism, until it reached its culminating stage toward the period's end. The question naturally arises about the extent of the connection between these diverse subjects, belonging as they do to areas of thought and expression that we usually think of as distinct. As already mentioned, one person, Ouyang Xiu, played a formative role in the history of at least three of the fields under consideration. In fact, Ouyang was also a key contributor to the development of the song lyric in mid-century. In other words, the trajectory of the history of each of my topics passes through the life and creative energies of a single individual. Moreover, that same individual is generally recognized as being mentor to and important influence upon several leading figures of the generation that succeeded his. Certain of these younger men likewise figure prominently in more than one field dealt with here. My working hypothesis when I began these essays, therefore, was that there probably were significant linkages between the developments I intended to investigate, even if the writings in one field do not make explicit reference to the others.

4

INTRODUCTION

To be sure, each of the areas of activity has its own parameters and, within them, distinctive issues. It would be folly to try to develop a conceptual scheme that would link every aspect of such diverse pursuits. Still, there are certain overarching themes that surface time and again, as we turn from one field to another. Taken together, these suggest that there was a certain logic to the new directions that literati culture took in the Northern Song. One may discern, in other words, a coherent set of interests and choices in the innovations of the period. These choices are discussed at length in my concluding chapter and will just briefly be mentioned here. In one area after another, we find an interest in pursuing "beauty" or aesthetically pleasing objects across boundaries that had previously been viewed as inviolable within the scholarly class. This certainly happened with Ouyang Xiu's enthusiasm for ancient calligraphy, which took him beyond the "classical" models of Wang Xizhi ..£.,.:.t.. and Wang Xianzhi ..£Iit.:.t.., and led him eventually to come up against the problem of what to make of attractive brushwork, left by unknown persons, !hat ~~s used to inscribe texts whose content was considered repUgnant by Confucian standards. A similar interest in writing about the beauty of the peony led Ouyang to take exception to conventional literati disregard for that plant, which had previously been considered, because of its sensuous allure, far inferior to plants such as the plum and bamboo, admired for their austere demeanor. Poets who turned to the song lyric and incorporated into their compositions traits of the "vulgar" entertainment song likewise transgressed a barrier that court poets of the Five Dynasties period had rigorously observed in their involvement with the form. In a different way, the late-eleventh-century literati who established the new "remarks on poetry" set aside the longstanding taboo against giving minutely focused attention in writings about literature to poetic craft, something that had been considered beneath the dignity of a learned gentleman to concern himself with. What resulted was a new level of insight into the technical aspects of what makes a poem effective. There is a general relaxation of the narrow selectivity regarding what subjects and modes of expression are deemed appropriate for members of the scholar-official class. Greater license is gradually

INTRODUCTION

5

established for the pursuit of aesthetic pleasures-and for writing about them-which had previously been problematic. In some cases, this expansion involves the acceptance of merchant-class tastes, as in .~ __ ..~ the new interest in floral beauty. The marketable value of aesthetic ~ .:. objects, whether they are a cutting of a splendid branch of peonies, a Tang dynasty painting, or a copy of a celebrated poet's latest ro>mantic songs, begins to be factored into their perceived validity and respectability. In other cases, as with the reevaluation of the calligraphy of ages past, what we find is a loosening of the grip of ideological criteria, as well as aesthetic preferences, that had formerly been used to uphold a highly restrictive view of what was "worthy" from the past. A perhaps unexpected issue that also surfaces repeatedly is the need to reconceptualize what it means to be "manly" in light of the new interest in aesthetic refinement. There were feminine associations with the sentimentality of, for example, the song lyric, and there were feminine overtones in attending to delicate crafting and connoisseurship, whether of poetic language or of flower cultivation. These had to be reckoned with before the new activities could be considered fully acceptable. The rethinking of the problem of male practitioners' involvement with "feminine" modes of expression led to modifications in conceptions of genoer identity, especially male. By centering this volume on "the problem of beauty," I intend to call at~en.tio~ to ~~e d~fficulty that Nort4er~~Song inn~vators had in estabhshmg JuStlflcatlOns for the new purSUlts to whlch they were drawn. In each field, the impulse to develop some new aesthetic area of inquiry-breaking free of moralistic biases against doing so-was fulfilled only with great intellectual effort and courage. That such effort was necessary is hardly surprising, given the weight and character of the Confucian tradition. What is remarkable is that the Northern Song turn to aesthetic pursuits achieved as much as it did, with consequences that lasted well beyond the period under consideration.

4

INTRODUCTION

To be sure, each of the areas of activity has its own parameters and, within them, distinctive issues. It would be folly to try to develop a conceptual scheme that would link every aspect of such diverse pursuits. Still, there are certain overarching themes that surface time and again, as we turn from one field to another. Taken together, these suggest that there was a certain logic to the new directions that literati culture took in the Northern Song. One may discern, in other words, a coherent set of interests and choices in the innovations of the period. These choices are discussed at length in my concluding chapter and will just briefly be mentioned here. In one area after another, we find an interest in pursuing "beauty" or aesthetically pleasing objects across boundaries that had previously been viewed as inviolable within the scholarly class. This certainly happened with Ouyang Xiu's enthusiasm for ancient calligraphy, which took him beyond the "classical" models of Wang Xizhi ..£.,.:.t.. and Wang Xianzhi ..£Iit.:.t.., and led him eventually to come up against the problem of what to make of attractive brushwork, left by unknown persons, !hat ~~s used to inscribe texts whose content was considered repUgnant by Confucian standards. A similar interest in writing about the beauty of the peony led Ouyang to take exception to conventional literati disregard for that plant, which had previously been considered, because of its sensuous allure, far inferior to plants such as the plum and bamboo, admired for their austere demeanor. Poets who turned to the song lyric and incorporated into their compositions traits of the "vulgar" entertainment song likewise transgressed a barrier that court poets of the Five Dynasties period had rigorously observed in their involvement with the form. In a different way, the late-eleventh-century literati who established the new "remarks on poetry" set aside the longstanding taboo against giving minutely focused attention in writings about literature to poetic craft, something that had been considered beneath the dignity of a learned gentleman to concern himself with. What resulted was a new level of insight into the technical aspects of what makes a poem effective. There is a general relaxation of the narrow selectivity regarding what subjects and modes of expression are deemed appropriate for members of the scholar-official class. Greater license is gradually

INTRODUCTION

5

established for the pursuit of aesthetic pleasures-and for writing about them-which had previously been problematic. In some cases, this expansion involves the acceptance of merchant-class tastes, as in .~ __ ..~ the new interest in floral beauty. The marketable value of aesthetic ~ .:. objects, whether they are a cutting of a splendid branch of peonies, a Tang dynasty painting, or a copy of a celebrated poet's latest ro>mantic songs, begins to be factored into their perceived validity and respectability. In other cases, as with the reevaluation of the calligraphy of ages past, what we find is a loosening of the grip of ideological criteria, as well as aesthetic preferences, that had formerly been used to uphold a highly restrictive view of what was "worthy" from the past. A perhaps unexpected issue that also surfaces repeatedly is the need to reconceptualize what it means to be "manly" in light of the new interest in aesthetic refinement. There were feminine associations with the sentimentality of, for example, the song lyric, and there were feminine overtones in attending to delicate crafting and connoisseurship, whether of poetic language or of flower cultivation. These had to be reckoned with before the new activities could be considered fully acceptable. The rethinking of the problem of male practitioners' involvement with "feminine" modes of expression led to modifications in conceptions of genoer identity, especially male. By centering this volume on "the problem of beauty," I intend to call at~en.tio~ to ~~e d~fficulty that Nort4er~~Song inn~vators had in estabhshmg JuStlflcatlOns for the new purSUlts to whlch they were drawn. In each field, the impulse to develop some new aesthetic area of inquiry-breaking free of moralistic biases against doing so-was fulfilled only with great intellectual effort and courage. That such effort was necessary is hardly surprising, given the weight and character of the Confucian tradition. What is remarkable is that the Northern Song turn to aesthetic pursuits achieved as much as it did, with consequences that lasted well beyond the period under consideration.

4

INTRODUCTION

To be sure, each of the areas of activity has its own parameters and, within them, distinctive issues. It would be folly to try to develop a conceptual scheme that would link every aspect of such diverse pursuits. Still, there are certain overarching themes that surface time and again, as we turn from one field to another. Taken together, these suggest that there was a certain logic to the new directions that literati culture took in the Northern Song. One may discern, in other words, a coherent set of interests and choices in the innovations of the period. These choices are discussed at length in my concluding chapter and will just briefly be mentioned here. In one area after another, we find an interest in pursuing "beauty" or aesthetically pleasing objects across boundaries that had previously been viewed as inviolable within the scholarly class. This certainly happened with Ouyang Xiu's enthusiasm for ancient calligraphy, which took him beyond the "classical" models of Wang Xizhi ..I. ... ~ and Wang Xianzhi ..I.J.It~, and led him eventually to come up against the problem of what to make of attractive brushwork, left by unknown persons, ~hat w~ used to inscribe texts whose content was considered repUgnant by Confucian standards. A similar interest in writing about the beauty of the peony led Ouyang to take exception to conventional literati disregard for that plant, which had previously been considered, because of its sensuous allure, far inferior to plants such as the plum and bamboo, admired for their austere demeanor. Poets who turned to the song lyric and incorporated into their compositions traits of the "vulgar" entertainment song likewise transgressed a barrier that court poets of the Five Dynasties period had rigorously observed in their involvement with the form. In a different way, the late-eleventh-century literati who established the new "remarks on poetry" set aside the longstanding taboo against giving minutely focused attention in writings about literature to poetic craft, something that had been considered beneath the dignity of a learned gentleman to concern himself with. What resulted was a new level of insight into the technical aspects of what makes a poem effective. There is a general relaxation of the narrow selectivity regarding what subjects 'and modes of expression are deemed appropriate for members of the scholar-official class. Greater license is gradually

INTRODUCTION

5

established for the pursuit of aesthetic pleasures-and for writing about them-which had previously been problematic. In some cases, this expansion involves the acceptance of merchant-class tastes, as in '.', . the new interest in floral beauty. The marketable value of aesthetic ':\ .. objects, whether they are a cutting of a splendid branch of peonies, a Tang dynasty painting, or a copy of a celebrated poet's latest romantic songs, begins to be factored into their perceived validity and respectability. In other cases, as with the reevaluation of the calligraphy of ages past, what we find is a loosening of the grip of ideological criteria, as well as aesthetic preferences, that had formerly been used to uphold a highly restrictive view of what was "worthy" from the past. A perhaps unexpected issue that also surfaces repeatedly is the need to reconceptualize what it means to be "manly" in light of the new interest in aesthetic refinement. There were feminine associations with the sentimentality of, for example, the song lyric, and there were feminine overtones in attending to delicate crafting and connoisseurship, whether of poetic language or of flower cultivation. These had to be reckoned with before the new activities could be considered fully acceptable. The rethinking of the problem of male practitioners' involvement with "feminine" modes of expression led to modifications in conceptions of gender identity, especially male. By centering this volume on "the problem of beauty," I intend to call at~er>:tio~ to ~~e d~fficulty that N0rt~:flSong inn?v'ators had in estabhshmg Justiflcatlons for the new ptff'SllltS to whlch they were drawn. In each field, the impulse to develop some new aesthetic area of inquiry-breaking free of moralistic biases against doing so-was fulfilled only with great intellectual effort and courage. That such effort was necessary is hardly surprising, given the weight and character of the Confucian tradition. What is remarkable is that the Northern Song turn to aesthetic pursuits achieved as much as it did, with consequences that lasted well beyond the period under consideration.

4

INTRODUCTION

To be sure, each of the areas of activity has its own parameters and, within them, distinctive issues. It would be folly to try to develop a conceptual scheme that would link every aspect of such diverse pursuits. Still, there are certain overarching themes that surface time and again, as we turn from one field to another. Taken together, these suggest that there was a certain logic to the new directions that literati culture took in the Northern Song. One may discern, in other words, a coherent set of interests and choices in the innovations of the period. These choices are discussed at length in my concluding chapter and will just briefly be mentioned here. In one area after another, we find an interest in pursuing "beauty" or aesthetically pleasing objects across boundaries that had previously been viewed as inviolable within the scholarly class. This certainly happened with Ouyang Xiu's enthusiasm for ancient calligraphy, which took him beyond the "classical" models of Wang Xizhi ..I. ... ~ and Wang Xianzhi ..I.J.It~, and led him eventually to come up against the problem of what to make of attractive brushwork, left by unknown persons, ~hat w~ used to inscribe texts whose content was considered repUgnant by Confucian standards. A similar interest in writing about the beauty of the peony led Ouyang to take exception to conventional literati disregard for that plant, which had previously been considered, because of its sensuous allure, far inferior to plants such as the plum and bamboo, admired for their austere demeanor. Poets who turned to the song lyric and incorporated into their compositions traits of the "vulgar" entertainment song likewise transgressed a barrier that court poets of the Five Dynasties period had rigorously observed in their involvement with the form. In a different way, the late-eleventh-century literati who established the new "remarks on poetry" set aside the longstanding taboo against giving minutely focused attention in writings about literature to poetic craft, something that had been considered beneath the dignity of a learned gentleman to concern himself with. What resulted was a new level of insight into the technical aspects of what makes a poem effective. There is a general relaxation of the narrow selectivity regarding what subjects 'and modes of expression are deemed appropriate for members of the scholar-official class. Greater license is gradually

INTRODUCTION

5

established for the pursuit of aesthetic pleasures-and for writing about them-which had previously been problematic. In some cases, this expansion involves the acceptance of merchant-class tastes, as in '.', . the new interest in floral beauty. The marketable value of aesthetic ':\ .. objects, whether they are a cutting of a splendid branch of peonies, a Tang dynasty painting, or a copy of a celebrated poet's latest romantic songs, begins to be factored into their perceived validity and respectability. In other cases, as with the reevaluation of the calligraphy of ages past, what we find is a loosening of the grip of ideological criteria, as well as aesthetic preferences, that had formerly been used to uphold a highly restrictive view of what was "worthy" from the past. A perhaps unexpected issue that also surfaces repeatedly is the need to reconceptualize what it means to be "manly" in light of the new interest in aesthetic refinement. There were feminine associations with the sentimentality of, for example, the song lyric, and there were feminine overtones in attending to delicate crafting and connoisseurship, whether of poetic language or of flower cultivation. These had to be reckoned with before the new activities could be considered fully acceptable. The rethinking of the problem of male practitioners' involvement with "feminine" modes of expression led to modifications in conceptions of gender identity, especially male. By centering this volume on "the problem of beauty," I intend to call at~er>:tio~ to ~~e d~fficulty that N0rt~:flSong inn?v'ators had in estabhshmg Justiflcatlons for the new ptff'SllltS to whlch they were drawn. In each field, the impulse to develop some new aesthetic area of inquiry-breaking free of moralistic biases against doing so-was fulfilled only with great intellectual effort and courage. That such effort was necessary is hardly surprising, given the weight and character of the Confucian tradition. What is remarkable is that the Northern Song turn to aesthetic pursuits achieved as much as it did, with consequences that lasted well beyond the period under consideration.

8

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

The essential facts about the project may be briefly summarized. Upon the failure of the reform movement led by Fan Zhongyan t€. 1+ it- in 1044, Ouyang Xiu found himself removed from the capital and demoted to the northern provinces, first to the "northern capital" of Darning :k..t and then, in 1045, much further north to the border commandery of Zhending Ji.~. Ouyang had long been interested in ancient inscriptions, certainly at least from the time of his association early in his career with fellow scholars in Luoyang who were promoting a revival of "ancient prose," the likes of which are preserved in stone inscriptions. Since the 1030S, he had been an occasional collector of rubbings of steles he came across.2 Now in the far north, where he found few diversions, Ouyang re·solved to occupy himself by systematically making a collection of whatever ancient rubbings he could get his hands on. 3 Once he began, it was a project that followed him wherever he went. He kept at it for nearly twenty years until he had gathered some one thousand rubbings in all. He enlisted the help of friends who, as they moved all over the empire in their official assignments, often traveled to remote places that Ouyang himself never visited, where they could procure rubbings of local steles to send him. Some of these friends were collectors themselves (e.g., Liu Chang J1i4t, who provided Ouyang with several rubbings from ancient vessels that had been unearthed in the Luoyang area). But Ouyang's collection, which he lectual history, see Peter K. Bol, "'Ibis CuLture of Ours»; Intellectual Transitions in T'ang and Sung China, pp. 176-201; on Ouyang's study of the Classic of Poetry, as well as his thinking about tradition and literary expression, see Steven Van Zoeren, Poetry and Personality; Reading, Exegesis, and Henneneutics in TraditionaL China, chap. 6. 2. See Ouyang's colophons, "Jin Nanxiang taishou song" {tr!J~k '1' 'tfJ.,Jigu lu bawei 4.2159, and "Tang Lii Tan biao" Jt g ~*-, Jigu lu bawei 7.2236. Cf. Yan Jie, Ouyang Xiu nianpu, p. 135. 3· Ouyang's own account of how he started his collection is contained in a letter to Cai Xiang ~., translated later in this chapter: Ouyang Xiu, "Yu CaiJunmo qiu shu 'Jigu lu mu xu' shu" ~~:#~,~'-11; -5~ EI ,4,-, Jushi waiji 20.1022-23; and "Wei Liu Xi xuesheng zhong bei" it 11 ;l; 1:. :+: ~, Jigu Lu bawei 4.2155. For chronological accounts of this period of Ouyang's life, see Hu Ke, "Ouyang Xiu nianpu," in Ouyang xiu quanji, "fulu I," pp. 2602-4; and Yan Jie, Ouyang Xiu nianpu, pp. 124-35.

*

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

9

called Collected Records of the Past #. 1; ~, eclipsed all others of his day. He tells us that he did not copy the inscriptions over for in- 't {< \ I elusion in his collection for fear of introducing mistakes in the 1+) 'f:..' copying process. Instead, he mounted and bound together the rubbings themselves, gathering them together in what must have been massive albums. In 1062, Ouyang composed a preface to colophons he was writing, or planned to write, on the inscriptions in his collection, which he would gather together as a separate compilation. The preface stands : as Ouyang's formal statement of the purposes and aims of his project. He then turned his energies to writing colophons or scholarly notices on some four hundred of the inscriptions-nearly half of the works in his collection. Ouyang continued to write these notices on the inscriptions right up until his death in 1072. In his final years, he entrusted the collection and his colophons to his son, Fei ~. Fei is probably the one who arranged Ouyang's colophons chronologically (beginning with those on inscriptions from the Zhou dynasty and ending with those from the Tang and Five Dynasties periods), for originally the collection was arranged not by the date of the inscriptions but rather by the sequence in which Ouyang acquired them. This new arrangement of Ouyang's colophons, entitled Colophons on Collected Records of the Past #. 1;~~~, in ten chapters, was incorporated into his collected works in the Southern Song, where it is still found today.4 Fei added a "Catalogue" ~ E1, also in ten chapters, in which he provided the title of each inscription and a brief identification of its author, calligrapher, and date (if known).s Fei's "Catalogue" was lost during the Southern Song but was partially reconstructed from quotations in the Qing dynasty.6 By virtue of Ouyang's colophons and Fei's reconstructed catalogue, we now know the titles of over seven hundred items in Ouyang's collection. i

4. The edition of the colophons used here is that contained in juan 134-43 of the recent edition of his complete works, Ouyang Xiu quanji. 5. See Fei's account of this catalogue, "Lu mu ji" ~ E11i!., inJigu Lu bawei, "Fulu" Jlltit. 1. 2 32 5, and the discussion of it by Ouyang Xiu's Southern Song editors, "Fulu" 2.2326. 6. Ouyang Fei, Jigu Lu mu, ed. by Miao Quansun.

8

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

The essential facts about the project may be briefly summarized. Upon the failure of the reform movement led by Fan Zhongyan t€. 1+ it- in 1044, Ouyang Xiu found himself removed from the capital and demoted to the northern provinces, first to the "northern capital" of Darning :k..t and then, in 1045, much further north to the border commandery of Zhending Ji.~. Ouyang had long been interested in ancient inscriptions, certainly at least from the time of his association early in his career with fellow scholars in Luoyang who were promoting a revival of "ancient prose," the likes of which are preserved in stone inscriptions. Since the 1030S, he had been an occasional collector of rubbings of steles he came across.2 Now in the far north, where he found few diversions, Ouyang re·solved to occupy himself by systematically making a collection of whatever ancient rubbings he could get his hands on. 3 Once he began, it was a project that followed him wherever he went. He kept at it for nearly twenty years until he had gathered some one thousand rubbings in all. He enlisted the help of friends who, as they moved all over the empire in their official assignments, often traveled to remote places that Ouyang himself never visited, where they could procure rubbings of local steles to send him. Some of these friends were collectors themselves (e.g., Liu Chang J1i4t, who provided Ouyang with several rubbings from ancient vessels that had been unearthed in the Luoyang area). But Ouyang's collection, which he lectual history, see Peter K. Bol, "'Ibis CuLture of Ours»; Intellectual Transitions in T'ang and Sung China, pp. 176-201; on Ouyang's study of the Classic of Poetry, as well as his thinking about tradition and literary expression, see Steven Van Zoeren, Poetry and Personality; Reading, Exegesis, and Henneneutics in TraditionaL China, chap. 6. 2. See Ouyang's colophons, "Jin Nanxiang taishou song" {tr!J~k '1' 'tfJ.,Jigu lu bawei 4.2159, and "Tang Lii Tan biao" Jt g ~*-, Jigu lu bawei 7.2236. Cf. Yan Jie, Ouyang Xiu nianpu, p. 135. 3· Ouyang's own account of how he started his collection is contained in a letter to Cai Xiang ~., translated later in this chapter: Ouyang Xiu, "Yu CaiJunmo qiu shu 'Jigu lu mu xu' shu" ~~:#~,~'-11; -5~ EI ,4,-, Jushi waiji 20.1022-23; and "Wei Liu Xi xuesheng zhong bei" it 11 ;l; 1:. :+: ~, Jigu Lu bawei 4.2155. For chronological accounts of this period of Ouyang's life, see Hu Ke, "Ouyang Xiu nianpu," in Ouyang xiu quanji, "fulu I," pp. 2602-4; and Yan Jie, Ouyang Xiu nianpu, pp. 124-35.

*

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

9

called Collected Records of the Past #. 1; ~, eclipsed all others of his day. He tells us that he did not copy the inscriptions over for in- 't {< \ I elusion in his collection for fear of introducing mistakes in the 1+) 'f:..' copying process. Instead, he mounted and bound together the rubbings themselves, gathering them together in what must have been massive albums. In 1062, Ouyang composed a preface to colophons he was writing, or planned to write, on the inscriptions in his collection, which he would gather together as a separate compilation. The preface stands : as Ouyang's formal statement of the purposes and aims of his project. He then turned his energies to writing colophons or scholarly notices on some four hundred of the inscriptions-nearly half of the works in his collection. Ouyang continued to write these notices on the inscriptions right up until his death in 1072. In his final years, he entrusted the collection and his colophons to his son, Fei ~. Fei is probably the one who arranged Ouyang's colophons chronologically (beginning with those on inscriptions from the Zhou dynasty and ending with those from the Tang and Five Dynasties periods), for originally the collection was arranged not by the date of the inscriptions but rather by the sequence in which Ouyang acquired them. This new arrangement of Ouyang's colophons, entitled Colophons on Collected Records of the Past #. 1;~~~, in ten chapters, was incorporated into his collected works in the Southern Song, where it is still found today.4 Fei added a "Catalogue" ~ E1, also in ten chapters, in which he provided the title of each inscription and a brief identification of its author, calligrapher, and date (if known).s Fei's "Catalogue" was lost during the Southern Song but was partially reconstructed from quotations in the Qing dynasty.6 By virtue of Ouyang's colophons and Fei's reconstructed catalogue, we now know the titles of over seven hundred items in Ouyang's collection. i

4. The edition of the colophons used here is that contained in juan 134-43 of the recent edition of his complete works, Ouyang Xiu quanji. 5. See Fei's account of this catalogue, "Lu mu ji" ~ E11i!., inJigu Lu bawei, "Fulu" Jlltit. 1. 2 32 5, and the discussion of it by Ouyang Xiu's Southern Song editors, "Fulu" 2.2326. 6. Ouyang Fei, Jigu Lu mu, ed. by Miao Quansun.

10

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

But as for the inscriptions themselve~, the Qing scholar Miao Quansun ~~~~ estimated that less than one in ten survived to his day.7 Ouyang's colophons vary considerably in length. The briefest are just a few dozen characters and briefly describe the provenance and content of the inscription. But the colophons that merely do this are relatively few. The reason, after all, that most ofthe colophons exist is to allow Ouyang to make a point of some substance about the inscription at hand. His entry may focus on some historical issue raised by what the inscription says, or he may comment on its calligraphy, or he may discuss some aspect of the life or personality of the author. Frequently, Ouyang's entries go on at some length as they develop their point, the lengthiest of them being several hundred characters long. In a recent typeset edition of Ouyang's complete works, in six volumes, the Colophons on Collected Records ofthe Past fills no less than 266 pages: 8 It is by virtue of these scholarly notes on the inscriptions that Ouyang Xiu rightly came to be known as the father of the field of epigraphy in China. This brings us to a few preliminary observations llbout Ouyang's project. His act of collecting rubbings of inscriptions has a certain historical significance inasmuch as it was, as he tells us repeatedly, an unusual' thing to do. But far more unusual, and of greater significance for us today, is the fact that Ouyang wrote so voluminously about the inscriptions he collected. There were other collectors of rubbings and antiquities in Ouyang's era, but no one wrote so ext~n~~l:r. or so thoughtfully abou~ what the~ c~llected. Ouyang's cBlopnons amount to a vast reposItory of thmkmg about the past and the role of calligraphy in cultural history. Written over a period of ten years, the colophons contain Ouyang's reflections on his acquisitions, treated from a variety of angles and in a range of moods. He alternately speaks as historian, antiquarian, moralist, connoisseur, art critic, philosopher, and poet. The colophons reveal, in short, the complexity of Ouyang's attitudes toward the antiquities he collected.

