Unformatted text preview: Lecture 7 – The Naturalism of Ruan Ji 1 Brief Recap… • Zhou dynasty had two traditions: – Northern: The Book of Odes – Southern: The Chuci • Han dynasty characterized by fu and yuefu – Fu (epideictic rhapsody or rhymedprose) – Yuefu (Music Bureau) ballads – Fivecharacter shi poetry became the favorite vehicle for lyric expression – “Nineteen Old Poems” – WeiJin period marks a new stage in Chinese poetic tradition
2 New Intellectual Concerns
• Orthodox Confucianism of Han could only comment on old canonical texts of previous period. • With the Han collapse in 220CE, literati preferred retiring from office to serving at court, creating a new intellectual space in which to investigate the phenomena of the world. • Thus, men of letters no longer turned to the Classics as a source of wisdom but to 3 Daoist texts: Book of Changes, Laozi, and Zhuangzi. – This new movement was known as “pure conversation” (qingtan � ) , attracting men interested in a metaphysical worldview which the socially centered teachings of Confucius could no longer offer. 3 New Concerns… • Qingtan as an intellectual discourse focused on the relation of name and reality, character and talent. • It reflected conflict between Confucian view of the existence of a moral heaven and the Daoist (Zhuangzi) view of an amoral or neutral heaven. – Made use of Zhuangzi’s idea of inaction, or non purposive action (wuwei � ), the natural or spontaneous (ziran � ), and the inadequacy of language. – Intellectuals used LaoZhuang to interpret Confucianism, e.g., Confucius “embodied” nothingness, and stressed the importance of “nature”, “naturalness,” and “spontaneity”. 4 Ruan Ji • Ruan Ji (210263) lived during this period of intellectual curiosity and growth. • In addition to writing essays on the Daoist classics, he also composed 82 poems. – These dwell upon the theme of human transience, much like the yuefu and 19 Old Poems. – However, his use of poetic imagery is quite different: he does not organize it into set scenes or topics like the yuefu, nor does he use them to construct narrative or descriptive outlines like the Old Poems. – Instead, he uses poetic images as expressions of human frailty, organizing them into an imaginary mental landscape.
5 Poem 18: “The solar chariot hangs in the southwest, Hsi Ho is about to drive it down; Streams of its light shine on the Four Seas, Then suddenly come evening and darkness. It casts its radiance upon Hsien Lake in the morning, The shores of River Meng receive its evening splendor; Why is it that all men, successful or otherwise, Once dead, are not to be born again? Behold those blossoms of peach and plum! Who can long maintain such a splendid luster? Where is the perfect gentleman to be found? I sigh for not having been one with him. I fix my reverent gaze upon the pines of Ching Mountain, For they can bring solace to my feelings.”
6 • What we see are images of the sun, four seas, lakes, rivers, flowers, trees, mountains, and the voice of the speaker. • Although we cannot pinpoint these descriptions to an actual place, their connotative meaning is very apparent. • Lines 16 evoke the passage of time in nature. • Lines 78 expresses the dark mood of his soul. • Line 910 conveys the fleeting nature of beauty before decay as expressed in the blossoming flowers. • Line 1214 is the voice of the speaker, full of grief and sorrow, clouding the mood of the entire poem. • These images symbolize the frailty of human life from the following four perspectives: – The temporal aspect of nature, the life of plants and animals, the physical condition of man, the emotional 7 The first perspective as seen in poem 4: The first perspective “The Heavenly Horses come out of the northwest And they come following the eastern road. Spring and autumn cannot be brought to a halt, How can wealth and honor be kept forever? Clear dew covers the swamp orchids, Thick frost settles on prairie grass. In the morning, he was still a goodlooking youth, By the evening, he has already become an ugly old man. If not an immortal like Wangtzu Chin, Who can keep his youthful radiance forever?” 8 Some facts, according to Victor Mair: Some facts, according to Victor Mair: Images of the sun and moon occur 25 times. Images of the sun and moon occur 25 times. Seasonal changes occur 47 times. Seasonal changes occur 47 times. Dew, frost, and wind occur 27 times. Dew, frost, and wind occur 27 times. Morning and night occur 61 times. Morning and night occur 61 times. Whenever Ruan Ji uses the above images, his goal is Whenever Ruan Ji uses the above images, his goal is not to describe nature itself but to paint a picture of the impermanence of human life. 9 The second perspective as seen in poem 71: The second perspective “Luxuriant hibiscus overgrows the grave mounds, Glistening with lustrous splendor; But when the bright sun sinks into the forest, Its petals flutter down to the roadside. The cricket chirps by doors and windows, The cicada hums amidst the brambles. Ephemerids play for only three mornings, Yet they swarm around preening their wings. For whom do they display their finery, Flying up and down as they bedeck themselves? How brief is the time allotted to a life! Still, each makes his passionate endeavors.”
