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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From a literary man to a model Confucian : Han Yu's image in the Tang anecdotes Wu, Siyu


The early Northern Song witnesses the commencement of an elevation of Han Yu’s status in intellectual history. However, the image of Han Yu as a cultural hero established by the Northern Song intellectuals departs greatly from how Han Yu perceived himself and how he was perceived during his day. This paper examines how Han Yu was perceived by the Tang intellectuals after him by reading the anecdotes preserved in the five compilations produced during the 9th and 10th centuries: Wei Xuan’s Liu binke jiahualu, Li Zhao’s Guoshibu, Zhao Lin’s Yinhualu, Zhang Du’s Xuanshizhi and Wang Dingbao’s Zhiyan. This thesis argues that the Tang literati’s recognition of Han Yu’s commitment to some basic Confucian moral values proceeded gradually throughout the second half of the Tang dynasty. Contrary to Peter K. Bol’s assertion that the transformation of Han Yu’s image from a literary genius to a model Confucian took place after the Tang collapsed, the paper supplements Anna M. Shields’ speculation and contends that Han Yu’s understanding and practice of Confucius’ teaching, along with his literature, had increasingly drawn attention from the intellectual community by the late Tang period. Not only were Han Yu’s writings exalted, his consistent concern for public affairs, his stoic antagonism to Buddhism and Daoism, and his adherence to Confucian moral values in public and private life were also highlighted. Confronting unprecedented political depression and moral deficiency, the late Tang intellectual community portrayed Han Yu as a model Confucian, an image Han Yu could not imagine during his day.

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