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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A re-evaluation of the life and works of Wei Ying-Wu (c.737 - ?) Lim, Chooi Kwa


Traditionally, when critics mention Wei Ying-wu, they like to quote the T'ang dynasty scholar, Li Chao's praise of Wei from the T'ang Kuo-shih Pu. Li describes Wei as having lofty and pure character, a meagre diet and few desires, he also says that Wei burned incense and swept the floor wherever he lived. Wei is usually praised merely for the style of his five-character verse which is described as calm, lucid and leisurely. In addition to discussing the traditional criticism of Wei's character and poetry, this dissertation emphasizes the phases of his personal and literary development that are often overlooked by scholars. My intention is to present a true picture of Wei's personality and also give a fair and just appraisal of his poetry. This dissertation should make it clear that Wei was not a man who spent his entire life merely burning incense, sweeping the floor and turning his back on reality to live in peace. The fact that his life was much more varied than it is usually portrayed is probably the reason he became such a versatile poet. Although many people have written biographies of Wei, it is difficult to find one without errors. Therefore in chapter one I have compared the biographical research of different scholars in order to determine the facts of Wei's life. However, there are still some errors common to all his biographers. In these cases I have given my own suppositions together with the evidence to support my views. In chapter two, I have paid more attention to the literary achievements which others have overlooked rather than to traditional criticism of Wei's poetry. Nevertheless, I have also endeavoured to give examples to support those instances of traditional criticism that, in my opinion, are accurate. In chapter three, after discussing Wei Ying-wu's personality, I have analysed Wei's political opinions. This had never been done by previous scholars. Furthermore, I have analysed his attitudes towards society. Only by examining such a broad range of Wei Ying-wu's life and thought can one hope to adequately understand the poet's literary significance.

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