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The secrets of Wen Tingyun’s life and poetry Mou, Huaichuan 1998

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ABSTRACT This dissertation is an investigation into the secrets of the life and poetry of a major late Tang poet, Wen Tingyun (798-866?). Traditional Chinese literary criticism has subjected Wen to such misunderstanding that even many modern studies are not immune from agelong prejudices. This fact can be regarded, in a sense, as a continuation of the slanders Wen suffered in his lifetime, though it results from misconstruing Wen's poetry and ignoring the political implications of his life. A complete and careful restudy of Wen Tingyun the man and Wen Tingyun the poet is therefore a pressing academic necessity. By means of factual investigation and textual annotation, and with recourse to the mutual evidence of history and poetry, this study probes the political intricacies of the major events of Wen's lifetime and explores the artistic complexities of his "inexplicable" verses. The result is that it finds a series of hitherto uncovered facts, reveals the unreliabi-lity of Wen's official biographies and reconstructs a chronology of Wen's life. Meanwhile, in eliciting the biographical information via unraveling Wen's poetic puzzles, it reaches hold of the key to going in and out of Wen's artistic labyrinth and thus paves the way for a reevaluation of his poetry. With respect to Wen's life, this study consists of the following findings: Wen's birth year (798); Wen clan's marriages with the royal family and hostility with the eunuchs; Wen's marriage to a singer-prostitute (836); his secret attendance upon the Heir Apparent (837-8); his change of name in an effort to pass the civil service examinations (839-40); his numerous failures and final "success" in becoming a Presented Scholar (847-59); and his "cheating" (helping others) when sitting for the examinations. These findings spell out a new understanding of Wen's life that underlies his poetry. Drawn from Wen's poetry, they will unfold more secrets of his poetry and then lead to more discoveries of his life. ii Since Wen used his poetry as elaborate representation of himself, it is only natural that he wanted to express, rather than hide, his experiences, feelings and ambitions, however ambiguous they might be, because of the political pressure of the time. In this sense, to know Wen Tingyun the man is to understand Wen Tingyun the poet, and vice versa. In brief, Wen was deeply involved in the palace and court struggles of his time, especially at odds with the power-entrenched eunuchs. Some of the events he witnessed were too sinister to be recorded by histories, and his poems reflecting the truth too incomprehensible for causal readers, despite his efforts to put his secrets into them. These contradictory factors caused a long-lasting misunderstanding before he could be seen in his true light. Now it is high time Wen were rehabilitated. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract Table of Contents Abbreviations Acknowledgment INTRODUCTION Chapter One Family Background Clan Origin and Native Place Remaining Prestige of An Aristocratic Family Financial Status in Wen's Early Years Special Social Connections Chapter Two Wen's Birth Year A Most Abstruse Allusion to the Eunuchs Epistle Presented to Prime Minister Pei Other Evidence Supporting the Conclusion Chapter Three Before the Year of "Having No Doubt" Days of Deligent Studies Wandering Years A Distinguished Uncle Ten Thousand Li from Sichuan along the River Liaisons with the Buddhist Monks Chapter Four Wen's Marriage—A Case of Scandal in Jianghuai What Happened During Wen's Stay in Jianghuai Epistle Presented to the Bureau Director Han of the Ministry of Personnel How A Marriage Became A Scandal Chapter Five Attendance upon the Heir Apparent (I) An Introduction to the Problem Clues Found in Wen's Works Epistle Thanking Minister Li of Xiangzhou Epistle Thanking Prime Minister Hegan The Story Hidden in "The Hundred-Rhyme Poem" iv Chapter Six Attendance upon the Heir Apparent (II) The Enigma of Sphinx 214 Wen's Theory for His Poetry 235 A Few More Examples 239 Chapter Seven Changing Name and Taking the Examination "Equivalent to Passing" yet "Failed to Pass" 251 A Poetic Account of the Story 259 The Change of Name 266 How "The Hundred-Rhyme Poem" Reviews the Whole Event 280 Chapter Eight Highlights In the Dazhong Era Renewed Efforts at the Dragon Gate 289 The Truth of the Fourteen Pusaman 314 Conclusion 349 Bibliography 362 Appendix 1 376 Appendix II 388 v Abbreviations CS~Yao Silian: Chenshu. D K J K - X u Song: Deneke Jikao. HHS~Fan Ye: Hou Hanshu. H S - B a n Gu: Hanshu. JS~Fang Xuanling: Jinshu. JTS--Liu Xu et al: "Jiutangshu" fThe Old Tang History). Liji—L\)i Zhengvi. LS--Yao Silian: Liangshu. Lunyu—Lunyu Zhengvi. Maoshi--Maoshi Zhengvi. Mengzi—Mengzi Zhengvi. NQS~Xiao Zixian: Nanqishu. NATW--Richard. B. Mather, trans. A New Account of Tales of the World. N S ~ L i Yanshou: Nanshi. QTS~Cao Yin: Ouantangshi. QTW-Dong Gao: Ouantangwen,. SGZ--Chen Shou: Sanguozhi. ShangshuShaneshu Zhengvi. SS--Shen Yue: Songshu. T F Z N B - W u Tingxie: Tang Fangzhen Nianbiao. WFO-Wen Feiqing Shiii Jianzhu. XTS-Ouyang Xiu: Xintangshu (The New tang History). Zuozhuan-Chunqm Zuozhuan Zhengvi. YFSJ~Guo Maoqian: Yuefu Shiji. Z^f9MVf--Zhouyi Zhengvi. ZZhTJ--Sima Guang: Zizhi Tongiian. vi Acknowledgments I should thank my supervisor, Professor Jerry Schmidt for his insightful instructions throughout the composition of this dissertation. I am also obliged to Professor Daniel Overmyer and Professor Michael Duke for their helpful criticisms and suggestions made after reading the first draft of all the chapters. Above all, I am deeply indebted to Professor Catherine Swatek, who has taken pains to examine all the chapters, polish the language and style, and decisively make it readable. I must also acknowledge the help of my friend and classmate Robert Stephenson, with quite a few language problems. In addition, in appreciation for the consistent support from the staff of the Department of Asian Studies whenever I met with any problems, I wish to say that they always have a share in any of my achievements. The mistakes that still might exist in the texts are mine and mine alone. v i i 1 Introduction The aim of this dissertation is to rediscover Wen Tingyun (WiM^, 798-866?) the man, which includes a reevaluation of Wen Tingyun the poet. Researches of the man and the poet are aspects of the same question, but because of limitation of space, our emphasis will be put on the former. Our task thus has two major components: to find out what Wen writes about in his poetry and how he writes it. We will take pains to unravel most of Wen's characteristic works, especially his autobiographical poems, since the annotation and explanation of these poetic puzzles, apart from manifesting their motifs, will uncover the techniques the poet employs in their composition. In other words, in our efforts to discover the secrets of Wen's life, we will also find the secrets of his poetry. These secrets of Wen's life and poetry, in turn, will enable us to expose more secrets of his poetry and life. This dissertation is thus entitled "The Secrets of Wen Tingyun's Life and Poetry." Most of Wen's life was lived in the late Tang era, a time filled with troubles both internal and external, but also well-known for its cultural exuberance and prosperity. The Tang Empire had fallen irrevocably from the summit of its past glory, despite the endeavors of numerous ambitious and talented men to restore it. It is through the activities of many of these men representative of the era, that we gain insight into the realities of this time in all its complexity and vividness. Wen is just such a representative character. By probing the secrets of his life, we will be better equipped to understand some important events of the late Tang history. At the same time, we will comprehend the role Wen played in these events. As a result, his undeniable stature as an outstanding poet, especially during the rise of a new poetic subgenre, ci poetry, will be brought into full relief. The Eunuch Problem and the Literati Society Of all the social contradictions of Wen's time, the eunuch usurpation of court power will figure prominently in this dissertation. A political problem conspicuous in the late Tang era and closely linked with Wen's life, the eunuch power was an outgrowth of the highly 2 centralized imperial power and had much to do with the An-Shi Rebellion (755-763).1 In the decades after the Rebellion the Tang emperors seem to have learned a wrong lesson from it; they put much less confidence in their court officials and entrusted more power to their "household slaves", the eunuchs. Once this transfer of power was institutionalized, the eunuchs gradually seized control of all important governmental apparatuses. Not only did they take control of religious and economical affairs, but they also had a hand in military manipulations and political decision-making at the top level. In the end they were able to enthrone and dethrone the emperors, and had the lives of emperors at their disposal.2 The ultimate cause that led to the eunuchs' power lay in the monarchic polity itself. Emperors had always thought of themselves as absolute dictators to dominate everything "under heaven." However, contrary to their wishes, the lifeline of the empire was to fall into the hands of the most contemptible party-household slaves~the last group they had suspected of coveting their power. By the time the eunuch problem became a fait accom-pli, emperors were at the end of their resources and the eunuchs no longer isolated palace slaves at their mercy. This usurpation of court power greatly accelerated the downfall of the dynasty. In such circumstance, the eunuch infiltration of the power structure was painfully felt in every sphere of political and social life, as the court officials made every attempt to save the empire from ruin, despite political discord among themselves. 1 See Pulleyblank: The Background of the Rebellion of An Lu-Shan. 24-74. See also Denis Twittchett, ed. The Cambridge History of China, vol. 1, 374-681. 2 Starting from Emperor Xianzong (r. 805-20), until Emperor Xizong (r. 874-89), the eight Tang emperors, Xian-, Mu-, Jing-, Wen-, Wu-, Xuan-, Yi-and Xizong were all chosen and put on the throne by the eunuchs. Some of them were subsequently murdered by the eunuchs directly or indirectly. It is an accepted conclusion that the downfall of the Tang Empire was largely brought about by the eunuchs' usurpation of court power. See Zhao Y i : Ershier Shi Zhaii. 383-8, "The Disaster of the Tang Eunuchs". 3 Inasmuch as the eunuchs had the emperors under control and used them as an emblem of their supremacy, they exacerbated the contradictions among the court officials and intensified factional strife. In its struggles with the "Northern Office" (the eunuchs), the "Southern Offices" (court officials) polarized into two factions, the Nius and the Lis, which were, in the last analysis, the political representatives of different responses to the eunuchs in the Yongzhen Reform (805). Once present, these struggles could be perpetrated through the influence and manipulation of the eunuchs. Whatever their factional proclivities might be, court officials in power always adopted a vacillating, if not ambiguous, attitude towards strong measures to deal with the eunuchs, out of a concern for their vested interests. This vacillation can account in part for the failures of the Yongzhen Reform and the Sweet Dew Incident (836), the two events most representative of the court officials' efforts to curb the eunuchs. The former showed a resolution to get rid of eunuch power, while the latter set directly as its aim the annihilation of the eunuchs themselves—the former affair implicated Wen's father, the latter Wen himself. In both cases, however, the court officials never closed ranks, but remained at odds with one another over the effectiveness of radical actions. As a result, the participants of the two events had too few political allies to be a match for the eunuchs, even though they succeeded in enlisting the support of the emperors; most of the Yongzhen reformers were condemned to life-long banishment, and all the Sweet Dew Incident plotters suffered clan extermination, with no rehabilitation for them until toward the end of the dynasty.3 In such circumstances, seldom did anybody dare voice strong protests against the eunuchs. To do so would court neglect, if not disaster for the protester. One striking example is Liu Fen 0$]^ fl. 832), who, for all his fearlessness in expressing the general indignation against the eunuchs, brought more disgrace than glory upon himself. Judging 3 Absolution came in the form of an "Act of Grace" in 901, more than sixty years after the incident; see Song Minqiu: Tang Da Zhaoling Ji. 5: 31-3. 4 from Wen's experiences, we can suggest that he was a second Liu Fen. The eunuchs existed in a kind of symbiosis with the Tang royal clan. Some of the court officials were willing to join forces with them in order to gain a favorable official position, while anyone in office had to come to terms and cooperate with them; to do otherwise was to invite failure. The following are two cases in point. There were sporadic achievements that temporarily alleviated tensions and prolonged the dynasty's survival. These have been highly praised by the orthodox Song historiogra-phers, and the two foregoing political events downplayed. They are the so-called "Yuanhe Restoration" effected by Emperor Xianzong (r. 805-20) and Pei Du (US, 765-839), and the Governance of Huichang accomplished by L i Deyu (^M^fr, 787-850)4 and his followers. In both cases the Tang court succeeded in recapturing territories occupied by semi-independent satraps, somewhat reanimating a body politic that was near collapse. In neither instance, however, was the eunuch problem addressed. Rather, it was because Pei and L i refrained from stirring up the "hornets' nest" of the eunuchs that they were able to enjoy a measure of success in the military campaigns they led. Their military operations were in fact approved by the eunuchs, because, after all, the eunuchs' parasitic benefits depended on a viable Tang state power. Thwarted by the eunuchs from above or checked by the court officials from various sides, many ambitious statesmen had to surrender their hope of political reform before they achieved anything substantial. Pei and Li's official careers illustrate this. Adamant and irorihanded as L i Deyu was in rendering meritorious services to the empire, he was thrown out of the political arena directly after the eunuchs set a successor upon the throne, Emperor Xuanzong (m.^, r. 846-859); and he died in exile a victim of factional strife, or, more accurately, of eunuch politics. Pei was luckier than L i , but effective as he was in his official 4 For a comprehensive study of this important statesman of the late Tang time, see Fu Xuanzong: L i Deyu Nianpu. 5 duties, he was not always successful when dealing with the eunuch Army Super-visors, during the campaigns he led against the rebellious satraps. Almost half of his official life was spent after suffering demotions that resulted from political pressures from the opposing factions, with the connivance or at the instigation of the eunuchs. In such circumstances there were few court officials really determined to do something for the moribund empire who did not court troubles for themselves. Seen from this viewpoint, a man with the character and talent of Wen Tingyun was destined to be at odds with fate. Starting from the Middle Tang, along with the Ancient Prose Movement and the New Music Bureau Movement5 in the literary domain, there was a concerted effort to invigorate Confucianism ideologically. Many outstanding representatives of the literati's society, such as Han Yu ( f l f r f r , 768-824),6 Liu Zongyuan (#pa?7G, 773-819),7 Liu Yuxi ($Jg$, 772-842) and Li Ao 772-841)8 contributed to the revitalization of the Confucian doctrine and left to posterity rich curural heritage. Their collective effort blazed a trail for Song dynasty Neo-Confucianism that crystallized to become the dominant ideology for the next thousand years. The late Tang theoretical summary of Confucianism was remarkable with its profound philosophical, ethical, social and political thought. However, it offered no miraculous cure for the political disorders of the empire, and had no effect in curbing eunuch power. Always concerned about his country and people, Wen Tingyun was also ^ For an English study of this movement, see Waley: Life and Times of Po Chuyi. 6 For an appraisal of Han's role in revitalizing Confucianism, see Hartman: Han Yu and Tang Search of Unity. 7 For the role Liu played in the history of restoration of Confucianism, see Jo-shui Chen: Liu Tsung-yuan and Intellectual Change in T'ang China. 8 For a research of Li Ao's representative works, see Barrett, Buddhist, Taoist or Neo-Confucian? 6 involved in this revitalization of Confucianism, as can be shown by his works and his social connections. Disillusioned by the grim realities, the late Tang literati, though they would still make contributions when chances offered, adopted a pragmatic and worldly stance and resigned themselves to the uncontrollable historical forces. Apart from the Confucianism they espoused in their official or political life, they were more addicted to religious philosophies, such as Buddhism and Taoism. Chan Buddhism prevailed at this time in tune with the time's needs.9 There is hardly a literary figure of the time who was not influenced by Buddhist or Taoist thought, even though he might declare himself to be against them. It is therefore no surprise that Wen was closely connected with many Buddhist monks. As regards their private life, the late Tang literati are well-known for their hedonism. It was common practice for a literatus to wallow in heavy drinking or to abandon himself to any object of novelty. Such was the vogue that few men could resist it. Even great statesmen or poets famous for their concern about the country's plight and the people's livelihoods were no exception. Both Pei Du and L i Deyu had sumptuous gardens. Bai Juyi ( ( z j j g j j l , 772-846), the chief leader of the New Music Bureau Movement, now became a, devout Buddhist layman, enjoying wealth and rank and surrounded by singers and servants, having long since forgotten his dauntless remonstrances with Emperor Xianzong in his capacity as Attending Censor. Bai's friend Yuan Zhen (juM, 779-831), his partner in the New Music Bureau Movement, managed to become Prime Minister with the help of the eunuchs, and was held in scorn by his contemporaries and later orthodox literati. L i Shen (^1$, 771-846), another initiator of the same movement, assembled quite a bevy of singers in his retinue.10 One of the main participants in the Sweet Dew Incident, Wang Ya (3L$£, 7657-835) became notorious after his death by execution, because of the great fortune he 9 See E. Zurcher: The Buddhist Conquest of China. 1 0 See Wen's "Fifth-Rhyme Poem", part of which is to be discussed in chapter two. 7 had amassed, a fact illustrative of a pervasive indulgence in wealth on the part of the literati. In light of this, we need not find it strange that many poets, like Wen, while trying to do everything they could to realize their political ideals, did not hesitate to enjoy life to the hilt. Biographies: the Status Quo of the Studies of Wen Tingyun Concerning the state of studies about Wen Tingyun, we must point out that both his poetry and his personality have been misunderstood, to a very serious degree. As a result of slander from his political enemies, chiefly the eunuchs, Wen's reputation suffered badly and the major events of his life were distorted or at least covered up, offering historio-graphers unreliable materials to deal with. Not even Wen himself dared record the relevant events in clear terms. In the compilation of histories, official documents, especially when closely concerned with the eunuchs' clandestine affairs, were drafted under the eunuchs' supervision, while the original materials surviving the chaos of the Five Dynasties (907-60) were only remnants of the originals. Few who knew the inside story at the time would necessarily leave to posterity any writings, while those who wished to give a more realistic account of Wen's life at a later time often had no access to the most reliable first-hand sources. As a result, the records left to later generations concerning Wen became very scanty and confusing. What is more, these surviving sources were subjected to the biased dispositions of the Song dynasty (960-1279) official historiographers. "The Biography of Wen Tingyun" in The Old Tang History by Liu Xu et al, is just such a sample. The New Tang History by Ouyang Xiu et al, is hardly any better than "The Old". The two Tang Histories contain too many oversights and mistakes to serve as a ground for our study, even though they are considered the main source for Wen's biography. More a refraction than reflection of Wen's life, the early biographies ignore the eunuch problems, and thus fail to give an acceptable account of Wen's life. This is not, in the main, due to a lack of source materials or prejudices on the part of Wen's biographers. The main cause is that Wen's poetry and prose, which contain important information, are too difficult for the 8 casual historiographer-readers to fathom, and hence make use of. Most of Wen's autobio-graphical works, either poetry or prose, is too obscure or multivocal for easy under-standing, though they are understandable in the last analysis. In view of this paucity of historical sources, we must turn to the unofficial histories for reliable information. The earliest available sources touching on the important events in Wen's life, however, furnish only scattered, fragmentary episodes. They are contained in the anecdotal literature by some authors between the Tang and the Song dynasties. These unofficial histories, especially those produced prior to the two Tang Histories, though they sometimes contradict one another, often contain grains of truth. They are a source upon which the compilers of the two Tang Histories drew from. Getting at the essential information they contain can help us to clarify mistakes in the standard histories. Because of the problems in Wen's biographies and other source materials, the ambiguous nature of Wen's works, and the contemptuous attitude of orthodox literati towards his person and thus his works, no Chinese scholars since the Song dynasty have made a thorough study of this major late Tang poet. Up to now, Wen's true features are enveloped in a twofold veil of historical prejudice and literary obscurity. Therefore, further research concerning Wen Tingyun the man and thus the poet is of a pressing academic necessity. In this study, attention will be focused on the search for any traces indicative of the eunuch problem in both the standard histories and Wen's own works. Influenced by Song dynasty biographers and many orthodox critics, modern scholars generally accept the view that Wen was a libertine and a dandy, a poet of aestheticist originality capable of every mischief, but incapable of any concern for his country and people. It is generally believed that there is no great artistic value to be found in his works, whatever form they might assume. There is a tendency to devaluate Wen's works because of his problematic personality. As a consequence, many of his works have been misinterpreted or simply excluded from serious studies. 