Poetic Discourses on Li-Bai in Qing Dynasty
The aims of my dissertation entitled “Poetics of Li-Bai in Qing Dynasty” are to discuss the poetics of Li-Bai independently outside of the traditional concept of “Li-Tu (李杜)”, and to discuss the reception, interpretation, and criticism of Li-Bai and Li-Bai’s poetics by Qing literati, and to delineate the perspective and limitation of Qing literati’s evolutionary commentaries on Li-Bai’s poetics. The dissertation contains six chapters:
The first chapter “Introduction” revealed the background and aims of this dissertation and proposed the definition of the main theme of “Poetics of Li-Bai” based on reviewing the literature of previous studies. The research topic mainly focused on the annotations, anthologies, and the critics of poets (Shi-Hua, 詩話).
The second chapter “The relationship between Qing Poetics and Li-Bai, and its implication in poetics” aimed to correlate the poetics of Li-Bai and the popular poetics by analyzing the development of poetics in different stages of Qing Dynasty. The early Qing literati textual critically studied Li-Bai’s poetics, and interplayed the imagery of drinking and “Yo-Xian (遊仙)”. In the mean while, Wang, Shi-Zhen (王士禎) highlighted that Li-Bai’s “Ye-Bo-Niu-Zhu-Huai-Gu (夜泊牛渚懷古)” as the paradigm of “Shen-Yun (神韻)”, which was considered as a transition point of the poetic discourses on Li-Bai. In the middle Qing Dynasty, the official publication “The annotated catalog of books in the imperial library”(四庫全書總目) seems not able to cover and represent the value of Li-Bai’s annotation collection. Whereas the mainstream poetics lead by Shen, De-Qian (沈德潛), Yuan-Mei (袁枚), and Wong, Fang-Gang (翁方綱), criticized Li-Bai’s poetry via the point of views of style of format and tonality (Ge-Diao, 格調), character and spirit (Xing-Ling, 性靈), and the structure (Ji-Li, 肌理), which enriched the intension of Li-Bai’s poetics. In the later Qing, the Li-Bai’s poetry criticism was marginalized due to the preference of Song poetry (宗宋詩潮). Qing literati, however, proposed new concepts different from traditional. Fang, Dong-Shu (方東樹) analyzed the grammar of Li-Bai’s poetics and indicated the way to study; Liu, Xi-Zai (劉熙載) proposed how to differentiate the inside and outside of Li poetics; Gong, Zi-Zhen (龔自珍) proposed that “Bing Zhuang Qu Yi Wei Xin (併莊、屈以為心)”, which highlighted the unrestrained spirit of Li-Bai.
The third chapter “The interpretation and empty in Wang-Qi (王琦)’s “Li-Tai-Bai-Quan-Ji”《李太白全集》” discussed the only annotation of Li-Bai’s poetry in Qing Dynasty. I first sorted out the annotations of Li-Bai’s poetry before Qing Dynasty, and then discussed Wang-Chi’s aims, the contents of introduction and postscript, and the format of annotation when writing the annotation, which lead to the conclusion that the perspective view of Wang-Chi’s “Li-Tai-Bai-Quan-Ji”《李太白全集》was not the mainstream opinion in the period. However, he differentiated the different annotation ways: “Chan-Shi-Shi-Zhi (闡釋詩旨)” and “Shi-Shi-Wang-Yi (釋事忘意)”. He also manifested the characteristics of Li-Bai’s poetry by keeping blank without annotations. This study confirmed that there was no definitely correlation between number of annotations and the judgments.
The fourth chapter “The collection and commentary of Li-Bai’s Poems in Tang poetry anthologies in Qing dynasty” discussed the classes and aims of the anthologist including the Qing emperor, literati, children and folks. The Qing emperor and literati were trying to establish the template of “Shi-Jiao(詩教)” by selection of specific poems whereas the selected Li-Bai’s poems are not the same. The emperor’s selection may reflect the condition of the strong empire, or promotion of the patriotism of the poets. In comparison with the emperor, the representative anthology by the Qing literati “Shen, De-Qian (沈德潛)” represented an poetic view with diversities and unaffected by the emperor’s power and influence. The anthologies for children mainly focus on collecting the simple and popular poetry, and avoid the political poetry, which showed the difference in style between the folks and literati. Beside, this chapter also interpreted the reason and when Li-Bai’s fourteen popular poems became popular by comparing the Qing anthologies and the anthologies before Qing Dynasty.
The fifth chapter “Genres criticism of Li-Bai’s poetry in Qing Dynasty” analyzed how the Qing literati appreciated and criticized Li-Bai’s poetry and the significance in poetics. The Qing literati commented that Li-Bai’s “Gu-Shi(古詩)” explained Li-Bai’s “Gu-Feng (古風)” and the connotation of “Gu-Ti-Yue-Fu (古題樂府)”, which reflected the traditional style of Qing literati. The Qing literati commented that Li-Bai’s “Jui-Ju (絕句)” are the best in Tang Dynasty by showing that Li-Bai learned “Yue-Fu-Min-Ge (樂府民歌)” and showing the characteristic of “Yan-Jin-Yi-Bu-Jue(言盡意不絕)”. The Qing literati also approved that Li-Bai’s “Lu-Shi (律詩)” used the style of “Yi-Gu-Wei-Lu (以古為律)” and that Li-Bai’s style to express the content of the poem (Shi-Yi, 詩意) is better than using the complimentary style (Dui-Ou, 對偶). Overall, the Qing Literati provided an open view of poetics and also highlighted the position of Li-Bai as a traditional poet through the conversation with the poetics in previous dynasties.
The sixth chapter “Perspective” summarized the findings of this study and proposed the three frameworks of poetic discourses on Li-Bai: textual criticism, moral principles, and esthetics. This chapter also provided some perspectives of the unaddressed issues that worthwhile for further study.
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