7. Miao Quansun, "Ba" lltl, in Ouyang Fei,Jigu lu mu, p. la. 8. Ouyang Xiu, Jigu lu bawei, in Ouyang Xiu quanji 134.2061-143.2327.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

II

Ouyang's preface We begin here with the preface Ouyang composed for the hundreds of colophons he would write on the inscriptions in his collection. This piece is often anthologized and is considered Ouyang's definitive statement about his project. Preface to Colophons on "Collected Records of the Past,,9 As a rule, material things accumulate where they are enjoyed and are likewise possessed where the resources to obtain them are greatest. If there:; are resources but no enjoyment, or enjoyment without resources, then even if the things in question are close at hand and easy to acquire, they will not be brought to you. Elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, and leopards are wild beasts that live in remote mountains or foreign lands and are capable of killing humans. Yet their horns, tusks, and skins are accumulated and possessed by men. Jade comes from the Kunlun Mountains, which lie beyond a desert that stretches ten thousand miles. The jade obtained there must pass through ten different language regions before it finally arrives in the central kingdom. Pearls come from the South Sea, where they are usually found deep under water. Those who dive for them tie a rope around their waist before they jump in and hardly look human. Sometimes the divers never reappear and end up as a meal for sea monsters. Gold is buried deep inside mountains. It is only obtained after drilling deep mines into the rock. The miners carry torches and dried food with them as they go inside. When there are landslides or a tunnel collapses, it is not unusual for as many as a hundred men to be trapped inside and die. Such is the remoteness, difficulty, and loss of life involved in acquiring precious things. And yet accumulations of gold, jade, and pearls are something we see all the time. This proves that any material thing can be brought to you, if it is enjoyed enough and resources are adequate. 'fL'n;"" King Tang's wash basin, Confucius' cauldron, the stone drums from Jiyang, the inscribed stones at Mt. Dai, Zhouyi, and Kuaiji; the great steles, sacrificial vessels, bronze inscriptions, poems, prefaces, and dedicatory essays written by sage rulers and worthy officials from the Han and Wei 9· Ouyang Xiu, "Jigu lu mu xu" "*~ EJ J!.,Jushi ji 42.599-600. Together with Ouyang's Southern Song editors (see note 5 to this chapter), I understand "rnu" in this title to be equivalent to bawei lltl~ "colophons," as Ouyang's notices on the inscriptions later came to be called.

10

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

But as for the inscriptions themselve~, the Qing scholar Miao Quansun ~~~~ estimated that less than one in ten survived to his day.7 Ouyang's colophons vary considerably in length. The briefest are just a few dozen characters and briefly describe the provenance and content of the inscription. But the colophons that merely do this are relatively few. The reason, after all, that most ofthe colophons exist is to allow Ouyang to make a point of some substance about the inscription at hand. His entry may focus on some historical issue raised by what the inscription says, or he may comment on its calligraphy, or he may discuss some aspect of the life or personality of the author. Frequently, Ouyang's entries go on at some length as they develop their point, the lengthiest of them being several hundred characters long. In a recent typeset edition of Ouyang's complete works, in six volumes, the Colophons on Collected Records ofthe Past fills no less than 266 pages: 8 It is by virtue of these scholarly notes on the inscriptions that Ouyang Xiu rightly came to be known as the father of the field of epigraphy in China. This brings us to a few preliminary observations llbout Ouyang's project. His act of collecting rubbings of inscriptions has a certain historical significance inasmuch as it was, as he tells us repeatedly, an unusual' thing to do. But far more unusual, and of greater significance for us today, is the fact that Ouyang wrote so voluminously about the inscriptions he collected. There were other collectors of rubbings and antiquities in Ouyang's era, but no one wrote so ext~n~~l:r. or so thoughtfully abou~ what the~ c~llected. Ouyang's cBlopnons amount to a vast reposItory of thmkmg about the past and the role of calligraphy in cultural history. Written over a period of ten years, the colophons contain Ouyang's reflections on his acquisitions, treated from a variety of angles and in a range of moods. He alternately speaks as historian, antiquarian, moralist, connoisseur, art critic, philosopher, and poet. The colophons reveal, in short, the complexity of Ouyang's attitudes toward the antiquities he collected.

7. Miao Quansun, "Ba" lltl, in Ouyang Fei,Jigu lu mu, p. la. 8. Ouyang Xiu, Jigu lu bawei, in Ouyang Xiu quanji 134.2061-143.2327.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

II

Ouyang's preface We begin here with the preface Ouyang composed for the hundreds of colophons he would write on the inscriptions in his collection. This piece is often anthologized and is considered Ouyang's definitive statement about his project. Preface to Colophons on "Collected Records of the Past,,9 As a rule, material things accumulate where they are enjoyed and are likewise possessed where the resources to obtain them are greatest. If there:; are resources but no enjoyment, or enjoyment without resources, then even if the things in question are close at hand and easy to acquire, they will not be brought to you. Elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, and leopards are wild beasts that live in remote mountains or foreign lands and are capable of killing humans. Yet their horns, tusks, and skins are accumulated and possessed by men. Jade comes from the Kunlun Mountains, which lie beyond a desert that stretches ten thousand miles. The jade obtained there must pass through ten different language regions before it finally arrives in the central kingdom. Pearls come from the South Sea, where they are usually found deep under water. Those who dive for them tie a rope around their waist before they jump in and hardly look human. Sometimes the divers never reappear and end up as a meal for sea monsters. Gold is buried deep inside mountains. It is only obtained after drilling deep mines into the rock. The miners carry torches and dried food with them as they go inside. When there are landslides or a tunnel collapses, it is not unusual for as many as a hundred men to be trapped inside and die. Such is the remoteness, difficulty, and loss of life involved in acquiring precious things. And yet accumulations of gold, jade, and pearls are something we see all the time. This proves that any material thing can be brought to you, if it is enjoyed enough and resources are adequate. 'fL'n;"" King Tang's wash basin, Confucius' cauldron, the stone drums from Jiyang, the inscribed stones at Mt. Dai, Zhouyi, and Kuaiji; the great steles, sacrificial vessels, bronze inscriptions, poems, prefaces, and dedicatory essays written by sage rulers and worthy officials from the Han and Wei 9· Ouyang Xiu, "Jigu lu mu xu" "*~ EJ J!.,Jushi ji 42.599-600. Together with Ouyang's Southern Song editors (see note 5 to this chapter), I understand "rnu" in this title to be equivalent to bawei lltl~ "colophons," as Ouyang's notices on the inscriptions later came to be called.

12

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

dynasties down to today; and calligraphy by various masters done in archaic, greater seal, lesser seal, bafen, and clerical scripts-all these are priceless treasures from the Three Dynasties and later times, and they are the most bizarre and extraordinary, majestic and striking, skillfully crafted, and delightful of material things. They are not found in remote places and acquiring them does not involve danger or risk. Why is it, then, that exposed to the elements and ravaged by war, they are abandoned and damaged, and lie strewn about amid hillsides and ruins where no one gathers them up? It is because those who enjoy such things are so few. Even if someone does know how to enjoy them, if his resources are inadequate, he will be lucky to obtain one or two of them and will be unable to make them truly accumulate before him. In general, resources are less important than finding enjoyment in the thing, and normal enjoyment is not as good as single-minded concentration. By nature I am eccentric and am inordinately fond of antiquity. That which men of the world generally crave holds no interest for me. Consequently, I have been able to concentrate my enjoyment on these things. My enjoyment being extreme, I have been able to bring them into my possession despite having inadequate resources. Beginning with King Mu of the Zhou, down through the Qin and Han, the Sui and Tang, and the Five Dynasties, gathered from throughout the lands within the four seas and nine provinces, famous mountains and great marshes, sheer cliffs and precipitous valleys, overgrown forests and ruined graveyards, including even those that tell of gods, demons, and anomalies, I have them all and have collected them together in what I call Collected Records of the Past. Fearing that copying them over would introduce mistakes, I have had the rubbings themselves mounted and bound together. The collection has its orderly arrangement but not according to the original date of each inscription. Since there are so many pieces, and I am still acquiring new ones, I simply add each one to the compilation in the order it is received. Knowing that a collection as large as this is bound eventually to be broken up, I have chosen the essentials concerning them and entered them in a separate catalogue of colophons, where I have also recorded the facts they contain that may be used to correct the textual historical record. It is my hope that this will be transmitted to future scholars as a contribution to learning. Some may belittle my efforts, saying that when material things are accumulated in such quantity, it is difficult to keep the collection intact, and that sooner or'later it will inevitably be broken up and scattered about. So ~hy amI making such a fuss over these things? I can only say, by way of

13

reply, that doing so supplies me with what I enjoy. What harm is there if I grow old amusing myself with these things? Are not accumulations of ivory, rhinoceros horn, gold, and jade also bound to be scattered about eventually? I simply cannot bring myself to exchange one for the other. 10

A few features of this preface de~rye comment. One of the primary points Ouyang stresses is the nigl~ that stone inscriptions of all kinds have fallen into. The world cares not at all for these antiquities and allows them to languish wherever they happen to be erected, until they are lost; worn down, or destroyed. Meanwhile, society at large goes t~ extraordinary lengths to satisfy the taste that . wealthy persons have for precious gems and other "treasures." There surely is a certain amount of posturing in Ouyang's account. Still, even allowing for some rhetorical exaggeration, we are surprised at his description of his contemporaries' lack of interest in ancient stone inscriptions. We think of the valuation of the historical past and its relics as a trait so fundamental to Song dynasty culture-indeed, to Chinese culture generally-that we do not expect to hear of such neglect. Given the special prestige of writing in Chinese life, it is particularly striking to learn of the widespread apathy regarding antiquities with characters inscribed on them. We think of how prized ancient inscriptions came to be in later times, and of collections of rubbings and even of steles themselves that became famous (e.g., the Forest of Steles ~~ in modern Xi'an, which was first established in the generation after Ouyang Xiu). Now, it is known that several of the Northern Song emperors promoted the collection and cataloguing at ~he imperial court of ancient bronze vessels, many of them inscribed with writing. The second emperor, Taizong :k. if- (r. 976-97), had done this, and Renzong 1=- if- , whose lengthy reign (1023-63) coincided with the perioq of Ouyang's collection project, did so even more energetically. 11 No doubt, emperors in earlier dynasties engaged in similar pursuits. The court had, after all, a special interest in being able to claim expertise in ancient rituals and music, since such knowledge had a powerful Ouyang Xiu, "Jigu lu mu xu" "-l;i!t. EI J},jushi ji 42.599. See Zhang Linsheng, "Bei Song huangshi qingtong liqi de shoucang" (unpublished paper). 10. II.

12

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

dynasties down to today; and calligraphy by various masters done in archaic, greater seal, lesser seal, bafen, and clerical scripts-all these are priceless treasures from the Three Dynasties and later times, and they are the most bizarre and extraordinary, majestic and striking, skillfully crafted, and delightful of material things. They are not found in remote places and acquiring them does not involve danger or risk. Why is it, then, that exposed to the elements and ravaged by war, they are abandoned and damaged, and lie strewn about amid hillsides and ruins where no one gathers them up? It is because those who enjoy such things are so few. Even if someone does know how to enjoy them, if his resources are inadequate, he will be lucky to obtain one or two of them and will be unable to make them truly accumulate before him. In general, resources are less important than finding enjoyment in the thing, and normal enjoyment is not as good as single-minded concentration. By nature I am eccentric and am inordinately fond of antiquity. That which men of the world generally crave holds no interest for me. Consequently, I have been able to concentrate my enjoyment on these things. My enjoyment being extreme, I have been able to bring them into my possession despite having inadequate resources. Beginning with King Mu of the Zhou, down through the Qin and Han, the Sui and Tang, and the Five Dynasties, gathered from throughout the lands within the four seas and nine provinces, famous mountains and great marshes, sheer cliffs and precipitous valleys, overgrown forests and ruined graveyards, including even those that tell of gods, demons, and anomalies, I have them all and have collected them together in what I call Collected Records of the Past. Fearing that copying them over would introduce mistakes, I have had the rubbings themselves mounted and bound together. The collection has its orderly arrangement but not according to the original date of each inscription. Since there are so many pieces, and I am still acquiring new ones, I simply add each one to the compilation in the order it is received. Knowing that a collection as large as this is bound eventually to be broken up, I have chosen the essentials concerning them and entered them in a separate catalogue of colophons, where I have also recorded the facts they contain that may be used to correct the textual historical record. It is my hope that this will be transmitted to future scholars as a contribution to learning. Some may belittle my efforts, saying that when material things are accumulated in such quantity, it is difficult to keep the collection intact, and that sooner or'later it will inevitably be broken up and scattered about. So ~hy amI making such a fuss over these things? I can only say, by way of

13

reply, that doing so supplies me with what I enjoy. What harm is there if I grow old amusing myself with these things? Are not accumulations of ivory, rhinoceros horn, gold, and jade also bound to be scattered about eventually? I simply cannot bring myself to exchange one for the other. 10

A few features of this preface de~rye comment. One of the primary points Ouyang stresses is the nigl~ that stone inscriptions of all kinds have fallen into. The world cares not at all for these antiquities and allows them to languish wherever they happen to be erected, until they are lost; worn down, or destroyed. Meanwhile, society at large goes t~ extraordinary lengths to satisfy the taste that . wealthy persons have for precious gems and other "treasures." There surely is a certain amount of posturing in Ouyang's account. Still, even allowing for some rhetorical exaggeration, we are surprised at his description of his contemporaries' lack of interest in ancient stone inscriptions. We think of the valuation of the historical past and its relics as a trait so fundamental to Song dynasty culture-indeed, to Chinese culture generally-that we do not expect to hear of such neglect. Given the special prestige of writing in Chinese life, it is particularly striking to learn of the widespread apathy regarding antiquities with characters inscribed on them. We think of how prized ancient inscriptions came to be in later times, and of collections of rubbings and even of steles themselves that became famous (e.g., the Forest of Steles ~~ in modern Xi'an, which was first established in the generation after Ouyang Xiu). Now, it is known that several of the Northern Song emperors promoted the collection and cataloguing at ~he imperial court of ancient bronze vessels, many of them inscribed with writing. The second emperor, Taizong :k. if- (r. 976-97), had done this, and Renzong 1=- if- , whose lengthy reign (1023-63) coincided with the perioq of Ouyang's collection project, did so even more energetically. 11 No doubt, emperors in earlier dynasties engaged in similar pursuits. The court had, after all, a special interest in being able to claim expertise in ancient rituals and music, since such knowledge had a powerful Ouyang Xiu, "Jigu lu mu xu" "-l;i!t. EI J},jushi ji 42.599. See Zhang Linsheng, "Bei Song huangshi qingtong liqi de shoucang" (unpublished paper). 10. II.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

legitimizing effect and aura. The possession and preservation of ancient bronze vessels was a key means by which such knowledge was acquired. At the end of the Northern Song, Emperor Huizong 4tt (r. IIOI-26) would take this conventional imperial interest in ancient ritual vessels to extraordinary lengths, amassing what was probably the largest collection of ancient bronzes that China had ever seen. Ouyang Xiu's activity and interest in stone inscriptions was distinct from this habit of imperial collecting. Ouyang did not attempt to collect vessels, except a very few of them, and his efforts were innocent of the ulterior motive of dynastic legitimization that was always part of court bronze collecting. Moreover, as ur;tlikely as ~is claim may first sound-that he was the only person 10terested 10 stone inscriptions, which were ubiquitous in the fields, temples, and mountains of the empire-the claim seems to be largely true. At least we can say that, to our knowledge, Ouyang Xiu was the first person in his time or in any preceding it to resolve to collect such rubbings comprehensively. And he was certainly the first person to write about an inscriptions collection so extensively. After Ouyang, even soon after him, there were many other private collectors. He himself tells us that it was only after he set an example as a collector of inscriptions that the world began to value them. 12 Again, t~is may sound like an inflated claim, but other Song sources attest. to ltS accuracy. No less a figure than Zhu Xi *-~ (1130-1200) afflrmed Ouyang's contribution: "The collecting and recording of inscriptions on metal and stone was something unknown in ancient times. The practice began with Ouyang Xiu."13 One aspect of the collection that Ouyang goes out of his way to emphasize in his preface is its inclusiveness. The third pa~agra~h opens with a long chronological list of the various types of 1Oscnptions available; the next presents another list, first of the dynastic periods represented in his collection and then of the many places

*

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

where he has procured rubbings. The culmination of the exhaustive detail is Ouyang's proud claim, "I have them all." He also mentions in his preface that his collection includes writings by ancient "sage rulers and worthy officials," but we note that he does not emphasize this element of the collection. In fact, the vast majority of his rubbings do not come from paragons of the past precisely because Ouyang made the decision to collect whatever is most easily obtained. The bulk of his material, consequently, is from little known or anonymous authors. The inclusiveness of Ouyang's collection also sets it apart from another possible approach to collecting ancient calligraphy, which was the approach usually taken by emperors. As fundamental as the appreciation of calligraphy was to Ouyang's project, he did not set out to assemble a catalogue of calligraphy models. Ouyang's purview is much broader than that of the connoisseur who has an eye only for outstanding masterpieces that, for example, may serve as exemplary brushwork for succeeding generations. An imperial version of such a collection had been made at the start of the Song dynasty. At the direction of Emperor Taizong, court officials in the 990S gathered together what were deemed the finest surviving calligraphy manuscripts. Called Calligraphy Models from Chunhua Pavilion i$.ftM ~+.!;, after the palace building in which the collection was kept, this compilation gave heavy preference to the brushwork of the classical tradition of calligraphy, especially that of the Jin period (4th c.) masters Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi and other calligraphers associated with their style, as preserved in copies of manuscripts of, mostly, short personal letters they had written. Blocks were engraved with the brushwork, and copies of the collection were distributed to high-ranking officials. 14 Taizong's Calligraphy Models was well known in Ouyang's day, even though the tradition of distributing copies of it had been discontinued (and there were rumors that the engraved blocks had been destroyed in a palace fire). Privately engraved copies circulated

12. Ouyang Xiu, "Hou Han Fan changshi bei" fti.~'f1t~, Jigu lu bawei 2. 210 9. , ... 13. Zhu Xi, ':Ti Ougong 'Jin shi lu xu' zhenji" :II!~ ~1t~it.!f~3#. Zhu XtJt . 82.4214 ..

14· For Chunhua ge fatie, see Amy McNair, "The Engraved Model-Letters Compendia of the Song Dynasty," Journal of the American Oriental Society 1I4.2 (1994): 20 9- 25.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

legitimizing effect and aura. The possession and preservation of ancient bronze vessels was a key means by which such knowledge was acquired. At the end of the Northern Song, Emperor Huizong 4tt (r. IIOI-26) would take this conventional imperial interest in ancient ritual vessels to extraordinary lengths, amassing what was probably the largest collection of ancient bronzes that China had ever seen. Ouyang Xiu's activity and interest in stone inscriptions was distinct from this habit of imperial collecting. Ouyang did not attempt to collect vessels, except a very few of them, and his efforts were innocent of the ulterior motive of dynastic legitimization that was always part of court bronze collecting. Moreover, as ur;tlikely as ~is claim may first sound-that he was the only person 10terested 10 stone inscriptions, which were ubiquitous in the fields, temples, and mountains of the empire-the claim seems to be largely true. At least we can say that, to our knowledge, Ouyang Xiu was the first person in his time or in any preceding it to resolve to collect such rubbings comprehensively. And he was certainly the first person to write about an inscriptions collection so extensively. After Ouyang, even soon after him, there were many other private collectors. He himself tells us that it was only after he set an example as a collector of inscriptions that the world began to value them. 12 Again, t~is may sound like an inflated claim, but other Song sources attest. to ltS accuracy. No less a figure than Zhu Xi *-~ (1130-1200) afflrmed Ouyang's contribution: "The collecting and recording of inscriptions on metal and stone was something unknown in ancient times. The practice began with Ouyang Xiu."13 One aspect of the collection that Ouyang goes out of his way to emphasize in his preface is its inclusiveness. The third pa~agra~h opens with a long chronological list of the various types of 1Oscnptions available; the next presents another list, first of the dynastic periods represented in his collection and then of the many places

*

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

where he has procured rubbings. The culmination of the exhaustive detail is Ouyang's proud claim, "I have them all." He also mentions in his preface that his collection includes writings by ancient "sage rulers and worthy officials," but we note that he does not emphasize this element of the collection. In fact, the vast majority of his rubbings do not come from paragons of the past precisely because Ouyang made the decision to collect whatever is most easily obtained. The bulk of his material, consequently, is from little known or anonymous authors. The inclusiveness of Ouyang's collection also sets it apart from another possible approach to collecting ancient calligraphy, which was the approach usually taken by emperors. As fundamental as the appreciation of calligraphy was to Ouyang's project, he did not set out to assemble a catalogue of calligraphy models. Ouyang's purview is much broader than that of the connoisseur who has an eye only for outstanding masterpieces that, for example, may serve as exemplary brushwork for succeeding generations. An imperial version of such a collection had been made at the start of the Song dynasty. At the direction of Emperor Taizong, court officials in the 990S gathered together what were deemed the finest surviving calligraphy manuscripts. Called Calligraphy Models from Chunhua Pavilion i$.ftM ~+.!;, after the palace building in which the collection was kept, this compilation gave heavy preference to the brushwork of the classical tradition of calligraphy, especially that of the Jin period (4th c.) masters Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi and other calligraphers associated with their style, as preserved in copies of manuscripts of, mostly, short personal letters they had written. Blocks were engraved with the brushwork, and copies of the collection were distributed to high-ranking officials. 14 Taizong's Calligraphy Models was well known in Ouyang's day, even though the tradition of distributing copies of it had been discontinued (and there were rumors that the engraved blocks had been destroyed in a palace fire). Privately engraved copies circulated

12. Ouyang Xiu, "Hou Han Fan changshi bei" fti.~'f1t~, Jigu lu bawei 2. 210 9. , ... 13. Zhu Xi, ':Ti Ougong 'Jin shi lu xu' zhenji" :II!~ ~1t~it.!f~3#. Zhu XtJt . 82.4214 ..

14· For Chunhua ge fatie, see Amy McNair, "The Engraved Model-Letters Compendia of the Song Dynasty," Journal of the American Oriental Society 1I4.2 (1994): 20 9- 25.

16

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

widely and would have been seen by Ouyang. After Ouyang, Calligraphy Models would be strongly criticized by Mi Fu and others for its inclusion of many misattributed pieces. Ouyang himself is restrained in what he says about the work. He allows himself, however, to openly criticize what he considers the canonization of the Two Wangs and the "slavish" preoccupation with replicating their model style. IS Though he does not often refer to it, Taizong's Calligraphy Models must have been very much in Ouyang's mind as he went about assembling his own collection. To a certain extent, his is an alternative representation of the brushwork of centuries past. The difference between the two is epitomized by the two words in their respective titles, fa ~, "model," and gu -5, "past." In Taizong's compilation, the antiquity of the pieces selected is not an important trait. Their purpose, after all, is to serve as exemplary brushwork. In Ouyang's project, however, the age of the pieces he gathers is of great significance. Moreover, it is precisely because his interest in the past in comprehensive that he is inclusive in what he collects. The selectivity of Calligraphy Models runs counter to his purposes. There is also the telling difference in calligraphic style and provenance. The imperial Calligraphy Models compendium favors the calligraphy of short, informal letters by the Two Wangs and those who followed in that tradition. The lithe and supple brushstrokes in semi-cursive and cursive styles, befitting the informality of the letters, yield highly aestheticized images that have obvious beauty and immediate appeal. This style, the "classical style" of Chinese calligraphy, had always conventionally been considered the pinnacle of calligraphic artistry and would continue to be viewed as such. What Ouyang collected, in contrast, were rubbings of huge stones inscribed, mostly, with funerary writings, temple dedications, or official documents. The standard, block script predominated, required by the formality of the prose, although inter15. Ouyang Xiu, "Xueshu zi chengjia shuo" "tt' ~ A~i)t, Bishuo ~lt, in Ouyang Xiu qUffnji 129.1968, and "Jin Wang Xianzhi fatie" -t- ..E.it.t~'i''!;, Jigu lu bawei 4.2164. See my discussion of Ouyang's treatment of Calligraphy Models and the TwoWangs style in "Ou-yang Hsiu and Su Shih on Calligraphy."

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

17

spersed among such inscriptions in his collection was an occasional one written in running or draft script. What Ouyang did, as we will see, is to discover aesthetic appeal in these largely neglected ancient monuments. Ouyang lifted his eyes from the standard calligraphy copybooks and reproductions of hallo"?lt!~¥1odels and gazed out at faded writing on stones that were scattet'eJtere and there through the landscape. He noticed what others had overlooked. Another aspect of Ouyang's preface that d~Tes comment is his choice to compare his inscriptions to the pre~6ti"sthings (jade, gold, pearls, rare animal products) the world values and seeks to amass .. Some readers may be left with a different impression than the one Ouyang seeks to impart. There is a sense that even to mention gold and pearls in the same breath with ancient inscriptions runs the risk of suggesting similarities rather than differences between collecting the two. One can imagine a writer shying away from any such comparison as Ouyang makes, so as to avoid the risk of possibly demeaning his subject. The links between the two different modes of collecting are all the more apparent because of Ouyang's bold decision to make "enjoyment" the key factor in his decision to collect inscriptions and, indeed, the key term in his preface. The inscriptions provide enjoyment to Ouyang just as other material things provide enjoyment to other people. What is it that he enjoys in them? The key line is that which describes the rubbings as "the most bizarre and extraordinary, majestic and striking, skillfully crafted, and delightful of material things" ·tl- ~ 1* M..:r.. -It'y or ....zAh. There is a long history of the application of each of these terms to calligraphy, where they describe marvelously powerful, accomplished, or otherwise unforgettable brushwork. The first two binomes of Ouyang's phrase refer to striking physical forms, the third to the skill with which they are created, and the last to the pleasure that the forms impart to the viewer. When he writes this line, Ouyang is thinking of nothing other than the formal beauty and artistry of the calligraphy in the inscriptions. Later, Ouyang refers to another purpose the collection serves. Factual details contained in the inscriptions may be used to correct the textual record. That is, words carved on stone centuries before

16

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

widely and would have been seen by Ouyang. After Ouyang, Calligraphy Models would be strongly criticized by Mi Fu and others for its inclusion of many misattributed pieces. Ouyang himself is restrained in what he says about the work. He allows himself, however, to openly criticize what he considers the canonization of the Two Wangs and the "slavish" preoccupation with replicating their model style. IS Though he does not often refer to it, Taizong's Calligraphy Models must have been very much in Ouyang's mind as he went about assembling his own collection. To a certain extent, his is an alternative representation of the brushwork of centuries past. The difference between the two is epitomized by the two words in their respective titles, fa ~, "model," and gu -5, "past." In Taizong's compilation, the antiquity of the pieces selected is not an important trait. Their purpose, after all, is to serve as exemplary brushwork. In Ouyang's project, however, the age of the pieces he gathers is of great significance. Moreover, it is precisely because his interest in the past in comprehensive that he is inclusive in what he collects. The selectivity of Calligraphy Models runs counter to his purposes. There is also the telling difference in calligraphic style and provenance. The imperial Calligraphy Models compendium favors the calligraphy of short, informal letters by the Two Wangs and those who followed in that tradition. The lithe and supple brushstrokes in semi-cursive and cursive styles, befitting the informality of the letters, yield highly aestheticized images that have obvious beauty and immediate appeal. This style, the "classical style" of Chinese calligraphy, had always conventionally been considered the pinnacle of calligraphic artistry and would continue to be viewed as such. What Ouyang collected, in contrast, were rubbings of huge stones inscribed, mostly, with funerary writings, temple dedications, or official documents. The standard, block script predominated, required by the formality of the prose, although inter15. Ouyang Xiu, "Xueshu zi chengjia shuo" "tt' ~ A~i)t, Bishuo ~lt, in Ouyang Xiu qUffnji 129.1968, and "Jin Wang Xianzhi fatie" -t- ..E.it.t~'i''!;, Jigu lu bawei 4.2164. See my discussion of Ouyang's treatment of Calligraphy Models and the TwoWangs style in "Ou-yang Hsiu and Su Shih on Calligraphy."

