UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The study of Wang Changling’s seven-character quatrain Yang, Jing Huey


Wang Changling, though not a major poet in Chinese literary history, is considered the grand master of a major poetic form, giyan jueju. His achievement in gijue consists in his craftsmanship in writing the form and his contribution in establishing the aesthetic criteria for the later generations to follow. In order to present Wang Changling’s poetic achievement in qijue, this thesis constructs a historical framework to examine the evolution of the gijue form from its beginning up to the poet’s times, focusing on thematics and formal techniques. Chapter I defines Wang Changling’s historical situation. Since only fragmentary information is extant regarding the poet’s life, it is impossible to reconstruct his personal history in detail. Nevertheless, this liniited information is sufficient to place the poet within the historical framework of the gijue development. Wang Changling was active as a poet in the first half of the eighth century, and thus represents the mature stage of qijue development Chapter II examines the definition and the origin of qijue. Following our knowledge of Wang Changling’s time, the discussion of this chapter focuses on the evolution of the poetic form from the mid-fifth century to the seventh century, the time before Wang Changling was born. During these two centuries, qijue and its prototype seven-character quatrains were overshadowed by the then-dominant five character poems. Only a small number of qijue were composed, and most of these poems were written under the strong influence of the folk-song tradition and ornate palace-style poetry. Hence, most qijue in this time were written simply as a rhetorical exercise to show off the literary ability of the poets and their lords. Chapter ifi reviews critical opinion of Wang Changling’s gijue and offers my approach in examining his poems. Here I divide the critical comments of Wang Changling’s poems in two categories: the canonization of his poetic accomplishment, and concrete observations about his poems. My approach is to examine Wang’s qijue in two ways, to identify the tradition he inherits from his predecessors, and further to analyze how he breaks away from the tradition and establishes his own unique style. The poet adopts themes and methods of description from the poets of previous periods while demonstrating personal and emotional complexity through the poetic form, a feature which is absent in the works of his predecessors. He achieves this by correlating imagery of nature and his personae’s feelings through the use of implications. Chapter IV interprets thirteen of Wang Changling’s qijue in the context of the theoretical and historical framework of the previous chapters. It highlights the innovative poetic techniques the poet employs when adopting both traditional and contemporary themes and using natural descriptive manner. Wang’s ability to use implications to convey the complexity of emotions and events makes his poems rich with inexhaustible meanings. Chapter V concludes that Wang’s achievement in the qijue lies in his ability to integrate tradition with his own restrained style. Because of his success in the form, the aesthetic criteria for qijue since his time have been those of emotional profundity and implication. Hence, Wang Changling’s importance in qijue is not only due to his masterly craftsmanship in writing the form, but also because he opens up a new way of writing the form for later generations to follow.

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