9 However, these same works often assert themselves in one way or another in favor of their author as a poet engage. Readers of them can sense to some degree that they reflect, elegantly and honestly, Wen's experiences and feelings. There is a unique and profound beauty in his poetry that must have at its root some foundation in reality, compelling a serious reading of it. Recognition of this has given rise to another approach, by critics who sense the fine artistic expressions in many of Wen's poems, and disregard former criticisms of all shades. These critics do not hesitate to praise Wen in the highest terms, likening him to Qu Yuan or L i Ba i , 1 1 poets who enjoyed the highest honor in Chinese literary history. In the eyes of the orthodox critics, however, such critics overestimate Wen's poetic attainments. To mediate between the two extreme tendencies, there is a third approach that eschews the efforts to seek conformity between the personality of the poet and the works, and is interested only in passing judgment on Wen's individual works. This approach, while seeming justifiable, may lead to another kind of falsehood. To judge which of these three tendencies is the more reasonable, it is indispensable for us to make an exhaustive study of Wen's complete poetic works. However, confronted with Wen's ambiguity, readers from the Song dynasty to modern times have had difficulty in grasping the motifs of many of his poems. The Annotations and Explanations of Wen Feiqing's Collected Poems (henceforward The Annotations or WFQ), 1 2 undertaken by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) scholar Zeng Y i and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) scholars Gu Yuxian (M^J$0 and his son, Qu Sili (MMAL, fi. 1697), is the only effortB heretofore aimed at understanding all of Wen's collected poems. Unfortunately, it contributes little to the deeper study of Wen's life. 1 1 See Zhang Huiyan, Ci Xuan, 1; Xue Xue, Yipiao Shihua, 26 in L i Dai Shihua. 1 2 It is the Xiuye Caotang ffiMW^, title of Gu Sili's study) version of Wen's collected poems and contained in Sibu Congkan. 10 The first eight juan of The Annotations follow the original Song manuscript, as Gu Sili pointed out in his "Postface;" while the ninth juan includes Wen's scattered poems^that Gu collected from various sources. After comparing the important bibliographical works after the Tang dynasty, we can be sure that since the Song dynasty, Wen's oeuvre has not suffered much loss. 1 3 During the Song dynasty, however, his works did suffer conside-rable losses, as can be inferred from Lu You's "Postscript to Wen Feiqing's Poetic Works" in Weinanji: My late father used to have a copy of this poetic works with "The Huaqing Palace Poem" at the beginning [Twenty Two Rhymes On Passing the Huaqing Palace, ^^^—+—1^, j . 6. WFQ], and in the works there was the poem "Departure Early at Mount Shang in the Morning" ( fS f l l l - ^ - f ? , j . 7, WFQ), the one with the couplet "The rooster's crow: a moon over the cottage-inn \ The travelers' footprints: the frost on the plank bridge"-it has long been lost. Now I have found this volume in Sichuan, and the poem of "Departure Early" is already not in it. I cannot refrain from sighing (Lu You Ji, 26: 2232). In The Annotations, poems are roughly classified according to stylistic criteria, such that even in the same juan, earlier and later poems are mixed up and appear in random order. It is likely that the original manuscript was lost, or that Wen had left his poetic works to the hand of an indiscreet compiler. By all accounts, what we have been left is a mass of enig-matic language, glittering with puzzling beauty and entangled in a secret history. Here Wen's poems require a logical and chronological rearrangement. With the idea that in Wen's poetry, as in that of Du Fu, every word has its origin, and under the influence of "knowing as much as possible while leaving the question open" ( ^ KHHH),14 the three above-mentioned scholars focused their attention on a semantic or at most a syntactic plane, i. e., they only sought to find out the origins of terms and allusions in 1 3 For this conclusion, see Gu Xuejie Lunwenji. 207-8. 1 4 See Lunyu, 2: 2462. 11 Wen's poetry. We cannot say that their efforts are insignificant, for it is impossible to understand any poetry without grasping the denotation and connotation of every line and word in it. The problem is that semantic and syntactic annotation unguided by a historical study can hardly prove effective in explaining poetry. As is shown clearly by The Annotations, the three scholars contribute nothing new to Wen's biography, and even make quite a few mistakes in their semantic and syntactic studies, the forte of all old-styled Chinese annotations. Except in a couple of problematic cases, they generally fail to point out what each poem they annotate is about, leaving the reader in darkness to find his own way. I cannot give The Annotation a better evaluation although my dissertation benefits considerably from it. Since Wen's life experiences are so deeply obscured in the shadows of history and the late Tang literary practice that even the Qing annotators have failed to make heads or tails of them, few modern scholars have bothered to take up the study of his life, and fewer of these have made significant breakthroughs.15 Notwithstanding all this, the artistry of Wen's ci poetry is too remarkable to be ignored, and has attracted generations of admirers. As a result, scholars have attached more importance to his ci than to shi poetry, in confronting the general tendency of studying his works without adequate knowledge of his life. As we can easily see in Wen's extant works, Wen was capable of writing with both simple and complex artistic expressions. So it is only logical that he adopted an ambiguous style when dealing with subtle political taboos, especially the eunuch problems. The late Tang is one of the most notorious eras in Chinese history for its eunuch problems. It is strange that there should be extremely few examples of works, in the entire corpus of Tang poetry, indicative of the eunuch's secrets. This situation, however, was not unique in Chinese history. In exposing the eunuchs' behind-the-scenes activities, Wen's poetry fills in 1 5 Among the few studies on Wen's life are those of Xia Chengtao, Gu Xuejie, Chen Shangjun and Huang Kunyao, as we will have occasion to discuss in this study. 12 this historical gap, as very precious source materials. This explains why some of his poems are extremely obscure. Of course, we must make full allowance for Wen's ambiguous artistic expression. Though this ambiguity is responsible for keeping his secrets unknown and leading to his being misunderstood, it was the only option Wen could make, in order that his secrets would not die with him and that he could await future understanding. Where we have to sigh for Wen is that some of his literary creations have misled even most of his readers, exceeding and going counter to his expectation. In order to give him a relatively pertinent reappraisal, we must first try to restore his true colors. Approach and Methodology To redress the errors in Wen's official biographies in the standard histories, we have tried the following approaches. First, the key to clarifying Wen's life lies in maximum utilization of the limited sources available, which in themselves are potentially a veritable history, if we can manage to explain them correctly. When dealing with historical materials of varying credibility, we must make choices by eliminating the false and retaining the true. That is, we must supply the missing links of history with the information found in Wen's works and explain these works in the light of the historical contexts in which they were produced. In a sense, what we are doing is mining the historical ore deposited in Wen's poetic oeuvre. To do so we will have to identify the import in each of Wen's individual works by following his unique ways of artistic expression. In reading Wen Tingyun, we are convinced that history has a logic of its own that must needs find expression in literature. The key task confronting us is to make a breakthrough in the study of his most ambiguous poems that are closely linked with history. This done, we can uncover some of Wen's secrets. The most ambiguous points in Wen's poetry, to be sure, are bound up with the most sensitive parts of history. As our study will demonstrate, there is ample information 13 concealed beneath the thought-provoking clues found in Wen's poetry and prose. If we let these, clues pass unexplained-turning a deaf ear to the call from the bottom of the poet's heart—we will miss an opportunity to gain access to his confidences. If, however, by analogy and reasoning from various angles, we persevere in clarifying the implications of Wen's clues, the true color of his life will be brought to light, bit by bit. Fortunately for us, all of Wen's important secret experiences, although couched in the most ambiguous terms, have nonetheless been recapitulated by an insistent mind, by recourse to the most traditional literary expressions. For, after all, Wen wanted to reveal, rather than conceal, his secrets. Otherwise he would not have written about them over and over again, as though he had a premonition that his poetry would be misunderstood. Once we succeed in over-coming the barriers the poet deliberately set up to prevent easy understanding or misunder-standing, the main secrets of his life will be exposed. His attempt to hide but not to obliterate his secret was, in general, successful, such that once these secrets are elicited from one or two of his works, it becomes much easier to decode his other messages. Second, in order to make what we call a breakthrough, we pay special attention to Wen's prose works and narrative poems (or poems with narrative elements). To arrive at the hidden imports of the clues found in these works, we have to unravel the full texts of Wen's most recondite works. The difficulty consists in how to decipher Wen's unique lyric-poetic language into clearly defined biographical information. We will have to depend on the narrative poems as well as narrative details and contents in the lyric poems, for the messages we need. Though most of Wen's extant works are lyrics, there are rich sources for narrative scattered everywhere, and above all, there are more than twenty epistles and several long autobiographical poems available for our study. Our task will be to weave together all the narrative threads, exposed in his epistles and autobiographical poems, into a biography that can stand close scrutiny. Therefore, considerable space has been devoted to the study of Wen's epistles ffijC), a rich source of his experiences, but heretofore little studied. 14 All of Wen Tingyun's prose works are preserved in juan 656 of the Song-dynasty encyclopedia Wenyuan Yinghua. and were edited as juan 787 of Ouantangwen The texts of the epistles, however, are as allusive and sophisticated as are those of his poems. The following passage by one of Wen's best friends, Duan Chengshi (I£jr$;.t£, 805-63), attests to the difficulty of Wen's essays: You, Feiqing, have exhausted the lore of the ancient books, and boasted the fame of a laureate poet. Along and against the branches of the nine schools, you revised and expounded the hundred scholars (WW&MlfaZM, Wfei&2.& ?affl\Affi> H T ^ ^ R . "Letters Sent to Feiqing, along with a Calabash-tube Brush," I^WL QTW, 787: 10391). In Liu Chongyuan's Jinhuazi (37), we read: (Feiqing) was on good term with Duan Chengshi. They matched each other with their learning of the classics. Duan once sent an ink stick to Wen, with the result that letters kept flying between the two expressing gratitude and good will; the nine letters they sent to each other were full of allusions about ink. It is only natural that a considerable portion of the erudite and allusive language the two men used failed to find its way into the later encyclopedias. Besides, in all Wen's epistles, there is no chronological order. Occasional textual corruptions in Wen's works make reading them even harder. Considering all these, the first obstacle to reach a chronological grasp of Wen's works is that there is seldom a clear date given that enables us to decide what the poet is referring to, and when what he is referring to took place. To probe the depth of Wen's poetry, we will have to find a reliable fulcrum upon which to support our frame, lest our rewrite of the poet's life become a castle in the air. It is for the purpose of establishing some time coordinates that we have made a detailed study of Wen's longest autobiographical poem, which contains a good deal of the biographical information concerning his life up to its composition. Al l of the major events of 15 Wen's life before the fifth year of Kaicheng (840), as well as many consequences he had to face after that year, are implied in it. The following is its lengthy title: In the Autumn of the Fifth Year of Kaicheng, Because of Contracting A Kind of Disease in the Suburban Wilds of the Capital, I Could Not Go to the Princely Establishment16 in the Company of the Local Representative. I Was about to Betake Myself to A Far Place. Amidst Feelings of Self-pity in the Depths Of the Winter, I Unbosomed Myself in One Hundred Rhymes And Sent them to Palace Censor Xu [Shang], Investigating Censors Chen [Gu] and Li [Yuan], Attending Censor Su of Huizhong, And Defender of Yu County, Wei; And also I Presented the Poem to Three Friends of Mine: Yuan Jiao, Miao Shen And Li Y L " (ffl J& E^ ^ C , W & g a W , *^$ifH&M_EJ&. M This work ("The Hundred-Rhyme Poem") is almost the only poem in Wen's complete works that can be clearly dated. A long regulated poem (pailii ~ f l^ ) , it poses more difficulties than any of L i Shangyin's "untitled" (^SM) poems. Because of the intricacies 1 6 "The Princely Establishment" refers here to the Ministry of Rites (IILBP) that was to administer the Presented Scholar examination. 1 7 Xu, refers to Xu Shang (^W), Wen's intimate friend since their student days in Luoyang National University, who helped Wen gain his last official position, Instructor in the State Son's University, twenty years later. See chapters one and three. Chen (Gu, Bfcig), L i (Yuan, ^ S j f ) , Yuan Jiao and Miao Shen ("&$>), are all well-known poets of the time. Su (jt^ c), Wei ( $ ) and L i Y i (^ 3^ 1) are unknown, iffifc, is an unofficial reference to Attending Censor. Attending Censors Xu, Chen, L i and Su are most probably members of the coterie attending the Heir Apparent mentioned later in the poem. To avoid digressions and save space, we will not discuss these men in detail in this study. 16 involved in every couplet and every line, it is one of the most difficult works in the entire corpus of Chinese poetry. To elicit the truth it conceals, it is necessary to consult voluminous original materials-many of which have not yet been translated into English. Seldom are any other poet's works more dependent on earlier, Chinese literature than are Wen's; his literary and historical allusions cover almost all important works prior to his time. My original plan was to make the textual annotation and stylistic definition of this long poem the subject of this dissertation. Since, however, this poem is characteristic of only one of Wen's styles, this plan was revised with a view to revealing all of Wen's poetic styles in the course of adumbrating his life. However, most of the couplets from the poem designated by the number of the rhyme, appear and reappear in the following chapters. For the readers' convenience, a complete translation of the poem with a brief note is put in Appendix I. This dissertation, then, concentrates on unraveling many of the allusions Wen used, so as to clarify the basic connotations of his works. Except in several cases, various modern criticisms of Wen's writings will not be discussed. In all, we will be concerned with most of Wen's epistles (about twenty), more than one hundred poems and numerous other source materials. To clarify a fact, identify an epistle, appraise a poem, or paraphrase a couplet—to reach the ultimate information the poet means to imply—the first thing we have to do is always to unravel some literary and historical allusions. As Wen's works are dense with all kinds of allusions, this dissertation has to be dense with many paraphrases of Wen's allusions. It is these allusions that boil down the main secrets locked in Wen's works for more than a thousand years. As a reflection of his life, it is reasonable that Wen's poetry is complex; to regard him as one who played with words or who was unable to express himself clearly, is to mis-understand him. Few other Chinese poets had so many ups and downs, turns and twists to their lives, all closely linked to the concurrent political situation and reflected in the poet's 17 personality. Some of Wen's poems regarded inexplicable by tradition, we have to stress repeatedly, are undoubtedly explicable. Wen's writings are never so bizarre as are some of L i He's, nor so strained as some of Han Yu's. He only followed the traditional path of belles lettres. Along that path, however, he reached the summit—a summit that is at the same time a dead end. In Chinese poetic history, few poets have made poetry so beautiful and elegant as his, and that is why we say that Wen has reached the summit of poetic beauty. Meanwhile, few poets resorted so heavily to erudition and literary artifices as he did, to the bewilderment of later readers, and that is why we call the summit Wen reached a dead end. To understand him, however, is to fathom the profundity of the entire hoard of the late Tang poetic lore. The Secrets of Wen's Life and Poetry Against such a historical and historiographical background we begin the study of Wen's life. We find it very interesting that Wen was, in one way or another, linked with all the important figures of the time mentioned earlier. It is even more interesting that the secrets of his life and poetry are closely related to the major political events of his day. Wen did, after all, leave in his works all the key information that enables us to recover a historical past which would have otherwise fallen into oblivion forever, and he did this quite delibe-rately. Once put in comparison with the contradictory accounts recorded after Wen's death, they serve to help us find out some hidden historical truth. The major conclusions of this dissertation are as follows: (1) Proofs are found to bear out that Wen was an imperial relative by marriage, which supplements the accepted view that Wen was the scion of a declined aristocratic family. Wen carried on a family feud against the power-entrenched eunuchs, who had brought his family into disgrace. These are hitherto unknown facts of Wen's family history that decided his political orientation and will serve to reveal more of his secrets throughout his troubled and dramatic life (chapter one). 18 (2) By means of a time coordinate system established on the series of clearly-datable events in the Kaicheng era (836-40), and an exact age of 42, implied in the allusion "The Year of Having the Way" (/FTJS^.^), Wen's birth year is determined to be 798. As the starting point for a study of Wen's life, this is a far cry from the accepted date 812, a conjecture by Xia Chengtao (chapter two). (3) The first half of Wen's life is outlined, covering his reclusion in Tonglu, studies in Luoyang, services at the frontier, a stay in Sichuan, and travels down the Yangtze River valley, in search of and in preparation for an official career. To avoid persecution from the eunuchs, the youth Wen Tingyun had to make a living by seeking patronage in the provinces rather than in the capital (chapter 3). (4) Wen married a singer-prostitute during his sojourn in Yangzhou of the Jianghuai region in the first year of Kaicheng (836). Such a marriage typifies the "misconduct" that brought him no end of troubles in his lifetime, behavior that contravened social convention and was exploited by the eunuchs and other enemies of his to block any political advance on his part. Contrary to the conventional derogatory account of what happened to Wen in Jianghuai, we have found in him an honest and courageous man who dared face social pressure occasioned by his decision to love and marry a prostitute-singer (chapter 4). (5) One of the veteran prime ministers of the time, L i Cheng (^^1), Wen's profes-sional teacher, recommended Wen, as an honest and talented man, to Emperor Wenzong to be a literary attendant to L i Yong (^TR , 827-38), the Heir Apparent. Thus Wen found an opportunity to serve his country and lord. As a result of this appointment, he became deeply involved in a series of inner palace infighting that was connected with ongoing factional strife and the struggles between the Southern and the Northern Offices. By comparing clues strewn throughout Wen's poems and prose works with the historical records, we expose a story the standard histories fail to touch on, and at the same time provide an important key to the understanding of this secret in Wen's life and of a considerable portion of his works (chapter 5). 