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

17

spersed among such inscriptions in his collection was an occasional one written in running or draft script. What Ouyang did, as we will see, is to discover aesthetic appeal in these largely neglected ancient monuments. Ouyang lifted his eyes from the standard calligraphy copybooks and reproductions of hallo"?lt!~¥1odels and gazed out at faded writing on stones that were scattet'eJtere and there through the landscape. He noticed what others had overlooked. Another aspect of Ouyang's preface that d~Tes comment is his choice to compare his inscriptions to the pre~6ti"sthings (jade, gold, pearls, rare animal products) the world values and seeks to amass .. Some readers may be left with a different impression than the one Ouyang seeks to impart. There is a sense that even to mention gold and pearls in the same breath with ancient inscriptions runs the risk of suggesting similarities rather than differences between collecting the two. One can imagine a writer shying away from any such comparison as Ouyang makes, so as to avoid the risk of possibly demeaning his subject. The links between the two different modes of collecting are all the more apparent because of Ouyang's bold decision to make "enjoyment" the key factor in his decision to collect inscriptions and, indeed, the key term in his preface. The inscriptions provide enjoyment to Ouyang just as other material things provide enjoyment to other people. What is it that he enjoys in them? The key line is that which describes the rubbings as "the most bizarre and extraordinary, majestic and striking, skillfully crafted, and delightful of material things" ·tl- ~ 1* M..:r.. -It'y or ....zAh. There is a long history of the application of each of these terms to calligraphy, where they describe marvelously powerful, accomplished, or otherwise unforgettable brushwork. The first two binomes of Ouyang's phrase refer to striking physical forms, the third to the skill with which they are created, and the last to the pleasure that the forms impart to the viewer. When he writes this line, Ouyang is thinking of nothing other than the formal beauty and artistry of the calligraphy in the inscriptions. Later, Ouyang refers to another purpose the collection serves. Factual details contained in the inscriptions may be used to correct the textual record. That is, words carved on stone centuries before

18

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

are likely to be freer from the types of textual corruptions that inevitably creep into manuscripts as they are copied and recopied through the ages. Ouyang tells us that he has made notations in a separate catalogue of such discrepancies between his inscriptions and the textual record, so that they will not be lost to future scholars (once his rubbings are lost). It is surprising how little emphasis Ouyang's preface puts upon this function of his collection. He mentions it almost as an afterthought and quickly returns in the next sentences to the theme of his enjoyment of the inscriptions. We will come back to this issue of the historiographical value of the collection later when we discuss the colophons. But we already notice here that this scholarly use and justification of the collection is, in the preface, completely overshadowed by Ouyang's delight in the inscriptions' calligraphy and their sheer antiquity. There is one awkward feature in the preface's argument as Ouyang develops it. While he is pragmatic enough to recognize that he must acknowledge the importance of a man's "resources" in assembling a collection of things, he does not want us to think of him as a wealthy man. That is why he must alter the terms of the argument abruptly midway through, introducing the notion ?f "single-minded concentration" (yi -). We may allow that there 1S some truth to what he says: that single-mindedness may compensate to some degree for resources that are less than abundant. But anyone who reflects on the size and nature of Ouyang's collection will have to admit that "resources" certainly were necessary in forming it. When he himself refers to the variety of places from which he has gathered the inscriptions ("throughout the lands within the four seas and nine provinces, famous mountains and great marshes, sheer cliffs and precipitous valleys, overgrown forests and ruined graveyards"), they no longer sound so readily accessible. Even if the acquisition of the inscriptions did not involve some expense (for paper, doing the rubbing itself, transportation, etc.), surely the preservation of the collection and carting it around with him for nearly thirty years did. One thousand rubbings, and large ones at that, mostly of huge stone inscriptions, is not an assemblage of . negligible size or bulk. A man who truly had little or even moderate

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

19

means would hardly have been able to gather or preserve it through three decades. And so we cannot help but think of the "resources" that Ouyang committed to his project, in part because he brings the subject up even· as he tries to skirt its implications. The closing paragraph of Ouyang's preface broaches the issue of attachment to "material things." This is a profound and enduring problem for Ouyang, and indeed for collectors during Song times generally. The problem is this: as attractive and historically significant as ancient inscriptions may be, they are still material things (wu #1) and as such are attachments that the person who is truly cultivated (in the Confucian sense) or enlightened (in the Buddhist sense) would not harbor. In their identity as "things," moreover, there is a real sense in which they are no different from jade and pearls. Materials things are not of ultiJ!~ value and they cannot, moreover, be possessed for long. And like a collection of jades and pearls, a collection of inscriptions will inevitably be broken up and dispersed. So why bother to amass it in the first place? A man of true understanding would not do so, any more than he would allow himself to become slave to trunks full of precious stones.Ouyang has an answer to this challenge, but it is in purely personal terms and does not engage the challenge on the intellectual grounds that constitute it. In his response he even permits himself to use the term wan IJt ("to amuse"), which in the context of a discuss!en; about material things inevitably calls to mind the ancient dictUd\ that "those who amuse themselves with material things lose their purpose in life" IJt4h ~ ,t,. Here, it is almost as if Ouyang is toying with the censure he anticipates will be raised against him. All of this analysis points to another way of reading Ouyang's preface. He has devoted himself for years to the gathering of a certain type of "material thing" in which he, because of his peculiar tastes, takes pleasure. His activity is, in a sense, analogous to that of the wealthy men of the world, who collect other types of things. Ouyang's collection is truly sizable, and it required more than a modest amount of "resources" to assemble, move about, and keep intact. In this sense, too, his collection is not unlike those of other men. Although Ouyang himself is secure in the belief that his collection is of a superior kind to those amassed by other men, he

t?(

18

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

are likely to be freer from the types of textual corruptions that inevitably creep into manuscripts as they are copied and recopied through the ages. Ouyang tells us that he has made notations in a separate catalogue of such discrepancies between his inscriptions and the textual record, so that they will not be lost to future scholars (once his rubbings are lost). It is surprising how little emphasis Ouyang's preface puts upon this function of his collection. He mentions it almost as an afterthought and quickly returns in the next sentences to the theme of his enjoyment of the inscriptions. We will come back to this issue of the historiographical value of the collection later when we discuss the colophons. But we already notice here that this scholarly use and justification of the collection is, in the preface, completely overshadowed by Ouyang's delight in the inscriptions' calligraphy and their sheer antiquity. There is one awkward feature in the preface's argument as Ouyang develops it. While he is pragmatic enough to recognize that he must acknowledge the importance of a man's "resources" in assembling a collection of things, he does not want us to think of him as a wealthy man. That is why he must alter the terms of the argument abruptly midway through, introducing the notion ?f "single-minded concentration" (yi -). We may allow that there 1S some truth to what he says: that single-mindedness may compensate to some degree for resources that are less than abundant. But anyone who reflects on the size and nature of Ouyang's collection will have to admit that "resources" certainly were necessary in forming it. When he himself refers to the variety of places from which he has gathered the inscriptions ("throughout the lands within the four seas and nine provinces, famous mountains and great marshes, sheer cliffs and precipitous valleys, overgrown forests and ruined graveyards"), they no longer sound so readily accessible. Even if the acquisition of the inscriptions did not involve some expense (for paper, doing the rubbing itself, transportation, etc.), surely the preservation of the collection and carting it around with him for nearly thirty years did. One thousand rubbings, and large ones at that, mostly of huge stone inscriptions, is not an assemblage of . negligible size or bulk. A man who truly had little or even moderate

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

19

means would hardly have been able to gather or preserve it through three decades. And so we cannot help but think of the "resources" that Ouyang committed to his project, in part because he brings the subject up even· as he tries to skirt its implications. The closing paragraph of Ouyang's preface broaches the issue of attachment to "material things." This is a profound and enduring problem for Ouyang, and indeed for collectors during Song times generally. The problem is this: as attractive and historically significant as ancient inscriptions may be, they are still material things (wu #1) and as such are attachments that the person who is truly cultivated (in the Confucian sense) or enlightened (in the Buddhist sense) would not harbor. In their identity as "things," moreover, there is a real sense in which they are no different from jade and pearls. Materials things are not of ultiJ!~ value and they cannot, moreover, be possessed for long. And like a collection of jades and pearls, a collection of inscriptions will inevitably be broken up and dispersed. So why bother to amass it in the first place? A man of true understanding would not do so, any more than he would allow himself to become slave to trunks full of precious stones.Ouyang has an answer to this challenge, but it is in purely personal terms and does not engage the challenge on the intellectual grounds that constitute it. In his response he even permits himself to use the term wan IJt ("to amuse"), which in the context of a discuss!en; about material things inevitably calls to mind the ancient dictUd\ that "those who amuse themselves with material things lose their purpose in life" IJt4h ~ ,t,. Here, it is almost as if Ouyang is toying with the censure he anticipates will be raised against him. All of this analysis points to another way of reading Ouyang's preface. He has devoted himself for years to the gathering of a certain type of "material thing" in which he, because of his peculiar tastes, takes pleasure. His activity is, in a sense, analogous to that of the wealthy men of the world, who collect other types of things. Ouyang's collection is truly sizable, and it required more than a modest amount of "resources" to assemble, move about, and keep intact. In this sense, too, his collection is not unlike those of other men. Although Ouyang himself is secure in the belief that his collection is of a superior kind to those amassed by other men, he

t?(

20

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

worries that onlookers may not fully appreciate this difference. He wants to avoid being perceived as just another wealthy but vulgar fellow who has used his affluence to indulge himself. If he were not worried that the world might misconstrue his activity, there probably would be no preface at all, and it certainly would not read as it does. Yet Ouyang does not have an easy time of it as he writes the explanation of and justification for his project. He is too honest to hide the fact that the primary appeal the inscriptions hold for him is the formal beauty of their calligraphy, although he mentions their historiographical value as well. He offers little more, ultimately, than the notion that his enjoyment of what he collects is akin to that which the world at large finds in precious stones. It is remarkable that he speaks so openly about the pleasure he takes in these "things" and allows it to eclipse more high-minded purposes that the collection might have been said to serve. Two other, brief statements by Ouyang Xiu about his collection may be used at this preliminary stage to supplement the formal preface he wrote. The first is the opening of a letter that Ouyang sent to his friend, the great calligrapher Cai Xiang ~ •. The purpose of the letter, written in 1062, is to invite Cai Xiang to copy out in his own incomparable brushwork the preface examined above, to stand at the head of Ouyang's compilation. In making his request, Ouyang gives this account of the project: Formerly, when I was posted to the distant northern regions, I had nothing to divert myself. I began to collect and catalogue inscriptions on bronze and stone left from earlier ages. Today, there is no archaic script or rare calligraphic style from the three earliest dynasties down to the present that I do not have. In the years since, even when I found myself incriminated and exiled, hurrying on boats or carriages to some new assignment, or otherwise endangered and entrapped, and without regard, moreover, for how ill-fated were my domestic affairs, whether I was beset by worries and grief or overcome by a sense of helplessness and pressing demands, never for a single day did I forget my collection. All told, I have worked from the fifth year of the Qingli reign period [1045] until today, the seventh year of Jiayou [1062], some eighteen years in all, and during that time have obtained one thousand examples. I may have given all my energy to the task, . but the result truly deserves to be called extensive! Still, I think to myself: what I am fond of runs counter to the tastes of the world. I busy myself

21

with gathering in what other people would throwaway, and my only thought is that I cannot get enough of it. How absurd it is! Recently, I wrote an account of my undertaking, hoping thereby to convey the intent behind it. But I know that my writing is crude and my ideas base, so that what I have written is not worthy to show to anyone. 16 The last sentence here leads into Ouyang's request:. perhaps if Cai Xiang agrees to copy out Ouyang's preface in his masterful calligraphy, the preface and the collection it introduces will be deemed worthy of preservation and will someday be passed to· future generations. The second statement is one of the colophons that O~yang wrote, specifically, one on a Tang dynasty stele in a Confucian temple, done in the hand of a major Tang calligrapher. The colophon describes the experience that first gave Ouyang the idea of making a collection: To the right is "A Stele from the Temple Dedicated to Confucius,» both composed and written out by Yu Shinan [558-638]. When I was a boy, I had a copy of this inscription, which I used to practice my calligraphy. At that time, the engraved strokes were complete and in excellent condition. Twenty years later, when I obtained this copy, the engraved characters were as badly deteriorated and incomplete as seen here. Moved by the thought that all material things eventually go to -ruin, and realizing that even metal and stone, for all their hardness, do not last forever, I resolved to collect and record inscriptions left to us from ancient times and preserve them. It was eighteen years ago that I started and in that time I have obtained one thousand examples. Truly, my collection may be called extensive! 17 ~:L ~i:'..J

r

These two documents, the letter to Cai Xiang and the colophon on the temple stele, are much less formal in tone than the preface and considerably more personal. They point, in a way the preface does not, to the intensely personal aspect of Ouyang's project. After reading these, we see retrospectively what an effort Ouyang has

If.

16. Ouyang Xiu, "Yu Cai Junmo qiu shu 'Jigu Iu mu xu' shu" ~-M-;~n1t.;t..­

"-l;itt. EJ

,fushi waiji 20.1022-23. 17· Ouyang Xiu, "Tang Kongzi miao tang bei" Jt:fL-f- .Lffl'1"~, Jigu lu bawei

50218 7- 88 .

20

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

worries that onlookers may not fully appreciate this difference. He wants to avoid being perceived as just another wealthy but vulgar fellow who has used his affluence to indulge himself. If he were not worried that the world might misconstrue his activity, there probably would be no preface at all, and it certainly would not read as it does. Yet Ouyang does not have an easy time of it as he writes the explanation of and justification for his project. He is too honest to hide the fact that the primary appeal the inscriptions hold for him is the formal beauty of their calligraphy, although he mentions their historiographical value as well. He offers little more, ultimately, than the notion that his enjoyment of what he collects is akin to that which the world at large finds in precious stones. It is remarkable that he speaks so openly about the pleasure he takes in these "things" and allows it to eclipse more high-minded purposes that the collection might have been said to serve. Two other, brief statements by Ouyang Xiu about his collection may be used at this preliminary stage to supplement the formal preface he wrote. The first is the opening of a letter that Ouyang sent to his friend, the great calligrapher Cai Xiang ~ •. The purpose of the letter, written in 1062, is to invite Cai Xiang to copy out in his own incomparable brushwork the preface examined above, to stand at the head of Ouyang's compilation. In making his request, Ouyang gives this account of the project: Formerly, when I was posted to the distant northern regions, I had nothing to divert myself. I began to collect and catalogue inscriptions on bronze and stone left from earlier ages. Today, there is no archaic script or rare calligraphic style from the three earliest dynasties down to the present that I do not have. In the years since, even when I found myself incriminated and exiled, hurrying on boats or carriages to some new assignment, or otherwise endangered and entrapped, and without regard, moreover, for how ill-fated were my domestic affairs, whether I was beset by worries and grief or overcome by a sense of helplessness and pressing demands, never for a single day did I forget my collection. All told, I have worked from the fifth year of the Qingli reign period [1045] until today, the seventh year of Jiayou [1062], some eighteen years in all, and during that time have obtained one thousand examples. I may have given all my energy to the task, . but the result truly deserves to be called extensive! Still, I think to myself: what I am fond of runs counter to the tastes of the world. I busy myself

21

with gathering in what other people would throwaway, and my only thought is that I cannot get enough of it. How absurd it is! Recently, I wrote an account of my undertaking, hoping thereby to convey the intent behind it. But I know that my writing is crude and my ideas base, so that what I have written is not worthy to show to anyone. 16 The last sentence here leads into Ouyang's request:. perhaps if Cai Xiang agrees to copy out Ouyang's preface in his masterful calligraphy, the preface and the collection it introduces will be deemed worthy of preservation and will someday be passed to· future generations. The second statement is one of the colophons that O~yang wrote, specifically, one on a Tang dynasty stele in a Confucian temple, done in the hand of a major Tang calligrapher. The colophon describes the experience that first gave Ouyang the idea of making a collection: To the right is "A Stele from the Temple Dedicated to Confucius,» both composed and written out by Yu Shinan [558-638]. When I was a boy, I had a copy of this inscription, which I used to practice my calligraphy. At that time, the engraved strokes were complete and in excellent condition. Twenty years later, when I obtained this copy, the engraved characters were as badly deteriorated and incomplete as seen here. Moved by the thought that all material things eventually go to -ruin, and realizing that even metal and stone, for all their hardness, do not last forever, I resolved to collect and record inscriptions left to us from ancient times and preserve them. It was eighteen years ago that I started and in that time I have obtained one thousand examples. Truly, my collection may be called extensive! 17 ~:L ~i:'..J

r

These two documents, the letter to Cai Xiang and the colophon on the temple stele, are much less formal in tone than the preface and considerably more personal. They point, in a way the preface does not, to the intensely personal aspect of Ouyang's project. After reading these, we see retrospectively what an effort Ouyang has

If.

16. Ouyang Xiu, "Yu Cai Junmo qiu shu 'Jigu Iu mu xu' shu" ~-M-;~n1t.;t..­

"-l;itt. EJ

,fushi waiji 20.1022-23. 17· Ouyang Xiu, "Tang Kongzi miao tang bei" Jt:fL-f- .Lffl'1"~, Jigu lu bawei

50218 7- 88 .

22

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

made in the preface to sound impersonal and to elevate the discussion of his project to a respectably abstract and intellectual level. The colophon on the temple stele sheds new light on the worldly neglect for the inscriptions that Ouyang describes in the preface. We now see how this neglect intersected with his personal history and with a particular inscription that played a special role in his childhood. The colophon also gives a different sense of the time frame of deterioration to which the inscriptions are subject. We would have supposed that it would take a long span of time, centuries perhaps, for deterioration of the neglected inscription to progress to a noticeable extent. But now we see that deterioration could take place within a single lifetime, indeed, in the space of a mere twenty years. This allows us to appreciate more fully the sense of urgency Ouyang had toward his project. The letter to Cai Xiang enhances our understanding of Ouyang's commitment to the project. Even allowing for some exaggeration in this request to the distinguished calligrapher for a special favor, the claims made in the letter regarding the author's efforts are remarkable. "I have given all my energy to the task"; "never for a single day did 1 forget my collection. " We know that Ouyang was engaged in many other scholarly and literary activities during this period of his life, including the composition of the New History of the Tang M" It"!", the New History of the Five Dynasties M" 1i.1-'e. 3t, and his study of the Classic of Poetry (Shi benyi it~A). Today, Ouyang's repute and standing in cultural history owe far more to these other accomplishments, all of which survived, than to his collection of inscriptions, which did not. Yet in his letter to Cai Xiang, at least, Ouyang makes it sound as if the collection was what most occupied him. Finally, it is interesting to see the way Ouyang describes his devotion to the task. He does not say that he gathered the rubbings in the course of leisurely outings, pleasure trips, or whenever a friend favored him with a gift of one. He speaks instead of gathering them in the midst of and despite official harassment and personal distress. His words suggest a dichotomy between his worldly travails and obligations, on the one hand, and his inscription-gathering, on the other. Immediately after this dl~~~n, Ouyang reverts to the

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

23

themes of the world's rejection of these inscriptions and his own eccentricity in caring for them, both of which we have glimpsed in the preface. This account of how he built his collection improves our understanding of what he means in the preface when he speaks of the "enjoyment" and "amusement" his inscriptions provide as he grows old. Not only did the collection serve, in Ouyang's mind, to set him apar:t from the men of his world, who would not bother with such useless things, it also brought relief to him from a preoccupation with worldly constraints and pressures he had to live with.

Historiographical value When we turn to the colophons themselves, we enter a domain that is vast and at first confusing. There are some four hundred discrete entries, each treating a different inscription, and doing so with a range of viewpoints and purposes. The inscriptions themselves, moreover, cover a huge time span, from the Zhou dynasty through the century right before Ouyang's own. We may at first feel that there is no coherence to these entries, no sense in which they amount to any integral whole. Yet with time and rereading, a sense of recurrent themes and issues gradually emerges. Many of the issues that have already come up in my discussion of the preface reappear in the colophons. But the colophons are not nearly as well crafted and consistent as the preface. This makes them more difficult to analyze and comprehend, but no less interesting. The questions 1 am seeking to answer in the discussion that follows are these: What does Ouyang have to say about the inscriptions when he writes about them individually? He had, with great effort and devotion, amassed the largest collection of inscriptions that his world had ever seen. What, finally, do their artistry, antiquity, and content mean to him, and how does he represent them to posterity? We begin here with two of the values that Ouyang imputes to the inscriptions in his colophons: their historiographical utility and their worth as the legacy of exemplary persons of the past. We will try to gauge the nature and limits of these two types of values. The historiographical function, which Ouyang singled out in his preface, is broached in a number of colophons. There are different ways an

22

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

made in the preface to sound impersonal and to elevate the discussion of his project to a respectably abstract and intellectual level. The colophon on the temple stele sheds new light on the worldly neglect for the inscriptions that Ouyang describes in the preface. We now see how this neglect intersected with his personal history and with a particular inscription that played a special role in his childhood. The colophon also gives a different sense of the time frame of deterioration to which the inscriptions are subject. We would have supposed that it would take a long span of time, centuries perhaps, for deterioration of the neglected inscription to progress to a noticeable extent. But now we see that deterioration could take place within a single lifetime, indeed, in the space of a mere twenty years. This allows us to appreciate more fully the sense of urgency Ouyang had toward his project. The letter to Cai Xiang enhances our understanding of Ouyang's commitment to the project. Even allowing for some exaggeration in this request to the distinguished calligrapher for a special favor, the claims made in the letter regarding the author's efforts are remarkable. "I have given all my energy to the task"; "never for a single day did 1 forget my collection. " We know that Ouyang was engaged in many other scholarly and literary activities during this period of his life, including the composition of the New History of the Tang M" It"!", the New History of the Five Dynasties M" 1i.1-'e. 3t, and his study of the Classic of Poetry (Shi benyi it~A). Today, Ouyang's repute and standing in cultural history owe far more to these other accomplishments, all of which survived, than to his collection of inscriptions, which did not. Yet in his letter to Cai Xiang, at least, Ouyang makes it sound as if the collection was what most occupied him. Finally, it is interesting to see the way Ouyang describes his devotion to the task. He does not say that he gathered the rubbings in the course of leisurely outings, pleasure trips, or whenever a friend favored him with a gift of one. He speaks instead of gathering them in the midst of and despite official harassment and personal distress. His words suggest a dichotomy between his worldly travails and obligations, on the one hand, and his inscription-gathering, on the other. Immediately after this dl~~~n, Ouyang reverts to the

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

23

themes of the world's rejection of these inscriptions and his own eccentricity in caring for them, both of which we have glimpsed in the preface. This account of how he built his collection improves our understanding of what he means in the preface when he speaks of the "enjoyment" and "amusement" his inscriptions provide as he grows old. Not only did the collection serve, in Ouyang's mind, to set him apar:t from the men of his world, who would not bother with such useless things, it also brought relief to him from a preoccupation with worldly constraints and pressures he had to live with.

