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Archaism in Han Yü's poetry Yang, Alex

Abstract

Han Yü has long been considered an ardent supporter of the revival of the ancient ways or the fugu movement during the mid Tang. This image of Han is largely based on his prose writings, which generally resemble the simple and unembellished style of the ancients. Nevertheless, while a dedication to fugu may be observed in Han's prose, it is not at all evident in his poetry, which follows a highly unique style of its own and contains some of the most bizarre examples of classical Chinese verse. The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate how Han Yü’s poetic style contradicts the principles of fugu. In my first chapter, I will define the meaning of fugu and explain how it is both a literary movement for recreating the achaic writing style and an intellectual movement for revitalizing Confucian values. I will also make a quick comparison between Han Yü 's eccentric poems and his genuine fugu poems. The former account for most of his famous works, and the latter only a small fraction of his works. The disparity in number should prove that Han consciously chose to develop a bizarre style in favour of an orthodox fugu one. In the following chapters I will analyze several prominent characteristics of Han Yü 's poetry. Some of these characteristics, such as the use of rare characters and prosaism, may seem archaic at first, but after a systematic analysis, it will become evident that they do not truly resemble the style of the ancients and are more likely to be perceived as being bizarre and unconventional by Tang times. Other prominent features, such as the peculiar imagery, humour, Daoist references, and un-Confucian themes, are more directly contradictory to the orthodox image of fugu, and thus reveal Han's desire to distinguish himself from both his contemporaries and those before him. It is therefore reasonable to argue that Han Yü 's verse is almost the opposite of fugu, for it constantly breaks with tradition and does not show any true interest in returning to an earlier style.

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