19 (6) Among Wen's extant works concerning his attendance upon the Heir Apparent, we analyze and paraphrase the most fascinating example, his magnum opus, "The Twenty-Two Rhymes on the Arched Gate" (MF1 Z l - + " Z l f $ ) . Besides having further identified the details of the Heir Apparent Incident, we have also defined the unique skills that attend Wen's characteristic poetry, and a solution to much of the poetic ambiguity and stylistic sophistica-tion of Wen's poetry is proposed (chapter 6). (7) In the year following the Heir Apparent's death, the fourth year of Kaicheng (839), Wen participated in the Metropolitan Prefecture Examination. With the help of powerful recommendations, he changed his name to sit for it, so as to avoid the eunuchs' hostile supervision, and achieved at one stroke "Equivalent to Passing" &W>)- However, when the change of his name came to light, he "failed to pass" (Hl^) and was forced to run for his life (840). Throughout the Huichang era (841-6), Wen sought political asylum in the south. The whys and wherefores of his name change provide food for thought, and bear out once more the fact that Wen was L i Cheng's student, and that the eunuchs were his implacable enemies. This is another of unkown fact that had a great impact on Wen's life (chapter 7). (8) Scholars have mistakenly followed the unreliable judgment of Wen's biographers in the two Tang Histories, that Wen had never passed the civil service examination, despite repeated attempts. Herein we bring to light another hidden fact that, in the thirteenth year of Dazhong (859), after years of persistent effort, Wen passed the Presented Scholar Examination, and passed with a demotion. To our amusement, we also find an extremely fascinating example from among Wen's extant poems that attests to the fact that Wen really "cheated" when taking the examinations. Finally, we also come to a new understanding of Wen's magnum opus, the series of the Fourteen Pusaman ci poems (^W.Wt~\~VQl^), whose explanation has long been a matter of academic controversy. Basing our arguments on the newly discovered facts concerning Wen's life, taking into consideration the cultural and political background against which the Pusaman series was composed, and equipped with an understanding of Wen's poetic 20 techniques, we compare the series of ci poems with its counterpart in his shi poetry, and confirm that Wen had more than one subject matter in mind when he set his brush to paper. In other words, this series is much more than merely a group of palace-style poems. Judging from the fourteen poems themselves, their shared leading actress, melancholy mood, and evasive and eager manner, all point to a hidden common motif. When we look more carefully into each line, examine the metaphors, analyze the subtle shades of meanings in every word and allusion, we find implications in every line that suggest more than the typical palace-style poems. It is no accident that throughout the series we find passages redolent of the details of Wen's life. Here Wen writes about the political affairs in the guise of love, rather than describes love only. Although we should not take the poems as exclusively autobiographical, there are ample autobiographical elements in them. Hence, more than the hardly viable explanation to the series that it consists only of an objective description of a court lady in the palace-style, the series is also Wen's lamentation of his own life, a life characterized by unyielding pursuit of love and truth (chapter 8). A Case of Criticisms of Wen Tingyun I will take a newly-published book, Paul Rouzer's Writing Another's Dream-The Poetry of Wen Tingyun. as an example, to show how Wen is understood and misunder-stood, and why we must know about Wen's life before we can appreciate his poetry. Rouzer quotes Wang Fuzhi's (3Life£., 1619-92) Jiangzhai Shihua (^Hff^fIS): 1 8 " A monk knocks on a gate under the moon" is only a random guess or a false speculation, as though speaking of another's dream. Even if you make the description vivid, how could it ever affect the heart? Those who know this will know that brooding over the choices of "push" or "knock" is only speculating on the behalf of some other person. Then he comments: 1 8 See Rouzer: 9-10. For the quotation from Wang, see Ding Fubao: Qing Shihua. 9. 21 "Wang's criticism here, though negative, summarizes precisely a major charac-teristic of Wen Tingyun's verse: an ability to stand outside of the self and to 'speculate on the behalf of some other person.' "For a later imperial reader, then, Wen's poetic vices could be summarized as twofold. First, when he wrote of morally dubious experiences, he brought into question the important role poetry was meant to play in society. Second, and more important, as a historical actor he was often "unreadable" for later generations. Frequently he left behind only the poem (a morally ambiguous aesthetic artifact) or, at most, an image of a sophisticated versifier manipulating language for pure entertainment. Poetry of surface, when written by men like Wen, is not just empty; it actually conceals the immoral mind that frames it. It is deceptive and fraudulent." Rouzer takes Wang's comment on one of Jia Dao's (779-843) couplets "as though speaking another's dream" as "a major characteristic of Wen Tingyun's verse." Thus he uses it in the title of his book. Most learned readers will frown at this title, because it is based on a kind of biased summary of Wen's poetry. The approach Rouzer assumes seems problematic, though there are many insightful and trenchant points in his book. Legend has it that Jia was pondering his couplet, hesitating as to whether he should use the verb "push" or "knock," when he came across the retinue of Han Yu, who expressed his preference for "knock."1 9 As any reader will know at first glance, the couplet "The birds roost in trees by the pool \ A monk knocks on a gate under the moon" (Jv^S?t!lift$J, flaM. M~ff^) in Jia's poem serves only as scenic description. It is common sense that any scenic couplet in a lyric poem does not necessarily reflect objective reality. Rather, it reflects the writer's subjective reality. It presents an empathic objective world, by combining fragmentary images of a poet's vision into meaningful pictures. Therefore Wang's criticism 1 9 See Meng Qi: Benshi Shi. 4: 19. 2 2 that Jia's choice of terms is "only a random guess or a false speculation, as though speaking of another's dream" is not to the point. As to whether the whole poem "could ever affect the heart" or not, it is quite another matter. It is unreasonable to demand that Jia be faithful to what was really there, when writing a scenic description. Taking this comment as "a major characteristic of Wen's poetry" is too far from both Wang's criticisms and Wen's actual poetics alike, and also a far cry from the general response of Chinese scholars to Wen's poetry. As seen from Wen's works, contrary to Rouzer's judgment, whatever he is writing about always relates to his own mental reality rather than to another's dream. The preciseness and vividness of his descriptions demonstrate his penetrating observation and subtle representation, indispensable in any major poet. According to Rouzer, for the imperial reader, Wen's poetry never accomplishes "the important role poetry was meant to play in society;" moreover, as it is "unreadable" and was composed by "a sophisticated versifier manipulating language for pure entertainment," "it actually conceals the immoral mind that frames it. It is deceptive and fraudulent" (10). Fully aware that "this is judging Wen's works not by his own personal standards but by the calcified laws of composition that grew up after his death," Rouzer chooses to "look at Wen's work on its own terms" (10), a tendency we have pointed out. However, in his revaluation of Wen's works, we can hardly see "a new appreciation of a neglected Tang master " as he promises. He does not seem to notice that Wen has had a good many of admirers, including quite a number of "imperial readers,"20 who spoke highly of his poetry, though they have not bothered to clarify matters in Wen's life. Rather, in more than one case, he seems to identify himself with "the calcified laws" he disagrees with and go even further in "the frequent choruses of disapproval" of Wen's poetry and person, despite his intention to pass favorable comment on this poet. 2 0 For example, see records in Wei Hu, Caidiaoji. 479-94; Wei Zhuang, Huajianji. chapter 1-2 (Among the Flower. 37-55); Liu Kezhuang, Houcun Shihua. 205-6. 23 "In spite of our difficulty in bridging language and cultural distances," Rouzer declares, "we are comfortable with two concepts that might still seem strange to late classical Chinese: (1) that a poem can be read as a product of an age and a personality without relating it explicitly to events in the poet's life; and (2) that a writer may still produce fine work despite his moral failings" (10). These concepts can be convenient when there is no special difficulty, semantic, syntactic or otherwise, in understanding the poetry, lyric poetry in particular. But when the poem is essentially narrative, and the reader does not even grasp the outline of the narration, as in so many cases of Wen's works, how will he make any pertinent reevaluations or pass any valid judgments concerning it? As a result of knowing too little about Wen's life~we have to emphasize once more—neither praise nor censure of him can be convincing. In Wen's extant works, there is not even one poem that does not have to do with his own life and feelings, about politics and love. How can we say that Wen is "writing another's dream" even though Wen has "an ability to stand outside of the self' < 1 0) ? Rouzer still has to ground himself "in the few facts known about the poet's life," that is, unfortunately and naturally, "a few minor details in both Tang Histories" (11) and other unofficial histories. As can be expected, the unreliable information about Wen's life provided in the two Tang Histories are not a help, but a hindrance for reevaluating him. illustrate how Wen's poetry is deceptive and fraudulent, Rouzer cites Wen's "Carefree Wandering" (JMfr, j . 4, WFQ, 21-2 in his book, p. 151-2 of this thesis) Rouzer's reading of this poem leads him to the comments that "We can see how Wen's tendencies toward objectivity and lush descriptive language naturally move him toward a sort of voyeuristic eroticism, in which a woman is described in fetishistic detail from a seemingly dispassionate distance." Our reading of ihis poem, based on a series of discoveries, testifies to the contrary that the woman described is none other than the singer-prostitute that Wen fell in love with and married. 24 The third couplet of this poem reveals Wen's passionate familiarity with his lover: "The butterfly on your cloud coiffure is almost captivated by fragrant herb \ The hill of your forehead-yellow will not limit the setting sun" (M^MMi^^U, Willi).21 The couplet can be read in reverse order. That is, "The fragrant herb almost captivates the butterfly on your cloud coiffure \ The setting sun is not limited by the hill of your forehead-yellow" ( f l l l t f i , ^^MMMMlh). "The butterfly on your cloud coiffure" (H # ^ ) , a synecdoche, here stands playfully for the woman [since it is a part of her hair decoration]. "Fragrant herb" is a metaphor Wen frequently used for a worthy man like himself. "The hill of [your] forehead-yellow" (tl^ll]) is a set term for a fashionable makeup for Tang ladies, hence another synecdoche for the woman. "The setting sun" (ty&a) can also be understood as a metaphor for the poet, who, compared with his lover, was an old man. Between the two pairs of nouns are inserted the verbs "almost captivate" and "not limit" [or not refuse], which, no matter whether in active or passive voice, demonstrate the mutual love between the two lovers. Since in the last couplet the poet declares that "You and I are just mates like mandarin ducks \ So don't [or I won't] seek any other companion in the human world" {$%M$L/k% # f o J AF^M&EM), there is not much sense in Rouzer's assertion that "Wen describes the woman from a seemingly dispassionate distance." Here Rouzer's translation is "With you I'm surely paired just like mandarin ducks \ So don't seek to go back and forth out there in the human world." Even if he suggests that these lines are spoken by the woman, instead of by Wen, where is the dispassionate distance? To sum up, since Wen wanted to make himself understood, he is, in the final analysis, understandable. To understand him, however, we have to overcome the historical obstacles 2 1 It is modeled on Du Fu's famous couplet: "From the fragrant rice stalks, pecked and dropped by parrots \ on green wutong tree branches, which the perching phoenix aged" (#fg^Si3I*&, gffiffi%MM&). See Grehem: Poems of the Late Tang. 55. 25 that create misunderstandings, the literary barriers that frequently baffle, and long-standing misconstructions that frustrate better understanding. After overcoming all the difficulties, we will reach a fuller understanding of our poet, which will in turn facilitate deeper insight into his poetry. Finally, I would like to say a few words about how I felt while writing this dissertation. I have repeatedly emphasized the difficulties involved, such as the scarcity and inexactness of the historical sources, the ambiguity and abstruseness of Wen's poetry and the lack of academic studies on this topic. However, the main problem is that I am not competent enough to handle this topic to my own satisfaction. I know that I am dealing with something quite beyond my ability. Although I have tried my best, there remain a number of problematic points in my approaches to many primary sources. Having gone through the onerous task of explicating the historical texts, paraphrasing Wen's poetry, unraveling his highly sophisticated allusions, and elaborating my own understanding of the happenings that constitute the major events of Wen's life, I am fully aware that I have always resorted to inferences to reconstruct Wen's life, though in the study of Wen's life, only reasoning and inference can help us to know more. I may have blundered upon some hitherto unexposed historical facts; at the same time, other mistakes and drawbacks must exist that I have been unable to detect and overcome. In preparing this dissertation, another difficulty for me is that Wen's poems and prose works often defy translation. There are terms that, if translated literally, do not make sense; if translated freely, the English loses most of the subtle shading and implication of the Chinese, with other unforeseen meanings accrued. The task I have set for myself requires that I be an expert in two domains: Tang poetry with a mastery of Chinese classics prior to the Tang; and Chinese-English translation with a perfect proficiency in English. To undertake the former may be something for which I can strive all my life. For the latter, I know I can never adequately write English, since having started to write it a little too late in 26 life. As a result, besides the crabbed English translation I made, I have been forced to depend on voluminous footnotes. My awkward translations fail to conjure up the beauty of the original. I only wish that, with the help of the footnotes, they can retain in most cases the basic meanings of their Chinese originals. I will end this introduction on a Chinese note. Just like the priceless pearl under the neck of the black dragon (I§?f:), the information concealed in Wen's works cannot be reached without some danger of misconstruction. And like the precious jade of Chu enwrapped in hard stone, the Jade of Heshi (ffl KiM), the value of Wen's works and true character can be exposed only after long-standing misunderstandings. It is high time that Wen Tingyun no longer be misunderstood. My greatest wish is that the "discoveries" in this study can help to pave the way to a comprehensive reevaluation of Wen Tingyun. I would also gladly and thankfully look forward to any comments and criticisms of this study. 27 Chapter One Family Background During Wen Tingyun's lifetime, the Tang Empire was steadily on the wane, tottering toward an inevitable downfall despite desperate efforts to avoid it. Meanwhile, the aristocratic clans, one of the mainstays of its rule, were also in decline. Coming to the fore in the political arena were: eunuchs, who had usurped state power on an unprecedented scale and gained control of the imperial succession; military satraps, who maintained a semi-independent position, defying the authority of the central bureaucracy in Chang'an; factions, whose contention rendered the decision-making process all the more inefficient. It was against such a general situation that the Wen clan witnessed its own vicissitudes of life. Most noteworthy in this respect will be the political attitude of Wen Tingyun's father and especially of Wen himself, in response to the power of the eunuchs. A study of Wen's family background, therefore, will serve not only to initiate our efforts to reveal hitherto unknown facts concerning him, but will also present a particular case probing into the most persistent problem of the late Tang, the power of politically entrenched eunuchs. The texts in the official or "standard" histories, "The Biographies of Wen Tingyun" in The Old Tang History and in The New Tang History.1 are too inadequate and misleading for drawing a clear picture of Wen's life. Hence, to elicit the information indispensable for knowing Wen as he really was, we will contemplate every detail about his family and experiences by consulting various sources, especially his own works. Wen's Clan Origin and Native Place Clan Origin $P M) A relatively easy starting point is Wen Tingyun's clan origin and his native place. These 1 See JTS, 190: 5079-80 and XTS, 91: 3788-9. Also see Biographies of Wen Daya tfmCkM), TTS, 61: 2359 and XTS, 91: 3781, to which are attached the Biographies of Wen Yanbo (MMW, 573-636), Wen's fifth generation forefather. 28 facts, along with various bits of information scattered among his works, will begin our process of unraveling many of his poetic puzzles and probing into his secrets. As indicated in "The Biography of Wen Tingyun" in The New Tang History, Wen Yanbo, the great grandfather of Wen Tingyun's grandfather, was a native of Qi County of Taiyuan C&I^PA). This account corresponds fairly well with one of Wen's notes to the fifth rhyme in "The Hundred Rhyme Poem": My forefathers were dukes and ministers of our state dynasty, and after having helped effect the Heavenly Mandate in Jinyang, they were enfeoffed in the commanderies of Bing and Fen (&ft*&fflH3&ffl, W r t f e f t , Jinyang was where the first emperor of Tang, L i Yuan (^#!fl, 566-625, r. 618-625), rose up in arms against the Sui, and in the Tang dynasty, it was the locale of the administration of Taiyuan Commandery (AiiCj£f). It was the Wen clan's native place, where Wen Tingyun's forefathers had rendered their meritorious services to the founding emperors and had been enfeoffed. Descendants of the Wen clan had lived there for generations, until some branches, such as Wen's grandfather or father, emigrated elsewhere. Qi County, an ancient place name not used in Tang times, must be the Qingyuan County ( t f fMI l ) that Wen mentions in his "Epistle Presented to the Vice Minister Jiang" (_b^#§P#), which tells how he decided to leave his reclusion and go to the capital in pursuit of an official career: "Thereupon I left the 'Qingyuan' in the southern country, and had a commoner's audience in the eastern plain" W^L^-^^MWi).2 2 ^]&£, Alludes to "The Fourth Month" of Maoshi, 13: 462, "Surging forward are the Jiang and the Han Rivers / Main-threads of the southern country" ( t §^£L | | | , ^|1S;£$5). For the translation, see Waley, no. 140. It designates the region to the south of the Yangtze River in subsequent literary writings. The eastern plain, refers to the place where a recluse lives. MM, "A commoner's visit," here is used of Wen's own audience with some politically powerful men. 29 "Qingyuan" ("pure source"), in addition to being an elegant reference to his reclusion, was the name used in the Tang dynasty for the county under Taiyuan Commandery where the eminent families of Wen's forefathers lived.3 It indicates a second homeland established, after Wen's direct progenitors emigrated to the South, which we shall examine next. Since the aristocratic clans still had considerable influence at this time, a Tang literatus would not take the locale of his immediate family as his native place, unless the family had lived there since the time of his preeminent ancestors; instead, he would identify his origins with the place where the family's famous forefathers lived, however distant the forefathers might be. Song dynasty historiographers, when dealing with Tang biographies, followed the same habit. In Wen Tingyun's case, therefore, they took the ancient name of Qingyuan county, Qi, as Wen's native place, and we ought to take Taiyuan and Qingyuan County as nothing more than the place of Wen's clan origin (^M)- Indeed, an eminent clan with the surname Wen had lived in Qi County of Taiyuan since the Western Han dynasty, when Wen He (MM, fl. 170, BC) settled there.4 In the intervening millennium, members of the Wen clan had moved to many other places, though the main branches might have remained around Taiyuan.3 During the Tang dynasty the Wens continued to spread all over China. From Wen's extant works we can infer that Wen regarded himself as a native of the southern Yangtze delta (ZLM), i. e., the regions of Wu (^) or Yue (j$§), because Wen's father or grand-father had moved there after the An-Shi Rebellion (755-762). To determine more exactly Wen's "native place," we shall have to cite more of his works. 3 See L i Jifu: Yuanhe Junxianzhi 8-9; or XTS, "The Geographical Records", 39:1003. 4 See Shiji, "Annals of the Merited Officials and Marquis of Emperor Gaozu", 18: 937. 5 Wen Xian (tfigg, d. 308), offspring of Wen X u date unknown), the Han dynasty Director against the Qiang Tribe (^t^&tfiM), was a native of Qi County of Taiyuan. See JS, 44: 1266-68. Here we see the Wen clan had remained influential for centuries. 30 Native Places In his 'Tu%-Rhyme Poem" that was presented to L i Shen ( ^ # ) 6 in the spring of the second year of Huichang (842), Wen writes: L in silk and brocade, prostrated myself in front of your couch. . L i Shen was a Presented Scholar (iHi;) of the first year of Yuanhe (806) and began his official career as a secretary for L i Qi (^ $f ),8 the Surveillance Commissioner of Zhexi Circuit (^ rMjlt) at the time. The locale of administration of the Zhexi Circuit was Runzhou (M H^, present-day Zhenjiang) and Wen may have lived somewhere nearby in his childhood, where he would have had' easy access to L i Shen. Another of Wen's poems, "Sent to Scholar Lu" ( ^ ^ ^ , j . 9, WFQ ), supports this inference, because it mentions an estate that Wen had inherited in that locale: 6 The poem, with the full title of "Fifty Rhymes Inspired by the Begone and Pouring My Heart, Devoted to Chancellor L i of Huainan" (Mrt l f £ + I M ? t i W « f , j . 6, WFQ), was written in 842 and presented to L i Shen. See chapter two. L i (773-846) is a famous late Tang poet and statesman of the L i Faction, see JTS, 137: 4497 and XTS, 181: 7 Ji Shao (253-304, see JS, 2298-301) is the son of Ji Kang (223-262, JS, 49: 1369-74, and SGZ, 21: 605-7), who wrote a letter to Shan Tao (205-283, JS, 43: 1223-28) "to entrust his children to Shan," some time before Shan was executed. 8 L i Qi (7-807) held the position of the Surveillance Commissioner of Zhexi Circuit during the years 800-7, but later he was executed for treason, see TFZNB, 750-51, as well as JTS, 112: 3341 and XTS, 224a: 6381. When Ji Shao was a lad with tufts hanging down his forehead, It was the year Shan Tao began his official service. L b ^ M i t ^ . 7 Your lute and wine-pot were placed between the seats. 5347. 