Historiographical value When we turn to the colophons themselves, we enter a domain that is vast and at first confusing. There are some four hundred discrete entries, each treating a different inscription, and doing so with a range of viewpoints and purposes. The inscriptions themselves, moreover, cover a huge time span, from the Zhou dynasty through the century right before Ouyang's own. We may at first feel that there is no coherence to these entries, no sense in which they amount to any integral whole. Yet with time and rereading, a sense of recurrent themes and issues gradually emerges. Many of the issues that have already come up in my discussion of the preface reappear in the colophons. But the colophons are not nearly as well crafted and consistent as the preface. This makes them more difficult to analyze and comprehend, but no less interesting. The questions 1 am seeking to answer in the discussion that follows are these: What does Ouyang have to say about the inscriptions when he writes about them individually? He had, with great effort and devotion, amassed the largest collection of inscriptions that his world had ever seen. What, finally, do their artistry, antiquity, and content mean to him, and how does he represent them to posterity? We begin here with two of the values that Ouyang imputes to the inscriptions in his colophons: their historiographical utility and their worth as the legacy of exemplary persons of the past. We will try to gauge the nature and limits of these two types of values. The historiographical function, which Ouyang singled out in his preface, is broached in a number of colophons. There are different ways an

24

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

inscription may contribute to historical knowledge. It may serve to correct a copyist's error in the received textual record, supplement the textual tradition with something it omitted, or otherwise clarify something in the past that had been long misunderstood or entirely forgotten. Ouyang calls attention to several examples. One is a Later Han inscription from Hua Mountain that tells of the visit of Emperor Wu to that sacred mountain and his founding of a temple there named Temple of Assembled Deities #, 1£ 1;, which is described. This temple is unknown in the textual historical record. 18 Another is a commemorative inscription for Sun Shuao ~.r~~, a prime minister of the ancient kingdom of Chu, which records that "Shuao" was his polite name (zi *); his given name (ming --t) was Rao tit. In Sima Qian' s ~ .~ it Records of the Grand Historian 3t 1c. and elsewhere, he is known only as Sun Shuao. Nowhere does the textual record register his given name or even suggest that Shuao was not his given name. 19 A third is that in Ouyang's own day there was a debate at court over the wisdom of harvesting salt that formed naturally on certain briny marshes, instead of obtaining it from mines or from the ocean. Those who favored mining or boiling sea water claimed that such "randomly appearing salt" (man sheng yan il.!i..) was of inferior taste and could not be stored. Ouyang uses a Tang inscription from a shrine to a salt deity to prove that the use of the "randomly appearing salt" was widespread in the Tang and should not be rejected as aberrant in his day.20 Finally, Han Yu #~ had written a biographical inscription for his contemporary, the distinguished military governor Tian Hongzheng If1 ~t.iE., which was published in Han Yu's collected works. When Ouyang obtains a rubbing from the original inscribed at the Tian ancestral shrine, he compares it with the received version in Han Yu's works and finds that the latter contains numerous mistaken

18. Ouyang Xiu, "Hou Han Xiyue Huashan miao bei"

{t il i1fl-Jik

lu bawei 2.2111-12. 19. Ouyan~ Xiu, "Hou Han Sun Shuao bei" 20.

~

JtiJSf, Jigu

1

·I·~.·

,.

21.

Ouyang Xiu, "Tang Tian Hongzheng jia miao bei" J! Il1 ft..iE.~IfiJSf.Jigu lu

bawei 8.2270.

{t i~ .r.t.;f~~ Sf, Jigu lu bawei 2.2110.

Ouyang Xiu, "Tang yan zongshen ci ji" J! 11

7. 2245-4 6 .

'*

t

characters and transpositions. He uses the inscription to restore the text as it was first written and engraved during Han Yu's day.21 To Ouyang, thinking and acting as a historian, these are not trivial discoveries. They allow him to correct errors in the textual tradition that often concern major historical figures. The mistakes, moreover, had been passed on for centuries and accepted as correct. Ouyang is understandably proud of his finds. Commenting on his discovery regarding the Tang salt industry, he says "My family's collected records of ancient inscriptions is good not just for emending errors that have been transmitted in texts; it may even" resolve disputes on issues before our imperial court. "22 Having read his preface, however, we may be surprised at the relative infrequency of these finds in his colophons. They are mentioned only in a fraction of the colophons, perhaps one in five. But the preface implies that the primary criteria by which Ouyang selected, or would select, inscriptions to write about in his "separate catalogue" (i.e., the colophons) would be their utility with regard to historical knowledge. Why, then, is the percentage of such entries so small? We begin to suspect that Ouyang's actual reason for writing about certain inscriptions differed from that cited in his preface. There is, furthermore, an odd note that creeps into Ouyang's language when he discusses the inscriptions' historiographical value. "The so-called Temple for Assembled Deities is not mentioned in any book; it is only found in this inscription. So my Collected Records does not fail to enhance knowledge. "23 The phrase translated "does not fail to enhance knowledge" is bu wei wu yi ~ ~ #,t.. ~. When we first see this language, it hardly appears to be noteworthy. But it keeps recurring, typically appearing right after Ouyang has called attention in a colophon to some correction or supplemental fact that an inscription provides: "From this we see that my Col-

*

:ff:fii)'te., Jigu lu bawei

22.

Ouyang Xiu, "Tang yan zongshen ci ji" J! 11

*

lu bawei 2.21II.

'*

:ff;fii) 'te., Jigu lu bawei 7.2246. {t i~ i1fl-Jik ~ IfiJSf. Jigu

23· Ouyang Xiu, "Hou Han Xiyue Huashan miao bei"

24

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

inscription may contribute to historical knowledge. It may serve to correct a copyist's error in the received textual record, supplement the textual tradition with something it omitted, or otherwise clarify something in the past that had been long misunderstood or entirely forgotten. Ouyang calls attention to several examples. One is a Later Han inscription from Hua Mountain that tells of the visit of Emperor Wu to that sacred mountain and his founding of a temple there named Temple of Assembled Deities #, 1£ 1;, which is described. This temple is unknown in the textual historical record. 18 Another is a commemorative inscription for Sun Shuao ~.r~~, a prime minister of the ancient kingdom of Chu, which records that "Shuao" was his polite name (zi *); his given name (ming --t) was Rao tit. In Sima Qian' s ~ .~ it Records of the Grand Historian 3t 1c. and elsewhere, he is known only as Sun Shuao. Nowhere does the textual record register his given name or even suggest that Shuao was not his given name. 19 A third is that in Ouyang's own day there was a debate at court over the wisdom of harvesting salt that formed naturally on certain briny marshes, instead of obtaining it from mines or from the ocean. Those who favored mining or boiling sea water claimed that such "randomly appearing salt" (man sheng yan il.!i..) was of inferior taste and could not be stored. Ouyang uses a Tang inscription from a shrine to a salt deity to prove that the use of the "randomly appearing salt" was widespread in the Tang and should not be rejected as aberrant in his day.20 Finally, Han Yu #~ had written a biographical inscription for his contemporary, the distinguished military governor Tian Hongzheng If1 ~t.iE., which was published in Han Yu's collected works. When Ouyang obtains a rubbing from the original inscribed at the Tian ancestral shrine, he compares it with the received version in Han Yu's works and finds that the latter contains numerous mistaken

18. Ouyang Xiu, "Hou Han Xiyue Huashan miao bei"

{t il i1fl-Jik

lu bawei 2.2111-12. 19. Ouyan~ Xiu, "Hou Han Sun Shuao bei" 20.

~

JtiJSf, Jigu

1

·I·~.·

,.

21.

Ouyang Xiu, "Tang Tian Hongzheng jia miao bei" J! Il1 ft..iE.~IfiJSf.Jigu lu

bawei 8.2270.

{t i~ .r.t.;f~~ Sf, Jigu lu bawei 2.2110.

Ouyang Xiu, "Tang yan zongshen ci ji" J! 11

7. 2245-4 6 .

'*

t

characters and transpositions. He uses the inscription to restore the text as it was first written and engraved during Han Yu's day.21 To Ouyang, thinking and acting as a historian, these are not trivial discoveries. They allow him to correct errors in the textual tradition that often concern major historical figures. The mistakes, moreover, had been passed on for centuries and accepted as correct. Ouyang is understandably proud of his finds. Commenting on his discovery regarding the Tang salt industry, he says "My family's collected records of ancient inscriptions is good not just for emending errors that have been transmitted in texts; it may even" resolve disputes on issues before our imperial court. "22 Having read his preface, however, we may be surprised at the relative infrequency of these finds in his colophons. They are mentioned only in a fraction of the colophons, perhaps one in five. But the preface implies that the primary criteria by which Ouyang selected, or would select, inscriptions to write about in his "separate catalogue" (i.e., the colophons) would be their utility with regard to historical knowledge. Why, then, is the percentage of such entries so small? We begin to suspect that Ouyang's actual reason for writing about certain inscriptions differed from that cited in his preface. There is, furthermore, an odd note that creeps into Ouyang's language when he discusses the inscriptions' historiographical value. "The so-called Temple for Assembled Deities is not mentioned in any book; it is only found in this inscription. So my Collected Records does not fail to enhance knowledge. "23 The phrase translated "does not fail to enhance knowledge" is bu wei wu yi ~ ~ #,t.. ~. When we first see this language, it hardly appears to be noteworthy. But it keeps recurring, typically appearing right after Ouyang has called attention in a colophon to some correction or supplemental fact that an inscription provides: "From this we see that my Col-

*

:ff:fii)'te., Jigu lu bawei

22.

Ouyang Xiu, "Tang yan zongshen ci ji" J! 11

*

lu bawei 2.21II.

'*

:ff;fii) 'te., Jigu lu bawei 7.2246. {t i~ i1fl-Jik ~ IfiJSf. Jigu

23· Ouyang Xiu, "Hou Han Xiyue Huashan miao bei"

I

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

lected Records does not fail to enhance knowledge."24 "Is it permissible, then, to say that my collection of inscriptions from the past does not enhance knowledge?"2s "We see, then, that what my family has collected and preserved is not just for amusement. Is not the contribution it makes to knowledge far-reaching?"26 "So we see that writings engraved on stone deserve to be treasured. They are not mereIy f or amusement. "27 We are reminded of the juxtaposition in Ouyang's preface of "enjoyment" or "amusement" with the claim for the historiographical value of the inscriptions. But the preface was candid in openly acknowledging the key role that Ouyang's enjoyment of the inscriptions played right from the start. In these colophon statements, Ouyang sounds positively defensive about the utility of his project. Who, we wonder, has been raising the possibility that all this is just so much fun, that most of the items he has managed to gather serve no grand purpose, that the project is a shallow diversion rather than a serious scholarly enterprise? It seems unlikely that friends are whispering these unsettling thoughts in his ears. It is more plausible that these defensive assertions reflect some discomfort that Ouyang himself has about his project. It is the'repetition of this language and the dispersal of it through the colophons that lend this idea significance. Ouyang keeps addressing imagined challenges to his effort that simply will not go away. One reason they will not is because there is no overwhelming quantity of evidence to make them vanish. Based on the preface, we expected the colophons to be brimming with textual corrections and historiographical discoveries. What we find instead is that the colophons address all sorts of other subjects-to be treated belowand only occasionally present a finding that is clearly of historiographical merit. When that happens, Ouyang seizes upon the opportunity to remind us of the contribution that his whole project

24. Ouyang Xiu, "Dong Wei zao shixiang ji" t-it~ :-G{f..lc.,jigu lu bawei 4.2175. 25.

Ouyang Xiu, "Hou Han Sun Shuao bei"

{ti~.J.t:.rJt!t4,jigu

lu bawei 2.2IIO.

n I

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

27

has made to knowledge. He sounds defensive and insecure when he makes these pronouncements, and it certainly appears that he never fully convinces himself that he has made the point sufficiently enough to drop it. Ouyang even openly admits a few times that a particular inscription has absolutely no contribution to make to knowledge, and yet. he keeps it anyway, and even writes a colophon telling us so. Such is his treatment of a Later Han inscription he comes across that is so worn down as to be mostly illegible. What little of itthat can be read contains nothing more than snippets concerning its unidenti. fied subject's bureaucratic career (couched in utterly conventional eulogistic language). But the lacunae in the inscription-not what it says but what it does not say, because of the obliterated writingoccasion a powerful and revealing reaction in Ouyang:

I' I

To the right is a nameless stele from the Han. The inscription has been mostly worn away, so that even the name of the person it concerns is no longer visible. What can be seen are the following phrases: "he placed first in the prefectural examination and proceeded to the governing commandery"; "during the mourning period [for his parents] he expressed great grief and was overcome by his distress"; "he was appointed to the staff of the metropolitan commandant and given the title of secretarial censor"; "he displayed the majestic bearing of steadfast resoluteness and showed the martial valor of a roaring tiger"; and "at age sixty-three, on the gengshen day of the intercalary month in the fourth year of the Guanghe period [A.D. 181], he fell ill and died." There are quite a few additional isolated characters that are still fully formed, but they cannot be read together to make sense. The things that scholars who are fond of the past collect and preserve do not necessarily serve any use in the world today. It is just that when they come across such fragments that are buried or strewn about the countryside, they view them with special affection and pity. Such is the obsession of fondness for the past (J!:.'*f-t-.z ~)!28

There are just enough stray details still legible in the inscription to evoke a hazy impression of a life that had been lived a thousand years before. To Ouyang, that imprecise impression has an irre-

26. Ouyang Xiu, "Tang Kong Yingda bei" J§V!~-fk:k.)Pl~"~~,

59·

Ouyang Xiu, "Tang Huayue timing" J!*-fk~%',Jigu lu bawei 6.2216 •

50

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

xing, the lack of any initial fame suggests how blind and unappreciative of artistic talent the world can be, especially if it is not complemented by outstanding deeds (as another entry says).58 But whichever way he reacts, what Ouyang ends with is a heartfelt expression of sadness and regret that a man of such talent could have been delivered to the brink of complete perdition. It is an intensely emotional and personal reaction that Ouyang ultimately has to these unknown calligraphers. It is interesting that Ouyang is more apt to comment this way about the neglect of the calligrapher than he is about the person who is the subject of the inscription. There are many persons whose lives are the subject of an inscription who have also been forgotten by the world. Occasionally, Ouyang says something about them too, but not nearly so often nor with such deep feeling as he speaks about the forgotten calligrapher. This bias in the colophons is consistent with the overall intent and thrust of Ouyang's project. He was drawn to the inscriptions in the first place by fondness for their calligraphy. He seeks to assemble a compendium of calligraphic expertise and variety. His interest is not to represent history generally or to recapture through engraved texts as much as he can that has been lost or corrupted in the textual tradition (despite what he himself often claims). His goal is to represent one artistic pursuit more thoroughly than it has ever been done before. His focus is on an aestheticized aspect of the past rather than on the past universally.

Biographical time and historical time There is an inscription in Ouyang's collection that consists of nothing but "inscribed names" (ti ming ;ll!~) of persons who have during a 2OI-year period of the Tang visited Hua Mountain dynasty and its immediate successor. There is no real prose text, just the names of persons who made the trek up the mountain and had their names, each presumably in his own calligraphy, inscribed on stone there. This is Ouyang's colophon on the inscription:

"*.It

58. Ouyang Xiu, "Ti Xiyue Dadong Zhang Zunshi bei" . Jigu lu bawei 6.2212.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

I i

Jl".

51

To the right is the "Inscribed Names on Hua Marchmount." The names begin in the twenty-third year of the Kaiyuan period [735] of the Tang and end in the second year of the Qingtai period [935] of the Later Tang, in all 201 years. Five hundred and one persons left their names on the stone; another thirty-one were subsequently added. Many of them were famous men of their time. Some were brothers on an outing together, some brought their sons and nephews with them, some had a'whole retinue of associates and assistants with them, while some were monks and recluses. They may have been hurrying somewhere on an official mission or were coping with the burden of a distant journey, while others simply wanted to climb as high as they could for a distant view, enjoying the experience of. the lofty perspective. Whether wealthy and high ranking or impoverished and humble, happy or sad, they were subject not only to the hundred cares present in every life but also to the particular changes and circumstances of their generation. The twenty-third year of Kaiyuan was the yea~ that the Son of Heaven personally plowed the land and issued a general pardon. Mis assembled ministers eulogized the great peace in song and urged him to perform the Feng and Shan sacrifices. It was, in short, the height of the prosperity of the Tang. The second year of Qingtai was the year after the last ruler ofthe Later Tang, who would eventually abdicate, usurped the throne. That was the year that Shi Jingtang rebelled in Taiyuan and summoned the Khitan to enter our borders, opening the gate for them himself. Then the last ruler of the Later Tang incinerated himself in Luoyang, and the founding emperor of the Jin [Shi Jingtang] ascended the throne. It was, in short, a time of great turmoil in the Five Dynasties era. In these two hundred years, whether it was during orderliness or turmoil, prosperity or decline, those who departed and those who arrived, the first and the last, though they were unalike in their worldly fonune and the length of their lives, in the end these five hundred men all shared the same end in death. The winds and frosts through the years have cracked their names, so that while some are still preserved others have been lost. The only thing completely intact is the five-thousand-fathom mountain of rock. So I have made this special record of the inscription. Whenever I place my hand on the rubbing, I am overcome with emotion. Am I not like he who stood beside the great river and sighed for what had flowed past?59

>V!~-fk:k.)Pl~"~~,

59·

Ouyang Xiu, "Tang Huayue timing" J!*-fk~%',Jigu lu bawei 6.2216 •

52

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

The end of the colophon refers to Confucius, who stood overlooking a river and heaved a sigh for the endless flow before him. The sage's sigh had traditionally been understood as one of admiration for the constant activity of the moving water, interpreted as an analogy either of the Way itself, which never rests, or of the commitment of the superior man to self-cultivation, which likewise should be constant and inexhaustible. Ouyang Xiu changes the import of Confucius' reaction to the flowing waters. He makes it into regret over the ceaseless flow of time and, by implication, of lives that are carried away in that flow. That is the essential component of Ouyang's reaction to this list of names. Can there be any doubt that he is also thinking of his own mortality when he reacts in this way to the damaged engraving of names? Ouyang's own life is intertwined in a complex way with the process of assembling his collection. We saw that an intensely personal pang of regret over the imminent loss of an inscription that was dear to him caused him to initiate his project in the first place. There are other colophons as well that feature this overlaying of historical time with time as experienced in the course of his own life. Here is one of them: To the right is "Thoughts from a Deserted Forest" by Han Tan, a recluse of the woods of Lu Mountain. When I served as judge in the Regency in the Western Capital [Luoyang], once I went on an outing to Song Mountain nearby and obtained a rubbing of this poem. I cherished it because neither its language nor its calligraphy was commonplace. It was over ten years later that I began to collect inscriptions from the past on metal and stone. When I opened my storage box and retrieved this rubbing, I was more delighted than I could ever say. During my years in Luoyang, I climbed Song Mountain twice. The first time I went with Mei Shengyu and Yang Zicong; the second time it was with Xie Xishen, Yin Shilu, Wang Jidao, and Yang Zicong. By the time I opened my storage box to get the rubbing to add t9 my collection, Xie Xishen and Yang Zicong had already died. Subsequently, Yin Shilu, Wang Jidao, and Mei Shengyu also died, one after another. Our outings to Song Mountain took place in the tenth year of the Tiansheng reign [1032], the year that the Mingdao period began. I was twenty-six at the time. As I write this, it is the eighth year of the Jiayou reign [1063], fully thirty-one years later. Of the six of us who climbed Song

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

53

Mountain together, I am the only one still alive. Moved by these events and yearning for the past, I am overcome by grief. 60 This is composed by a man who is facing mortality, that of his friends and, by implication, his own as welL The list of friends here is reminiscent of the list of unknown persons on the Hua Mountain inscription discussed earlier. On the face of it, the two groups could not be more different. One is a select group of Ouyang's close friends; the other is a long list of historically obscure persons who lived centuries earlier. Yet, for all their differences, what Ouyang broods about concerning both groups is how time holds all their members in its grip. The act of collecting brings Ouyang to a confrontation with both personal and historical time. Words are engraved on metal and stone to preserve them for all time, but oddly enough that inscribing, centuries later, highlights its own futility. Ouyang is keenly aware of the fragility of the inscriptions he collects and is particularly drawn to the partly obliterated ones, which for him have an irresistible appeal because they are damaged. In a sense, Ouyang is in a race against time that threatens each stele out there in the landscape. Even as he acquires each piece and mounts the rubbing carefully in one of his massive albums, he reflects on how the collection itself will not last long. He knows it will be broken ap~rt eventually and scattered, as it ultimately was. But the act of collecting is also done in time, the months and years of Ouyang's life. He reminds us frequently in his colophons exactly when he began collecting, how long he has been at it, when he first became aware of a particular inscription, how long he has sought to obtain a copy of it, and so on. He collected consciously and diligently for nearly twenty years, until he was fifty-six. Then, still unsatisfied, even though he had amassed a huge assemblage, he set about to write colophons. Once he started, he continued to add colophons to his albums into his sixties, until he became too old and sick to add any more. The last colophons are dated 1071, the year

60. Ouyang Xiu, "Tang Han Tan 'Youlin si'" ~#*~~*.~, Jigu /u bawei 6.2208.

52

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

The end of the colophon refers to Confucius, who stood overlooking a river and heaved a sigh for the endless flow before him. The sage's sigh had traditionally been understood as one of admiration for the constant activity of the moving water, interpreted as an analogy either of the Way itself, which never rests, or of the commitment of the superior man to self-cultivation, which likewise should be constant and inexhaustible. Ouyang Xiu changes the import of Confucius' reaction to the flowing waters. He makes it into regret over the ceaseless flow of time and, by implication, of lives that are carried away in that flow. That is the essential component of Ouyang's reaction to this list of names. Can there be any doubt that he is also thinking of his own mortality when he reacts in this way to the damaged engraving of names? Ouyang's own life is intertwined in a complex way with the process of assembling his collection. We saw that an intensely personal pang of regret over the imminent loss of an inscription that was dear to him caused him to initiate his project in the first place. There are other colophons as well that feature this overlaying of historical time with time as experienced in the course of his own life. Here is one of them: To the right is "Thoughts from a Deserted Forest" by Han Tan, a recluse of the woods of Lu Mountain. When I served as judge in the Regency in the Western Capital [Luoyang], once I went on an outing to Song Mountain nearby and obtained a rubbing of this poem. I cherished it because neither its language nor its calligraphy was commonplace. It was over ten years later that I began to collect inscriptions from the past on metal and stone. When I opened my storage box and retrieved this rubbing, I was more delighted than I could ever say. During my years in Luoyang, I climbed Song Mountain twice. The first time I went with Mei Shengyu and Yang Zicong; the second time it was with Xie Xishen, Yin Shilu, Wang Jidao, and Yang Zicong. By the time I opened my storage box to get the rubbing to add t9 my collection, Xie Xishen and Yang Zicong had already died. Subsequently, Yin Shilu, Wang Jidao, and Mei Shengyu also died, one after another. Our outings to Song Mountain took place in the tenth year of the Tiansheng reign [1032], the year that the Mingdao period began. I was twenty-six at the time. As I write this, it is the eighth year of the Jiayou reign [1063], fully thirty-one years later. Of the six of us who climbed Song

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

53

Mountain together, I am the only one still alive. Moved by these events and yearning for the past, I am overcome by grief. 60 This is composed by a man who is facing mortality, that of his friends and, by implication, his own as welL The list of friends here is reminiscent of the list of unknown persons on the Hua Mountain inscription discussed earlier. On the face of it, the two groups could not be more different. One is a select group of Ouyang's close friends; the other is a long list of historically obscure persons who lived centuries earlier. Yet, for all their differences, what Ouyang broods about concerning both groups is how time holds all their members in its grip. The act of collecting brings Ouyang to a confrontation with both personal and historical time. Words are engraved on metal and stone to preserve them for all time, but oddly enough that inscribing, centuries later, highlights its own futility. Ouyang is keenly aware of the fragility of the inscriptions he collects and is particularly drawn to the partly obliterated ones, which for him have an irresistible appeal because they are damaged. In a sense, Ouyang is in a race against time that threatens each stele out there in the landscape. Even as he acquires each piece and mounts the rubbing carefully in one of his massive albums, he reflects on how the collection itself will not last long. He knows it will be broken ap~rt eventually and scattered, as it ultimately was. But the act of collecting is also done in time, the months and years of Ouyang's life. He reminds us frequently in his colophons exactly when he began collecting, how long he has been at it, when he first became aware of a particular inscription, how long he has sought to obtain a copy of it, and so on. He collected consciously and diligently for nearly twenty years, until he was fifty-six. Then, still unsatisfied, even though he had amassed a huge assemblage, he set about to write colophons. Once he started, he continued to add colophons to his albums into his sixties, until he became too old and sick to add any more. The last colophons are dated 1071, the year

60. Ouyang Xiu, "Tang Han Tan 'Youlin si'" ~#*~~*.~, Jigu /u bawei 6.2208.

54

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

before he died at sixty-five. His project was also an activity set within and pitted against biographical time. The aging poet and scholar becomes interested in these relics for complex and varied reasons. But clearly one of those reasons is that he was conscious of the steady shortening of the days and months he had left to live. He hastens to save relics from oblivion in part because he is haunted by apprehensions over the threat of oblivion in his own life. He sees his friends pass on, and the experience weighs on his mind. The act of collecting itself may well have heightened Ouyang's apprehensions about mortality. The inscriptions are a constant reminder of how readily worldly prominence gives way to historical neglect and anonymity. The act of collecting them can hardly have been reassuring to the man already apprehensive over his own place in history and time. But that did not cause him to abandon the project. Indeed, the fragility of the inscriptions seems to have spurred him on. Much is said about Ouyang's collection being the beginning of the scholarly field of epigraphy in China, of Ouyang undertaking this work as scholar and historian. What is ordinarily omitted from accounts of the project is this personal dimension that we have been discovering in the colophons. Yet this personal, subjective element appears to have been an indispensable part of Ouyang's attitude toward his collection. It is because Ouyang is so conscious of his own mortality that he reacts the way he does to partial obliteration and anonymity whenever he finds it in the inscriptions. It is, finally, because Ouyang approaches his subject as much as a poet as a historian or epigrapher that his colophons read the way they do.

On destroying a stele There is an interesting late Tang dynasty essay that presents a useful contrast to salient points of Ouyang's attitudes examined above. It was written by Shen Yan ~:tcAJi, a man who passed thejinshi exam in the closing years of the Tang dynasty and ended up, after its collapse, as a Hanlin academician in the short-lived southern kingdom of Wu. He died during the Shunyi period of that kingdom (921-27). The essay is translated below:

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

55

On Destroying a Ste/i t In the twelfth month of the Yisi year [885], I went to live temporarily at Zhongling. I sailed on the Zhang River to Jian Pool, then visited Linchuan [Fuzhou, Jiangxi]. There had been a long drought, and the rivers were nearly dry. A storm came, and we had to stop. I moored my boat near the eastern bank, where there were some small islands. We anchored between them. The anchor snagged on something, and, when lifted, it brought up a stele: The boatmen, surprised, told me what had happened and I went to look. The inscription was no longer fully legible, but some seventy or eighty percent could still be made out. Examining it, I could see that it was the writing of Yan Lugong [Zhenqing] when he was serving as prefect of Linchuan. We surmised that he had thrown this stele into the river during his appointment there. The inscription described the meritorious deeds he penormed at Linchuan. I had the stele destroyed. A man who was traveling with me said, "Lugong must have thrown .the stele into the river because he believed that his meritorious deeds would not be celebrated in later generations. That's why he submerged the stele [i.e., knowing it would eventually be found]. Today you are unwilling to copy it out for transmission, filling in the lacunae in its text, and neither can you bring yourself to put it back beneath the flowing water. You might either have ensured that men of later times would yet be able to cast their eyes upon this stele, or have publicized Lugong's meritorious deeds in our world today. Do you really intend to hide a man's goodness? Otherwise, why have you had the stele destroyed?" I replied, "You do not understand. When Ying Zheng of the Qin [the First Emperor of the Qin] unified the various states, all under heaven was pacified and the lands within the four seas were one. He then went on imperial progresses through his prefectures and counties, and he climbed famous mountains, where he had stones engraved with records of his achievements and virtues. But he failed to develop methods of governance that were humane, so that whenever men of later times speak of the First Emperor they call him a cruel and tyrannical ruler. "The sages Yao and Shun governed by the principle of non-interference. As grand and majestic as they were, they ensured that laborers who dug wells or plowed the fields had no inkling of their might as rulers. Thousands of years later, the legacy of their Way has become all the more 6r. Shen Yan, "Sui bei ji" 441(., Quan Tang wen xinbian, ed. Zhou Shaoliang, r6:868.r0943; d. also in Quan Tang wen 868.ra-2a.