10 Some facts, according to Victor Mair: Some facts, according to Victor Mair: Images of plants occur 67 times. Images of plants occur 67 times. Of these, most are of grass, brambles, foliage, Of these, most are of grass, brambles, foliage, fragrant flowers on the eve of decay (49 of the 67). Images of animals occur 61 times. Images of animals occur 61 times. Of these, most are of insects and birds looking for Of these, most are of insects and birds looking for shelter before the onset of winter (54 of the 61). Here, Ruan Ji uses images of plants and animals to Here, Ruan Ji uses images of plants and animals to describe the impermanence of all living beings, including man.
11 The third perspective as seen in poem 5: The third perspective “Early on, at the time of my youth, I was frivolous and took to music and song. I roamed westward to Hsienyang, Where I meet with fair ladies like Chao and Li, Before my revelries came to an end, The bright sun suddenly sank. I urged on my horse to return once more, And turned around to look at the Three Rivers. A hundred taels of gold were all gone, There were, alas, too many things to spend money for! Facing north, I came to the T'aihang road: What will become of one who has lost his way?”
12 The third perspective as seen in poem 77: The third perspective “I am growing old In the shadow of death. My admiration goes to the waves That come from the same source to flow in different ways. Life is not worthy of mention Yet hate and enmity have been my tribulation. Do I really have adversaries? Or are my sensitive ears deceiving my eyes? Vision and hearing are both waning. But malice against me is still waxing. I shall call on my Daoist friends; Together we shall go on a journey.”
13 Some facts, according to Victor Mair: Some facts, according to Victor Mair: Ruan’s transformation of Yuefu and Gushi motifs of Ruan’s transformation of physical appearance and action pervades his poems and we can see three motifs occurring: For physical appearance we see use of “the Fair For physical appearance we see use of “the Fair One” (35 times), youthfulness (25 times), aging and death (46 times). For action/movement we see use of For action/movement we see use of sighs/sobs/crying (19 times), looking/gazing (52 times), expressions of sadness (56 times), standing (17 times), pacing (9 times), on the road (23 times), climbing a mountain (15 times), aimless wandering (37 times).
14 The fourth perspective as seen in poem 34: The fourth perspective “A day, and then another morning, A sunset, and then another sunrise. My appearance has changed from what it used to be, My vital spirit has been dissipated. I raise my cup with much grief in my heart, And think of my friends of bygone days. Facing my wine, I cannot utter a single word, As my mournful heart is full of pathos and bitter sorrow. I wish to farm on the sunny side of the eastern fields, But with whom can I begin a life true to myself? Worry and bitterness are but a momentary matter, High deeds will only do harm to my weak body. How can I learn to bend and stretch myself? I will let snakes and dragons be my neighbors!”
15 The fourth perspective as seen in poem 1: The fourth perspective “Being sleepless at midnight, I rise to play the lute. The moon is visible through the curtains And a gentle breeze sways the cords of my robe. A lonely wild goose cries in the wilderness And is echoed by a bird in the woods. As it circles, it gazes At me, alone, imbued with sadness.” 16 Using so many emotional terms in the same poem is Using so many emotional terms in the same poem is one of the distinguishing traits of Ruan’s poetry. Formerly, a poet would purposively try to connect an Formerly, a poet would purposively try to connect an emotional word as a response to a concrete situation, such as the separation of lovers, betrayal by a friend, a political setback, etc. Ruan Ji, on the other hand, tries to prevent them from Ruan Ji, on the other hand, tries to prevent them from being seen as a determined response to an external situation by getting rid of the concrete setting altogether. While Ruan continues a theme started in the 19 Old While Ruan continues a theme started in the 19 Old Poems, he broadens it to include the problem of human wickedness and other social ills by focusing on the inconstancy of men in their thoughts and actions. 17 Poem 16: Poem 16:
“I pace back and forth on the shores of P'eng Lake, Turning around to look toward Taliang. The green water tosses up great waves, The vast plains stretch far and wide. Scurrying animals cross the paths of one another, Flying birds soar, one after another. The stars of the Quail now make their appearances, The sun and moon face each other in the sky. The north wind sharpens the biting cold, The dank air sends down a thin frost. A sojourner, I am without a companion; Sorrow and pain torment my heart as I look around. The mean man chalks up his merits, The superior man follows the way of constancy. I do not regret that I would end up wearied and careworn, And so I sing out my feelings here, in this verse.”
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- Summer '10
- Ruan Ji, Victor Mair