31 Close to the ancient capital, my inherited estate laid waste, M^lfcW^illffiM, In front of the gate, the dyke road stretched across the lake. HmifkS&WC^ffl • The so-called ancient capital described here can only be Jinling, where Wen's late father had once lived and where Wen was born, but it is not the place to which Wen frequently refers with an emotion of nostalgia. When narrating his early experiences in his "Epistle Presented to Prime Minister Pei" (±H*@2r^),9 Wen says: Since the days when my ancestors were bestowed with the imperial favor and conferred fiefs, our family reputation spread by being inscribed on the imperial tripod. Then I took my registered residence in Liaoxi, before I studied the classics in Jixia (|j M ^ r B ^ f l , Here, in giving a brief account of his family, Wen mentions Wen clan's ancestral glory which had lasted for generations, the emigration of the clan branch to which he belonged, and his experience of being a student at the National University of Luoyang. Since the last two sentences here give information about his native place and early career by recourse to elegant historical allusions, we cannot take seriously that he really lived in Liaoxi, the modern region covering a part of Hebei and Liaoning provinces in the north; nor can we believe that he studied in Jixia, a state school set up in Linzi, the capital of the Qi King-dom of the Warring States. "Jixia" refers to the National University of Luoyang, where Wen once had the honor of being a student, while "taking up registered residence in Liaoxi" alludes verbatim to the 9 An annotated translation of this epistle is in chapter two. 1 0 King Xuan of Qi was fond of scholars of literature and of eloquence; he made 76 men of letters Senior Masters, all of whom had no governmental post, but commented on and discussed the affairs of the country. They were called Jixia Academicians (|§"F<Pi). See Shiii. "Hereditary Eminent Clan of Tian Jingzhong" ( f f l ^ t l f t ^ ) , 70: 2300. 32 "Biography of Zhao Zhi" (MM, fl. 310, JS, 92: 2377-80): [Zhao] went to Luoyang at the age of fourteen,...and traveled to Ye city at sixteen... He then went to Weixing to call on Zhang Sizong, and was favorably accepted. After the death of Zhang, he went to Liaoxi to take registered residence there. Evidently Wen uses the allusion to Zhao Zhi to speak of his own residence, because there were similarities between Zhao's life and his own. As far as can be determined from Wen's works, the so-called "Liaoxi" should be somewhere close to Yuezhou (@^ H) where Wen lived for most of his early years. We can cite the following evidence: (1) Throughout Wen's literary works we have some 20 poems and essays showing that Wen cherished a special feeling toward the Yuezhou district.11 For example, in "Presented to the Yue Monk Yue Yun" (J^jfefe'fttSlI, j . 7, WFQ), we have lines such as: "Filling your room is the moonlight of my home mountain" (—*J|[[!&LL!,r3) and " A former lecturer in Lanting \ Now what do you feel today" ( f f ^ U f f l ^ , 4* 0 5t^fRT)--The place "Lanting" 1 1 Wen's poems indicating his nostalgia or special link with the Yue district include at least the following, all in WFQ, "Ode of the Southern Yangtze" ( J I M , j . 2), "Ode of Su Xiaoxiao" (jGNvh®;, j . 2), "Ode of Burning the Wild Grass" ('^€fc, j . 2), "Ode of Qian-tang" fjMffi, j . 2), "Written in the Villa of Senior L i " ( ^ k £ 3 ' J i ! , j . 7), "Inscribed in the Temple of Mount Xiao" ( M H l l l 0 , j . 7), "The Seclusion of Recluse Chen*" (g fag± j . 7), "Seeing Off Secretary Guo of Bingzhou*" (it^Hlf^BB, j . 7), "Inspired by Some Happenings before the Cold Food Festival*" (Mlttftm^W., j . 8), "Inscribed in He Zhizhang's Residence" (MMft\M$Lf?i, j . 8), "Responding with Respect to Senior L i * " j . 9), "Mailing to Senior Cui" (3FH5fc£, j . 9), "Bidding Farewell to a Friend on the River*" ( t LJ l ^ ' J ^ A , j . 9), and "Lodging in a Monastery of Fengqu" (}f Slrft'ff j . 9) etc. In the above-cited poems, ones marked with "*" are specially related to Tonglu County in Muzhou (iSjJ'H), a prefecture adjacent to Yuezhou. 33 which Wen considered as his "home mountain" (an elegant reference to a recluse's homeland) was in Yuezhou, the present Shaoxing of Zhejiang province. (2) In Wen's "Epistle Presented to Master Cui" ( ± - ^ A ^ ^ ) 1 2 we read: I, your humble servant, feel like I am seeing the spirited and charming Mount Ji, and the lucid and bright Lake Mirror, when looking upward to your august loftiness, which stands firm and unique (ttmtislUSM, % f&BM-Secluded in my poor abode, I sit and listen to stringed and wind instruments played; you, the transferred immortal, upon leaving, have banners and flags flying Both Mount Ji and Lake Mirror are in Shaoxing; therefore, even without a further investigation of the epistle, we can say with certainty that Wen Tingyun's place of reclusion was not far from Yuezhou. (3) In his poem "Li Yu the Recluse Sends Me His Newly Brewed Wine, I Playfully Thank Him With An Impromptu Verse" (&M&±^%\W&P8M, j . 4, WFQ), Wen likened himself to "Xie the Guest"~an appellation for Xie Lingyun, who, an orphan since infancy, had been entrusted to a relative in the Yue region. This is further evidence suggesting that Wen might have taken his registered residence in Yue by relying on a certain relative there, as had Xie Lingyun.1 3 (4 ) In Yanlingji (jHl^^l)14 by the Southern Song Dynasty writer Dong Fen (H ), we 1 2 We identify this Grand Master Cui as Cui Xian ( ^ J & ?-834), see JTS, 190: 5059; XTS, 177: 5273. Also see Gu Xuejie: 218. 1 3 For the allusion to Xie Lingyun as Xie the Guest, see Shipin ( f^nn), "Xie Lingyun, the Magistrate of Linchuan of Song," in Ding Fubao: Lidai Shihua. 9. 1 4 See "The Category of Literature" of Congshu Jicheng Chubian (W&M&$]£iX& Dong Fen, date unknown; see Wang Chongmin, 502. 34 find one lost poem written by Wen Tingyun: Yearning for My Old Abode in Tonglu, I See Off the Noble Monk Jian Don't you say the southeast is not far away, A mere step is a great distance in my nostalgia. The forest of night,, the two terraces, in the moonlight, Spring in its prime, the blossoms on the Nine L i Isle. Containing a fine drizzle, round the village: the green trees, Rolling the level sand, against the city wall: a cold tide. Knowing that you, my master, are going into the hills, Apologize earnestly for me, to the tavern owner there. This poem, one of Wen's representative works, presents the transparent side of his poetic personae. The information implied in it is very easy to catch. The third couplet was also taken as one of Wen's most outstanding poetic lines for its "picturesqueness" (AH). 1 7 In fact, Yanlingji contains only the compositions of poets from the vicinity of Mount Yanling (licit i l l) and Torrent Yanling (fl^WM), both named in memory of the famous recluse of the Eastern Han, Yan Guang (jgbt, 37 BC-AD 43, HHS: 83: 2763-4). These facts add to the authentication that this poem was written by Wen. 1 8 Since Wen had an old residence in 1 5 The poet's note: "In the Fishing Isle of Yan Guang, there is an eastern terrace and a western terrace" (jgftM^ffi^nMMM). 1 6 The poet's note: "In Tonglu there is Nine L i Isle".(jH£E: ^JM^M^I). 1 7 See Wei Qingzhi, 3: 61. 1 8 The poem is also collected in L i Fang: Wenyuan Yirighua (223: 1116) and designated as one composed by Fang Gan (Jj^f, date unknown), Wen's contemporary. Since two 35 Tonglu to which he was eager to return, he must have lived there long enough to call the place his homeland. Hence, "Liaoxi" in his allusion probably means Tonglu County of Mu Zhou (8H;rH), which was adjacent to Yuezhou. Remaining Prestige of an Aristocratic Family Genealogical Status Wen was descended from Wen Yanbo, Prime Minister of Emperor Taizong (r. 627-649). During the next 200 years, the Wen clan had tried to maintain its social position, though it dropped constantly. This was so because the clan, though prolific, shared in the general disintegration of all aristocratic clans. The following statement in "the Biography of Wen Yanbo", however, gives a clear idea of the role the Wen clan played in its heyday: Originally the Yans and the Wens were the most powerful surnames during the Sui dynasty. Now Yan Silu and Wen Daya both served in the Eastern Palace, while Yan Minchu and Wen Yanbo both served in the Secretariat, and Wen Dayou served in the Palace Library as proofreader. In the Tang dynasty the Yan clan distinguished itself by its academic achievements, and the Wen clan by its official rank (XTS, 91: 3783). Such was the importance and distinction that the Wen clan had enjoyed. Apart from the fact that the three brothers, Wen Daya, Wen Yanbo and Wen Dayou, all held official posts as high as Prime Minister (with title of duke) at the beginning of the seventh century, the clan had produced other famous figures. According to Yuanhe Xingcuan by the Tang genealogist Lin Bao (fl. 812-840 ), from the time of Wen Yanbo's father, Wen Junyou of the Sui dynasty, through Wen Yanbo and Wen Daya, and on down to the seventh year of Yuanhe (812), the Wen clan had gone through seven generations, from which we get the following table:19 other sources cite this poem as written by Wen, and the information in it fits quite well with the internal evidence we find in Wen's entire works, we do not follow the attribution. 1 9 For the sources, see Cen Zhongmian: "Yuanhe Xingcuan Sijiaoji", 351-352. 36 Wen. Funyou's (WiMify) Seven-generation Descendants 1 Wen Daya (Vkkffi) Wen Yanbo (f&MW) 2 Wen Wuyin (ffiilBS) *Wen Ting (WM) 3 WenKerang(2&j£il) WenWeng 'gu i ( ^ I t ) 4 WenJ ingq ian ( ^ f f ) Wen Mian (fflffi) 5 Wen Jie (VM£) *Wen X i (WM) 6 WenZao(Sfi&) *Wen Xi'hua 7 Wen Zhang (tW) Wen Yang (ft& In this table, we give the name of only one clansman for each generation, who in most cases was the representative of the Wen clan in the corresponding time, indicated by Lin Bao as one of the main branches of the genealogical tree,20 of which Wen Tingyun claimed to be an issue. In Yuanhe Xingcuan and "the Genealogical List of the Prime Ministers" (XTS, 72: 2661-65), many of these names have official titles of considerable distinction, though none of the titles ranks as high as those of Wen Yanbo (Prime Minister). By Wen Tingyun's time, it seems that the Wens produced no clansman of great distinction, especially in Wen Yanbo's line. No wonder that when Wen spoke of his ancestral glory in "the Hundred-Rhyme Poem," his remarks betray his dismay: 5 The [ancestral] enfeoffment in the forlorn wild is left waste, ^MJnMM, And our fief by the old capital has long been disclaimed. J l rB^ r& f f t . From Wen's note to this couplet, quoted at the beginning of this chapter, it is easy to see that after the enfeoffment in the first generation, the later Wens failed to equal the achievements of their forefathers. We know very little about the clan branch of Wen Tingyun himself, 2 0 The Yuanhe Xingcuan does not provide a complete family tree of the Wens, only a list of the most famous Wen clansmen. Most of those who might have to do with Tingyun are included in our brief list, though their dates can only be roughly estimated. 37 except that by the time of his birth, it had long emigrated elsewhere. Fortunately, we have in our possession some important information that helps to identify Wen's genealogical status. "Commanders of the Reserved Horses" (HJHIrPW) 2 1 From the extant sources we find that the Wen clan had for generations made marriages with the imperial family. First, we find there are three Wen clansmen who married imperial princesses and became imperial sons-in-law, with the official title of Commander of the Reserved Horses. Al l three were the offspring of Wen Yanbo, as was Wen Tingyun: Wen Ting (Wen Yanbo's son) married Princess Anding ( z ^ ^ ^ E E . ) , the daughter of Emperor Gaozu (r. 618-626); Wen X i (a fourth-generation offspring of Wen Yanbo) married Princess Liang'guo (Jf=19'£i), the daughter of Emperor Ruizong (r. 711-712), and Wen Xihua (Wen Xi's son) married Princess Song'guo (5^|l|£"-t£),22 the daughter of Emperor Xuan-zong (r. 712-756). These marriages indicate that Wen Yanbo's descendants had kept the imperial favor to a remarkable degree. Second, some internal evidence, in the form of allusions, can be found in Wen's poems proving that Wen was an imperial relative. In "The Western Pool of the Heir Apparent" (A"?®?tfc—H, j . 3, WFQ), we find the following allusion that refers to Wen himself: Do not believe that Prince Zhang, WL^^, Will cancel his secret rendez-vous before the window. WP^^fBB^-And in "Ode to a Night Feast" ( ^ J ^ I S , j . 1, WFQ), we find the same allusion: The Prince of Zhang family at night heard the rain fall, ^ i t ^ - ^ - ^ F ^ H M , 2 1 Al l are marked with '*" in the table. See XTS, "The Biographies of the Princesses", 83: 3644-59, and Tanghuiyao. "The Princesses", 6: 63-4. 2 2 See XTS, 83: 3659. Princess Song'guo did not die until well into the Yuanhe era. She seems to be Wen Tingyun's aunt, if not mother. 38 And at night, thought of the Chu dance in the Orchid Hall. faftM'^.&MM-23 In the above two examples "Prince Zhang" alludes to the Fuping Marquis, Zhang Fang CM^^^k),24 a well-known imperial relative of Emperor Yuan of Han (W&iW, r. 48-33 BC). Moreover, we have another example from "Sent to Chuwang On the Cold Food Festival" (M^kW^WMr.f, j . 9, WFQ). Only the Marquis of Royal Blessing, M^&W^, Returns to watch the Chu dance. I|3fS^H££f. Wen calls himself "the Marquis of Royal Blessing," which, according to "Annals of the Imperial Relatives, Marquis of Royal Blessing" (ft$M$M%&M, HS, 18: 677-720), was an appellation used exclusively for imperial relatives. Considering the fact that Wen Ting, and especially Wen X i and Wen Xihua had been imperial sons-in-law, Wen's self-glorification was not groundless. If he was not a near kinsman of Wen X i or Wen Xihua, how could he call himself an imperial relative? Though little is known about Wen's father, we can try to find out Wen's genealogical status by tracing his relations with Wen Zao (Wat 766-835, JTS, 165: 4314 and XTS, 91: 23 The Chu dance, alludes to a remark of Liu Bang (256-195 BC), Emperor Gaozu of the Han, who said to his Consort Qi (S&M)--"Please perform a Chu dance for me, and I will sing a Chu song in turn"~when both knew that it was impossible to substitute the Prince of Zhao, Ruyi (born of Qi) for the Heir Apparent (born of Empress Lv i , 8 fa). See Shiji. "The Biography of Marquis Liu" (Wfe&Mg), 55: 2047. By alluding to "the Chu dance", Wen hints at the tragedy of Virtuous Consort Wang and his son, that will be discussed in chapters five and six. 2 4 For Zhang Fang's biographical information, seeHS, 1395, 2654-57, 3721-33 and 3999; an imperial relative, Zhang often accompanied Emperor Yuan both when going out incognito and sleeping. 39 3784.), Tingyun's clan uncle, and foster father. Wen's "Epistle Presented to the Prime Minister of the Honor Seat" ( J l t f J^ffi-2^),2 5 as we shall prove, was addressed to Wen Zao. Since Wen Zao once told Emperor Dezong "Your subject's fifth generation ancestor is Wen Daya" (XTS, 91: 3783), we can say with certainty that Wen Tingyun, as Wen Zao's nephew, was the sixth generation offspring of Wen Daya's brother, Wen Yanbo. Thus Wen Tingyun was most probably a nephew of Wen Xihua, if not his son, and there is no doubt that he was the grandson of Wen X i . In our later discussions, we will find more evidence supporting this conclusion. Fami ly Tradi t ion The Wens played an important part in helping the first two Tang emperors, Gaozu L i Yuan (r. 618-26) and Taizong L i Shimin (r. 626-649), found and consolidate the Tang dynasty's state power, by rendering both civil and military service to the royal family. As can be seen from "The Biography of Wen Daya," the three Wen brothers all reached very high official rank, in one case the position of Prime Minister, and were enfeoffed as dukes. Wen Yanbo on his death was even honored with burial in the imperial tomb, Zhaoling (pp ^ffalt). In acknowledgment of the meritorious service of the Wen clan, Emperor Gaozu once said to Wen Daya: "It was by the support of all your clan that I could rise up in arms in Jinyang against the Sui" fjc^f^l, J S W ^ f W , XTS, 58: 3781). This is no overstatement. It was because of this kind of flesh and blood connection that Wen Tingyun took the prosperity and decline of the Tang empire as his own affair and made every endeavor to bring about a restoration of the dynasty's past grandeur. Besides the meritorious service recorded in the biographies, we can see from "The Records of Literary Works" (j. 58) of The New Tang History, that both Wen Daya and Wen Yanbo were well-known writers as well as important ministers. Works of Wen Daya recorded in "The Records" are: Jinshang Wangyeji (A Record of the Present Emperor's 2 5 For an annotated translation and analysis of this epistle, see chapter 2. 40 Imperial Enterprise, 1467), Datang Chuangye Qijuzhu (The Imperial Diary of Ihe Great Tang in Its Founding. JZj^M&Mt& 1471)26 and Da Chengxiang Tang-wang Guanshuji fThe Subordinate Officials of the Grand Prime Minister, The Prince of Tang, A^ /^t-EWJSfE 1477). Works of Wen Yanbo are Guiin Zhaoji Sanshijuan (Anthology of Imperial Edicts of Al l Times, Thirty Juan, l ^ ^ ^ f & i S H + ^ l , 1473). Wen Tingyun often refers to his family with a feeling of mingled pride and anxiety: what he is proud of is his ancestors' past glory, and what he is anxious about is the opportunity to distinguish himself so as to restore the family's position. In "The Hundred-Rhyme Poem", there are such lines as 7 For generations the Wens partook of the Zhou emoluments, l ^ t f t J M ^ ' ^ As family tradition, we used to emulate the Lu Confucians. 2pL^^#'(flf . 2 7 8 The family feats and merits are shown in remaining swords and shoes, ^hM^MM, With inscriptions and admonitions borne on plates and basins. $IW$£MJ&.-28 The lines show Wen's pride in his family: the Wens served the country for generations by adhering to the Confucian principles and by rendering remarkable services to the empire. Tingyun himself, however, was born too late, for the family past of which he often boasted obliged him to restore its glory, by reanimating the Confucian tradition. In olher words, he 26 Among the extant "Imperial Diary", this is the earliest. See j . 42, Wanwei Shantung version Shuofu (^^\h^f^M, all later references of it will be briefed as Shuofu). 27 Zhou (J§]) is used to replace Tang (0 ) . To imitate the Lu Confucians, is a declaration of being the adherent of the sage. 2** MM, Sword and Shoes, is the highest imperial honor given to an official, to attend the court wearing a special sword and a special pair of courtly boots. 1§3£, Refers to "The Writings in the Plate and Basin" (M3nM), legendarily attributed to Kongjia ( ? L ¥ ) , the Yellow Emperor's historiographer, with what the emperor should do on the vessels he used daily. See HS, Ying Shao's exegesis to "The Biography of Tian Fen", 52: 2378. 41 wanted to devote himself to the restoration of the country and to reglorify his family at the same time, as his family was somehow in a state of political disgrace. In his "Epistle Presented to the Prime Minister Pei", Wen tells us: "I was thinking of sewing up the broken drapery of the Confucian House, and restoring the magnificence and grandeur of the Constant Norm" ( S M f t P ^ ^ l t , 2 9 # tt&ZfoZll). What happened to Wen's fore-fathers that made them lose their hereditary honors and titles? From "The Hundred- Rhyme Poem", we have only the following hint: 6 Having lost the sheep, I still toss the dice, " t ¥ - W l W - M , Letting go the horse, I weary of shouting for stakes. tyL^rlsUf JH . 3 0 2 9 In ancient China, before starting an academic lecture, one was to pull down the drape-ry in the room (T'rlO, hence the term came to mean to study Confucian doctrines; by analogy, to "sew up the broken drapery" means to restore the declining Confucianism. 3 0 Having the sheep lost, alludes to Zhuangzi. "Webbed Toes": "Zang and Gu feed the sheep together, but they both lose their sheep....It turned out that Zang had brought a book to study, Gu had been idling away the time tossing dice." See Legge, Texts of Taoism, 273 and Watson, Chuang Tzu, 202-3. The line also refers to an axiom in Liu Xiang: Zhanguoce, "It is not too late to hail the hound when the hare started, nor to repair the pen when the sheep has bolted." See Crump: Chan-Kuo Ts'e. 264. $$fj§, should be $Cl§; the error is caused by the similarity of the Chinese characters $C and Cf. Shangshu (11: 184): "[The King] hushed all the movements of war and proceeded to cultivate the arts of peace. He sent back his horses to the south of Mount Hua, and let loose the oxen in the open country of the Peach Woods" ( J M U B ^ H X J M § : f ^ L L | £ . B § , $St*ET$tfk2M. See Waltham, Shu Ching 121). Wffgi, Refers to the game called Shupu ( Iff), which was played by tossing five black-white dice on a chessboard; and if after a toss the dice were all black, which was called Lu (jjg), the player would get the highest prize; the players usually shouted (Of) when they made a Lu. See JS, 85: 2205-11. For 42 The implication of the first line is that even though Wen's ancestors had lost their official positions ( " t ^ ) for some reason (W-M), Wen refused to mend his ways and still adhered to the family tradition; the second line expresses his tendency, at the time he wrote the poetry, to give up his efforts in his political life ({%^fM). Now we must ask: what is the family tradition to which Wen always adhered, even after repeated rebuffs? After a thorough reading of Wen's works, we conclude that it must be the straight way (JLHD, i. e., straightforwardness, a dauntless spirit daring to speak against any social injustice, as Confucian doctrine advocates. It was because of this moral principle that Wen's forefathers had lost their official positions, and it was with this principle that Wen confronted his troubled life filled with turns and setbacks. Another example that under-scores this point is found in Wen's "Epistle Presented to the Bureau Director Han of the Ministry of Personnel" ( ± ^ # 1 ( 5 ^ ) : My wisdom is different from comprehensive mastery, my ability lacks a proficiency in any particular line. Fortunately I took over the august instruction [of the Sage], so as not to lose the pure fragrance [of my ancestors] (&W$L&M, JrM±nf. ^#2s i f f l , %M The term "comprehensive mastery" ( ^ 3 1 ) originates from Ji Kang's "Letter for Breaking Relations with Shan Juyuan",32 in which Ji said: "Your Excellency is a talent of examples that use the game as a metaphor for political speculation, see NS, 36: 932. "Yang Xuanbao played chess with Emperor Wen of Song (r. 424-53) and won the prize, the position of magistrate of Xuancheng." 3 1 "August instruction" means "the teaching of the sage." "Pure fragrance" alludes to Lu Ji's (I^Bfc, 261-303) "Rhapsody on Literatur Wenxuan. 17: 239-44): "Sing the loftiness of the hereditary moral, and praise the pure fragrance of our ancestors." 