54

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

before he died at sixty-five. His project was also an activity set within and pitted against biographical time. The aging poet and scholar becomes interested in these relics for complex and varied reasons. But clearly one of those reasons is that he was conscious of the steady shortening of the days and months he had left to live. He hastens to save relics from oblivion in part because he is haunted by apprehensions over the threat of oblivion in his own life. He sees his friends pass on, and the experience weighs on his mind. The act of collecting itself may well have heightened Ouyang's apprehensions about mortality. The inscriptions are a constant reminder of how readily worldly prominence gives way to historical neglect and anonymity. The act of collecting them can hardly have been reassuring to the man already apprehensive over his own place in history and time. But that did not cause him to abandon the project. Indeed, the fragility of the inscriptions seems to have spurred him on. Much is said about Ouyang's collection being the beginning of the scholarly field of epigraphy in China, of Ouyang undertaking this work as scholar and historian. What is ordinarily omitted from accounts of the project is this personal dimension that we have been discovering in the colophons. Yet this personal, subjective element appears to have been an indispensable part of Ouyang's attitude toward his collection. It is because Ouyang is so conscious of his own mortality that he reacts the way he does to partial obliteration and anonymity whenever he finds it in the inscriptions. It is, finally, because Ouyang approaches his subject as much as a poet as a historian or epigrapher that his colophons read the way they do.

On destroying a stele There is an interesting late Tang dynasty essay that presents a useful contrast to salient points of Ouyang's attitudes examined above. It was written by Shen Yan ~:tcAJi, a man who passed thejinshi exam in the closing years of the Tang dynasty and ended up, after its collapse, as a Hanlin academician in the short-lived southern kingdom of Wu. He died during the Shunyi period of that kingdom (921-27). The essay is translated below:

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

55

On Destroying a Ste/i t In the twelfth month of the Yisi year [885], I went to live temporarily at Zhongling. I sailed on the Zhang River to Jian Pool, then visited Linchuan [Fuzhou, Jiangxi]. There had been a long drought, and the rivers were nearly dry. A storm came, and we had to stop. I moored my boat near the eastern bank, where there were some small islands. We anchored between them. The anchor snagged on something, and, when lifted, it brought up a stele: The boatmen, surprised, told me what had happened and I went to look. The inscription was no longer fully legible, but some seventy or eighty percent could still be made out. Examining it, I could see that it was the writing of Yan Lugong [Zhenqing] when he was serving as prefect of Linchuan. We surmised that he had thrown this stele into the river during his appointment there. The inscription described the meritorious deeds he penormed at Linchuan. I had the stele destroyed. A man who was traveling with me said, "Lugong must have thrown .the stele into the river because he believed that his meritorious deeds would not be celebrated in later generations. That's why he submerged the stele [i.e., knowing it would eventually be found]. Today you are unwilling to copy it out for transmission, filling in the lacunae in its text, and neither can you bring yourself to put it back beneath the flowing water. You might either have ensured that men of later times would yet be able to cast their eyes upon this stele, or have publicized Lugong's meritorious deeds in our world today. Do you really intend to hide a man's goodness? Otherwise, why have you had the stele destroyed?" I replied, "You do not understand. When Ying Zheng of the Qin [the First Emperor of the Qin] unified the various states, all under heaven was pacified and the lands within the four seas were one. He then went on imperial progresses through his prefectures and counties, and he climbed famous mountains, where he had stones engraved with records of his achievements and virtues. But he failed to develop methods of governance that were humane, so that whenever men of later times speak of the First Emperor they call him a cruel and tyrannical ruler. "The sages Yao and Shun governed by the principle of non-interference. As grand and majestic as they were, they ensured that laborers who dug wells or plowed the fields had no inkling of their might as rulers. Thousands of years later, the legacy of their Way has become all the more 6r. Shen Yan, "Sui bei ji" 441(., Quan Tang wen xinbian, ed. Zhou Shaoliang, r6:868.r0943; d. also in Quan Tang wen 868.ra-2a.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

illustrious. Today when people speak of Yao and Shun, they invariably refer to them as the most perfect of sagely rulers. "As for the stele on Xian Mountain, those who look at it all shed tears. It is because the natives of Jing are so moved by the memory of Yang Hu's [221-78] virtuous and transformative rule. And so they weep, fondly remembering him. 62 If Yang Hu's virtuous rule had not extended to the people of Jing, the stele itself would never move people to tears. "Besides, Lugong's meritorious deeds are already recorded in historical writings and are recounted in popular traditions. A man should worry that he may fail to achieve such deeds and make them prominent in his own lifetime. He should not worry that his deeds may not be celebrated in later ages. If Lugong's meritorious deeds were not recorded in historical writings, this lone stele, even if it were preserved, would not cause them to become illustrious in later ages. That being so, what harm is there in destroying the stele?" Without contextualizing sources-and there are none-it is difficult to gauge Shen Yan's intent in this piece 'and thus to be certain of the tone. How outrageous is he intending to be? How widespread in his day would have been the expectation that such a discovery ought to be safeguarded and publicized? Although we cannot answer these questions with certainty, we may still take note of several ways in which his thinking runs completely counter to that of Ouyang Xiu. To begin with, Shen Yan's estimate of Yan Zhenqing is utterly unlike Ouyang Xiu's. To Ouyang, we recall, Yan Zhenqing was an impeccably principled man who was martyred for his loyalty to the throne. He was also a great calligrapher whose brushwork bore evidence of his uprightness, courage, and goodness. Shen Yan is not thinking of Yan Zhenqing's heroic death. He thinks of Yan Zhenqing only as a local prefect at Linchuan i!f, )1). True, Yan was a magistrate who performed good deeds, but he was also in Shen Yan's mind a man who was overly concerned with his posthumous reputation. He compromised his achievements in Linchuan by en62.. This was the famous Stele of Falling Tears. It commemorated the rule of Yang Hu Jf-;ft as governor of Xiangyang. It was placed on top of Xian Mountain, one of Yang Hu's favorite spots, and caused onlookers to shed tears as they fondly , recalled Yang Hu's virtue and good rule. See Yang Hu's biography,fin shu 34.102.2..

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

j, 1

t'

l I

I I

I r; i

I

I

I I

f

t 1

57

graving an account of them on stone, an act that may even raise troubling questi01ts about his motives in performing those deeds in the first place. . Shen Yan does not think of Yan Zhenqing as someone from "the past." He has no consciousness of the stele as being a relic from an earlier time or of Y an Zhenqing as being a figure from an age gone by. Perhaps this was because Yan Zhenqing had lived during Shen Yan's own dynasty. Still, over a century had elapsed between the time of Yan Zhenqing's appointment at Linchuan in the 770S and Shen Yan's discovery of the inscribed stone. But Shen Yan does not think of the stele as old or as something that deserves to be treasured simply because it had already survived that long. Shen Yan also says nothing about the calligraphy on the stone. We cannot be certain that it was engraved in Yan Zhenqing's £Oilligraphy. We do know from what Shen says that the inscription was composed by Yan Zhenqing and that it gave an account of his administration in Linchuan. Given Yan Zhenqing's reputation as a calligrapher, especially as one who worked in the stele tradition, it is almost inconceivable that the stone was not engraved with his brushwork. Would this have been too immodest, that is, not only to write about one's achievements as prefect but then to write out the piece in one's own calligraphy and have it carved on stone? But we should bear in mind that Shen Yan's assessment is a negative one, and so he might well have characterized the inscription in the worst possible manner. The claim that the inscription records Yan Zhenqing's "meritorious deeds" may well be misleading. Perhaps it told of initiatives Yan undertook as prefect in Linchuan, in the way that Ouyang's account of the Pavilion of Abundance and Joy tells of his actions at Chuzhou. The inscription need not have been as self-serving as Shen Yan makes it sound. Ouyang Xiu would never have written about this inscription without giving attention to its calligraphy, especially if it was Yan Zhenqing's. He also would have treated the stele as a precious relic from the past. The fact that part of the inscription was already obliterated would have made the piece all the more appealing to him. Of course, destroying the stele would have been unthinkable to Ouyang Xiu.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

illustrious. Today when people speak of Yao and Shun, they invariably refer to them as the most perfect of sagely rulers. "As for the stele on Xian Mountain, those who look at it all shed tears. It is because the natives of Jing are so moved by the memory of Yang Hu's [221-78] virtuous and transformative rule. And so they weep, fondly remembering him. 62 If Yang Hu's virtuous rule had not extended to the people of Jing, the stele itself would never move people to tears. "Besides, Lugong's meritorious deeds are already recorded in historical writings and are recounted in popular traditions. A man should worry that he may fail to achieve such deeds and make them prominent in his own lifetime. He should not worry that his deeds may not be celebrated in later ages. If Lugong's meritorious deeds were not recorded in historical writings, this lone stele, even if it were preserved, would not cause them to become illustrious in later ages. That being so, what harm is there in destroying the stele?" Without contextualizing sources-and there are none-it is difficult to gauge Shen Yan's intent in this piece 'and thus to be certain of the tone. How outrageous is he intending to be? How widespread in his day would have been the expectation that such a discovery ought to be safeguarded and publicized? Although we cannot answer these questions with certainty, we may still take note of several ways in which his thinking runs completely counter to that of Ouyang Xiu. To begin with, Shen Yan's estimate of Yan Zhenqing is utterly unlike Ouyang Xiu's. To Ouyang, we recall, Yan Zhenqing was an impeccably principled man who was martyred for his loyalty to the throne. He was also a great calligrapher whose brushwork bore evidence of his uprightness, courage, and goodness. Shen Yan is not thinking of Yan Zhenqing's heroic death. He thinks of Yan Zhenqing only as a local prefect at Linchuan i!f, )1). True, Yan was a magistrate who performed good deeds, but he was also in Shen Yan's mind a man who was overly concerned with his posthumous reputation. He compromised his achievements in Linchuan by en62.. This was the famous Stele of Falling Tears. It commemorated the rule of Yang Hu Jf-;ft as governor of Xiangyang. It was placed on top of Xian Mountain, one of Yang Hu's favorite spots, and caused onlookers to shed tears as they fondly , recalled Yang Hu's virtue and good rule. See Yang Hu's biography,fin shu 34.102.2..

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

j, 1

t'

l I

I I

I r; i

I

I

I I

f

t 1

57

graving an account of them on stone, an act that may even raise troubling questi01ts about his motives in performing those deeds in the first place. . Shen Yan does not think of Yan Zhenqing as someone from "the past." He has no consciousness of the stele as being a relic from an earlier time or of Y an Zhenqing as being a figure from an age gone by. Perhaps this was because Yan Zhenqing had lived during Shen Yan's own dynasty. Still, over a century had elapsed between the time of Yan Zhenqing's appointment at Linchuan in the 770S and Shen Yan's discovery of the inscribed stone. But Shen Yan does not think of the stele as old or as something that deserves to be treasured simply because it had already survived that long. Shen Yan also says nothing about the calligraphy on the stone. We cannot be certain that it was engraved in Yan Zhenqing's £Oilligraphy. We do know from what Shen says that the inscription was composed by Yan Zhenqing and that it gave an account of his administration in Linchuan. Given Yan Zhenqing's reputation as a calligrapher, especially as one who worked in the stele tradition, it is almost inconceivable that the stone was not engraved with his brushwork. Would this have been too immodest, that is, not only to write about one's achievements as prefect but then to write out the piece in one's own calligraphy and have it carved on stone? But we should bear in mind that Shen Yan's assessment is a negative one, and so he might well have characterized the inscription in the worst possible manner. The claim that the inscription records Yan Zhenqing's "meritorious deeds" may well be misleading. Perhaps it told of initiatives Yan undertook as prefect in Linchuan, in the way that Ouyang's account of the Pavilion of Abundance and Joy tells of his actions at Chuzhou. The inscription need not have been as self-serving as Shen Yan makes it sound. Ouyang Xiu would never have written about this inscription without giving attention to its calligraphy, especially if it was Yan Zhenqing's. He also would have treated the stele as a precious relic from the past. The fact that part of the inscription was already obliterated would have made the piece all the more appealing to him. Of course, destroying the stele would have been unthinkable to Ouyang Xiu.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

That is not to say that Shen Yan's disapproval of preoccupation with posthumous fame would have been foreign to Ouyang's way of thinking or an attitude he would not agree with. As we have seen, Ouyang himself occasionally writes in his colophons about the carving of words on a stone as being a misguided attempt to ensure posthumous repute. But even as he makes such observations, Ouyang takes pains to preserve and protect the inscription. Ouyang is too attached to these objects, as aesthetically pleasing relics from the past, not to take such pains. He is too attached even to those inscriptions whose contents or authors he disapproves of to ever entertain the thought of smashing them to bits. Even the defender of the stele in Shen Yan's essay has a point of view that is very unlike that of Ouyang Xiu. The unidentified man is shocked by Shen Yan's order to destroy the stone and challenges Shen for an explanation. But the worth that the man attributes to the inscription stems entirely from its function as a record of Yan Zhenqing's good deeds. The man does not say, "How could you destroy something written in such fine brushwork? How could you obliterate an example of Yan Zhenqing's calligraphy? How could you reject something so old, so fragile, and so precious?" His only concern is with the issue of the transmission of knowledge of Yan Zhenqing's deeds. He thinks only of the content of the inscription, not of its beauty or age. Dissatisfied as he must have been with a narrow, exclusive representation of the calligraphic past codified in the imperial anthology of his day, the Calligraphy Models from Chunhua Pavilion, Ouyang Xiu looked elsewhere to find an alternative. Where he looked was out into the landscape, which was dotted with crumbling or partly obliterated inscribed monuments that had been erected over the past fifteen hundred years. If we marvel today at the fact that no one had systematically taken notice of these monuments before, it is only because Ouyang's actions of collecting and writing about them gave rise to what was to become an unbroken tradition of gathering, studying, and transcribing the texts and calligraphy on such ancient steles. Yet the action that Ouya.p.g took as collector must not have been an obvious thing to do at the time because no one had done it before.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

59

The interest Ouyang took in the ancient inscriptions sprang from several sources, some of them potentially at odds with others. His fondness for "the past," dismay over feeling cut off from even recent historical periods, fretting over his own aging and mortality, the strange power that partly obliterated writing had over him, his pride as historiographer and scholar, his misgivings about religious writings, his ability to appreciate virtually all manners of calligraphic styles-all these figure variously in the co~plex ways that Ouyang reacts to and writes about the objects he collected. Given that his was a project such as never had been undertaken before, it is hardly surprising that Ouyang himself is sometimes inconsistent regarding its purpose, or that he frequently shows himself to be unsure or insecure about the worth of his effort. Ultimately, it is the delight Ouyang takes. in the inscriptions, especially in their visual appeal as endlessly varied styles of antique calligraphy, that seems to have been the most important factor that sustained him as collector and writer, just as we might have expected from the preface he wrote. Such was Ouyang's sensitivity to the inscriptions as objects that presented both aesthetic beauty and "traces" of lives lived long before, and later mostly forgotten, that it sufficed to eclipse in his eyes the problematic content of many of the pieces he collected.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

That is not to say that Shen Yan's disapproval of preoccupation with posthumous fame would have been foreign to Ouyang's way of thinking or an attitude he would not agree with. As we have seen, Ouyang himself occasionally writes in his colophons about the carving of words on a stone as being a misguided attempt to ensure posthumous repute. But even as he makes such observations, Ouyang takes pains to preserve and protect the inscription. Ouyang is too attached to these objects, as aesthetically pleasing relics from the past, not to take such pains. He is too attached even to those inscriptions whose contents or authors he disapproves of to ever entertain the thought of smashing them to bits. Even the defender of the stele in Shen Yan's essay has a point of view that is very unlike that of Ouyang Xiu. The unidentified man is shocked by Shen Yan's order to destroy the stone and challenges Shen for an explanation. But the worth that the man attributes to the inscription stems entirely from its function as a record of Yan Zhenqing's good deeds. The man does not say, "How could you destroy something written in such fine brushwork? How could you obliterate an example of Yan Zhenqing's calligraphy? How could you reject something so old, so fragile, and so precious?" His only concern is with the issue of the transmission of knowledge of Yan Zhenqing's deeds. He thinks only of the content of the inscription, not of its beauty or age. Dissatisfied as he must have been with a narrow, exclusive representation of the calligraphic past codified in the imperial anthology of his day, the Calligraphy Models from Chunhua Pavilion, Ouyang Xiu looked elsewhere to find an alternative. Where he looked was out into the landscape, which was dotted with crumbling or partly obliterated inscribed monuments that had been erected over the past fifteen hundred years. If we marvel today at the fact that no one had systematically taken notice of these monuments before, it is only because Ouyang's actions of collecting and writing about them gave rise to what was to become an unbroken tradition of gathering, studying, and transcribing the texts and calligraphy on such ancient steles. Yet the action that Ouya.p.g took as collector must not have been an obvious thing to do at the time because no one had done it before.

RETHINKING "TRACES" FROM THE PAST

59

The interest Ouyang took in the ancient inscriptions sprang from several sources, some of them potentially at odds with others. His fondness for "the past," dismay over feeling cut off from even recent historical periods, fretting over his own aging and mortality, the strange power that partly obliterated writing had over him, his pride as historiographer and scholar, his misgivings about religious writings, his ability to appreciate virtually all manners of calligraphic styles-all these figure variously in the co~plex ways that Ouyang reacts to and writes about the objects he collected. Given that his was a project such as never had been undertaken before, it is hardly surprising that Ouyang himself is sometimes inconsistent regarding its purpose, or that he frequently shows himself to be unsure or insecure about the worth of his effort. Ultimately, it is the delight Ouyang takes. in the inscriptions, especially in their visual appeal as endlessly varied styles of antique calligraphy, that seems to have been the most important factor that sustained him as collector and writer, just as we might have expected from the preface he wrote. Such was Ouyang's sensitivity to the inscriptions as objects that presented both aesthetic beauty and "traces" of lives lived long before, and later mostly forgotten, that it sufficed to eclipse in his eyes the problematic content of many of the pieces he collected.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

poetry began to appeal to persons outside of the immediate circle of its initial creator, including monks and others who were not major scholars or literary figures. By the end of the eleventh century, at least ten other remarks on poetry had been composed. By the end of the Northern Song in Il26, the number had swelled to two to three dozen, although many of these works were subsequently lost or survived only as fragmentary quotations. 4 Right around the time of the dynastic calamity in that year, enormous composite remarks on poetry anthologies began to appear (e.g., Remarks on Poetry by Celebrated Worthies o/the Tang and Song It af] ~ttu" Remarks on Poetry ofAncient and Modern Times *~ttt*, and The Comprehen· sive Wisdom of Remarks on Poetry ttu,1..t j!) in which the material from diverse sources, including anecdotal collections not called remarks on poetry, was gathered together and rearranged, by poet or topical category, in. an attempt to compile comprehensive assemblages of the quickly expanding list of separate works. 5 The popularity of the form, whether in short individual works or in massive systematizing anthologies, continued to grow through the Southern Song. By the dynasty's end, we can count some 140 different remarks on poetry, and many others must have been written that are unknown to us. 6 By the Southern Song the form can be said to have become mature. We find a rich array of works, ranging from the comprehensive anthology to highly partisan volumes that were written to champion a particular poetic school or style. Within a remarkably brief time, then, remarks on poetry evolved from being one man's desultory effort-undertaken late in life and with no apparent compelling purpose-to become the principal vehicle for the adjudication of literary standards and taste, to which scores of critics avidly devoted themselves. All in all, this explosive growth

*-

4. A chronological table listing known titles, including some of Northern Song writings compiled at a later date, is found in Luo Genze, Zhongguo wenxue piping shi, pp. 743-61. 5. Information on these three titles (as well as on most of the other remarks on poetry mentioned here) may be found in the most detailed study of the form to date: Guo Shaoyu, Song shihua kao, pp. 23-30, 165-67, and 195-97· 6. See L\1O Genze's table, cited above, and also the list of both extant and lost titles that constitutes the contents of Guo Shaoyu's Song shihua kao.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

and development of the remarks on poetry form in the Song dynasty, not to mention its continued growth in later periods, is a remarkable event in Chinese literary history. The aim of this chapter is to account for the creation and remarkable growth of remarks on poetry by examining the purposes it fulfilled in the context of Song dynasty literary culture. The focus will be on the early period of the form's development: from Ouyang Xiu's time through the early Southern Song. The thesis is that the rapid spread of remarks on poetry was spurred by the form's ability to provide a forum for thinking about poetry that literati of the time found instructive, and often amusing as well. I will also argue' that remarks on poetry, because of its. origins and intrinsic characteristics, facilitated new approaches to poetry criticism that would have been difficult if not impossible to attain in the older forms of writing about literature, including the treatise, essay, preface, letter, and colophon.

Ouyang Xiu's Records/or Retirement to the Farm We begin with a consideration of what it was that motivated Ouyang Xiu, originator of the form, and the precise nature of what he produced. Before taking up Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry, some attention should be given to three other collections of jottings or short anecdotes that Ouyang left. The others, while they are not restricted to the subject of poetry, are similar in format, consisting . of short, discrete entries, unsystematically ordered, on a variety of subjects pertaining to literary and bureaucratic life. To use a traditional rubric, all four works could be considered members of the biji xiaoshuo ~1c.'J''IDt. category of writings, which may be rendered as "random notes and trivial anecdotes." Ouyang's other works are: Records for Retirement to the Farm It \:fJ~, Brush Opinions ~ 'IDt., and Brush Exercises ~ ~ .7 The latter two consist of notes Ouyang wrote while practicing calligraphy. What is unusual about that is that most persons practiced calligraphy by copying out well-known, pre7· The three works are found 129.1965-72, and 13°.1975-87.

10

Ouyang Xiu quanji 126.19°9- 127. 194 6 ,

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

poetry began to appeal to persons outside of the immediate circle of its initial creator, including monks and others who were not major scholars or literary figures. By the end of the eleventh century, at least ten other remarks on poetry had been composed. By the end of the Northern Song in Il26, the number had swelled to two to three dozen, although many of these works were subsequently lost or survived only as fragmentary quotations. 4 Right around the time of the dynastic calamity in that year, enormous composite remarks on poetry anthologies began to appear (e.g., Remarks on Poetry by Celebrated Worthies o/the Tang and Song It af] ~ttu" Remarks on Poetry ofAncient and Modern Times *~ttt*, and The Comprehen· sive Wisdom of Remarks on Poetry ttu,1..t j!) in which the material from diverse sources, including anecdotal collections not called remarks on poetry, was gathered together and rearranged, by poet or topical category, in. an attempt to compile comprehensive assemblages of the quickly expanding list of separate works. 5 The popularity of the form, whether in short individual works or in massive systematizing anthologies, continued to grow through the Southern Song. By the dynasty's end, we can count some 140 different remarks on poetry, and many others must have been written that are unknown to us. 6 By the Southern Song the form can be said to have become mature. We find a rich array of works, ranging from the comprehensive anthology to highly partisan volumes that were written to champion a particular poetic school or style. Within a remarkably brief time, then, remarks on poetry evolved from being one man's desultory effort-undertaken late in life and with no apparent compelling purpose-to become the principal vehicle for the adjudication of literary standards and taste, to which scores of critics avidly devoted themselves. All in all, this explosive growth

*-

4. A chronological table listing known titles, including some of Northern Song writings compiled at a later date, is found in Luo Genze, Zhongguo wenxue piping shi, pp. 743-61. 5. Information on these three titles (as well as on most of the other remarks on poetry mentioned here) may be found in the most detailed study of the form to date: Guo Shaoyu, Song shihua kao, pp. 23-30, 165-67, and 195-97· 6. See L\1O Genze's table, cited above, and also the list of both extant and lost titles that constitutes the contents of Guo Shaoyu's Song shihua kao.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

and development of the remarks on poetry form in the Song dynasty, not to mention its continued growth in later periods, is a remarkable event in Chinese literary history. The aim of this chapter is to account for the creation and remarkable growth of remarks on poetry by examining the purposes it fulfilled in the context of Song dynasty literary culture. The focus will be on the early period of the form's development: from Ouyang Xiu's time through the early Southern Song. The thesis is that the rapid spread of remarks on poetry was spurred by the form's ability to provide a forum for thinking about poetry that literati of the time found instructive, and often amusing as well. I will also argue' that remarks on poetry, because of its. origins and intrinsic characteristics, facilitated new approaches to poetry criticism that would have been difficult if not impossible to attain in the older forms of writing about literature, including the treatise, essay, preface, letter, and colophon.

Ouyang Xiu's Records/or Retirement to the Farm We begin with a consideration of what it was that motivated Ouyang Xiu, originator of the form, and the precise nature of what he produced. Before taking up Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry, some attention should be given to three other collections of jottings or short anecdotes that Ouyang left. The others, while they are not restricted to the subject of poetry, are similar in format, consisting . of short, discrete entries, unsystematically ordered, on a variety of subjects pertaining to literary and bureaucratic life. To use a traditional rubric, all four works could be considered members of the biji xiaoshuo ~1c.'J''IDt. category of writings, which may be rendered as "random notes and trivial anecdotes." Ouyang's other works are: Records for Retirement to the Farm It \:fJ~, Brush Opinions ~ 'IDt., and Brush Exercises ~ ~ .7 The latter two consist of notes Ouyang wrote while practicing calligraphy. What is unusual about that is that most persons practiced calligraphy by copying out well-known, pre7· The three works are found 129.1965-72, and 13°.1975-87.

