This essay talks about a significant moment in Chinese intellectual and literary history, centrally involving the nature of human happiness, which remains one of the great questions in all philosophical traditions. The Northern Song version of this question continues to have resonance in the contemporary world because we often still link happiness with particular situations and often, like our Northern Song predecessors, with particular sites and possessions. These questions can indeed be found earlier in the Chinese tradition, but in the major social transformations of the Northern Song—a growing commercial culture, and an elite defined by cultural prestige rather than by family background—this question came to enjoy a new intensity of discursive reflection.
A certain dispute that arose during the early Jin dynasty regarding Bai Juyi that seemed to be a coincidental occurrence was to some extent inevitable. On one hand, it foreshadowed the opposition that would later arise between followers of the Tang and Song stylistic schools; on the other, it represented both the Tang school poets’ disdain for the “ornamental avant-garde” poetry that was fashionable at the time as well as their own search for a new creative direction. The re-evaluation of Bai Juyi that occurred during that period, particularly the frequent comparison of Bai to Tao Yuanming, indicates that Bai Juyi’s poetry was widely accepted at the time, which itself represented not only a challenge to traditional perspectives, but also a historical landmark in Bai Juyi’s history of acceptance. Jin dynasty poets’ creative imitation of Bai Juyi’s carefree as well as his satirical poems spurred a maturation of Bai’s spirit of concern for self and reality, which later incorporated itself into the spirit of Chinese literati in general.
In the 1920s, the Japanese scholar Naito Konan put forward the famous theories of “the Song dynasty is the beginning of modern China” and “the cultural transformation was completed during the Tang and Song dynasties,” which exerted far-reaching influence in the academic circle. However, although full of the “numerous academic growth points and exuberant academic vitality, the theories have not been well explored and illustrated yet.”1 This paper, taking Liu Yong as a case study, is intended to provide concrete examples to Naito’s theories. The urban narrative in Liu Yong’s lyrics—the multi-role discourse practice of a prodigal poet, a talented lyricist, and a traveling official—inherited the discourse splitting trend of the late-Tang and Five dynasties and finished the transformation from the elite to the mass discourse. Accordingly, it set the narrative mode of amorous themes and discourse mode of “talented lyricist plus amorous affairs,” which exerted far-reaching influence on the construction of the new urban culture in the Song dynasty.
The cane is a frequent subject in Song Literature. Its tremendous variety is starting. Meanwhile, cane-related materials, costumes, circumstances and activities reflect distinct inclination, carrying rich cultural and aesthetic implications. From the “cane literature,” we see clearly the evolution of worldviews, values, aesthetic tastes and literary claims of Song writers, as well as the selective inheritance of Song culture from preceding literatures. It can be concluded that, in a certain sense, the cane of ancient Chinese writers embodies a history of literature, of aesthetic, and of philosophy.
In the 20th century, the most frequently used critical term in Li Bai studies is “romanticism.” Li Bai is regarded as a romantic poet and his poetry is typical of romantic writing. But nowadays, the usage of these terms has been under attack. It is considered to be alien to the nature of classical Chinese literature. The most influential volume of Chinese literary history edited by Yuan Xingpei, which is published seven years ago, pays little attention to this term in the chapter on Li Bai. Are Western critical ideas really inappropriate in understanding Chinese classical literature? Can we imagine a wholly purified criticism that depends only on native Chinese critical terms without any Western impact? As modern readers, how can we understand our literary past? These questions have been under discussion for a long time ever since the modernity of Chinese literary criticism has become a major topic in modern literary studies. Reconsidering the establishment and spread of the concept “romanticism” in the study of Li Bai, will offer us some good answers to those questions.
Xiang Chu , Zhang Zikai , Tan Wei , He Jianping. Tangdai baihua shipai yanjiu;Zhao Shanlin. Zhongguo xiqu chuanbo jieshou shi;
Zheng Jiewen . Zhongguo Moxue tongshi;Zhu Shangshu . Songdai keju yu wenxue;Chen Yunji . Fojiao yu Zhongguo wenxue lungao;
Huang Tianji , Kang Baocheng . Zhongguo gudai xiju xingtai yanjiu;Lu Shengjiang . Wenjing mifulun huijiao huikao;Xia Jing. Liyue wenhua yu Zhongguo wenlun zaoqi xingtai yanjiu