3 2 See Wenxuaa 43: 600-03. And for the biographical materials about Ji Kang, quoted later, see JS, 49: 1369-74. 43 comprehensive mastery, hence in most cases you say *yes' and seldom show discontent" ( y ^ T ^ i E , £nJW]{P&)- "August instruction" and "pure fragrance" both refer to the loffy and praiseworthy morals of Wen's ancestors. Since the Bureau Director Han was one of Wen's father's friends Wen compared to Shan Tao, Wen's father probably was not a man of "comprehensive mastery", but he must, instead, have been a man of strict principles and strong eccentricity, like Ji Kang. Wen is here saying that it was from his late father that he inherited a character that made him a worthy scion of the Wens, as he wanted to keep the family tradition and retain its reputation. Just as he says in "The Hundred-Rhyme Poem": 77 Among my compeers I was honored as a good friend, ^ f H # £ Of my pedigree, I have carried on an honest fame. ^MM&Wt-Judging from the extant writings of Wen' contemporaries such as Li Shangyin, Zhang Hu (Mffi, 805-860?), Ji Tangfu 0£jj&t, A- 860), Duan Chengshi 805-863) and Pei Tingyu @jz$£$$, A- 820-60),33 all famous poets of the late Tang times, the self-evaluation in this couplet is no exaggeration. A Metaphorical Mention of Wen's Father Wen's allusions to Ji Kang merit particular study. Few historical records can be found of the rise and fall of the Wen clan, even in Wen's works. But the way Wen mentions his father is suggestive enough for us to infer what kind of person he was, or at least how he died. There is nothing about Wen's father in all Tang and Song dynasty sources. Wen himself seldom mentioned him explicitly, but when he did refer to him implicitly in his writings, he alluded to Wang Zun (Ji^, fl. 20, BC), Lu Ji 3 3 Li Sliangyin's "Thinking of Zaimeng Feiqing" (M^EMMWi, Yuxisheng Shiii Jian-zhu, 2: 524); Ji Tangfu's "Sending Wen Feiqing to Be the Defender of Fangcheng" (MM * ! I J W J £ 2 f $ , QTS, 542: 6257), Zhang Hu's poem of the same topic (QTS, 511: 5837), Duan Chengshi's "The Sixth Letter to Wen Feiqing" ( H f f l J U J f i P ^ , QTW, 787: 10391) and Pei's Dong'guan Zouji (5: 17), all praise Wen's personality. 44 (rUtUt, 187-219) and Xie Lingyun ( a M i E , 385-433), all of whom were, perhaps by unhappy accident, orphans in their childhood,34 as was Wen himself, "a distant scion and orphan of Wen Yanbo" (#MW5H)35 Most noteworthy is that he repeatedly alludes to the trio of Ji Kang-Shan Tao-Ji Shao (ffiMlU^tuftB), such that by likening himself to Ji Shao, who sought help from Shan Tao, he metaphorically likens his late father to Ji Kang. Ji Kang entrusted his son Ji Shao to Shan Tao before he was executed by the Jin dynasty ruler. Wen's repeated use of the allusion no doubt tells us something about his father and should not be allowed to slip by carelessly: When Ji Shao was a lad with tufts hanging down his forehead, ^ j j l S l i f i 0 , It was the year Shan Tao began his official service. l l l S I M t t ^ . The above lines suggest that when Wen was a mere child like Ji Shao, his late father's friend Chancellor L i of Huainan had just begun his official service, like Shan Tao. In addition to this, we have the following examples that refer to different aspects of the same allusion, all likening his late father to Ji Kang. We will examine each of them to illustrate how Wen uses the allusion. (1) "Epistle Presented to the Prime Minister Linghu" (±4WE&$F): "The boy of the Ji clan, eight years of age, is under the protection of an old friend" (ISRfJJUJ^AjIt ^ ^f&A). Ji Kang in his "Letter for Breaking off Relations with Shan Juyuan" said: "My daughter is thirteen and my son is eight years of age." He was as good as entrusting his 3 4 For Wang Zun, Lu Ji, and Xie Lingyun's being orphaned in their childhood, see respectively "The Biography of Wang Zun" in HS, 3226-38, "The Biography of Lu Ji" in SGZ, 1328-29, and "The Biography of Xie Lingyun" in SS, 1743-88. 3 5 That Wen was Yanbo's "distant scion and orphan" (W5&) was originally correctly recorded. The term was, however, "corrected" to "distant scion" (WiiO, D Y some proof-readers of the book, to conform to Wen's Biography in XTS, which is, unfortunately, unreliable. See Ji Yougong's Tangshi Jishi, 53: 822. 45 orphans to Shan Tao. Here "the boy of the Ji clan, eight years of age" must refer to Wen, and the "old friend," to an old friend of his late father, who played the role of Shan Tao. (2) "The Fifty-Rhyme Poem": Whom shall I, a helpless man, seek asylum from? ^&MW$& Without a mediator, I inwardly have pity on myself. MMM Falling and rising is the melody of the Palace Leisure, ^^Ir^ftfcrffi, 3 6 Drifting and wandering is the ship of Filialty and Honesty. WS&^MMi-37 In the first couplet Wen is unburdening himself of his grievances to Chancellor L i (see p. 30, note 6), saying that in his frustration, what he needs most is the recommendation of a powerful mediator; but the fact is that, to his dismay, almost nobody could help him. But to what does the second couplet refer? It must have something to do with Wen's personal situation. If in the fourth line Wen expresses a disappointment that, unlike Zhang Ping, he has as yet met nobody who could set store by his talent, then the third line is a poetic description of the cause that had led to all his misfortunes. With this in mind, the implication of the third 3 6 According to JS, 49: 1369, "The Biography of Ji Kang", Ji, the Grand Master of Palace Leisure (411 fit A A), was taught the exquisite tune Guanglingsan (JM&tWL, the Guangling Lute Tune) by a superman (iffA--sic.). In the end, right before he was to be executed, Ji asked for a zither on which to play Guanglingsan for the last time; then, he heaved a sigh and said: "Guanglingsan from now on is extinct." 3 7 This line alludes to the story of Zhang Ping (5^M, fl. 370), who began his official career by passing through the Civil Service Recruitment of The Filial and Incorrupt (^ JS0> a r , d whose talent was not appreciated until Liu Shan (HfJ1 ,^ fl. 360-80) discovered him on his ship. See JS, 75: 1992; also see NATW, 119. 46 line nearly comes to light. The "melody of the Palace Leisure" is "falling and rising,"3 8 but allusively it refers to something almost extinct—a particular principle that scarcely anybody of the day still adhered to. Set against the background of the late Tang political environments and Wen's family, "the melody of the Palace Leisure" of Ji Kang's famous anecdote is used as a metaphor for "the straight way" Wen's father had adhered to. "The straight way" of Wen's time was the political courage to stand up against the eunuchs, heedless of personal safety. The "falling (and rising)" of "the melody" is thus a reflection of the historical reality, in the face of which people could at most sporadically raise their voice against the eunuchs. We can further infer that, after Wen's father's death as a result of his straightforward criticism of the eunuchs, political protest was rendered almost inaudible except in a few instances, such as the Sweet Dew Incident of 835 (which, however, met with complete failure). (3) "Epistle Presented to the Prime Minister" (±^ffl%f): "The former dependent of Shanyang will not be heartbroken alone" (LLlr^Hrtt, ^lHf§'L>). As "The Biography of Xiang Xiu" JS, 49: 1374-75) relates, Ji Kang for a time irrigated a vegetable garden with L i i An (S:£c) in Shanyang. After Ji was executed, Xiang Xiu once passed by Ji's old residence and heard Ji's neighbor playing the flute, thereupon he wrote his "Rhapsody on Yearning for Old Days" (SH®, Wenxuan. 16: 229). "The dependent of Shanyang" refers to Wen himself, and here again Wen likens his late father to Ji Kang, without mentioning him directly. (4) "Epistle Presented to the Bureau Director Han of the Ministry of the Personnel": "Then a wretched orphan will find something with which to shelter himself, by always relying on the friendship of Shan Tao." This line shows clearly that Wen assumed the role of Ji Shao, hoping Han would be like Shan Tao and help him. The allusion once more caps his late 3 8 (falling and rising) in this context is a case of pianyi fuci (i^^MM)', that is, despite the parallel juxtaposition of the paired words, stress is put on one of the pair, while the other has only a structural function. 47 father in the role of Ji Kang. In all the above cases, Wen's implication is the same: Wen's father was a man like Ji Kang. We know that Ji Kang was executed by the Sima clansmen when they usurped the power of the Wei state, because of his reluctance to cooperate with them. According to "The Biography of Shan Tao" in the Jinshu. prior to his execution Ji Kang said to Ji Shao, his son: "So long as Juyuan [Shan Tao] survives, you are not an orphan." Thus Ji Kang entrusted his orphans to Shan Tao; and it was in this sense Wen used the allusion. Normally one can derive no substantial information from one casual use of an allusion, but the frequency with which Wen used this allusion to the same person forces us to probe more deeply the factual basis for his repeated use of it. Even the fact that Ji Kang was the son-in-law of the Cao-Wei royal family suggests an analogy to Wen's case: that Wen's father or uncle might have been son-in-law of the Li-Tang royal family. The fact that Wen so frequently likens his late father to Ji Kang amounts to a confession that his late father was put to death for political reasons. Had the father not been similar to Ji Kang, how could Wen Tingyun have so insistently adhered to this peculiar way of mentioning him? This unusual choice of allusion must be highly suitable to Wen's personal life-experience. It is unlikely that he used the comparison repeatedly without careful consideration of its connotations. On the contrary, we can conclude that this was a deliberate choice intended to bring to light the very idea he wanted to express. Such is the premise for further research with the limited materials available. By analogy, Wen was virtually comparing the Sima usurpers at the end of the Wei dynasty to the eunuchs who had usurped almost all court power during his time. These, then, are the basic facts: Wen's father died from the persecution of the eunuchs because of his straight-forwardness; as to the exact way he died, though it seems to have been death by execution, it was, more probably, death by exile. That would explain why Wen never speaks of his father explicitly, and why in his childhood, after being orphaned, he still enjoyed some degree of inherited privilege. In our later discussions we will find more hints that corroborate this inference. 48 When did Wen's father die? From the many allusions Wen uses, we have come to the conclusion that he was orphaned during early childhood. Since "When Ji Shao (himself) was a lad with tufts hanging down his forehead / It was the year Shan Tao (Li Shen) began his official service" (in 806), we can calculate the approximate time of Wen's father's death as no later than 806, the first year of Yuanhe. History tells us that just prior to 806 was the year of the Yongzhen Reform (805). This was an effort on the part of the court officials, "the Southern Offices", to restore the empire's normal functioning by seizing back imperial prerogatives from the eunuchs, "the Northern Offices".39 That the organizers and the main participants of the Yongzhen Reform~"the two Wangs and the eight prefectural assistants" (—3EAl5]I§)--should be more positively evaluated than they were by the Song dynasty's prejudiced historio-graphers, is increasingly emphasized by modern scholars.40 What interests us here is Wen's connection with the Yongzhen Reform participants. Since his father died about the time of the persecution from the eunuchs, the father and thus the son must have had some relationship with the Yongzhen reformists, and based on the few traces that time has fortunately not yet effaced, we can come to such a conclusion. When the Yongzhen Reform took place, Wen was a mere child. That political event, however, had a far-reaching effect on his life, through the death of his father. We will have to reach some important conclusions by making maximum use of the limited sources available. Financial Status in Wen's Early Years Wen's early childhood was passed in a wealthy and influential family. His "Epistle Presented to the Prime Minister" compares his past luxurious life to his present poverty: [The mansion of] adorned pillars and towering lintels turned into a hut like a snailshell where only I dwell; the brocade jacket and silk trousers (fhat I wore) became a cattle's 3 9 See Denis Twitchett: The Cambridge History of China. 600-9. 4 0 See, Chen Jo-Shui: 33-66. 49 [grass] coat for me to rest upon (#tt##f, *ffrR#ti& E£f^#). While we cannot imagine precisely how rich his family used to be, we can, more readily, paint a picture of Wen's "poverty." In his "Epistle Presented to the Bureau Director Han of the Ministry of Personnel," he says of himself: "Like Ji Shao, I had an old mansion in Xingyang." In "Sent to Scholar Lu" ( ^ r j £ £ , j . 9, WFQ) he tells us: "My inherited estate is laid waste, close to the ancient capital." The title of another poem, "Sent to An Intimate Friend from my Villa of the Yu County Suburbs" (fP^#J|g^#f£rJ, j . 8, WFQ), tellingly offers information that Wen had some estates in Yu county (of the Metropolitan Prefecture). All the above references indicate that, as the scion of a declining aristocratic family that had estates in several places, Wen's poverty was not as great as his frequent complaints suggest. He still enjoyed considerable privilege left to him from his ancestors, despite his father's untimely death. An aristocratic family in decline could still afford him a comfortable life, a life that Wen called "poverty," because different from that of the rising powerful families of the time and degraded from the Wen clan's past heyday. To give an exact description of the financial status of Wen's early life in Wen's own terms, there is the following couplet from his "The Hundred-Rhyme Poem": 45 My loom shuttle is unlike that of the mulberry lady, J&rf^lSljV, And my grove and garden differ from the Wood Slaves. -$fc|I|#7fc#l. 4 1 41 For W$f, literally loom shuttle, its derivative meaning, unique or original way of writing, or more generally, of doing anything, is more frequent in use. And here it should be understood as "(my) way of Irving". The meaning of ^ ^ C , the mulberry lady, can be traced back from Wang Chong, Lunheng. 74. "Somebody says Heaven lets the five grains grow so as to feed the people, and produces silk and hemp so as to clothe them. This is as good as saying that Heaven serves the people as if it were the like of farmers and mulberry ladies" (»5*c£5m^A, ztt&mmA, it^MX^M^ktcZW^). 50 Wen need not work in the field like a mulberry lady to earn his daily bread, though he does not think he had as much inheritance as "the wooden slaves". The family's economic situation was neither so bad as to force him to engage in field labor nor so good as to separate him completely from husbandry. With such social status, it would not be difficult for Wen to make an ordinary well-to-do living. The problem was that Wen wanted to restore his family's glory by advancing himself as a successful court official, and he would not rest content with what his seniors had left him. With his family glory and literary talent, he was proud and confident of himself. But the character he inherited from his forebears involved him in no end of troubles. From Wen's poems and prose works, we can see that he still enjoyed relations with a wide circle of people of rank and fashion, including many high officials and noble lords, and even members of the imperial family. Unlike L i Shangyin, who had no more than two or three patrons at most, Wen was closely connected with many of the influential and powerful court officials of the time. Indeed, we find that it was through the remaining family influences that he was introduced into the circle of the elites societes. In his own terms in "Epistle Presented to the Prime Minister Linghu" {±.QWM/&i&), it is: I extensively sought help from my ancestors' favored subordinates, and have indeed undergone many ups and downs (^^HE^t^C, SUBJIfl Given such social relations, as well as his own reputation, he made every effort to open the way for a successful official career when the situation was favorable to him, and sought Literally wood slaves, i.e., orange tree, alludes to Sheng Hongzhi's {$k$LZ, of the Jin dynasty, date unknown) Jingzhouji (^ JiMloB); the extant text of it can be found in Shuofu. j . 61: L i Heng had planted a thousand orange trees in Longyang Isle, and, on his deathbed, he bid his son saying: "On my isle there are a thousand Wood Slaves by which you can annually get a thousand bolts of silk." 51 protect ion and refuge when he was in adversity. Special Social Connections Relationship with Liu Yuxi (772-842) O f the dirges on L i u Yux i ' s death, only those o f B a i Juy i (772-846) and W e n T ingyun are extant. Wen ' s poems give a clear account o f the friendship between the two men. Two Elegies for the Late Minister Liu, Director of the Palace Library m^$\ft^rffl$mr.%" j . 3 W F Q ) L i k e Wang 's calligraphy, yours is as v i v id as l ive phoenixes, i^tS^M, A n d l ike X ie ' s poetry, yours is as charming as b looming lotuses. Hftf^H^.43 Befo re the cr imson curtain, you presided over academic lectures, ^PIE^^ 'n?, A n d l ike a huge bell sounding, y ou talked w i th eloquence. Ml^lil^iit44 B u t when in the whitewashed office appeared a f ly ing owl^ M^kf^ 4 2 That M in i s te r L i u D i rec to r o f the Palace L ib rary is L i u Y u x i is attested by C e n Zhongmian (Tangshi Yushen. 4: 251) and B i a n X i aoxuan ( L i u Y u x i Congkao. 295-6). 4 3 L i u Y u x i was a famous calligrapher, so W e n l ikened h im to W a n g X i z h i (1£M&L, 321 -379). See Zheng Qiao, Tongzh i . "Tang Dynasty Famous Cal l igraphers", 73: 751. Y a n Yanzh i (0MZ, 384-456) once asked B a o Zhao (fi&BS, 422-465) whose poetry was better, his o w n c r the poetry o f X i e L ingyun; B a o replied: "X ie ' s five syllabic poetry is l ike a lotus just b looming w i th a natural charm; yours, l ike a display o f brocade and embroidery, can as we l l greet the eyes wi th colors and patterns." See N S , 34: 877. 4 4 M a R o n g (J§j|!fe,79-166), a we l l - known scholar on Confuc ian classics, was said " to sit in a b ig hall and set up a cr imson gauze screen, in front o f wh i ch he was to teach his students, and behind wh i ch he had his singers give performances," so as to see i f any o f his students failed to concentrate his mind on his studies. See H H S , 58: 1952. t&fpf [talking-holder], refers to the duster held in hand as eminent scholars o f the six dynasties engaged in "pure talk" ( } # ! £ ) . 52 On the jade mountain was slandered a sleeping dragon. You left to us a shining image with spotless integrity, As the pines in the Nine Plains stand in towering seclusion. Poem Two A deer-tail duster in hand, you were a priceless jade, And, in the breeze, the crane-down of your robe waved. Like Yin Hao, demoted for failing to renovate the royal grave, Like Xie An, in his spring villa playing chess with ease. And what a noble prince of Jingkou you were, Also many a beautiful girl of Xiangyang you praised. 45 "Whitewashed office" is a conventional term referring to bureaus under the Depart-ment of State Affair (p^iSNf) whose walls were whitewashed with pepper powder. "A flying owl" alludes to Jia Yi's (gtit, 200-168, BC) "Preface to the Rhapsody On the Owl" (li^J^F?, Wenxuan. 13: 198-200): Once an owl flew into his room and landed on the seat, Jia Yi took it to be an inauspicious omen. The allusion is used to herald Liu's banishment. Both "jade mountain" and "sleeping dragon" refer to Ji Kang. For the former, see NATW, 14: 309: Shan Tao said: "As a person, Ji Kang is majestically towering, like a solitary pine tree standing alone. But when he's drunk he leaned crazily like a jade mountain about to collapse." For the latter, see "The Biography of Ji Kang": "Zhong Hui said to Emperor Wendi: 'Ji Kang is a sleeping dragon and should not be promoted. Your Majesty need not worry about the whole country, but Ji Kang is indeed a cause of anxiety'." Wen's allusion to Ji when speaking of Liu Yuxi is evidence that he regarded Liu with respect, as he would a father. 46 The Nine Plains was a cemetery, where the Grand Master Cfc^i) of the Jin Kingdom, Zhao Dun (MJH) was buried; Zhao once said "If the dead should come to life once more, whom am I to befriend?" (?E##peJ#, gatHit). See Liji, 10:1316. 5 L U » t l . 4 5 53 Even now, picking flowers or dancing in the moonlight, $rJ£Mi$&R • People are singing Liu's lyrics for his blessed memory. ^PB^PSPtH.50 Liu Yuxi was one of the most preeminent poets and scholars of his day, a famous calligrapher as well as expert in music and chess. He took an active part in the Yongzhen Reform, and consequently was banished for many years. During his banishment in Lang-zhou and Kuizhou, he wrote a number of verses in the style of folk song, by drawing from and 4 7 When Yin Hao (?-356) led an army into Luoyang to renovate the imperial tombs, his soldiers rebelled; Huan Wen (312-373), a haughty minister, then discharged Yin from all of his posts. See JS, 77: 2043-48. Xie An was the well-known Jin dynasty Prime Minister who organized the counter-attack against the Former Qin ruler Fu Jian ( ^ M , 338-385). It was said that when the Jin army defeated Fu Jian, Xie was playing chess and did not look surprised at all. See JS, 79: 2072-77. Liu Yuxi's "Watching A Chess Game" ( H # £ $ : , QTS, 356: 4005) shows that Liu was indeed a good chess player. 4 8 Liu assumed a noble family origin by claiming to be the offspring of Liu Sheng, the Han dynasty Prince of Zhongshan (^iMSf!^, HS, 53: 2422-26), though he was descended from the Huns. Even Yuanhe Xingcuan mistakenly took Liu's family origin to be Pengcheng, from the Han dynasty's Prince Ding of Changsha, Liu Fa (JI^/ELBE^lJIit, HS, 53: 2426-27). See Bian Xiaoxuan, L i Yuxi Nianpu. 1-3. Wen takes Jingkou as Liu's family origin, because the Jingkou Liu clan was descended from the Han dynasty Prince Yuan of Chu, Liu Jiao (^7u3Ef!j3C ?-179 BC, HS, 37: 1921-27). 4 9 This line alludes to the Music Bureau poem "Xiangyangyue" (Hl^llit), which, according to YFSJ (48: 705), was composed by Liu Dan, Prince Sui (BtTil^li) of the Liu-Song dynasty, upon hearing the song: "In the morning I set out from Xiangyang / In the evening I lodged by the Big Dike / Many girls of the Big Dike / Are pretty as flower, to their lovers' surprise" ( ^ | M I i & A^mitR, § )• 50 #PIP, refers to the Jin dynasty poet Liu Yun fjpft 465-517). See LS, 21: 331-2. 