10

Ouyang Xiu quanji 126.19°9- 127. 194 6 ,

64

~

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

existent texts. Ouyang apparently did his practicing, some of it at least, by composing his own texts as he wrote (or copying them over after he composed them). One could hardly ask for better evidence of a self-confident and creative mind. In any case, it appears that Brush Opinions and Brush Exercises were not compiled by Ouyang himself. Rather, they were pieced together from stray manuscripts that Ouyang left but never grouped together and given the form they have today by a later (probably Southern Song period) editor. That is what certain colophons to the two works in various editions of Ouyang's complete works imply, and what is specifically asserted by an Ouyang descendant. 8 But such was not the case for Records for Retirement to the Farm. That was a collection that Ouyang himself put in its present form and wrote a preface for. It is generally understood that the remarks on poetry form overlapped in its early stage with "random notes and trivial anecdotes," which was already well established. The premier authority on remarks on poetry, Guo Shaoyu f~!.!~ut, repeatedly makes the point that, at this early stage, the form is almost indistinguishable from "random notes and trivial anecdotes" and only gradually developed its own special traits. 9 It turns out, as we now realize, that the very first author of a remarks on poetry, the one who coined the form's name, had produced a work in the older form just a few years earlier. We know that Ouyang's Records for Retirement to the Farm was compiled in 1067 and Remarks on Poetry in 1071 (or 1072). Is there anything to learn from examining Remarks on Poetry in the light of the earlier work, to which it is closely related in content and in time? To begin with, we may say that Ouyang's activity as a writer of a volume of "random notes and trivial anecdotes" is unusual. For Ouyang Xiu, the man deemed by his contemporaries to be the leading literary figure of his day, to produce such a work was already a departure from earlier practice. The major writers of the Tang period, as well as those before Ouyang in the Song, did not 8. The colophons, the earliest by Su Zhe lHlt and Su Shi, are reproduced in Ouyang Xiu qua'nji 13°.1986-87. 9. See; for example, Guo Shaoyu, Song shihua kao, pp. 3-4.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

I

65

produce works in this form, and those who did produce them were not leading literary men. Writers of great stature in their own time, for example Han Yu ~ and Bo Juyi /l; ~ in the Tang, or Yang Yi {lj1.t and Liu Kai ~~p r.t, in the early Northern Song, avoided the "random notes" form, presumably because they preferred to keep their literary energies focused on more prestigious types of expression. (There is one such work attributed to Yang Yi, Yang Wengong's Garden of Sayings {Ij 5t ~ t~J€., but it consists of Yang's remarks and conversations as recorded by his disciples, which makes it a very different sort of compilation.)IO But Ouyang Xiu.did not observe this restriction. As a writer, Ouyang cast his net over a wider range of forms, including some. that persons of his stature would have been expected to consider beneath them. Ouyang did not do so without some qualms. He was apprehensive that he would be criticized for wasting his time on such a work as Records for Retirement to the Farm, consisting as it does of material that is seemingly unimportant or simply amusing. This was precisely the sort of material that was deliberately suppressed from standard historiography, as Ouyang, an esteemed historian himself, was well aware. Feeling ambivalent about what he had done, Ouyang wrote an elaborately apologetic preface to the work. It is translated below:

-**

I

f0

a

Preface to Records for Retirement to the Farm 11 Records for Retirement to the Farm relates forgotten incidents at the court, things the official historians did not write down, together with the residue of leisurely chatting and laughter among the gentlemen of the age that is fit . for writing down. I have recorded such matters here to have something to peruse at my leisure when I am in retirement. Someone heard about this work and reproached me as follows: "How could you be so unreasonable! In your studies, what you should do is seek to cultivate humaneness and rightness as the foundation of your career, and to recite the Six Classics as the basis of your speech. It should be clear, then, how you ought to conduct yourself. You were fortunate enough, more10. On the provenance of Yang Yi's work, see Li Yumin's introduction to the. . new edition, Yang Wengong tanyuan, pp. 4 65- 66. II. Ouyang Xiu, "Guitian lu xu" .1!1~~,Jushiji 4 2.601-2.

64

~

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

existent texts. Ouyang apparently did his practicing, some of it at least, by composing his own texts as he wrote (or copying them over after he composed them). One could hardly ask for better evidence of a self-confident and creative mind. In any case, it appears that Brush Opinions and Brush Exercises were not compiled by Ouyang himself. Rather, they were pieced together from stray manuscripts that Ouyang left but never grouped together and given the form they have today by a later (probably Southern Song period) editor. That is what certain colophons to the two works in various editions of Ouyang's complete works imply, and what is specifically asserted by an Ouyang descendant. 8 But such was not the case for Records for Retirement to the Farm. That was a collection that Ouyang himself put in its present form and wrote a preface for. It is generally understood that the remarks on poetry form overlapped in its early stage with "random notes and trivial anecdotes," which was already well established. The premier authority on remarks on poetry, Guo Shaoyu f~!.!~ut, repeatedly makes the point that, at this early stage, the form is almost indistinguishable from "random notes and trivial anecdotes" and only gradually developed its own special traits. 9 It turns out, as we now realize, that the very first author of a remarks on poetry, the one who coined the form's name, had produced a work in the older form just a few years earlier. We know that Ouyang's Records for Retirement to the Farm was compiled in 1067 and Remarks on Poetry in 1071 (or 1072). Is there anything to learn from examining Remarks on Poetry in the light of the earlier work, to which it is closely related in content and in time? To begin with, we may say that Ouyang's activity as a writer of a volume of "random notes and trivial anecdotes" is unusual. For Ouyang Xiu, the man deemed by his contemporaries to be the leading literary figure of his day, to produce such a work was already a departure from earlier practice. The major writers of the Tang period, as well as those before Ouyang in the Song, did not 8. The colophons, the earliest by Su Zhe lHlt and Su Shi, are reproduced in Ouyang Xiu qua'nji 13°.1986-87. 9. See; for example, Guo Shaoyu, Song shihua kao, pp. 3-4.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

I

65

produce works in this form, and those who did produce them were not leading literary men. Writers of great stature in their own time, for example Han Yu ~ and Bo Juyi /l; ~ in the Tang, or Yang Yi {lj1.t and Liu Kai ~~p r.t, in the early Northern Song, avoided the "random notes" form, presumably because they preferred to keep their literary energies focused on more prestigious types of expression. (There is one such work attributed to Yang Yi, Yang Wengong's Garden of Sayings {Ij 5t ~ t~J€., but it consists of Yang's remarks and conversations as recorded by his disciples, which makes it a very different sort of compilation.)IO But Ouyang Xiu.did not observe this restriction. As a writer, Ouyang cast his net over a wider range of forms, including some. that persons of his stature would have been expected to consider beneath them. Ouyang did not do so without some qualms. He was apprehensive that he would be criticized for wasting his time on such a work as Records for Retirement to the Farm, consisting as it does of material that is seemingly unimportant or simply amusing. This was precisely the sort of material that was deliberately suppressed from standard historiography, as Ouyang, an esteemed historian himself, was well aware. Feeling ambivalent about what he had done, Ouyang wrote an elaborately apologetic preface to the work. It is translated below:

-**

I

f0

a

Preface to Records for Retirement to the Farm 11 Records for Retirement to the Farm relates forgotten incidents at the court, things the official historians did not write down, together with the residue of leisurely chatting and laughter among the gentlemen of the age that is fit . for writing down. I have recorded such matters here to have something to peruse at my leisure when I am in retirement. Someone heard about this work and reproached me as follows: "How could you be so unreasonable! In your studies, what you should do is seek to cultivate humaneness and rightness as the foundation of your career, and to recite the Six Classics as the basis of your speech. It should be clear, then, how you ought to conduct yourself. You were fortunate enough, more10. On the provenance of Yang Yi's work, see Li Yumin's introduction to the. . new edition, Yang Wengong tanyuan, pp. 4 65- 66. II. Ouyang Xiu, "Guitian lu xu" .1!1~~,Jushiji 4 2.601-2.

66

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM !

over, to come to the attention of our ruler and have been given an official position at the court. For eight years you have been present there to listen to discussions of affairs of state. But you have been unable to exert yourself in response to the needs of the time, to rouse yourself to action, so that you might accomplish something and contribute, in some .small way, to the improvement of the realm. You have also proved unable to attach yourself to others or ingratiate yourself in accordance with present practices. Thus you have caused enmity, envy, invective, and anger all to be directed at you, as you have been abused by the mean-minded crowd. "When you found yourself, suddenly and without warning, engulfed by a frightening tempest and terrifying waves, as all sorts of sea monsters and unnatural leviathans arrayed their heads and peered at you, still you placed yourself right in their midst, where you were bound to meet your doom. But our emperor, in his humaneness and wisdom, was moved to take pity on you. He plucked you from among those salivating jaws, to allow you to live out the remaining years of your life. Yet you have not managed to 'spit out a pearl' or 'deliver a bracelet' like the snake and sparrow, who as mere animals knew enough to repay a favorY When you were in your prime you accomplished nothing, and now you are old and sickly. Your entire life you have betrayed our ruler's kindness toward you. For too long you have been a useless waste of the salary given to you by the Bureau of Agriculture. You are nothing but a rat in the imperial granary! "My advice to you is that you should beg the court for permission to retire and remove yourself distantly away on the pretext of illness, to guard against a repeat of the calamity that befell you before. There you can wander unconcernedly amid the fields of rice and live out your allotted years. That way you might even win a reputation for knowing when enough is enough. But instead you persist in remaining here, biding your time and gawking about, postponing any decisive move. All this does not even weigh upon your mind, and you busy yourself instead with this ridiculous Records for Retirement to the Farm!"

12. !twas Yang Bao ~t" of the Han dynasty who rescued an injured sparrow and nursed it back to health. The bird, which was one of the messengers of the Queen Mother of the West, eventually returned with jade bracelets to recompense his kindness. See Li Xian's "" commentary on Hou Han shu 54.1759, n. 2. In a similar story, after the Duke of Sui ~1jt healed the wound of a snake he encountered, the snake subsequently returned to him, bringing a pearl in recompense. See . Gao You's ~ l~ commentary on Huainanzi jiaoshi 6.653, n. 22.

II 1 f

I

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

I stood up and apologized, "All that you have said and faulted me for is correct. I am going off in retirement. Just you wait and see." Written on the yiwei day of the ninth month of the fourth year of the Zhiping reign period [October 30, 1067] by Ouyang Xiu.

We understand of course that this is in large part one of those apparent self-denigrations that is actually intended to reflect favorably upon its author, for certain of the actions of Ouyang's that are decried here are clearly ones he looks upon as principled and admirable (e.g., not ingratiating himself with others in. an unprincipled fashion). That said, the fundamental issue raised here-about how to. justify compiling a work that consists of nothing more than trivial anecdotes and stray notes-is not so easily explained away. Ouyang was bucking weighty conventions about what serious writers spend their time on when he wrote this work, and the reservations expressed here about its worth might well have been vie~ed as legitimate by many of his colleagues. That is why Ouyang felt obliged to take notice of them, acknowledging a degree of validity in them, in his defensive preface. Today, the preface does not appear at the head of the Records for Retirement to the Farm. For some reason, it has been separated from it and is found elsewhere in Ouyang's literary collection, grouped together with the dozens of other prefaces he wrote, mostly to other people's literary collections. It is interesting to reflect upon how his preface alters our understanding of Ouyang's effort in Records for . Retirement to the Farm. If we did not read the preface, it might never occur to us that there was some problem involved in producing the compilation. Reading the preface, we infer that in order to produce it Ouyang had to overcome some anxiety over how it would be perceived. Would it be dismissed as a misguided effort, a worthless collection of trivia? For Ouyang to go ahead with the work despite these misgivings, it seems likely that he may have held some strong convictions about the worth of this material, despite all the disparaging things he says about it in the preface. Here we have a scholar who was himself a major historian choosing to compile a collection of precisely the sort of inconsequential notes, hearsay, and stories that are deemed unfit for inclusion in serious historiography. One way of thinking about his action is to say that he was

66

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM !

over, to come to the attention of our ruler and have been given an official position at the court. For eight years you have been present there to listen to discussions of affairs of state. But you have been unable to exert yourself in response to the needs of the time, to rouse yourself to action, so that you might accomplish something and contribute, in some .small way, to the improvement of the realm. You have also proved unable to attach yourself to others or ingratiate yourself in accordance with present practices. Thus you have caused enmity, envy, invective, and anger all to be directed at you, as you have been abused by the mean-minded crowd. "When you found yourself, suddenly and without warning, engulfed by a frightening tempest and terrifying waves, as all sorts of sea monsters and unnatural leviathans arrayed their heads and peered at you, still you placed yourself right in their midst, where you were bound to meet your doom. But our emperor, in his humaneness and wisdom, was moved to take pity on you. He plucked you from among those salivating jaws, to allow you to live out the remaining years of your life. Yet you have not managed to 'spit out a pearl' or 'deliver a bracelet' like the snake and sparrow, who as mere animals knew enough to repay a favorY When you were in your prime you accomplished nothing, and now you are old and sickly. Your entire life you have betrayed our ruler's kindness toward you. For too long you have been a useless waste of the salary given to you by the Bureau of Agriculture. You are nothing but a rat in the imperial granary! "My advice to you is that you should beg the court for permission to retire and remove yourself distantly away on the pretext of illness, to guard against a repeat of the calamity that befell you before. There you can wander unconcernedly amid the fields of rice and live out your allotted years. That way you might even win a reputation for knowing when enough is enough. But instead you persist in remaining here, biding your time and gawking about, postponing any decisive move. All this does not even weigh upon your mind, and you busy yourself instead with this ridiculous Records for Retirement to the Farm!"

12. !twas Yang Bao ~t" of the Han dynasty who rescued an injured sparrow and nursed it back to health. The bird, which was one of the messengers of the Queen Mother of the West, eventually returned with jade bracelets to recompense his kindness. See Li Xian's "" commentary on Hou Han shu 54.1759, n. 2. In a similar story, after the Duke of Sui ~1jt healed the wound of a snake he encountered, the snake subsequently returned to him, bringing a pearl in recompense. See . Gao You's ~ l~ commentary on Huainanzi jiaoshi 6.653, n. 22.

II 1 f

I

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

I stood up and apologized, "All that you have said and faulted me for is correct. I am going off in retirement. Just you wait and see." Written on the yiwei day of the ninth month of the fourth year of the Zhiping reign period [October 30, 1067] by Ouyang Xiu.

We understand of course that this is in large part one of those apparent self-denigrations that is actually intended to reflect favorably upon its author, for certain of the actions of Ouyang's that are decried here are clearly ones he looks upon as principled and admirable (e.g., not ingratiating himself with others in. an unprincipled fashion). That said, the fundamental issue raised here-about how to. justify compiling a work that consists of nothing more than trivial anecdotes and stray notes-is not so easily explained away. Ouyang was bucking weighty conventions about what serious writers spend their time on when he wrote this work, and the reservations expressed here about its worth might well have been vie~ed as legitimate by many of his colleagues. That is why Ouyang felt obliged to take notice of them, acknowledging a degree of validity in them, in his defensive preface. Today, the preface does not appear at the head of the Records for Retirement to the Farm. For some reason, it has been separated from it and is found elsewhere in Ouyang's literary collection, grouped together with the dozens of other prefaces he wrote, mostly to other people's literary collections. It is interesting to reflect upon how his preface alters our understanding of Ouyang's effort in Records for . Retirement to the Farm. If we did not read the preface, it might never occur to us that there was some problem involved in producing the compilation. Reading the preface, we infer that in order to produce it Ouyang had to overcome some anxiety over how it would be perceived. Would it be dismissed as a misguided effort, a worthless collection of trivia? For Ouyang to go ahead with the work despite these misgivings, it seems likely that he may have held some strong convictions about the worth of this material, despite all the disparaging things he says about it in the preface. Here we have a scholar who was himself a major historian choosing to compile a collection of precisely the sort of inconsequential notes, hearsay, and stories that are deemed unfit for inclusion in serious historiography. One way of thinking about his action is to say that he was

68

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

Lin Bu ;f+il!; an eccentric chess wizard who never bathed; the gifts Ouyang gave to the calligrapher Cai Xiang for having written out an inscription for him; the property of certain natural products to act upon others as a preservative (e.g., the soap bean on crabs), ripening agent (the quince on persimmons), or softener (jadeite on gold); and the habit that several literati admitted to of reading or composing poetry while using the privy: "I said to Xishen: 'Throughout my life, most of my own writing has been composed during what I call the three "on's": on horseback, on the pillow, and on the toilet."'14 Unlike Li Zhao, Ouyang Xiu does cultivate a highly personal tone in his notebook. One example is a revealing entry concerning a collection of poems he and his friends wrote while administering the jinshi examination in 1057. Once the degree candidates finished their examination, Ouyang, who was chief examiner, and his five assistants were sequestered in the examination compound for nearly two months, grading the papers. During this time they sought relief from the tedium of their work by sending each other poems written to the same rhymes. This is what Ouyang says:

expanding the boundaries of what could be considered worth preserving, or to have historiographical value, without claiming to be doing so. It is not just the act itself-a historian, classicist, and literary giant stooping to produce a collection of inconsequential anecdotes-that is of interest. One could also argue that the substance and tone of the work itself display unexpected features. What might we have expected? In a short afterword to the work, Ouyang explains that his Supplement to the Tang Namodel in writing it was Li Zhao's tional History It ~ ;t:Mi, one of the best-known anecdotal collections of the preceding dynasty. Ouyang even quotes from Li Zhao's description of the aims of his work, where Li, claiming the high ground, says that he has excluded whatever pertains to the supernatural or to intimate relations between men and women in order to concentrate instead on historical events, the correction of mistakes in other sources, and encouragement and admonitions regarding ethical behavior, in addition to entries that may provide for conversation and amusement. 13 Ouyang declares in the afterword that his coverage is similar. In fact, the subjects and tone of Ouyang's work differ substantially from Li Zhao's. Li's book was written when he was serving in the Department of State Affairs, and its contents reflect an orientation toward the court, high officials, and partisan politics of recent times. He writes of the admirable traits or reprehensible behavior of persons of notoriety, anxious to fill out the record of official biographies of eminent persons. The tone is objective and impersonal. Li refrains from injecting himself into his short narratives, and the author's first-person pronoun never appears in the text. Although Ouyang also includes many entries that concern the court and well-known officials, he writes on less august matters as well, particularly in the second part of his work. There he is apt to write about quotidian subjects, such as the luscious oranges of his native Jiangxi, which had just recently become popular in the capital; the celebrated plum blossom poem by the early Song poet

!f-'-

In the second year of the Jiayou period [1057], Han Jiang of the Duanmirig Palace, Reader-in-waiting Fan Zhen, Executive Academician Wang Gui, Mei Zhi of the Longtu Library, and I were appointed examiners in the Ministry of Rites, and we promoted Mei Yaochen to be our assistant. While we were locked in the examination compound for fifty days, the six of us exchanged poems with matching rhymes, answering one another ~ack and forth. We produced some one hundred seventy poems in the ancient and regulated forms, which we have collected together in three chapters.

Ouyang then quotes from several of the poems, explicating the clever compliments and jests that the lines contain. The entry ends: Yaochen and I have been poetry buddies since the Tiansheng period [1023-32]. In a poem I once presented to him, "The Oblong Peach," I playfully compared the two of us to Han Yu and Meng Jiao. That is why, 14· Ouyang Xiu, Guitian /u 2.1931. See ibid., 2.1939 for the Jiangxi oranges, 2.1930 for Lin Bu's poem, 2.1931 for the chess champion, 2.1934 for the gifts to Cai Xiang, and 2.1939 for the ability of certain substances to act upon ot,hers when placed among them.

13· Li Zhao, COT ang guoshi bu xu" It J; Jt #l,4, Tang guoshi bu, p. 3; Ouyang Xiu, Guitian /u 2.1942.

..~

68

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

Lin Bu ;f+il!; an eccentric chess wizard who never bathed; the gifts Ouyang gave to the calligrapher Cai Xiang for having written out an inscription for him; the property of certain natural products to act upon others as a preservative (e.g., the soap bean on crabs), ripening agent (the quince on persimmons), or softener (jadeite on gold); and the habit that several literati admitted to of reading or composing poetry while using the privy: "I said to Xishen: 'Throughout my life, most of my own writing has been composed during what I call the three "on's": on horseback, on the pillow, and on the toilet."'14 Unlike Li Zhao, Ouyang Xiu does cultivate a highly personal tone in his notebook. One example is a revealing entry concerning a collection of poems he and his friends wrote while administering the jinshi examination in 1057. Once the degree candidates finished their examination, Ouyang, who was chief examiner, and his five assistants were sequestered in the examination compound for nearly two months, grading the papers. During this time they sought relief from the tedium of their work by sending each other poems written to the same rhymes. This is what Ouyang says:

expanding the boundaries of what could be considered worth preserving, or to have historiographical value, without claiming to be doing so. It is not just the act itself-a historian, classicist, and literary giant stooping to produce a collection of inconsequential anecdotes-that is of interest. One could also argue that the substance and tone of the work itself display unexpected features. What might we have expected? In a short afterword to the work, Ouyang explains that his Supplement to the Tang Namodel in writing it was Li Zhao's tional History It ~ ;t:Mi, one of the best-known anecdotal collections of the preceding dynasty. Ouyang even quotes from Li Zhao's description of the aims of his work, where Li, claiming the high ground, says that he has excluded whatever pertains to the supernatural or to intimate relations between men and women in order to concentrate instead on historical events, the correction of mistakes in other sources, and encouragement and admonitions regarding ethical behavior, in addition to entries that may provide for conversation and amusement. 13 Ouyang declares in the afterword that his coverage is similar. In fact, the subjects and tone of Ouyang's work differ substantially from Li Zhao's. Li's book was written when he was serving in the Department of State Affairs, and its contents reflect an orientation toward the court, high officials, and partisan politics of recent times. He writes of the admirable traits or reprehensible behavior of persons of notoriety, anxious to fill out the record of official biographies of eminent persons. The tone is objective and impersonal. Li refrains from injecting himself into his short narratives, and the author's first-person pronoun never appears in the text. Although Ouyang also includes many entries that concern the court and well-known officials, he writes on less august matters as well, particularly in the second part of his work. There he is apt to write about quotidian subjects, such as the luscious oranges of his native Jiangxi, which had just recently become popular in the capital; the celebrated plum blossom poem by the early Song poet

!f-'-

In the second year of the Jiayou period [1057], Han Jiang of the Duanmirig Palace, Reader-in-waiting Fan Zhen, Executive Academician Wang Gui, Mei Zhi of the Longtu Library, and I were appointed examiners in the Ministry of Rites, and we promoted Mei Yaochen to be our assistant. While we were locked in the examination compound for fifty days, the six of us exchanged poems with matching rhymes, answering one another ~ack and forth. We produced some one hundred seventy poems in the ancient and regulated forms, which we have collected together in three chapters.

Ouyang then quotes from several of the poems, explicating the clever compliments and jests that the lines contain. The entry ends: Yaochen and I have been poetry buddies since the Tiansheng period [1023-32]. In a poem I once presented to him, "The Oblong Peach," I playfully compared the two of us to Han Yu and Meng Jiao. That is why, 14· Ouyang Xiu, Guitian /u 2.1931. See ibid., 2.1939 for the Jiangxi oranges, 2.1930 for Lin Bu's poem, 2.1931 for the chess champion, 2.1934 for the gifts to Cai Xiang, and 2.1939 for the ability of certain substances to act upon ot,hers when placed among them.

13· Li Zhao, COT ang guoshi bu xu" It J; Jt #l,4, Tang guoshi bu, p. 3; Ouyang Xiu, Guitian /u 2.1942.

..~

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

in one of the matching poems he sent to me on this occasion, Yaochen wrote, "We still take pleasure in evaluating the gentlemen of the world, / We are better than Dongye[MengJiao] and better than Han" ~1!i""#":k r ±, # ~ # ~ff: Y Han Jiang's own style as a poet is bold and rich, while Mei Zhi's verse is warm and elegant but also witty, so that they are both formidable literary opponents. Previous examiners in the Ministry of Rites have mostly been constrained by all sorts of procedures and regulations, so that they never relaxed or unburdened themselves even a little. The six of us, however, found pleasure in one another's company and kept together all the time, composing one after another lengthy poem with daring rhymes. We tired out the scribes who copied the poems over for us and kept the clerks busy running back and forth between our rooms. We sprinkled our lines with jokes and repartee, expressed as friendly censure. As we took turns recitingthem, when assembled together, the whole group of us would often be overcome by laughter. We said that ours was the most exuberant gathering of our time, the likes of which had never been seen before. 16

*-'f

.

It was, of course, one thing for the SLX literary men to amuse themselves this way during the days they were selecting the next new batch of recruits into the imperial bureaucracy. But it was quite another thing for Ouyang Xiu to choose to write about what they had done, to commemorate their behavior this way. Our interest here is more in the inclination to describe the behavior later in writing than to engage in it in the first place. The author's comfort with writing about these hours of amusement is pronounced. He is not in the least apologetic about the fun he and his friends had. On the contrary, he is positively proud of it, telling us repeatedly that it must have been unprecedented among examiners. We are given to understand that the seriousness of the official task at hand, and the regulations regarding how it was to be discharged, had prevented any such frivolity in earlier years. That is what Ouyang Xiu wants us to believe. This entry concerns poetry writing, although it is contained in Ouyang's general anecdotal collection, not his Remarks on Poetry. 15· Mei Yaochen, "He Yongshu neihan" :f"¥-kI*J~, Mei Yaochenji biannian jiaozhu 27.926. 16.· Ouyang Xiu, Guitian lu 2.1937-38.

i

•f·f

.,.

f

71

But the impulse to write this entry shares much with the impulse behind the creation of the Remarks on Poetry. To record what has transpired during leisure hours of social intercourse, to write about witty exchanges and friendly banter, to acknowledge freely the competition and gamesmanship involved in poetry compositionall of this we find abundantly represented in the early Northern Song remarks on poetry, including Ouyang's own. The entry translated above would be completely out of place in Li Zhao's Supplement. It is too personal, too expansive and relaxed in tone, and strays too far from what might be considered useful historical detail about officialdom. Even before we get to the early, remarks on poetry of the Song, we find in the larger category of anecdotal writings from which remarks on poetry emerged a new casualness and informality that could accommodate writing about mere pastimes and diversions, coming even from the hand of the most esteemed scholar and literary figure of the day. This attitude, this license, was the fertile ground in which remarks on poetry took root. Several early SOlJrces record a story about the early history of Ouyang's Records jor Retirement to the Farm, one that we should take account of here. It is said that Ouyang's preface, translated above, began to circulate before the work itself- did, and soon the preface came to the attention of Emperor Shenzong (who acceded to the throne in 1068, the year after the preface was written). Shenzong demanded to see a copy of the compilation itself. Worried that some of the entries might give offense, Ouyang went through the work deleting passages. But when he finished, he discovered that what was left was suspiciously little. He decided, therefore, to fill out the work with "various anecdotes, jokes, and matters of no significance." This reformulated Records jor Retirement to the Farm is the one he sent forward to the throne, and the one that eventually came to circulate. The original work was hidden away in Ouyang's home and was eventually lost. 17

17. The story is contained in Zhu Bian, Quwei jiuwen 9.3022-23; Wang Mingqing, Huizhu lu, "houlu" {tit. 1.26.3630; and Zhou Hui, Qingbo zazhi 8.5100.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

in one of the matching poems he sent to me on this occasion, Yaochen wrote, "We still take pleasure in evaluating the gentlemen of the world, / We are better than Dongye[MengJiao] and better than Han" ~1!i""#":k r ±, # ~ # ~ff: Y Han Jiang's own style as a poet is bold and rich, while Mei Zhi's verse is warm and elegant but also witty, so that they are both formidable literary opponents. Previous examiners in the Ministry of Rites have mostly been constrained by all sorts of procedures and regulations, so that they never relaxed or unburdened themselves even a little. The six of us, however, found pleasure in one another's company and kept together all the time, composing one after another lengthy poem with daring rhymes. We tired out the scribes who copied the poems over for us and kept the clerks busy running back and forth between our rooms. We sprinkled our lines with jokes and repartee, expressed as friendly censure. As we took turns recitingthem, when assembled together, the whole group of us would often be overcome by laughter. We said that ours was the most exuberant gathering of our time, the likes of which had never been seen before. 16

*-'f

.

It was, of course, one thing for the SLX literary men to amuse themselves this way during the days they were selecting the next new batch of recruits into the imperial bureaucracy. But it was quite another thing for Ouyang Xiu to choose to write about what they had done, to commemorate their behavior this way. Our interest here is more in the inclination to describe the behavior later in writing than to engage in it in the first place. The author's comfort with writing about these hours of amusement is pronounced. He is not in the least apologetic about the fun he and his friends had. On the contrary, he is positively proud of it, telling us repeatedly that it must have been unprecedented among examiners. We are given to understand that the seriousness of the official task at hand, and the regulations regarding how it was to be discharged, had prevented any such frivolity in earlier years. That is what Ouyang Xiu wants us to believe. This entry concerns poetry writing, although it is contained in Ouyang's general anecdotal collection, not his Remarks on Poetry. 15· Mei Yaochen, "He Yongshu neihan" :f"¥-kI*J~, Mei Yaochenji biannian jiaozhu 27.926. 16.· Ouyang Xiu, Guitian lu 2.1937-38.

i

•f·f

.,.

f

71

But the impulse to write this entry shares much with the impulse behind the creation of the Remarks on Poetry. To record what has transpired during leisure hours of social intercourse, to write about witty exchanges and friendly banter, to acknowledge freely the competition and gamesmanship involved in poetry compositionall of this we find abundantly represented in the early Northern Song remarks on poetry, including Ouyang's own. The entry translated above would be completely out of place in Li Zhao's Supplement. It is too personal, too expansive and relaxed in tone, and strays too far from what might be considered useful historical detail about officialdom. Even before we get to the early, remarks on poetry of the Song, we find in the larger category of anecdotal writings from which remarks on poetry emerged a new casualness and informality that could accommodate writing about mere pastimes and diversions, coming even from the hand of the most esteemed scholar and literary figure of the day. This attitude, this license, was the fertile ground in which remarks on poetry took root. Several early SOlJrces record a story about the early history of Ouyang's Records jor Retirement to the Farm, one that we should take account of here. It is said that Ouyang's preface, translated above, began to circulate before the work itself- did, and soon the preface came to the attention of Emperor Shenzong (who acceded to the throne in 1068, the year after the preface was written). Shenzong demanded to see a copy of the compilation itself. Worried that some of the entries might give offense, Ouyang went through the work deleting passages. But when he finished, he discovered that what was left was suspiciously little. He decided, therefore, to fill out the work with "various anecdotes, jokes, and matters of no significance." This reformulated Records jor Retirement to the Farm is the one he sent forward to the throne, and the one that eventually came to circulate. The original work was hidden away in Ouyang's home and was eventually lost. 17

17. The story is contained in Zhu Bian, Quwei jiuwen 9.3022-23; Wang Mingqing, Huizhu lu, "houlu" {tit. 1.26.3630; and Zhou Hui, Qingbo zazhi 8.5100.

72

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

It is difficult to know how much credence to give this account. Some of its elements have a certain plausibility, for example, the assertion that Shenzong would be interested in seeing the work, since the preface makes it clear that it contained entries pertaining to the courts of his two predecessors, Yingzong (his father) and Renzong. It is also plausible that Ouyang might reconsider the inclusion of certain entries once he knew that the emperor would be reading it. The idea, then, that if there were such an imperial requisition, the version of the work that Ouyang would have sent forward to the throne would no longer be identical to the original compilation is entirely believable. But the story goes further. It would have us believe that the bulk of the present version of Records for Retirement to the Farm is material that Ouyang, desperate to fill a drastically truncated version, put in at the last minute because it was inconsequential-it had not been part of the work before. This explanation sounds like it comes from someone who deems the bulk of the material in the present Records for Retirement to the Farm embarrassingly low-brow and is struggling to find a way to explain how the great Ouyang Xiu could have produced such a work. {In a later chapter we will see a similar attempt to explain away dozens of love songs that Ouyang wrote.} This attempt ignores the fact that in his preface Ouyang already anticipates just such objections to his collection of anecdotes. It also has the effect of relegating such passages as that translated above, describing the examiners' poetic diversjons, as being nothing but "filler" and thus unworthy of serious attention. My argument here is that such passages are precisely what were new and important about Ouyang's work and his motives in creating it. Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry may in many respects be considered an extension of the type of work as writer and compiler he began with Records for Retirement to the Farm just a few years earlier. That earlier' work contains some entries on poetry, but by the time Ouyang had actually retired, fulfilling the promise he made in the preface to Records, he was evidently ready to compile a similar volume of anecdotes and observations devoted exclusively to poetry.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

73

Ouyang Xiu's Remarks on Poetry The first feature one may notice about Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry, is that a sizable proportion of the entries are indeed based on informal conversations, as the word hua ~ "remarks" or "talks" in the title implies. These were conversations among friends about poetry. At the time, a person's level of learning, his intelligen~, character, and taste were often assessed by the poetic lines he produced on demand. It is hardly surprising that poetry, which friends addressed to one another and was often composed during social gatherings, was a subject that kept coming up in hours of leisurely chat. Humor plays a key role in several of the exchanges. This too is to be expected. Humor makes a remark memorable, so that it is more likely to be written down months or years later. Humor may also serve as a shortcut to make a point, usually a negative one, about the quality of literary work, obviating the need for a longwinded explanation. Even when the humor is apt to strike us as puerile or coarse, there is usually a real point of literary taste or judgment behind it. Consider'the following entry from Ouyang's work: Shengyu [Mei Yaochen] once said, "Poetic lines may be clear in their meaning, but such clarity becomes a flaw if the langu"ge is so shallow and ordinary that it lends itself to parody. For example, in the poem 'Presented to a Fisherman' there is this couplet: 'Before his eyes he does not see the affairs of market or court, I Beside his ears he hears only the sounds of wind and water' nIl t.r ~ JL rfr .fJJ .Jf iBf- ·Ift Btl .Iit:1K ~. Someone commented, 'He must be suffering from intestinal gas!' "There was also someone who recited a poem containing these lines: 'All day he searches but does not find it, I Yet occasionally it comes to him of its own accord' it El ~~~l, ;ffRt~ m The couplet describes the difficulty of composing good poetic lines when you are trying too hard. But someone said of it, 'It sounds like a poem about someone who lost his cat,' and everyone laughed. "18

*,

*'

There were writers in Ouyang's day who, in reaction to the socalled Xikun Style ~ Ii. 1ft of Yang Yi and others of the early eleventh century, adopted the Mid-Tang poet Bo Juyi as their poetic 18.

Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1953.

72

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

It is difficult to know how much credence to give this account. Some of its elements have a certain plausibility, for example, the assertion that Shenzong would be interested in seeing the work, since the preface makes it clear that it contained entries pertaining to the courts of his two predecessors, Yingzong (his father) and Renzong. It is also plausible that Ouyang might reconsider the inclusion of certain entries once he knew that the emperor would be reading it. The idea, then, that if there were such an imperial requisition, the version of the work that Ouyang would have sent forward to the throne would no longer be identical to the original compilation is entirely believable. But the story goes further. It would have us believe that the bulk of the present version of Records for Retirement to the Farm is material that Ouyang, desperate to fill a drastically truncated version, put in at the last minute because it was inconsequential-it had not been part of the work before. This explanation sounds like it comes from someone who deems the bulk of the material in the present Records for Retirement to the Farm embarrassingly low-brow and is struggling to find a way to explain how the great Ouyang Xiu could have produced such a work. {In a later chapter we will see a similar attempt to explain away dozens of love songs that Ouyang wrote.} This attempt ignores the fact that in his preface Ouyang already anticipates just such objections to his collection of anecdotes. It also has the effect of relegating such passages as that translated above, describing the examiners' poetic diversjons, as being nothing but "filler" and thus unworthy of serious attention. My argument here is that such passages are precisely what were new and important about Ouyang's work and his motives in creating it. Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry may in many respects be considered an extension of the type of work as writer and compiler he began with Records for Retirement to the Farm just a few years earlier. That earlier' work contains some entries on poetry, but by the time Ouyang had actually retired, fulfilling the promise he made in the preface to Records, he was evidently ready to compile a similar volume of anecdotes and observations devoted exclusively to poetry.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

73

Ouyang Xiu's Remarks on Poetry The first feature one may notice about Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry, is that a sizable proportion of the entries are indeed based on informal conversations, as the word hua ~ "remarks" or "talks" in the title implies. These were conversations among friends about poetry. At the time, a person's level of learning, his intelligen~, character, and taste were often assessed by the poetic lines he produced on demand. It is hardly surprising that poetry, which friends addressed to one another and was often composed during social gatherings, was a subject that kept coming up in hours of leisurely chat. Humor plays a key role in several of the exchanges. This too is to be expected. Humor makes a remark memorable, so that it is more likely to be written down months or years later. Humor may also serve as a shortcut to make a point, usually a negative one, about the quality of literary work, obviating the need for a longwinded explanation. Even when the humor is apt to strike us as puerile or coarse, there is usually a real point of literary taste or judgment behind it. Consider'the following entry from Ouyang's work: Shengyu [Mei Yaochen] once said, "Poetic lines may be clear in their meaning, but such clarity becomes a flaw if the langu"ge is so shallow and ordinary that it lends itself to parody. For example, in the poem 'Presented to a Fisherman' there is this couplet: 'Before his eyes he does not see the affairs of market or court, I Beside his ears he hears only the sounds of wind and water' nIl t.r ~ JL rfr .fJJ .Jf iBf- ·Ift Btl .Iit:1K ~. Someone commented, 'He must be suffering from intestinal gas!' "There was also someone who recited a poem containing these lines: 'All day he searches but does not find it, I Yet occasionally it comes to him of its own accord' it El ~~~l, ;ffRt~ m The couplet describes the difficulty of composing good poetic lines when you are trying too hard. But someone said of it, 'It sounds like a poem about someone who lost his cat,' and everyone laughed. "18

*,

*'

There were writers in Ouyang's day who, in reaction to the socalled Xikun Style ~ Ii. 1ft of Yang Yi and others of the early eleventh century, adopted the Mid-Tang poet Bo Juyi as their poetic 18.

Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1953.

74

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

75

model and strove to emulate or even outdo his style of relatively straightforward language. Ouyang and Mei Yaochen ;fIt!t. ll. were well aware of the pitfalls of this approach, as we know from other entries in Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry. Here, the risks of devoting oneself to poetic "simplicity" are dealt with through the vehicle of humor. Other of the conversations that are recorded in Ouyang's work maintain a more serious tone. Here is one that relates a sort of test that a host gave to his,/.lssembled guests. The entry begins with the same issue of "simple language" we have just seen, but then it develops along different lines:

It would be misleading, though, to leave the impression that all of the exchanges recorded in Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry reflect such a high level of critical thinking about poetry. Some of the conversations recorded have little literary critical content or" interest. They are simply anecdotes connected somehow with poetry. Mei Yaochen figures prominently in Ouyang's work. Some of the most insightful of its entries concerning poetic craft quote observations that Mei made to Ouyang. But Ouyang is also capable of recording conversations involving Mei that are devoid of real literary thought. Their point lies outside the field of literary theory or criticism. Here is an example:

When earlier in our dynasty literary pursuits flourished, Chen Congyi [d. 1031], the imperial drafter, was the only literatus who achieved fame for substantive scholarship and classical learning. His poetry resembled that of Bo Juyi. The fact "is, once the matching poems by Yang Yi and Liu Yun circulated, gathered together in the Xikun Collection, younger scholars all vied to imitate their manner, so that the literary style of the day was transformed. This was what was called the "Kun Style." Subsequently, the poetry collections of the outstanding writers of the Tang period were mostly neglected and nearly ceased to circulate. Once, Chen happened to obtain an old manuscript of Du Fu's collection, which was full of lacunae and wrong characters. In the poem "Seeing Off Commandant Cai," the last character was missing from the line that reads, "His body is as agile as a lone bird that __ " Jt ~ ..,..~ __ . One day Chen asked several of his guests to fix the line by supplying the missing word. Someone suggested "swiftly goes" ffi., another said "descends" ~, another said "rises" 4, and another said "falls" r. They could not agree on which was best. Later, Chen got hold of a better copy of Du Fu's works, which had the original complete line: "His body is as agile as a lone bird that flies past" Jt ~ - .~i!'!. Chen sighed with admiration, realizing that although it was a question of just a single word, none of his gentlemen friends were able to equal what Du Fu had written. 19

Zheng Gu was one of the most celebrated poets of the late Tang period. His works are called the Cloud Tower Collection, but the world refers to them by his highest office title, calling them the Poetry of Penal Admini· strator Zheng. His poetry is full of meaning and contains many splendid lines. But its formal traits are not very distinguished. Because it is easy to understand, many people used to teach it to their children. When I myself was a boy I recited it. Today, his collection no longer survives. In Mei Yaochen's later years, he also rose to the position of penal administrator (duguan ~'t). One day, when we were feasting at my home, Liu Ban said to him in jest, "This will be the highest you ever rise in office." The other guests were all shocked. Ban explained, "In the past there was Penal Administrator Zheng, and today we have Penal Administrator Mei." Yaochen's mood turned rather somber. Before long, Yaochen fell ill and died. I wrote the preface for his collected poetry, which was called the Wanling Collection [named for his native place], but people today refer to it only as the Poetry ofPenal Administrator Mei. A single remark uttered in jest, and it turned out to be prophetic! How regrettable it is!20

The point of the entry is to remind readers of the excellence of the great Tang poet, which current literary fashions should not be allowed to relegate to obscurity. 19. "Ouyang

Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1951.

This is, of course, just the sort of entry that is abundant in "random notes" collections. Its real subject is not poetry at all but the mysteries of fate, or perhaps the uncanny power of words lightly uttered, topics of endless fascination to the writers of the time. Beyond the entries based on conversations that Ouyang was part of, or heard about, there are also entries in Remarks on Poetry that 20.

Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1951. .

74

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

75

model and strove to emulate or even outdo his style of relatively straightforward language. Ouyang and Mei Yaochen ;fIt!t. ll. were well aware of the pitfalls of this approach, as we know from other entries in Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry. Here, the risks of devoting oneself to poetic "simplicity" are dealt with through the vehicle of humor. Other of the conversations that are recorded in Ouyang's work maintain a more serious tone. Here is one that relates a sort of test that a host gave to his,/.lssembled guests. The entry begins with the same issue of "simple language" we have just seen, but then it develops along different lines:

It would be misleading, though, to leave the impression that all of the exchanges recorded in Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry reflect such a high level of critical thinking about poetry. Some of the conversations recorded have little literary critical content or" interest. They are simply anecdotes connected somehow with poetry. Mei Yaochen figures prominently in Ouyang's work. Some of the most insightful of its entries concerning poetic craft quote observations that Mei made to Ouyang. But Ouyang is also capable of recording conversations involving Mei that are devoid of real literary thought. Their point lies outside the field of literary theory or criticism. Here is an example:

When earlier in our dynasty literary pursuits flourished, Chen Congyi [d. 1031], the imperial drafter, was the only literatus who achieved fame for substantive scholarship and classical learning. His poetry resembled that of Bo Juyi. The fact "is, once the matching poems by Yang Yi and Liu Yun circulated, gathered together in the Xikun Collection, younger scholars all vied to imitate their manner, so that the literary style of the day was transformed. This was what was called the "Kun Style." Subsequently, the poetry collections of the outstanding writers of the Tang period were mostly neglected and nearly ceased to circulate. Once, Chen happened to obtain an old manuscript of Du Fu's collection, which was full of lacunae and wrong characters. In the poem "Seeing Off Commandant Cai," the last character was missing from the line that reads, "His body is as agile as a lone bird that __ " Jt ~ ..,..~ __ . One day Chen asked several of his guests to fix the line by supplying the missing word. Someone suggested "swiftly goes" ffi., another said "descends" ~, another said "rises" 4, and another said "falls" r. They could not agree on which was best. Later, Chen got hold of a better copy of Du Fu's works, which had the original complete line: "His body is as agile as a lone bird that flies past" Jt ~ - .~i!'!. Chen sighed with admiration, realizing that although it was a question of just a single word, none of his gentlemen friends were able to equal what Du Fu had written. 19

Zheng Gu was one of the most celebrated poets of the late Tang period. His works are called the Cloud Tower Collection, but the world refers to them by his highest office title, calling them the Poetry of Penal Admini· strator Zheng. His poetry is full of meaning and contains many splendid lines. But its formal traits are not very distinguished. Because it is easy to understand, many people used to teach it to their children. When I myself was a boy I recited it. Today, his collection no longer survives. In Mei Yaochen's later years, he also rose to the position of penal administrator (duguan ~'t). One day, when we were feasting at my home, Liu Ban said to him in jest, "This will be the highest you ever rise in office." The other guests were all shocked. Ban explained, "In the past there was Penal Administrator Zheng, and today we have Penal Administrator Mei." Yaochen's mood turned rather somber. Before long, Yaochen fell ill and died. I wrote the preface for his collected poetry, which was called the Wanling Collection [named for his native place], but people today refer to it only as the Poetry ofPenal Administrator Mei. A single remark uttered in jest, and it turned out to be prophetic! How regrettable it is!20

The point of the entry is to remind readers of the excellence of the great Tang poet, which current literary fashions should not be allowed to relegate to obscurity. 19. "Ouyang

Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1951.

This is, of course, just the sort of entry that is abundant in "random notes" collections. Its real subject is not poetry at all but the mysteries of fate, or perhaps the uncanny power of words lightly uttered, topics of endless fascination to the writers of the time. Beyond the entries based on conversations that Ouyang was part of, or heard about, there are also entries in Remarks on Poetry that 20.

Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1951. .

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

consist simply of Ouyang's thoughts about poetry, that is, entries devoid of the social, conversational component we have seen so far. These are similarly wide-ranging and unpredictable in focus. I mention a sampling of the topics here to give an idea of their scope: Ouyang recalls poems written by the so-called "Nine Monks" 1r...1tt of the early years of the dynasty, whose works had been lost;21 he characterizes the poems of the Tang poets Meng Jiao ~~ and Jia Dao . t ~ as being filled with lines about poverty and hardship, quotmg several examples;22 he discusses the contrasting poetic styles of his two good friends Mei Yaochen and Su Shunqin .fi #' ~J:., quoting his own poetic account of those styles;23 he explains that in the "palace poems" of the eighth-century poet Wang Jian .:£~ one finds information about palace life that cannot be found in standard historical writings;24 he discusses the problem of colloquial expressions in poetry, including some written as recently as the Five Dynasties or early Song, which cannot be understood because the colloquialisms are no longercurrent;25 he criticizes earlier poets for being inaccurate in their references to social practices, making their poems impossible to reconcile with historical reality;26 he quotes and evaluates various recent poets' lines on the subject of ancient ruins in the Luoyang area;27 and he relates how after the death of Shi Manqing A; t. ~I!p, his ghost appeared several times to different people ~nd recited lines of poetry that are unknown in Manqing's collectlon but are, nevertheless, eerily true to the style of poetry he wrote while alive. 28 It is interesting to see that, even at the earliest, remarks on poetry as a form was not limited to accounts of conversations. In interspersing his own notes and observations among the conversations he related, Ouyang gave the form more breadth that the name he 2.1. Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1951. 22. Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 195 2 . 23· Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1953. 24· Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, pp. 1953-54. 25· Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1954. 26. Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1954. 27· Ouyang'Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1955. 28. Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1956.

~;

...•

.

'~ ..•.

\

77

chose implies. Thereafter it would be understood that the word hua tt {"remarks, talks"} in the title did not rule out the inclusion of an author's solitary reflections on one or another aspect of poetry. Nevertheless, the choice of the word hua for the name of the form was crucial. One consequence of the choice was to impart to the form an aura of casualness. Hua is different in this respect from a number of other words Ouyang might have chosen for his title, including ji 1(. {"accounts"}, lu ~ {"records"}, shuo tt ("viewpoints"), and even yu 1~ ("sayings"). Hua implies that the entries are composed much as talk is uttered, even when they are not actually records of conversations. The word leads us to expect an element of the spontaneous, particularistic, or even tentative. Certainly, hua does not encourage us to anticipate solemn pronouncements or an effort at definitive statements on the subject. Now, it is true that remarks on poetry as a form gradually evolved after Ouyang's groundbreaking work. Many later Northern and Southern Song works may have a smaller proportion of entries that record conversations, and may also evince more of an ambitious and systematic critical agenda than any evident in Ouyang's work. But it is still highly significant that the form began as it did and, indeed, that it retained the term hua in its designation. This was a new type of forum for thinking about poetry, one that opened up new critical possibilities. It is worth asking at this point where else such material as Ouyang put in his Remarks on Poetry could possibly have appeared? What other place was there for such observations about poetry? The answer is that basically there was no other place, except in "random note,s and trivial anecdotes" collections. The classic examples of wr#ings about literature were the essay or treatise, such as Cao Pi's it 3:. "On Literature" ~*-, Lu Ji's fi~ "Rhymeprose on Literature" *-~, and Liu Xie's J1J~ magnificent Dragon Carvings on the Literary Mind *-.~J!lft-ft. These are grand overviews of issues in literary creativity, genre studies, and literary theory, written in the elevated parallel prose style {or in rhymed prose}. Material like that found in Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry has no place in such treatises. Zhong Hong's ~~ Classification o/Poets tt~ might seem to be a closer relative, but Zhong Hong's goal is to give a general assessment

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

consist simply of Ouyang's thoughts about poetry, that is, entries devoid of the social, conversational component we have seen so far. These are similarly wide-ranging and unpredictable in focus. I mention a sampling of the topics here to give an idea of their scope: Ouyang recalls poems written by the so-called "Nine Monks" 1r...1tt of the early years of the dynasty, whose works had been lost;21 he characterizes the poems of the Tang poets Meng Jiao ~~ and Jia Dao . t ~ as being filled with lines about poverty and hardship, quotmg several examples;22 he discusses the contrasting poetic styles of his two good friends Mei Yaochen and Su Shunqin .fi #' ~J:., quoting his own poetic account of those styles;23 he explains that in the "palace poems" of the eighth-century poet Wang Jian .:£~ one finds information about palace life that cannot be found in standard historical writings;24 he discusses the problem of colloquial expressions in poetry, including some written as recently as the Five Dynasties or early Song, which cannot be understood because the colloquialisms are no longercurrent;25 he criticizes earlier poets for being inaccurate in their references to social practices, making their poems impossible to reconcile with historical reality;26 he quotes and evaluates various recent poets' lines on the subject of ancient ruins in the Luoyang area;27 and he relates how after the death of Shi Manqing A; t. ~I!p, his ghost appeared several times to different people ~nd recited lines of poetry that are unknown in Manqing's collectlon but are, nevertheless, eerily true to the style of poetry he wrote while alive. 28 It is interesting to see that, even at the earliest, remarks on poetry as a form was not limited to accounts of conversations. In interspersing his own notes and observations among the conversations he related, Ouyang gave the form more breadth that the name he 2.1. Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1951. 22. Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 195 2 . 23· Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1953. 24· Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, pp. 1953-54. 25· Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1954. 26. Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1954. 27· Ouyang'Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1955. 28. Ouyang Xiu, Liuyi shihua, p. 1956.

~;

...•

.

'~ ..•.