54 revising the popular ballads. "The Ballads of Bamboo Branches" ( IT^IRI ) are among the best known of these works. Almost all of Liu's accomplishments are reflected in Wen's dirges, and from our vantage point, Wen's evaluation of Liu is comprehensive and fair. The Qing dynasty commentator Wang Mingsheng found in the above poems an indication of the profound friendship between Wen and Liu. 5 1 In fact, Liu was Wen's senior and superior. With respect to political standpoint, literary career and poetic style, they had much in common, and in particular it was their shared political orientation that caused Wen to hold Liu in great esteem. In Wen's extant works, we can find traces proving Liu's influences:52 Passing the Residence of the Late Hanlin Academician Yuan (Mfc&foMttB (j- 5, WFQ) The jade was in the dust, the sword gone with the surging waves,53 j^&l&fflLBii^fM., . 5 1 See Wang Mingsheng: Eshubianu part 3, "Shuoji", 77: 1205-9. 52 Fan Zhen said in Qianxi Shiyan ( ^U ln f j . 80, Shuofu): "Tang poets such as Liu Mengde [Yuxi] and Wen Feiqing often spoiled their pure style with beautiful descriptions of wind and flowers; their failure lies in that their poetry lacks principle and is excessive of diction." But Lu You said in his "Postscript to Jinlianji" (S^^^M)' "The eight pieces of 'Nanxiangzi' by Feiqing, with their refined language and exquisite implication, are no less masterful than Mengde's "Ballads of Bamboo Branches'." See Lu You Ji, 26: 2243. 53 Both "jade in the dust" and "sword gone with the surging waves" are metaphors for the death of a talented and worthy man, the latter alluding to the story about Zhang Hua (232-300), who was said to have observed that between the Altair and the Plough constellation, there was purple air (qi, R^), at which his friend Lei Huan remarked that it was the light of a precious sword soaring skyward. Later in the corresponding region to the constellations, they found a pair of swords and each took one. When Lei's son obtained the sword after 55 Now under Xie An's patronage, what soul could still stay?54 tltS^P^TJi'fRf A . Outside Xizhou city, the blossoms of a thousand trees, HMM^h^^P'tSf, Are all in spring after Yang Tan was drunk.55 MM.¥-1&&$L^-The poem laments Wen's deceased friends, the late Hanlin Academician Yuan and a Prime Minister. How did they die? Wen's dirge implied that they died in some political incident; otherwise he need not vainly have shed his tears. "Outside Xizhou city, the blossoms of a thousand trees" is a reference to the political upstarts in the capital after the incident in which both Yuan and the Prime Minister died. Since Wen compared himself to Yang Tan, he might even be a relative of the dead minister. Who this Prime Minister was will become clear. For now let us compare this poem to the following one by Liu Yuxi: In the Tenth Year of Yuanhe, I Was Called Back from Langzhou to the Capital, and I Jokingly Presented This Poem to Several Noble Men Who Were Enjoying the Flowers (Liu Yuxi Ji. 24: 218, ^ r j f P + ^ g gJfcrH^BMjffC, ffl&^ttlfcmT) The red dust in the purple alleys caresses my face, K & E J l I I S i M ^ , "Back from admiring the flowers," they all said. 3 8 S A ^ I S # 2 £ I H I . In Xuandu Monastery, a thousand peach trees, l l f f l ^ i & ^ l s ^ H S f , his father's death, it changed into a dragon and leapt into the surging waves, when he was crossing the Yanping Ferry. See JS, 36: 1068-77. 5 4 The deceased one must have been a Prime Minister since he is referred to by an allusion to Xie An. The late Hanlin Academician Yuan would also have been under the Prime Minister's patronage. 5 5 The son of Xie An's sister, Yang Tan, after Xie An's death, ceased merrymaking for years, and did not walk in the lanes and roads near Xizhou (locale of the administration of Yangzhou), where Xie An died of disease. Once he was heavily drunk in Shitou (/EH), and sang all the way home, arriving unexpectedly in Xizhou, upon which his servants told him: "This is the gate of Xizhou." Yang burst into tears. See JS, 79: 2077. 56 All transplanted after Sir Liu has left. After Liu Yuxi's participation in the Yongzhen Reform, he was banished to Langzhou in Hunan for ten years. When he was called back to the capital, he did not show deference to the hostile forces at court. For this poem, a satire on the ruling clique, he was once again banished, to an even more remote region. It is clear that this poem was the prototype for Wen's, particularly the third and the fourth lines of Wen's, which are modeled on Liu Yuxi's corresponding lines. We can find other similarities between Wen's and Liu's poetry, as well as traces showing that Wen learned from Liu, which reinforce our belief that Liu was not only Wen's senior and teacher, but also a political forerunner. There being such a close relation between the two, we will next try to discover the explanation of an allusion in Wen's works by recourse of a poem by Liu. "The Junior Party of Ganling" (TTl^TE) In his "Epistle Presented to the Censor-in-Chief', Wen once called himself "the junior party of Ganling", an ambiguous allusion. In attempting to explain it, let us first consult one of Liu Yuxi's poems that uses a similar term: The Drafter Bai Condescended to Answer My Clumsy Poem, And I Sent This Poem to Express My Gratitude ( £ l ^ A ^.fHMg#ElUJl&ffi. Liu Yuxi Ji. 31: 261) For all my presence in the company of the third rank sinecures, SlPpHppiSfc'&T4,56 I had, from the very beginning, different records and qualifications. MM^t^-^^^l-My name, to make up the number, was carved on the stone pillar, ^ ^ i i l l a ift^-iEE, My poetry, a failure, cannot be written on the imperial screen. f ^ ^ ^ ^ J l J f i l l 5 7 5 6 Liu was appointed as Adviser to the Heir Apparent, a third rank post, as was Bai's. 5 7 In the Tang dynasty, all those having obtained an official post of supernumerary gentleman had the honor of having their names carved on a particular Stone Pillar 57 The former party of Ganling is all withered and decayed, TTltW^ltt^NiS 58 While my new friend at court shows high courtesy to me M^l^i^^MlM-If ever I could find a partner in the misty-water of the Five Lakes, ;JSl7jt3L$Jj#n;fl # To be an old fishing man, I think, could yet suit my taste. MMM^¥^}^M-Twenty years after Liu Yuxi's participation in the Yongzhen Reform, he was called back to the capital and offered the position of Adviser to the Heir Apparent Ck.^FM^-)- As a man who had survived his long-year political exile, Liu wrote this poem to Bai to express his feelings. To understand the meaning of this poem we have to ask: What is "the former party of Ganling"? Ganling alludes to the Filial Prince of Qinghe (?£M#3E), Liu Qing ( M k 78-106) of the Han dynasty,59 who was for a time appointed Heir Apparent, but after four years, was deposed because the Empress Dowager Dou had an aversion to him, and substituted his brother Liu Zhao for him as Heir Apparent. When Liu Zhao succeeded to the throne (as Emperor He, r. 89-105), he treated Liu Qing very amiably. After Emperor He's death, it was Liu Qing's son, Liu You, who came to the throne (Emperor An, r. 107-125). Subsequently, Emperor An honored Liu Qing's tomb as Ganling, where Ganling County was established. Another account of this term is: Emperor Huan (r. 147-167) of Han once studied under Du M i (ti?rj, A. 150-60), a native of Ganling County, and after ascending the throne, he promoted Du as minister. Du's fellow townsman Fang Zhi (J r^^ uf, fl. 150-60), the magistrate of Henan, also enjoyed great fame at the time. The retainers of the two households took each other as objects of mockery and jealousy, and developed a mutual hostility. Thereupon the £ii) in the capital. A successful minister might have his remarks written on the imperial screen as a sign of the imperial favor for his worthy services. 5 8 For ~~fM, literally "the lower party", a very ambiguous term found only in Wen's diction, we understand it as "junior party" keeping the meaning of "~f", namely, lower, with respect to generation. 5 9 See HS, "Biographies of the Eight Princes of Emperor Zhang", 55: 1799. 58 mutual hostility. Thereupon the two men from Ganling and their followers were known as the Southern and the Northern Party of Ganling.60 Understood in the historical context in which the poem was composed, Liu Yuxi evidently referred in this poem to all those participating in the Yongzhen Reform as "the former party of Ganling". For, during the short period when Wang Shuwen's party was in power, it was Emperor Shunzong who was on the throne, and who, because of his support of the new policies of the reforming party, was forced by the eunuchs to abdicate in his son's favor, dying soon after. Shunzong's role in the royal succession bore a strong resemblance to Liu Qing's. Hence Liu Yuxi chose the allusion to express his idea. In the allusion, he used Liu Qing to hint at Shunzong; and with "the former party of Ganling," he referred to those who had taken part in the Yongzhen Reform—by the time Liu wrote his poem (the ninth year of Dahe, 835), almost all of them had died, excepting Liu himself. By the same token, the Southern and the Northern parties of Ganling resembled the Niu and the Li factions of the late Tang, in that they were at odds with each other about all important decisions at court, especially the eunuch problem. In a word, Liu's allusion is a hint that the late Tang factional strife had its origin in the Yongzhen Reform. In their studies of the origin of the Niu-Li factional strife, many modern scholars prefer to follow the biased Song historiographers' records in the standard histories handy that: it originated in the different responses to an event caused by Li Jifu (^^^, 758-814, JTS, 148: 3992 and XTS, 146: 4738)); Li showed favoritism toward some candidates (for the Presented Scholar degree) at the cost of some others, during his tenure as examination administrator (^ QJt^ PO in the middle of tile Yuanhe era; as a result, the court officials and the candidates who later became court officials polarized into two antagonistic factions, between which an incessant strife plagued the court for the next 40 years. The accepted version of the bitter and prolonged conflict between the twc factions is 6 0 See HHS, "The Biographies of the Imprisoned Factionalists", 67: 2185-86. 59 not convincing. As the political history of the Tang indicates, the eunuchs grasped control of the imperial succession to such a degree that they were able to manipulate officialdom through their control of the emperors. Their strategy can be viewed in two ways. First, it was a case of "seizing the emperor so as to command his subjects," a favorite trick of earlier usurping chieftains in Chinese history. Second, it implemented a "divide-and-rule" policy towards the court officials, with the eunuchs operating behind the scenes, provoking animosity and creating conflicts. Taking Liu Yuxi's allusion into consideration, we can say safely that the rise of the Niu-Li factional strife must have been subordinated to the struggle between the court officials and the eunuchs. For the alignment of each party was, in the last analysis, decided by its attitude towards the eunuchs,61 and thus had to do with the Yongzhen Reform. If Liu Yuxi was one member of the "former party of Ganling", whereas Wen called himself the "junior party of Ganling", they must not only have had political viewpoints in common, but also common backgrounds. We know that Liu's self-label of the "former party of Ganling" came from his involvement with the Yongzhen Reform; would the "junior party" have nothing to do with this same political event? Junior by a generation, Wen was too young to be a member of the "former party of Ganling", so when identifying himself with the Yongzhen Reform participants, he called himself the "junior party of Ganling". If he is one of the "junior party", a senior member of the "former party" is implied, that is, his late father. 6 1 One more fact meriting our attention is that Yuan Zi (MM, 749-818, JTS, 185b: 4830), who assumed the office of Prime Minister right after the Yongzhen Reform, wrote the "Postface to the Rhapsody Grieving for the Ganling" ( i W l l £ M t f ? ) . On Yuan's death, Liu Yuxi wrote "Three Elegies For the Late Hunan Inspection Commissioner and Prime Minister Yuan" (MWfiM&WfefflM'A&ffiM^, Liu Yuxi Ji: 30: 1004). It is a pity that Yuan's Rhapsody is no longer extant, leaving the true complex causes of the Niu-Li factional strife unknown. 60 As a result of eunuch interference in all document drafting, few materials revealing the true color of the Yongzhen Reform, and especially of Niu-Li factional strife, have survived. Hence the names of many who had a role in the events are not recorded. Taking all these factors together, it is not far-fetched to regard Wen's father as a participant in, or at the least a supporter of, the Yongzhen Reform. Only from such a perspective can Wen's life-long bitter hatred of the eunuchs be understood. Special Connection with L i Cheng (^Sf l , 765-841) Liu Yuxi played a considerable role in the formation and growth of Wen's personality. In Liu's works, there are some ten poems and prose works addressed to or written for L i Cheng, 6 2 the man who, as Wen's teacher, had exercised an immense influence over his personality and political orientation. The friendship between L i Cheng and Liu Yuxi may throw light on Li's attitude toward the Yongzhen Reform, and suggest influences that Wen accepted from his teacher. Though they did not have much chance to be together, Liu Yuxi and L i Cheng maintained a friendship for more than forty years, throughout the difficult time of Liu's exile, when many of his friends kept their distance from him for fear of being implicated in the Yongzhen Reform. The two friends made each other's acquaintance in Chang'an in the eleventh year of the Zhenyuan era (795). Liu passed the Presented Scholar Examination in 795 and L i was the Principal Graduate (#£76) of 796. During the time when the Yongzhen Reform party was in power, L i was promoted63 from the position of Investigating Censor to 6 2 For Li's biographies, see JTS, 167: 4372 and XTS, 131: 4511; Li's relations with the two Lius, see Liu Yuxi Nianpu. 36-103 and Liu Yuxi Congkao. 73-5. See also chapter five. 6 3 "Li Cheng, on September 27 of the 20th year of the Zhenyuan era (804), was promoted (to Hanlin Academician) from the position of Investigating Censor. On March 17th of the 21st year of Zhenyuan (the first and only year of Yongzhen), he was appointed to the 61 that of Vice Director of the Bureau of Waterways and Irrigation. Liu's poems reveal that, in the tenth and fifteenth years of Yuanhe (814 & 819), the first year of Changqing (820), and the fifth and eighth years of Dahe (831 & 834), Liu and L i exchanged poems. L i Cheng at least acquiesced in the Yongzhen policies, as can be seen from his attitude toward Liu Yuxi and Liu Zongyuan. After Liu Zongyuan's death in 814, Liu Yuxi wrote on L i Cheng's behalf in the following year a "Condolence Essay Written for the Grand Master L i of Ezhou as an Offering for the Supernumerary Gentleman Liu" (UWH^X^W ^ftX),64 which includes a full account of the friendship between Liu Zongyuan and L i Cheng. The two men had passed the Erudition and Eloquence Examination (]$cp:^|p]f4) together in the twelfth year of Zhenyuan (796), and became Proofreaders of the Academy of Scholarly Worthies (^fcJrtFl^;) at the same time. Then they worked together as Defenders of Lantian County (StJilBitf) before both were promoted to the post of Investigating Censor. Above all, both men shared the same political ideals. That is why the essay, though written by Liu Yuxi, sings Liu Zongyuan's praises for his political career as well as for his literary talent, and even expresses a determination to raise Liu Zongyuan's orphan as his own son. Since L i was the good friend of both Liu Yuxi and Liu Zongyuan, the two most talented participants in the Yongzhen reforms, his political standpoint toward the event can be imagined. As a royal scion and minister of great importance who served the Tang empire for about half a century, L i Cheng certainly saw fully the problems of the Li-Tang dynasty, especially the disasters brought about by the eunuchs. Like Bai Juyi, L i in his later career had adopted a self-protecting philosophy when confronted with turmoil of the age, but this political pose never concurrent post of Vice Director of the Bureau of the Waterways and Irrigation. On March 23 rd of the first year of the Yuanhe era (806), L i was transferred out of the Hanlin Academy and appointed Magistrate of Suizhou." See Ding Juhui's Chongxiu Hanlin Xueshi Biji, 3375 in Zhibuzu Congshu. 6 4 See Liu Yuxi Ji. 40: 403. 62 prevented him from having a decisive say at crucial moments. When and how Wen became L i Cheng's student is yet to be determined. The fact that they were teacher and student was the result of mutual choice. Wen's choosing L i Cheng as his teacher surely had to do with Li's political orientation and personality. To sum up, Wen Tingyun was born into an aristocratic family that had enjoyed great privilege and renown for several generations up until his infancy, but the family had gradually lost its power. After his father's death at the hands of the eunuchs, the family fell into disgrace. This change left a deep impression on the boy Wen Tingyun, and from very early in his life he felt the urge to restore his family's glory and to do something significant to effect the revitalization of the empire. Confronted with the reality that the eunuchs monopolized all state power and blocked his way to success, and that even the imperial family was under the eunuchs' yoke, Wen faced enormous difficulties in achieving his ambitious goal. And if he succeeded in doing anything, he must have paid a much higher price, and followed a much more tortuous path, than had anybody else, in spite of his talent and social connections. With this in mind, let us explore his early life. 63 Chapter Two Wen's Birth Year A Most Abstruse Allusion to the Eunuchs As we have seen in chapter one, eunuchs played an extremely important role in shaping the family's fate from the outset of Wen's life. In fact, throughout Wen's life eunuchs remained an insurmountable threat precluding him from attaining any political success. Although Wen often manifested his responses to the eunuchs' crimes, we can never find the word "eunuch" in his works. If he had to mention the eunuchs, he did so using abstruse and rarely-used historical allusions, or subtle metaphors, many of which are very misleading. In order to clear the way for further research and avoid many digressions, we shall have to unravel one of his most difficult allusions and clarify why Wen had to refer to the eunuchs in such an ambiguous manner. Let us first examine a couplet in Wen's poem "Angling by the Pond of the Xue Family" (3£0G:n1ilfl$J, WFQ, j . 9), to see how he alludes to the eunuchs directly, in "outspoken" terms and without disguise. Zhu Yu vainly stole the water of the Imperial Ditch, 1 The brocade scale with red tail belongs to Yan Guang. • In all examples where Wen refers to the eunuch this is the most clear. Zhu Yu is a eunuch of the Eastern Han dynasty, who, like the Tang eunuchs, amassed great wealth, set up his own mansion equal in luxury to the imperial palaces, and even channeled water from the Imperial Ditch into his own pond, in defiance of the royal authority. Yan Guang had been the classmate and best friend of Liu Xiu, i. e., Emperor Guangwu (6 BC-AD 57, r. 25-57), the founder of the Eastern Han dynasty, before the latter ascended the throne. However, when Liu asked him to serve in the court, he refused with the excuse that he preferred a life as a recluse. The above lines reveal Wen's attitude towards the eunuchs: even when 1 For Zhu Yu, see HHS, "The Biographies of the Eunuchs", 78: 2526. 64 forced to go into reclusion, he still led a life spiritually superior to that of the eunuchs, who were but 'Vainly" powerful. However, if asked about this couplet, Wen could answer that he was only commenting on the Han eunuch Zhu and the recluse Yan, with no interest in the affairs of his own time. Thus we see why and how Wen availed himself of historical allusions to refer to something he would not express in clear terms. He wanted to make indirect some of his most pointed castigations of the eunuchs, whereas the allusion, often possessing more than one explanation, can just serve this purpose. It meets Wen's requirements both to express his true feelings and avoid hostile readings (thus literary persecution). This peculiar trope of Chinese classic versification, though in ordinary cases highly effective, did a disservice to some of Wen's poems, when he had to resort to it too often. That some of Wen's autobiographical poems have remained ignored or misunder-stood by scholars accounts for his "failure" in this respect, since few readers possess the knowledge or patience to make sense of them through analyzing the ambiguous allusions. Now let us turn to a very obscure allusion to the eunuchs, an allusion to Du Zhi in the following couplet from Wen's "Hundred-Rhyme Poem". It means to say that [from the outset of his office-seeking life], Wen was faced with such a predicament: 52 In my loves and hates I took precautions against Du Zhi [Km], <gf$f Kft t l^ , In my laments and sighs I felt melancholy as did Yang Zhu. M ^U^afe-Even before we know to what the name alludes, Du Zhi must refer to Wen's enemy, hence most probably the eunuchs, though it is an insinuating reference to them. We have to find out what kind of a figure this Du Zhi is, since this will enable us to identify the precise connotation of Wen's poems as well as some prose passages. Among pre-Tang historical characters, we find two remarkably famous men bearing this name. In Shiji (68: 2229), "The Biography of Shang Yang" (f§f$fe, 390-338 BC), we find mention of a Du Zhi in one short sentence. The other Du Zhi is found in Sanguozhi (21: *04-5). Whatever we try, he must be excluded as a referent, based on the information in his biography. As neither of the two Du Zhis seems to have anything to do with the context, two possibilities suggest 65 themselves: some other Du Zhi (related to eunuchs)Wen alluded to was recorded in a historical text that is no longer extant; or there may be a textual corruption, and the name Du Zhi was originally something else. The latter possibility turns out to be the case, after further investigation. In Wen's "Epistle presented to Prime Minister Pei", we find another mention of the same Du Zhi: Later on, I spent many years at one or another Marquis' before I traveled to the valley of the Huai River, where I presented myself by writing letters, and sought recognition while holding a calling card. But I had not expected that Du Zhi was to make a false charge and Zang Cang to harbor a bitter hatred against me. In this context, Du Zhi is clearly the same kind of person as was Zang Cang, who, as luck would have it, is easier to identify. In Mengzi, "King Hui of Liang" (16: 2682), we have a story of Duke Ping of Lu ( #^^ - ) who was about to give audience to Mencius (390-305 BC) when his favorite, Zang Cang by name, stopped him from doing so by speaking evil of Mencius. Zang Cang was a favorite (§| A) of the Duke, analogous to the eunuchs habitually regarded as playthings or house-slaves of the monarch. So, we come nearer to our expected conclusion: besides being Wen's enemy, the Du Zhi in question must be the like of the eunuchs. In "The Hundred-Rhyme Poem", the twenty-eighth rhyme provides decisive evidence for the identification of Du Zhi. Since Wen directs his castigation exclusively at the eunuchs throughout this poem, his manner of using historical and literary allusions should, very naturally, be consistent from beginning to end. Between the couplet cited above and the one we are going to discuss next there is just such conformity, as they both hint at the eunuchs by alluding to the same historical episode. The difference is that the earlier one alludes to the name of the man, while the later one alludes to what the man did: 66 28 Letting drop my bowcase, I was ashamed to finish the cup, HlHliiisiSr Raising the goblet, they insulted me for drawing the bow. SM!IJtP^5fi. This is an unusual couplet in that both lines consist of two verb-object units, with a verb inserted in between. The four verb-object units designate men who act, instead of an action, as would be more common. HIH (gaol), Letting drop the bowcase, originates in Zuozhuan ("Duke Zhao the First Year", 1: 2019): "Wu Ju, knowing that they had taken precautions against him, asked to enter by letting drop his bowcase" (ffi^&gWflttil, f f l l^MA). Du Yu's (222-284) annotation elaborates: "To let the bowcase drop shows that he had no bow with him" (HI HzKtS '^tfe.). As a term related to archery, a frequent metaphor for literary competition, this reference is used here ironically for Wen himself, the subject of the line. For that Wen "had no bow with him," the metaphorical meaning is that he had no ambition or energy to declare himself against the injustice he suffered upon being rejected as a Presented Scholar. j 8 ! t , To finish the cup, refers either to the action of finishing a cup drunk as a forfeit (because of his failure) or to those successful candidates, who were drinking their fill at the banquet; in the translation, the second meaning is used, but we should not ignore the first. The first line thus gives a vivid picture of how Wen failed to be passed as a Presented Scholar in 839, despite his being an "Equivalent to Passing" (#rH), and he was too perplexed and ashamed to face those who had passed. In the second line, jfji®, raising the goblet, is a term taken from Liji (9: 1305): "Viscount Zhi Dao died, and was not buried yet. Duke Ping of Jin (s-5^^) had one of his drinking parties with his musician Shi Kuang (&fp®) and favorite sycophant L i Diao attending, and enjoyed striking the bell. Now, the official cook (jH^ ), Du Kui (tilt), entered from outside." After some arguments, the cook succeeded in proving that both Shi and L i were to blame because of their dereliction of duty, for, on a day when an important minister had just died, they failed to dissuade the Duke from dririking. In 67 consequence, both were given a forfeit of wine. Then the cook proceeded to give himself a forfeit since he had overstepped his official responsibility by speaking out in this way. Upon hearing and seeing all this, the Duke said: "I, too, am to blame. Pour the wine and drink me the forfeit" (MAifc^MM, S W I ^ A ) ; upon which, "Du Kui, after washing it, raised the goblet [to the Duke for a forfeit]" (ttlf ^M^l$l). 2 Wen's teacher L i Cheng once also used this allusion: "As to a case where The Rites failed to scorn what it should, it is in the narrative of Du Kui raising up the goblet" (}i?^ #f H, W&MZMM)? Like his teacher L i Cheng, and unlike most orthodox commentators of the classics,4 Wen took Du Kui as a negative figure, representing the usurping eunuchs of his time. This is because Du Kui's post, official cook, was always taken by eunuchs throughout the imperial times. It was therefore not by sheer coincidence that on another occasion Wen used "royal cook", to speak of the eunuchs: in his "Epistle Presented to the Academician-Drafter" (_b<Pdr#A^), he says: "I was downcast and haggard, at the bottommost of retainers; humiliated and distressed, in the presence of the royal cook" (^'WffiAZ^i, M $$B^Zm). Therefore, "raising the goblet" alludes to the royal cook Du Kui, a disguised appellation for the eunuchs. Similarly, ^ J H , drawing the bow, a term for archery, points to the doer (Wen himself) through an allusion to Guan Zhong (HH41, ?-645, BC). To annotate this line, the Qing 2 A similar story is also told in Zuozhuan, 'Duke Zhao the Ninth Year", 45: 2057. 3 L i Cheng: "Rhapsody on Striking the Bell in the Palace" QTW, 632: 8107). 4 Du Yu's annotation (£E) and Kong Yingda's sub-annotation (igfi) to Zuozhuan^ as well as Zheng Xuan's annotation and Kong Yingda's sub-annotation to Liji hold that what Du Kui did serves as a model that embodies the Confucian rites and morals. Defying the traditional exegeses, L i Cheng regarded this passage as a misrepresentation of The Book of Rites: and Wen followed his teacher in using the ancient topic to level an attack on the eunuchs, by innuendo. 68 annotator Gu Sili correctly quoted Ban Gu's ($£13, 32-92) "Rhapsody On Communion with the Mystic" (^jfl®, Wenxuan. 14: 208-13): "Guan, with his bow drawn, was to shoot his foe, and the foe, after ascending the throne, became his own fulfillment" ( H ^ M W^jflQ •fiLf^ip MJ5^3). Here is implied an allusion to the Zuozhuan ("Duke Zhuang the Ninth Year", 8: 1766): Before Guan Zhong became the chief minister of Duke Huan of Qi 0^W.y£; ?-643 BC), he had been the Mentor of Prince Jiu (fc^M), Duke Huan's brother. When the two brothers were vying for the throne, Guan Zhong in a battle shot an arrow straight at Prince Xiao Bai (Duke Huan before he became the king), and almost took his life. Later Prince Jiu was defeated and killed by Duke Huan. Guan Zhong, by dint of the recommendation of his bosom friend, Bao Shuya (tfH^St^ 1), who had served Xiao Bai as Mentor, was spared by Duke Huan and promoted as Prime Minister. Wen had some reason to use this allusion to Guan Zhong to mean himself,5 for, as a loyal attendant of Emperor Wenzong's , r. 827-36) Heir Apparent L i Yong (827-38), he could have never dreamed that it would be Emperor Wuzong (5£;i?, r. 840-846), one of Wenzong's inconspicuous younger brothers, who would succeed to the throne, with the ulterior support of the eunuchs. In his speeches and the previous year's (839) examination paper, he may have expressed his hostility towards the eunuchs' monopolizing imperial succession, a hostility that could easily have been taken up by the eunuchs as blaspheming the succeeding monarch. In a word, at a time when the throne was shifting, the eunuchs used Wen's devotion to the former emperor as a weapon to thwart his possible promotion in the new court. In the allusion "drawing the bow", Wen likened himself to Guan Zhong, and declared his allegiance to the new emperor, in an effort to clarify the confusion created by the eunuch's slanders. 5 Yang SifU (WffiM., A- 805-40) asked Emperor Wenzong: "When Duke Huan of Qi promoted Guan Zhong from among his foes, did he worry that he gave him the handle of Tai'e [a famous sword] with the blade toward himself?" See JTS 173: 4494. 69 After clarifying the meaning of this difficult couplet, we find that the t±3j§; so baffling us should be ttlf (Du Kui). It is likely that the Chinese ideograph jf corrupted and.was mistakenly discerned as while is a more well-known name than £fc|f. The corrupted form appeared as early as in Wenyuan Yinghua. a Song dynasty encyclopedia, that includes most of Wen's extant epistles. On every account, the name Du Zhi must refer to the eunuchs in the context. Through this example we realize that, under the terrifying pressure of the eunuch rule, Wen made use of his erudition to speak out the truth without inviting troubles on himself. What gives us confidence to work on his writings is that the way in which he composes his poetry and prose works is peculiarly logical, such that once we succeeded in discovering the origin of his diction and allusions, the factual threads are laid bare. "Epistle Presented to Prime Minister Pei" ( ± H * B & # ) About the Study of Wen's Birth Year The accepted birth year of Wen Tingyun, 812, was worked out by Xia Chengtao in his "Chronicle of Wen Feiqing" published in the 1930s and reaffirmed by Gu Xuejie's "Revision and Supplement to 'Biographies of Wen Tingyun' in the two Tang Histories"6 published in 1940s. However, Xia meant it as no more than a guess7 and it would have been overthrown 6 Xia's essay is collected in his Tangsong Ciren Nianpu. 383-424. Gu's is collected in Gu Xuejie Wenxue Lunji. 188-260. Xia and Gu, both pioneers in studying Wen's life, had collected a wealth of first-hand information in their works, which are, to date, the most important references for studying Wen's life, though there remains much to restudy. 7 According to the line in "The Hundred-Rhyme Poem": "Though my retirement is not in a mulberry and elm year" Q\^l3^^-^MS), Xia infers that "it means that Wen was not yet an aged man; but at the time he was at least about thirty. If we substract thirty from 840 (the fifth year of Kaicheng when the poem was composed), Wen's birth year falls in the Yuanhe era of Emperor Xianzong (806-20). Since the Yuanhe era has 15 years, we can suppose it 70 long ago but for the fact that it is the earliest study of this difficult and seemingly unrewarding topic, and that thereafter not much interest has been focused on it. However, making clear Wen's birth year is of crucial importance in gaining a correct starting point for research on his life and poetry. Otherwise one cannot understand to what Wen's works refer, much less reevaluate him properly. Gu reached his conclusion mainly on account of the following couplet in "The Fifty-Rhyme Poem": "When Ji Shao was a lad with tufts hanging down his forehead \ It was the year Shan Tao began his official service." Taking this couplet at face value, we can be sure only that by the time Wen had audience with the so-called Chancellor L i ( ^ ^ I T , as hinte at in the poem by the allusion to Shan Tao), he was yet a boy of about eight.8 Wen's birth year cannot be decided unless we can pinpoint who L i was, on which year Wen had his audience with him, and finally what age Wen had in mind by the year "when Ji Shao was a lad with tufts hanging down his forehead." Unfortunately, with its archaic and erudite allusions, "The Fifty-Rhyme Poem" does not present an easy account for such identification. One must decode the poem's difficult language and work out a picture of Li's life, then compare this with various biographies of men bearing the surname L i , and find the one that is identical with the picture. Such a task is both unrewarding and fruitless. For, there can be more than one "Chancellor L i " that roughly fit in with the inexact definition of the "Ji Shao-Shan Tao" allusion, and each will elicit a different conclusion. Moreover, in ancient China a child under or above age ten can always have "tufts hanging down his forehead" (ilff), so the phrase indicates no exact age, only for the time being to be in the middle, i. e., the seventh year of Yuanhe (812)." Evidently this inference is groundless. See Xia (389). 8 It was some years after Ji Kang wrote the "Letter for Breaking Off Relations with Shan Juyuan" (in which he says "My son is eight years of age"), that he was executed. Hence Ji Shao's biography says he "became an orphan at the age of ten." 71 that one is still a child. We have no reason to suppose the age it denotes is eight, even though it has to do with Ji Shao's childhood. Thus, we cannot be sure that Wen had such a number in mind when he availed himself of the term. Simply put, all academic efforts to use this term to calculate Wen's birth year hardly bear fruit, including Gu's.9 In order to ascertain Wen's birth year Xia and most Chinese scholars touching on the topic strain at this same poetic hint, and it is only natural that their conclusions vary considerably.10 With respect to this issue, we will finally arrive at the conclusion that the L i here referred to is L i Shen, that Wen saw him in 806, and that therefore Wen was born some time around the turn of the century. We wish to avoid a fruitless discussion as to who the Chancellor L i was, merely from the poem, and to find more solid evidence in the extant sources on which to rebuild our conclusion. By happy coincidence, we do find another important hint, "the year of Having the Way", in the following epistle. Wen's epistles (^fOfc), in a manner characteristic of late Tang parallelist prose style, are dense and full of literary and historical allusions. Most of them are so saturated with important information about the major events of his life that any study of Wen's life and poetry cannot afford to ignore them. Therefore, in dealing with this epistle, we have no choice but to decipher the whole text, so as to get at the hidden truth. The exposed truth will not only help towards a clarification of his birth year, and an understanding of Wen's situation in 839, but will also provide an outline for further exploration of his life. 9 Out of many possibilities Gu decides L i Deyu to be the "Chancellor L i " , without strict logical inference. Then, he guesses that "since in the fifth year of Kaicheng (840) Li's age (787-849) is fifty four, Feiqing was probably twenty nine, and that the difference of Li's and Wen's age is about twenty-five years." See Gu Xuejie Lunwenji. 190. 1 0 Al l the different conclusions about Wen's birth year appeared in the 1980s and differed from Xia's: 801 (Chen Shangjun), 817 (Huang Zhenyun), 827 (Wang Dajin) and 798 (Mou Huaichuan). 72 An Annotated Translation Your humble servant wishes to say: I hear that he who wants to offer a precious treasure must first go to Marquis Sui and Bian He, and he who hopes to cure his dis-ease must ask instructions from Lord Cang and Doctor Bianque (^^F: K^C^#5TJ HP&ftl, ^i&vfcJ tJ i ) . 1 1 Without an unusually powerful potion, it is hard to expect a perfect cure (%]$&MM, Hon I have now come to the age of Having the Way, while still harboring the remorse of a wronged innocent ( M ^ f ^ i i ^ ^ P , $1 MMMZtfk).12 It is 1 1 Sui, refers to Marquis Sui (Pff^); He, refers to Heshi. According to Gao You's (Eastern Han) exegesis to "Lanmingxun", Huainanzi (Ershierzi, 6: 1231), the Marquis of Sui saved a badly-wounded snake. Later on the snake, to reward him, got for him a pearl from the River, which thus was called the pearl of the Marquis of Sui. A native of Chu, Bian He, got a jade-enfolding stone and presented it to the kings of Chu. The first two kings, however, thought that He was deceiving them, and had his feet cut off. It was not until King Wen came to the throne that He's jade-enfolding stone was appreciated, when the King had the "stone" carved and found therein a most precious treasure, named the Jade of Heshi." (Lord Cang) and JmiH (Doctor Bianque), are both well-known ancient doctors; see Shiji. 105: 2785. 1 2 "The age of Having the Way" alludes to the age at which Guo Tai (^X, 128-169) died, i.e., forty-two years. "Having the Way" was originally the name given to a kind of civil recruitment in the Han dynasty for men of moral value. Toward the end of the Eastern Han, however, this system became so corrupt that many of those who really "had the way," men such as Guo Tai, refused to take part. Guo was thus universally respected with the title "Having the Way Guo" ( K ^ i t ) . Cai Yong (132-92), a well-known writer of epitaphs, composed his "Epitaph for Having the Way Guo" ffi^iMffl^C), after Guo's death "at the age of 42," saying: "I have written epitaphs for so many individuals, all of 73 sure that even though I perish, I will become a miasmal cloud, to trouble your most impartial Excellency, and I will scatter myself into the voice of the wronged ones, to be circulated forever (W\M^MMM, ^ ^ M ^ ; Wtf&RM, $fS >^@). For such matters^ the princes, dukes and ministers have raised their righteous indignation, while men of rectitude and honor can only sigh and shed tears (itfc^Fl-^ AA££ff'l$Hl$;, H c^ife My nature, truly, is that of an idiot, and my personality one of stubbornness ( '^|4Jf f^f£$IIII). With regard to succeeding to my ancestor's undertakings, I am ashamed of comparing myself to Kong Lin, distant in the past; and in taking up the family tradition, I am not the equal of Zhang Dai nearer to the present C H ^ ^ H L , iit'tltJLJfr; ^HP^Jil, ifi'fff^lrj).13 Since the days when my ancestors were bestowed imperial favor and granted fiefs, our family had enjoyed everlasting glory, which was inscribed on the imperial tripod (1=1 IfCME^Ifl, I t^f^T?). Then I took my registered residence in Liaoxi, before I studied the classics in Jixia (r^^^H, I^M$IT)14.There I respectfully studied all the lore my teacher handed down to me, and engaged in the composition of whom are unworthy of my compliments, save Having the Way Guo, who truly need not be ashamed of my praise." SeeHHS, 68: 2225-2331 and Wenxuan. 58: 800. 1 3 Kong Lin, refers to Kong Linzhi Q\JfrZ, 369-423), who, like his grandfather Kong Qun, was famous for selflessness when he held the office of Palace Aide to the Censor-In-Chief. SeeNS, 27: 731 and SS, 56: 1559. Zhang Dai may be the grandson of Zhang Yue (3HJiS£, 667-730), Prime Minister during the Kaiyuan (712-740) era, see XTS, 31:1750. Even though we are not sure who Zhang was, it is clear Wen failed to carry on the family glory like him, because Wen adhered to the hereditary orientation of his forefathers. 1 4 $tM, To put the classics across the knees, is a kenning for studying hard. 74 poetry and prose (S^jtpll^S:,15 M=frWiM). I was hoping to sew up the broken drapery of the Confucian house, and to restore the magnificence and grandeur of the Constant Norm ( I t t l P ^ i i . flc -%&Zfo%\). Soon after, it happened that I was reduced to a traveling orphan, drawing the wagon, hardly able to manage my daily coarse food (ff£JI§H5I^#pi£tf H|jt).0 Like Chumo, having no comforter, I hopelessly sighed at night, and like Xiuling, running out of rice, with what was I to make my breakfast ^ ^ H ; &&Q 17 1 5 From "my teacher" we can infer that it was when Wen was studying in the Luoyang National University that he met his life-long teacher L i Cheng. When exactly they began their teacher-student relation must await further examination. 1 6 Wen offered no clear account as to what reduced him to a traveling orphan, except that he had to give up his studies and face a much harder life. What the Chinese term ^ # suggests is hard to ascertain: it can mean "drawing the wagon," or "feeling very grievous." "The wagon" might refer to a funeral wagon carrying his late father's coffin (to be buried in the Wen clan's ancestral graveyard), in which case we can infer that Wen's father died during his banishment. This is the only proof we find in all Wen's works that might relate to his father's burial, hence we cannot use it for the purposes of further argument. 1 7 "Chumo" is the style name of Wu Yinzhi (£MZ, of the Jin dynasty). It was said that Wu was so frugal and incorruptible that he had no bedclothes for the winter. See NATW. 23. "Xiuling" is the style name of Wang Huzhi (3L$MZ, of the Jin dynasty), who "once lived in the Eastern Mountain in extreme poverty and want. Tao Fan, who was serving as magistrate of Wucheng Prefecture [Zhejiang], sent him a boatload of rice as a present, but he declined, responding bluntly, "If Wang Huzhi is hungry, naturally he'd go to Hsie [--sic] Shang to ask for food. He has no need of Tao Fan's boat.1' See NATW, 174. Both allusions imply that he, Wen Tingyun, was a man poor but noble. Note the punning nature of the two names: "Chumo" can mean living in reclusion, and Xiuling means long years. 75 Later on, I spent many years at one or another Marquis' before I traveled to the valley of the Huai River ( U E M S ^ T ^ H , MW'M-t), where I presented myself by writing letters, and sought recognition while holding a calling card (SUf S iH, HI $!j>rt$J0. But I had not expected that Du Zhi was to make a false charge and Zang Cang to harbor a bitter hatred against me (;§L^t±IMfiM, f&ln^Mk)- In consequence, the local magistrates became increasingly hostile towards me, regardless of their past friendship, and, in response, those in power at court added slanders to my distress ( ^ ± # W ^ 1 W l i f M, 'MWM^MM^'M). A forsaken orphan with an insecure life, I was crudely bullied and mistreated (MMMJB,, ^ v l l l l l L ) . My route of flying and galloping was blocked, and my means for drinking and pecking was impeded M^MZJ^). It is an unjust charge that I ever shot [blaspheming] blood, and there is no way for me to call [the attention of] Heaven n ^ I S i ® ) . 1 8 Such is my experience that the sagacious ministers have shown their commiseration and many an official has heard of (lfcfc7!73EAJL1$I, ^ibJI-WJ). Nevertheless, all have vainly sighed over the case, and none could exonerate me of the wrong charge ( ^^HRH, M-W^M). In my humble opinion, in the first years when Emperor Xuanzong ascended the heavenly throne, His Majesty's royal heart immediately came to be filled with compas-sion for the people (^JrL^^Jl^^MiJMfr , M%W&). Thereupon, he took to correcting drawbacks and mistakes and redressing the wronged (llfc^J^JtE, $ B^lE&n), when Prime Minister Liu helped bring forth the imperial edicts, and the Duke Xu Su added radiance 1 8 iTiflL, T O shoot blood, an allusion to Shiii."The Yin Annals", 3: 104: "The tyrannical emperor Wuyi ffij^Zj) filled leather bags with blood and shot upwards at them, calling it Shooting Heaven" ( f t ^ ) . The meaning of this term in this context is "blaspheming the emperor," and because of this, Wen says that "it is indeed an unjust charge." For tonal reasons, the poet used JtjlfiL instead. 76 to the royal plan (MEffl&Srfflft, MW&M&^U).19 In the five decades [of his reign], customs and mores among the people could not be more honest and pure ^$J> MM^MY Nowadays, however, when neither the frying nor the swimming [various ranks of officials] could have their peaceful settlement, and both the rainfall and the sunlight cannot follow each other in harmony (^i£$8$C^;5:^#f, M ^ ^ # ^ffl), every man and woman in the country heaves grievous sighs, and each community and each village is in melancholy distress (U^X^MZ.