\

77

chose implies. Thereafter it would be understood that the word hua tt {"remarks, talks"} in the title did not rule out the inclusion of an author's solitary reflections on one or another aspect of poetry. Nevertheless, the choice of the word hua for the name of the form was crucial. One consequence of the choice was to impart to the form an aura of casualness. Hua is different in this respect from a number of other words Ouyang might have chosen for his title, including ji 1(. {"accounts"}, lu ~ {"records"}, shuo tt ("viewpoints"), and even yu 1~ ("sayings"). Hua implies that the entries are composed much as talk is uttered, even when they are not actually records of conversations. The word leads us to expect an element of the spontaneous, particularistic, or even tentative. Certainly, hua does not encourage us to anticipate solemn pronouncements or an effort at definitive statements on the subject. Now, it is true that remarks on poetry as a form gradually evolved after Ouyang's groundbreaking work. Many later Northern and Southern Song works may have a smaller proportion of entries that record conversations, and may also evince more of an ambitious and systematic critical agenda than any evident in Ouyang's work. But it is still highly significant that the form began as it did and, indeed, that it retained the term hua in its designation. This was a new type of forum for thinking about poetry, one that opened up new critical possibilities. It is worth asking at this point where else such material as Ouyang put in his Remarks on Poetry could possibly have appeared? What other place was there for such observations about poetry? The answer is that basically there was no other place, except in "random note,s and trivial anecdotes" collections. The classic examples of wr#ings about literature were the essay or treatise, such as Cao Pi's it 3:. "On Literature" ~*-, Lu Ji's fi~ "Rhymeprose on Literature" *-~, and Liu Xie's J1J~ magnificent Dragon Carvings on the Literary Mind *-.~J!lft-ft. These are grand overviews of issues in literary creativity, genre studies, and literary theory, written in the elevated parallel prose style {or in rhymed prose}. Material like that found in Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry has no place in such treatises. Zhong Hong's ~~ Classification o/Poets tt~ might seem to be a closer relative, but Zhong Hong's goal is to give a general assessment

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

and ranking of different poets. The material Ouyang presents tends to be much more finite and particular in its focus, dealing often with just a single incident, issue, poetic subject, or even an isolated line. Moreover, the systematizing impulse that lies at the heart of any such ranking as Zhong Hong produced is completely foreign to the effort of Ouyang, who was no doubt perfectly content with its randomness. Closer to Ouyang's time, from the Tang period we have many pronouncements on literature contained in personal letters, essays, and prefaces, and these of course continue into Ouyang's day and after. Ouyang himself wrote many such pieces of expository prose on literature. Again, these compositions are not fragmented in the way they deal with their subjects, nor do they often cover subjects that are highly particularistic and difficult to relate to one or another ideological stance, as we find in the remarks on poetry entries. The essay, letter, and preface are also pitched at a level of formality far above that found in remarks on poetry. Another related form was the poetry manual, several of which were written during the Tang, including The Pith and Marrow of Poetry "ttt!n~, The Newly Established Poetic Form tJf;t "ttft, and Poetry Models "tt 1(.. But these works, sometimes called craft books, are mostly terse guidebooks written to instruct would-be poets on the fine points of prosody and poetic theme. They read more like compendia of normative prescriptions than reflective criticism. Moreover, the stature of these works was marginal, and they tended to go out of circulation. Several of them were completely lost in China and only survive today because they were valued in Japan. We move closer to the sort of entry we find in remarks-on poetry when we turn to colophons (tiba ,'(!~) that regularly appeared in the literary collections of the Song period. The colophon often is very specific or limited in its subject, and it tends to be short, like remarks on poetry entries. Among Ouyang Xiu's colophons, found in his supplementary literary collection, there are a few on poetry that would not be out of place in his Remarks on Poetry. Nevertheless, there are certain tendencies of colophons that separate them, gene{ally, from the sort of entry we find in remarks on poetry. Colophons often have a eulogistic element because so many of

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

, I I

I

f

','.,.

t

79

them are written by invitation or inscribed on works produced by friends. There is less likely to be a personal connection between author and subject in remarks on poetry, and, consequently, the tone of the comments is less influenced by social considerations. Also, colophons are considered part of "literary writing" (wen 5t), and this gives them a level of decorum that generally exceeds that of the material found in remarks OQ poetry. Lastly, colophons may concern all sorts of subjects outside of poetry (e.g., inkstones, brushes, non-literary writings, calligraphy, and painting, to name a few), so they lack the specialized and sustained focus on one subject found in remarks on poetry. From the late Tang we also have another work that may usefully be compared with Ouyang Xiu's Remarks on Poetry: Meng Qi's .:ill. ~ Poems Based on Incidents *-""tt. This collection consists of short narratives, each of which contains at least one poem. The poems are embedded in the events described, and the narrative provides the s€tting and, in many cases, the raison d'etre of the poem. Typically, then, the entries do not contain remarks "about" a poem. Rather, by recording the circumstances from which the poem sprang, they implicitly explain how a poem came to be written. Although such entries certainly may be found in some Northern Song remarks on poetry, they are not a staple of the form, and Ouyang Xiu himself avoids them. The closest he gets to such provenance stories is to describe circumstances that gave rise to witty exchanges of poetic lines (not entire poems). It is clear, then, that Ouyang Xiu sought to do something distinct from what Meng Qi had done. His choice of the title of his work makes this clear: he is concerned not with narrating poetry-generating events but with relating comments made about poems after they had been composed. Remarks on Poetry consists, then, of a type of material that is seldom seen in other types of writing about poetry or literature in general. It was different but not entirely unprecedented; material much like that in Remarks on Poetry is also found in earlier "random notes" collections. But there is an important distinction. No one before Ouyang Xiu had thought to separate the poetry entries from general notes and anecdotes collections, giving them their own special compilation. True, Meng Qi had done something like this,

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

and ranking of different poets. The material Ouyang presents tends to be much more finite and particular in its focus, dealing often with just a single incident, issue, poetic subject, or even an isolated line. Moreover, the systematizing impulse that lies at the heart of any such ranking as Zhong Hong produced is completely foreign to the effort of Ouyang, who was no doubt perfectly content with its randomness. Closer to Ouyang's time, from the Tang period we have many pronouncements on literature contained in personal letters, essays, and prefaces, and these of course continue into Ouyang's day and after. Ouyang himself wrote many such pieces of expository prose on literature. Again, these compositions are not fragmented in the way they deal with their subjects, nor do they often cover subjects that are highly particularistic and difficult to relate to one or another ideological stance, as we find in the remarks on poetry entries. The essay, letter, and preface are also pitched at a level of formality far above that found in remarks on poetry. Another related form was the poetry manual, several of which were written during the Tang, including The Pith and Marrow of Poetry "ttt!n~, The Newly Established Poetic Form tJf;t "ttft, and Poetry Models "tt 1(.. But these works, sometimes called craft books, are mostly terse guidebooks written to instruct would-be poets on the fine points of prosody and poetic theme. They read more like compendia of normative prescriptions than reflective criticism. Moreover, the stature of these works was marginal, and they tended to go out of circulation. Several of them were completely lost in China and only survive today because they were valued in Japan. We move closer to the sort of entry we find in remarks-on poetry when we turn to colophons (tiba ,'(!~) that regularly appeared in the literary collections of the Song period. The colophon often is very specific or limited in its subject, and it tends to be short, like remarks on poetry entries. Among Ouyang Xiu's colophons, found in his supplementary literary collection, there are a few on poetry that would not be out of place in his Remarks on Poetry. Nevertheless, there are certain tendencies of colophons that separate them, gene{ally, from the sort of entry we find in remarks on poetry. Colophons often have a eulogistic element because so many of

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

, I I

I

f

','.,.

t

79

them are written by invitation or inscribed on works produced by friends. There is less likely to be a personal connection between author and subject in remarks on poetry, and, consequently, the tone of the comments is less influenced by social considerations. Also, colophons are considered part of "literary writing" (wen 5t), and this gives them a level of decorum that generally exceeds that of the material found in remarks OQ poetry. Lastly, colophons may concern all sorts of subjects outside of poetry (e.g., inkstones, brushes, non-literary writings, calligraphy, and painting, to name a few), so they lack the specialized and sustained focus on one subject found in remarks on poetry. From the late Tang we also have another work that may usefully be compared with Ouyang Xiu's Remarks on Poetry: Meng Qi's .:ill. ~ Poems Based on Incidents *-""tt. This collection consists of short narratives, each of which contains at least one poem. The poems are embedded in the events described, and the narrative provides the s€tting and, in many cases, the raison d'etre of the poem. Typically, then, the entries do not contain remarks "about" a poem. Rather, by recording the circumstances from which the poem sprang, they implicitly explain how a poem came to be written. Although such entries certainly may be found in some Northern Song remarks on poetry, they are not a staple of the form, and Ouyang Xiu himself avoids them. The closest he gets to such provenance stories is to describe circumstances that gave rise to witty exchanges of poetic lines (not entire poems). It is clear, then, that Ouyang Xiu sought to do something distinct from what Meng Qi had done. His choice of the title of his work makes this clear: he is concerned not with narrating poetry-generating events but with relating comments made about poems after they had been composed. Remarks on Poetry consists, then, of a type of material that is seldom seen in other types of writing about poetry or literature in general. It was different but not entirely unprecedented; material much like that in Remarks on Poetry is also found in earlier "random notes" collections. But there is an important distinction. No one before Ouyang Xiu had thought to separate the poetry entries from general notes and anecdotes collections, giving them their own special compilation. True, Meng Qi had done something like this,

80

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

but by restricting his material to provenance narratives, he severely limited its potential for literary criticism. Ouyang imposed no such limitation. Quite to the contrary, the title Ouyang gave his work strongly implied free-ranging contents, with all of the variety and unpredictability of informal conversation. And, yet, it was all to be concerned with the subject of poetry. Ouyang's act of creating a new and special venue devoted entirely to comments about poetry-wresting such material away from the "random notes" collections in which it had previously been buried, but at the same time remaining true to the informal style of "random notes" and not reverting to the more formal and systematizing mode of the literary treatise or essay-implies an interest in seeing what would result if the subject of poetry could be examined in an informal mode in its own right and on its own merits. In the next section we probe more closely what resulted from isolating and approaching the subject in this novel way. As we do so, we expand the scope of our examination to include remarks on poetry from the decades after Ouyang Xiu's landmark effort. The disappearance of the classics We may begin this next stage of our investigation by taking note of a subject we might well have expected to find in remarks on poetry but which is almost completely absent: the poetry classics are passed over in silence. In Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry, no mention is made either of the Classic o/Poetry tt~ or the Lyrics o/Chu Ji~. Ouyang's is not the only remarks on poetry to give scant attention to the classics of Chinese verse. Neither is mentioned in Liu Ban's remarks on poetry, and there is but a single reference to the Classic 0/ Poetry in Sima Guang's.29 This silence becomes the norm in Northern Song remarks on poetry. So it happened that in the mid-twelfth century, when Hu Zi tJJ1t compiled his massive anthology of remarks on poetry material, Collected Remarks by the Fisherman Recluse 0/ Tiao Stream :tt i~i.~,f!j{~ (which originally had the more accurate title Collected Remarks 0/ Poetry Criticism by 29. Sima Guang, Wengong xu shihua, pp. 277-78.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

81

the Fisherman Recluse 0/ Tiao Stream :tt i~ i.~, r.~ tt"* j{ ~), drawing extensively from earlier remarks on poetry and random notes compilations, the two classics continue to be almost entirely invisible. In the first part of Hu Zi's work, the opening chapter, entitled" Airs of the States (i.e., the Classic 0/ Poetry) and the Han, 1 Wei, and Six Dynasties," there are but five entries on the Classic 0/ Poetry and none on the Lyrics o/Chu. The other thirty-one entries of the chapter concern later poetry. In the second part of Hu's work, the opening chapter drops the Classic 0/ Poetry from its title; that chapter begins with four entries on the Lyrics o/Chu and then moves on to the Han and later periods. The short shrift given the classics appears truly remarkable when compared with the amount of material Hu Zi includes on Tao Qian Ff!J if' and the premier Tang and Northern Song poets. In the first part of the anthology, two entire chapters, each with dozens of entries, are devoted to Tao Qian, and no less than nine chapters are filled with entries on Du Fu t± Altogether, the featured poets in Hu Zi's work enjoy this number of pages of material devoted to them (in the modern typeset edition that runs to 700 pages): Tao Qian, 17 pages; Du Fu, 92, and Su Shi, 105. The Classic o/Poetry and the Lyrics o/Chu together receive only two pages. Hu Zi's anthology of remarks on poetry material, rearranged chronologically, contains just seven chapters (out of one hundred) on all of pre-Tang poetry, and three of these seven are given to Tao Qian. In other words, nearly half the space given to the first fifteen hundred years of poetry (from the Zhou through the Sui) is given to a single poet. It is tempting, given this apportionment of space, to say that for Hu Zi and the remarks on poetry authors who immediately preceded him, the poetry of Tao Qian has superseded the Classic 0/ Poetry and the Lyrics 0/ Chu as the "classic" in poetic history. It is now clearly Tao Qian, the recluse poet who assumed protean dimensions in the Northern Song, who is considered the embodiment of ancient poetic ideals. It would be hard to overstate the significance of this change. Before the appearance of the Song remarks on poetry, it is the norm in discussions of poetry to hark back to one or both of the pre-Han poetry classics. We come to expect this, and to accept it as a given.

m.

80

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

but by restricting his material to provenance narratives, he severely limited its potential for literary criticism. Ouyang imposed no such limitation. Quite to the contrary, the title Ouyang gave his work strongly implied free-ranging contents, with all of the variety and unpredictability of informal conversation. And, yet, it was all to be concerned with the subject of poetry. Ouyang's act of creating a new and special venue devoted entirely to comments about poetry-wresting such material away from the "random notes" collections in which it had previously been buried, but at the same time remaining true to the informal style of "random notes" and not reverting to the more formal and systematizing mode of the literary treatise or essay-implies an interest in seeing what would result if the subject of poetry could be examined in an informal mode in its own right and on its own merits. In the next section we probe more closely what resulted from isolating and approaching the subject in this novel way. As we do so, we expand the scope of our examination to include remarks on poetry from the decades after Ouyang Xiu's landmark effort. The disappearance of the classics We may begin this next stage of our investigation by taking note of a subject we might well have expected to find in remarks on poetry but which is almost completely absent: the poetry classics are passed over in silence. In Ouyang's Remarks on Poetry, no mention is made either of the Classic o/Poetry tt~ or the Lyrics o/Chu Ji~. Ouyang's is not the only remarks on poetry to give scant attention to the classics of Chinese verse. Neither is mentioned in Liu Ban's remarks on poetry, and there is but a single reference to the Classic 0/ Poetry in Sima Guang's.29 This silence becomes the norm in Northern Song remarks on poetry. So it happened that in the mid-twelfth century, when Hu Zi tJJ1t compiled his massive anthology of remarks on poetry material, Collected Remarks by the Fisherman Recluse 0/ Tiao Stream :tt i~i.~,f!j{~ (which originally had the more accurate title Collected Remarks 0/ Poetry Criticism by 29. Sima Guang, Wengong xu shihua, pp. 277-78.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

81

the Fisherman Recluse 0/ Tiao Stream :tt i~ i.~, r.~ tt"* j{ ~), drawing extensively from earlier remarks on poetry and random notes compilations, the two classics continue to be almost entirely invisible. In the first part of Hu Zi's work, the opening chapter, entitled" Airs of the States (i.e., the Classic 0/ Poetry) and the Han, 1 Wei, and Six Dynasties," there are but five entries on the Classic 0/ Poetry and none on the Lyrics o/Chu. The other thirty-one entries of the chapter concern later poetry. In the second part of Hu's work, the opening chapter drops the Classic 0/ Poetry from its title; that chapter begins with four entries on the Lyrics o/Chu and then moves on to the Han and later periods. The short shrift given the classics appears truly remarkable when compared with the amount of material Hu Zi includes on Tao Qian Ff!J if' and the premier Tang and Northern Song poets. In the first part of the anthology, two entire chapters, each with dozens of entries, are devoted to Tao Qian, and no less than nine chapters are filled with entries on Du Fu t± Altogether, the featured poets in Hu Zi's work enjoy this number of pages of material devoted to them (in the modern typeset edition that runs to 700 pages): Tao Qian, 17 pages; Du Fu, 92, and Su Shi, 105. The Classic o/Poetry and the Lyrics o/Chu together receive only two pages. Hu Zi's anthology of remarks on poetry material, rearranged chronologically, contains just seven chapters (out of one hundred) on all of pre-Tang poetry, and three of these seven are given to Tao Qian. In other words, nearly half the space given to the first fifteen hundred years of poetry (from the Zhou through the Sui) is given to a single poet. It is tempting, given this apportionment of space, to say that for Hu Zi and the remarks on poetry authors who immediately preceded him, the poetry of Tao Qian has superseded the Classic 0/ Poetry and the Lyrics 0/ Chu as the "classic" in poetic history. It is now clearly Tao Qian, the recluse poet who assumed protean dimensions in the Northern Song, who is considered the embodiment of ancient poetic ideals. It would be hard to overstate the significance of this change. Before the appearance of the Song remarks on poetry, it is the norm in discussions of poetry to hark back to one or both of the pre-Han poetry classics. We come to expect this, and to accept it as a given.

m.

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

The pre-Tang treatises on poetry all make reference to one or both of the classics in their opening lines (e.g., Zhong Hong in his "Prefaces" and Liu Xie in his "Mingshi" IIJ.J it chapter). It is not, moreover, just a matter of hollow or obligatory reference. The very language and thought with which "poetry" is discussed in these seminal works of Chinese literary criticism are replete with concepts and terminology drawn from the two classics, the two early prefaces to the Classic 0/Poetry, and the Han dynasty commentaries on the two anthologies, including such notions as the Four Beginnings lm M;; the Six Principles /\.A; the musical, social, and ritualistic origins of poetry; and the political orientation of the poet's intent. Tang essays on literature and poetics continue this convention, using the two ancient works to frame ideas about what poetry is and to what it should aspire. This mode of writing about poetry certainly remains viable during the Song dynasty. Ouyang Xiu himself, the author of an important study and reinterpretation of the Classic o/Poetry (Shi benyt), was apt to follow suit when writing on formal occasions. The preface Ouyang wrote for Mei Yaochen's poetry collection, arguably the best-known statement he ever made about poetry, draws extensively upon concepts rooted in the two poetry classics, including the idea that Mei's "deprivation" (qiong g) was responsible for his literary talent (an echo of what Sima Qian had said of Qu Yuan fi.hJ,f-),30 that poets adopt the personae of "banished ministers or abandoned wives" to express themselves, that they use images of lowly creatures and flowers to convey their thoughts indirectly, and that their distress over inept governance fills them with righteous anger and frustration. Ouyang even concludes by observing that if Mei's talent and worth had been properly recognized he would have written poetic praises of the enlightened Song imperium worthy of comparison to the dynastic hymns in the Classic 0/Poetry.3) Nearly everything Ouyang says in this preface to the poetry of his friend is derived from doctrines about poetry developed in connection with the two classical poetry anthologies. But these traditional ways of thinking about poetry are conspicu30. Sima Qian, Shi ji 84.2482. 31. Ouyang's preface is "Mei Shengyu shiji xu" #Pll-t.rtt1ft, no. 2, Quan Tang shi 539.6177. The emperor and Yang Guifei ~1t1tc. had laughed at the stellar lovers, the Ox-herd 4- t~ and Weaving Maid"*,, who only spend one night a year together (Seventh Night), whereas they thought they would spend every night together. 74. Fan Wen, Fan Wen shihua, no. 20, p. 1254. 72..

73-

rospectively as its leader (the Xikun Style), Li Shangyin was thought of in a peculiar way. Once the Xikun Style fell out of favor, in the mid-Northern Song, Li Shangyin tended to be thought of disparagingly, as the inspiration of a movement that eventually had to be abandoned and renounced. Thus, in Hu Zi's anthology of remarks on poetry entries, Li Shangyin does not even receive his own section. Comments about him, mostly negative, are found in the section called "The Xikun Style."75 Fan Wen's treatment of Li Shangyin is boldly revisionist. He finds trenchant meaningfulness in his lines, as well as apt and original language. Fan Wen wants to demonstrate that there is real substance to Li's verse, and that substance coexists with an external appearance ("skin") that the world denigrates as "ingenious and ornate." In his treatment of Li Shangyin, Fan Wen stops just short of saying explicitly that the "ingenious" is not incompatible with poetic ideals of substance and meaningfulness. But that is essentially what he does argue in an even bolder discussion elsewhere in his work, where he turns his attention to Du Fu. In this entry, translated below, the key opposition is between qiao J:Tj ("ingenious, intricately crafted") and zhuang ~± ("powerful, robust, manly"). The "ingenious" is further subdivided into the qili Mt At ("flowery and ornate") and what Fan Wen terms fong hua J§.{.-7i:. ("winds and blossoms"). The first of these two components has mostly to do with a style of language; the second primarily concerns subject matter (i.e., descriptions of nature, especially floral beauty). The idea that the "ingenious" includes the second component comes from a longstanding association between that quality and those of refinement, delicacy, and even femininity. Du Fu's Poetry Is Powerful Even While It Is Ingeniou/ 6

Vulgar persons of the world take pleasure in what is flowery and ornate, while those who understand writing know to look down upon these traits . . Young men are fond of delicate lines about winds and blossoms, while older men disdain such passages. Nevertheless, in evaluating writing we 75. Hu Zi, Tiaoxi yuyin conghua, "qianji" tor 1f., 22.144-48. 76. Fan Wen, Fan Wen shihua, no. 16, p. 1252.

1

i

j~

99

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

sights and personages (including Zhuge Liang It ~ ~ and Mawei Station ,~5t~, where Emperor Xuanzong's ~ beloved Yang Guifei ~~1t*c. was killed) with poems written by lesser writers. Fan expounds upon the dense quantity of meaning that Li Shangyin manages to pack into his lines, showing how appropriate and effective they are. On the Mawei poem he writes: 72

*

"Useless are reports of [Yang Guifei's spirit in] another world beyond the seas'/Before future lives could be divined this life came to an end" ilj.-7~~ 6ll ~ /(.1'1'\, ~!l I- Jlt.!l #.. The words are both intimately suited to the occasion and high-minded. Consequently, even though Li Shangyin does not use such terms as "sorrow," "bitterness," or "shedding tears," the listener is moved to profound sadness. "In vain [the emperor] listens to his tiger troops beat their nightwatch drums,/No more will the lovers hear cock-crow guards [in the palace] announce the dawn" ~ 6llJ!t.*"., 1ffli', ~ {tj& J.....cfItHt.J. It is as if the poet had personally served in the Enlightened Emperor's retinue, so convincingly does he capture the sights and sounds from that time. "On this day the Six Armies all brought their horses to a halt [demanding Yang Guifei's death], / On a recent Seventh Night [the two lovers] had laughed at the Ox-herd" Jlt. El ~ ~ M ~ ,'-1, ~* -l:: 7 ~ -+.73 These lines are even more unexpected. People nowadays describe Li Shangyin's poetry as "ingenious and ornate" (qiaoli 3'5,1.), and he is grouped together with Wen Tingyun as exemplars of that style. The fact is, undiscerning scholars see only the outer skin of his writing. They have no appreciation of his elevated sentiments and far-reaching meanings.7~

*-

*'

Today, we think of Li Shangyin as a major poet who explored depths of human attachments and infatuations as had never been done previously in Chinese verse. That is not the way he was thought of in Northern Song times. Owing largely to the fact that certain early Song poets adopted him as their model and proceeded to develop a narrow but highly distinctive style, known for its challenging diction and density of allusions, that claimed him ret-

··I·' , :i..• '~

.

"

l

Li Shangyin, "Mawei" ,~>t, no. 2, Quan Tang shi 539.6177. The emperor and Yang Guifei ~1t1tc. had laughed at the stellar lovers, the Ox-herd 4- t~ and Weaving Maid"*,, who only spend one night a year together (Seventh Night), whereas they thought they would spend every night together. 74. Fan Wen, Fan Wen shihua, no. 20, p. 1254. 72..

73-

rospectively as its leader (the Xikun Style), Li Shangyin was thought of in a peculiar way. Once the Xikun Style fell out of favor, in the mid-Northern Song, Li Shangyin tended to be thought of disparagingly, as the inspiration of a movement that eventually had to be abandoned and renounced. Thus, in Hu Zi's anthology of remarks on poetry entries, Li Shangyin does not even receive his own section. Comments about him, mostly negative, are found in the section called "The Xikun Style."75 Fan Wen's treatment of Li Shangyin is boldly revisionist. He finds trenchant meaningfulness in his lines, as well as apt and original language. Fan Wen wants to demonstrate that there is real substance to Li's verse, and that substance coexists with an external appearance ("skin") that the world denigrates as "ingenious and ornate." In his treatment of Li Shangyin, Fan Wen stops just short of saying explicitly that the "ingenious" is not incompatible with poetic ideals of substance and meaningfulness. But that is essentially what he does argue in an even bolder discussion elsewhere in his work, where he turns his attention to Du Fu. In this entry, translated below, the key opposition is between qiao J:Tj ("ingenious, intricately crafted") and zhuang ~± ("powerful, robust, manly"). The "ingenious" is further subdivided into the qili Mt At ("flowery and ornate") and what Fan Wen terms fong hua J§.{.-7i:. ("winds and blossoms"). The first of these two components has mostly to do with a style of language; the second primarily concerns subject matter (i.e., descriptions of nature, especially floral beauty). The idea that the "ingenious" includes the second component comes from a longstanding association between that quality and those of refinement, delicacy, and even femininity. Du Fu's Poetry Is Powerful Even While It Is Ingeniou/ 6

Vulgar persons of the world take pleasure in what is flowery and ornate, while those who understand writing know to look down upon these traits . . Young men are fond of delicate lines about winds and blossoms, while older men disdain such passages. Nevertheless, in evaluating writing we 75. Hu Zi, Tiaoxi yuyin conghua, "qianji" tor 1f., 22.144-48. 76. Fan Wen, Fan Wen shihua, no. 16, p. 1252.

1

i

j~

99

100

IOI

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

A NEW POETRY CRITICISM

.-.;:r-

'ti'k "*"#,83 and "The unicorns are motionless, the censer's smoke rises, I The peacock opens slowly, the fan's shadows form a circle" tJ.,J4~ J:., :JL.:£~r.:J Aqfjj{.84 His laments for the past include the lines "Emerald grasses against the steps take on spring's color all by themselves,/Yellow orioles behind the leaves sing sweetly in vain" oR ~ ~ $ mf- @., 1% if. if ,~ ~"*f-t-, 85 and "The bamboo sends up the clear stream's moon, I Moss ushers in the jade throne's spring" tt~i*)~~, ~#J:,.J.if-.86 All these lines are based on images of winds and blossoms, yet they fully capture the nature and reason of things and wrest away the creative powers of the Fashioner of Things. Du Fu likewise wrote the lines: "Clouds passing over sheer cliffs unfurl billowing brocade, I Sparse pines flanking the river perform flute melodies" ~qil&,!, r.,.,~*, J9tt:1~~7j