^^, — M~~fflZ g&lH). To look forward to a prosperous time of restored order, all must depend upon a great statesman with great statecraft like you (DtfflHS ,^ d&MW#D-Now if I advance in my official career, I harbor fear lest I should be in danger; if I retreat, I will have nothing to fall back upon 0&§=£SMM, MMf£HI). With my name secretly listed for arrest, I could hardly benefit from imperial favor (&J0L\B$}3LM, ^ f i^MTZM)- Together with the embers I am to be thrown away, and compared with insects, I have hardly any more hope (Mflk$£MiMM, fcfcMi^M^M). There are parallel highways and moroughfares, but I am weeping at a dead end; there are the sun and the moon hanging high in the sky, and it is only I that am trapped in the darkness I know your Excellency the Prime Minister did meritorious service to Yao and set up valuable feats in assisting Yu (f^liX^H^^^HIfJ, VrM^h^i)- All people have bene-fited from your kindness, and none was forced to go against its nature (W^j^C^ ^ iZ, —"^^Fif^Fli)- Were you to heave a compassionate sigh when meeting me on the 1 9 "Prime Minister Liu" refers to Liu Youqiu (§FJi*l$|>ft, 655-715), who helped Emperor Xuanzong do away with the usurping Princess Taiping and inaugurated an era of pros-perity. See JT, 97: 3039 and XTS, 121: 4327. Duke Xu Su refers to Su Ting (MM, 670-727), who was also a Prime Minister during Xuanzong's reign and was famous for his elegant style in writing imperial edicts. See JTS, 88: 2880 and XTS, 125: 4399. 77 road, you would then cast loose the horse yoked at the right; or should you hear my song . while tapping on my sword, you would move me to the guest house ({$E&:@£%kM$Jl, M'&fcB; PMWKI, S ^ f t ^ ) . 2 0 I divine for myself by looking on the wind, and am convinced that you will follow the example of antiquity (HfiilFjj h, ^^MW)- Since this Way of Confucianism is not false, pure and bright gove-rnance will not be far away I respectfully hold in my arms my prose, poetry and rhapsody works, each in one juan, all presented to Your Excellency (MMXW£f&—*#^fcU fiUM). My scrolls and papers are in poor condition, and my calligraphy and handwriting are dense and in a mess, therewith I venture to beg your condescending attention, while my anxiety and yearning are beyond expression(Mfflfam, m.MmM. T M ^ , fttffiUffJ). Important Clues This epistle offers a brief, if not clear, description of what had happened to Wen's family and to himself up to the time he presented it to Pei. It concentrates on telling the story of how Wen found himself in a dilemma, to the degree that his name was secretly listed by the eunuchs for arrest and even execution, as a result of the role he had played in the political arena. After introducing very briefly the reasons that he, in his desperation, had come to Prime Minister Pei for help, Wen recapitulates what had happened to him by mentioning his experiences in the following order. 2 0 When on the road, Yan Ying (J?H, ?-500 BC), Chief Minister of Qi, came across the worthy man Yueshi Fu (M'Ef^ t) who had been taken prisoner; he untied from the right yoke of his carriage a horse for the latter's ransom, and accepted him as a guest. See Shiji 62: 2134. Lord Mengchang's (jSWia) retainer, Feng Xuan ($§!§!), chanted while tapping at his sword, to express his discontent that there was no fish for his dinners and no carriage for his travel. The Lord met all his demands and moved him to the best guest house, whereupon Feng performed good service for the Lord. See Shiji. 75: 2531. 78 1 He attended the Luoyang National University,21 coming from the so-called Liaoxi. 2 A misfortune befell his family, and he found himself reduced to the situation of a traveling orphan, no longer with means to support his life, not to mention his studies. On the occasion of presenting an epistle to a senior guardian, Wen must go briefly to the point. It was inappropriate to give a full-length account of what had happened to him, and Prime Minister Pei was meant to have been able to understand what was left unsaid. Suggestively, after discussing his attendance at the National Academy in "The Hundred-Rhyme Poem", Wen describes the situation that forced him to embark on a precarious office-seeking career, in the following couplet, comparable to the account here. 50 The noisy swallows were shrieking in the short eaves, M^^MM^, While a hungry squirrel fell from a tall tree. M^MW$B-Though the metaphor is intricate, its implication is easy to see: besides describing a scene, it indicates that Wen underwent a fall in his family's social status. The shrieking swallows are reminiscent of those who vied for wealth and fame on an unsteady and crowded stage, where Wen, at the time, had to start his political career. The hungry squirrel is the natural counterpart for himself, who had "fallen" from a relatively high position to lead his precarious life. In any event, Wen was forced to give up his studies, probably because of some changes in his family's fortunes. Considering that his father died long before he quit the Luoyang National Academy, we can infer that at this time the remaining family prero-gatives he still enjoyed were stripped away. 3 The result was that Wen Tingyun began a life of traveling all over the country, "spending many years in one or another marquis'."22 2 1 We will give a detailed discussion on this issue in chapter three. 2 2 Wen's travels will also be dealt with in chapter three. 79 And, as noted in the quotation already given from "The Hundred-Rhyme Poem," from the very beginning of his vagrant life, he had to be on guard against the tyranny of the eunuchs, Du Zhi so-called. 4 Next he "traveled the valley of the Huai River." 2 3 As fate would have it, he met the eunuchs face to face on a narrow path and suffered most miserably from them. This is the first time Wen was personally involved in some incident with the eunuchs, the cause of a series of subsequent setbacks and adversities. 5 It was some time after this confrontation with the eunuchs that something more complex and serious drove Wen to a dead end,2 4 and the injustice he suffered forced him to turn to the powerful and friendly Prime Minister Pei for support, to tide him over his crisis and allow him to pass the year's civil recruitment examination.25 For our future study we will follow the order of topics provided in this epistle. Wen ' s B i r th Year Since Wen clearly says his age is forty-two by alluding to "Having the Way [Guo]", the key to deciding his birth year is to date this epistle, and in passing we will also identify Prime Minister Pei. From Wen's own accounts, we know it was while traveling in the Huai River valley that Wen confronted the attack from the eunuchs. What Wen refers to here is the Jianghuai Incident that occurred in the first year of Kaicheng (836). We therefore date this epistle as presented to Prime Minister Pei sometime after the Jianghuai Incident (836). Wen gained access to the Heir Apparent through the recommendation of his minister teacher L i Cheng, in the autumn of second year of Kaicheng (837), and served the Heir until his sudden death in the tenth month of the following year (838). This fact is also subtly implied in this epistle. It must have been after his attending the Heir Apparent that Wen 2 3 Wen's experiences in the valley of the Huai River (836) are discussed in chapter four. 2 4 Wen's service to the Heir Apparent will be studied in chapters five and six. 2 5 Wen's examination performance will be discussed in chapters seven and eight. 80 presented this epistle to Pei Du; otherwise, he would not have said that "If I advance in my official career, I harbor fear lest I be in danger; if I retreat, I will have nothing to fall back upon." To be given the opportunity to attend the Heir Apparent, within direct access of the emperor, was for Wen an unusual advance and unexpected imperial favor, though it turned out tragically. Moreover, in the face of such a highly confidential appointment, Wen's sense of honor called forth his courage to "advance" without hesitation. After the Heir Apparent's death, however, Wen could not escape from his political entanglements, but had to brave the many dangers the eunuchs had in store for him. The situation he had to confront, as described in the epistle, is thus a reflection of the reality he faced after the Heir Apparent's death in the tenth month of 838. Although in this epistle Wen made no explicit mention of his attendance upon the Heir Apparent, this information is implied in the context. Prime Minister Pei, who was specially concerned with the issue of the imperial heir [as we will find out immediately after we identify him], would understand this and not need a precise reference to it. Wen praised the governance of Emperor Xuanzong and attributed his own misfortune to the situation in which "neither the flying nor the swimming [court officials] could have their peaceful settlement, and both the rainfall and the sunlight cannot follow each other in harmony." This is a circuitous castigation of the eunuchs who had gained ground during Xuanzong's reign, and hence a mild criticism of Xuanzong himself.26 After Xuanzong's reign the eunuchs 2 6 Here is implied, very possibly, another important inkling. Throughout this epistle, Wen dwells on his family's adversities and his own misfortunes, but here he abruptly turns to speaking about only Emperor Xuanzong. This might indicate the close relation of the latter with the Wen clan as we have proved in chapter one, Wen's father (or a direct uncle?) was one of Emperor Xuanzong's son-in-laws. Considering the age of Wen's uncle Wen Zao (765-836), Wen's father as well as the Song'guo Princess (d. between 805-820) might have been born in 750s; this is another justification of Wen's birth year as 798. 81 usurped more and more power, until they seized control of the Divine Strategy Army (WWW), during Emperor Dezong's reign (785-805). Eunuch command of the imperial army finally precipitated the disaster of the Sweet Dew Incident of 835. Both the Heir Apparent's death (838) and Wen's sorry plight represented in this epistle were results of the eunuchs' interference at court, in an aftershock of the Incident. As if to add one more proof to our argument, at the end of this epistle, Wen says: "I respectfully hold in my arms my prose, poetry and rhapsody works, each in one juan, all presented to Your Excellency." This is the so-called "presenting one's scrolls" (iS:^), or "warming the scroll" (M#), by which late Tang literati sought to impress those who were politically powerful and influence them to speak on their behalf to the examination admini-strators. In fact, in the autumn of the fourth year of Kaicheng (839), for the first time in his life, Wen sat for the Examination held by the Metropolitan Prefecture j&) and succeeded in obtaining an "Equivalent to Passing" (^rH). Were it not for this appealing epistle that succeeded in enlisting the help of Prime Minister Pei, any gain in the examina-tion would likely have been impossible for Wen. Therefore this epistle must have been presented to Pei no later than the autumn27 of the fourth year of Kaicheng when the examination of the Metropolitan Prefecture was held. Thus we can date it to sometime between the tenth month of 838 and the autumn of 839. The only Prime Minister bearing the surname Pei under such circumstances, was Pei Du. Pei Du was one of the most, outstanding prime ministers in the late Tang period, famous for his service to the Tang court since Emperor Xianzong's time (MTF, r. 805-820), when he led a victorious military campaign that crushed the recalcitrant warlord Wu Yuanji ( ^ 7 G ^ , 2 7 Throughout the Tang dynasty the civil service autumn examination was held before the tenth month of the year, when all the candidates gathered in the capital. 82 783-817), and laid the groundwork for the Yuanhe Restoration (jtM^ H). 2 8 I n the succeeding reigns of Emperors Muzong (r. 821-24), Jingzong (r. 825-27), and Wenzong (r. 827-40), Pei distinguished himself by most effective local governance and fierce allegiance to the court. Wen's remark in the epistle--'! know Your Excellency the Prime Minister did meritorious service to Emperor Yao and set up ample feats in assisting Emperor Yu"~is closer to hard truth than to conventional flattery. As the most influential veteran court official at the time, Pei was the only man who had the power to help Wen somehow, by offering "an unusually powerful potion."2 9 According to his biographies, Pei was sent out to be the Military Commissioner of Taiyuan in the fifth month of the second year of Kaicheng. "You just sleep there and guard well the north gate for me," Emperor Wenzong bade him when Pei begged for retirement. In the twelfth month of the following year, Pei was called back to the capital to be Director of the Secretariat; and in the fourth year (839) of Kaicheng, "In the first month, Du came [from Taiyuan] for a court audience"~in the third month of the same year, he died, three months after his last audience30 (the first month of that year, 839, was an intercalary month). If we reconsider Wen's statement that "I now come to the age of Having the Way (42)," we believe 2 8 The role Pei played in the Yuanhe Restoration is universally recognized. For a repre-sentative English work on this topic, see The Cambridge History of China. 611-20. 2 9 For Pei Du's biographical materials cited later, see JTS, 170: 4413 and XTS, 173: 5209. If we take the whole late Tang period for our survey, there was another Prime Minister, Pei Xiu (Hflc, ?-864, JTS, 177: 4593 and XTS, 182: 5371), who, for all his connections with Wen on other occasions, does not fit in the texts and facts related in the epistle. Pei Xiu was holding the position Prime Minister from 852 to 855 when Wen definitely had no such urgent crisis like the one related here. Xia Chengtao and Gu Xuejie both held that this Prime Minister Pei was Pei Xiu. See their works given in note 6. 3 0 See Wu Tingxie, TFZNB, 4: 427. 83 more firmly that it was in the first month of 839 that Wen took the opportunity to present this epistle to Pei. With the Chinese way of calculating age, therefore, Wen was born in the year 798. This conclusion is identical with the one inferred from the "Ji Shao-Shan Tao-Ji Kang" allusion, and we have more evidence to support it. Seen separately, the individual statements may seem confusing and ambiguous, but once considered together they are instrumental in bearing out the major events in Wen's life. This conclusion is applicable in explaining any of Wen's experiences and can thus stand up to any challenge. It can also be justified by the following "circumstancial evidence." Other Evidence Supporting the Conclusion Relationship with Pei Du "The Biographies of Pei Du" further relate that, in his late years, because of the literati-officials' failure to curb the eunuchs' power, Pei "after dealing with his official routines, often spent his time drinking with the poets Bai Juyi and Liu Yuxi, regardless of the worldly affairs; most of the renowned men of letters of the time came to join him." For a time Wen was among Pei's retainers, though we are not sure whether this was brought about through Liu Yuxi. His friendship with Pei is attested by the following poems. Two Elegies For the Director of the Secretariat, Lord Pe i 3 1 3 1 My understanding of these poems agrees with that of Wang Mingsheng, who also took the poems as evidence that Wen enjoyed Pei's friendship, see Eshubian. 77: 1211. 3 2 Wang Jian (452-489), a Prime Minister in the Southern Qi dynasty, was famous for his erudition and administrative achievements. See NS, 22: 590. Xiao He (7-193, BC) served Emperor Gaozu of the Han dynasty, as Prime Minister (*m^m&mmr.-n, j . 3, W F Q > You were a Wang Jian, a model of virtue and style, You were a Xiao He, a leading subject of the empire 84 A cloth-robe commoner from Danyang, N fir^^P^.^-You spent your life in the Lotus-isle till white-haired. 3I$tf=lIIA Inscriptions engraved when Mount Yanran was in dusk, ifSifj^lll A stele sunk into River Han in its spring tide. ffl$£W&k From now on I vainly drink and eat my fill, And will no longer defile your carriage-mat. M^.f5^W Poem Two With your arrow flying, the evil star fell, WfTWUIzM, In the breeze, the killing air turned back. MM^MI^-When the State's Redolence, Director Xun, departs, IS^ILJ^-Z?, 33 34 35 3 3 ^R&^^C, A self-styled name of Tao Hongjing (ffl^LM, 452-536), who, in his late years, was called "a Prime Minister in the Mountain" (il l 4 * 2 ^ ) , see LS, 51: 742-44. The "Lotus-isle" is a euphemism for the official position of Prime Minister, that Pei occupied until very late in life. 3 4 Dou Xian ( f f , ?-92), after defeating the Huns, ascended Mount Yanran and inscribed on stone his military exploits; see HHS, 23: 812. Du Yu made two steles to assure his reputation for posterity; one was sunk in River Han, and the other was set up on the summit of Mount Xian; see JS, 34: 1025-33. The allusion praises Pei's leading role in crushing Wu Yuanji. However, because of factional objections, "The Monument for Quelling Huaixi" (^M&W, QTW, 561: 7205-7), written by Han Yu, had to be rewritten by Duan Wenchang ( l&Zfc l , 773-835, QTW, 617: 7918) so as to favor L i Su JTS, 133: 3678, XTS, 154: 4874), a Tang general who captured Wu Yuanji. 3 5 Bing Ji's (p f pf, ?-55 BC) cabman, because of overdrinking, vomited on the Prime Minister's carriage; Bing Ji pardoned him, saying that it was no more than spoiling the Prime Minister's carriage-mat. See Bing's biography in HS, 74: 3142-52. This is clear evidence that Wen was once a retainer under Pei Du's patronage. 85 For the Tower's moonlight, Lord Yu will never return. IJH-Z* 2fc.36 The jade seal will eventually be in no danger, BLMf&MM, But your golden case will not be opened, forever. ^ J $ ? J ^ F ! T I J . 3 7 I emptily sigh over the road of recommending the worthies, &y£MM$&, While the fragrant herbs fill the Yan Terrace. T ^ ^ M ^ J E . 3 8 In identifying "the Director of the Secretariat" as Pei Du, we must emphasize the fact that in Wen's time Du was the only man bearing the surname Pei and this official title. In the two elegies, apart from paying homage to the merits Pei had performed for his country, Wen also recalls his elegant manners when he was with his subordinates and 3 6 Xun Kai was said to leave a fragrance lasting for three days wherever he sat, see JS, 39: 1150-52. "The State's Fragrance" is also another name for the orchid, conventionally a symbol of the noble man ). Yu Liang 289-340) once ascended the Southern Tower (AMW), joining his subordinates there to enjoy the moonlight; see JS, 73: 1915-24. 3 7 The jade seal (3£!£) is the royal seal, a synecdoche for the imperial power. Before his death, Duke Zhou (JS]^) put in a golden case (jkW) letters and memorials to be presented to King Cheng of Zhou (JUj^i), see Shangshu, 13: 195. The allusion functions here as a metaphor for Pei's statecraft at a time when he was old and the Tang court needed him badly. According to the two Tang Histories. Emperor Wenzong in his last years increasingly appreciated Pei's loyalty as an old and most influential minister, to the degree that he consulted Pei about everything important. He even wrote a poem expressing his admiration for and confidence in Pei~an extraordinary honor—right before Pei's death. 3 8 The Yan Terrace also called Gold Terrace (M&M.), was believed to be the spot where King Zhao of the Yan Kingdom (IfiEffSS, ? -279, BC) accepted worthy men by placing a great mass of gold on it; see Zhanguoce. 1065-6. From this last couplet, we can infer that Wen once had won Pei's promise of recommendation. 86 retainers. Wen does not limit himself to praising Pei's contributions (of which the feat of wiping out Wu Yuanji was the most remarkable), but he also expresses his sorrow at losing a good guardian who knew him well and would probably, if he had not died so soon, have helped him advance in officialdom and contribute to the revival of the country. Comparing the Epistle, in which Wen counted on Pei to tide him over the crisis, with the two poems, in which Wen admired and bemoaned the dead Pei, we believe that "the Prime Minister Pei" of the Epistle was certainly Pei Du. Considering the fact that Wen could have managed to obtain an "Equivalent to Passing" in the autumn of that very year, we are all the more convinced that this must have been effected at Pei's recommendation, otherwise Wen would not have had the chance to take the examination, and "the road of recommending the worthies" would have been totally blocked. Married Year Clarifying the time when Wen was married can provide further evidence to bear out the birth year we have determined. In Wen's extant works, we have three apparent statements regarding his marriage. The first one is in "the Hundred-Rhyme Poem": 82 Coming as guest, I poured the green-ants, MM^4j|, 3 9 This is a very important couplet whose connotation points exclusively to Wen's experience of being insulted in the Jianghuai region, i.e., his involvement in love with a singer and marriage with her. The first line says Wen himself was drinking in pleasure quarters; and the second line means squandering his money like dirt, he bought the singer as his wife. Literally the green-ant, is another name for wine, as the floating foam on the surface looks like ants. Blue-beetle, is another rarely used name for money. It was said that when the blood of the mother beetles and of their young is respectively applied to eighty-one coins, the coins, no matter which is spent first, will fly back to the owner to Trying for a wife, I trod the blue-beetles. 87 Even before we get at the exact connotation of this couplet, we can say with safety that it is telling about his marriage before the fifth year of Kaicheng when he wrote the poem. Further evidence concerning Wen's marriage is in "the Fifty-Rhyme Poem", written in the second year of Huichang (842). To seek an official post, I had no appointment as that of Mao Y i , Tt i l fS^i l lKt, In dealing with marriage, I had no money like that of Ruan Xiu, Wi ^MJ^^k.40 Wen said that he did not have the luck of Mao Y i to get an official post. Nor did he have the fortune of Ruan Xiu to collect donated money for his marriage. Ruan Xiu was not married until his forties because of poverty. Wen's marriage was nearly as late as that of Ruan Xiu. A third proof is found in his "Epistle Presented to Bureau Director Han of the Ministry of Personnel:" "Like Zhongxuan, I am a traveler constantly moving; and like Zhuge, I am afraid of taking a wife too early" (fflm.ZMi&'Fik. f t l / ^ i c i l H W ) . Comparing himself toS Wang Can and Zhuge Liang, 4 1 this once more emphasizes that his marriage took place rather late in life, only when in his forties, the age at which Zhuge Liang was married. look for its mother or her young. For the bizarre witchery, see Xu Jian: Chuxueji. 27: 654, quoting Soushenji ($|#iB) by Gan Bao (T JI) of the dynasty. 4 0 Mao Y i was a recluse of great renown, especially famous for his filial piety. For the sake of his old mother, he received an official appointment; but after his mother's death, he repeatedly refused the government's offer of higher offices. See HHS, 27: 946. Ruan Xiu, because of poverty, did not get married until he was well into his forties. Before he was married, a group of influential men collected donations for his wedding, and many failed to donate their shares simply because they were not famous enough. See JS, 49: 1366-7. 4 1 Zhongxuan, was the style of Wang Can ( J E H , 177-217), who led a vagrant life until he was well into his thirties. See SGZ, 21: 597-9. Zhuge, here a