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Chu Ci
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

 Chu Ci

History
Known as Poetry of the State of Chu, Chu Ci (chǔ cí 楚辞) was a new style of poetry emerged after The Book of Songs (shī jīng 诗经). It sprouted and blossomed in the State of Chu (chǔ guó 楚国) in south china in the 4th century BC.

Features
As to its formation, it was influenced by folk songs, music and the folk literature of the Chu State; therefore, it was characterized by a strong local flavor. compared with the “Four–Character-Trim-Verse” (sì yán shī 四言诗) style in The Book of Songs, The profusion of myths and fantasies, the unusual twists of imagination, the vigorous surge of feelings and exotic use of verses in Chu Ci was a complete breakthrough, thus enlarging the content of every line of poem and enhancing the expressiveness, thereby demonstrating a unique romanticism that has never faded and pioneered a new road for the development of Chinese culture.

Qu Yuan and his work
Qu YuanAlthough Chu Ci is an anthology of poems by many poets, Qu Yuan (qū yuán 屈原) was doubtless its central figure and was regarded as one of the greatest patriotic poets held in the highest esteem in Chinese history. A minister in the court of King Huai of Chu (chǔ huái wáng 楚怀王), Qu Yuan advocated forming an alliance with the other states against the dominance of Qin (qín 秦). However, his advice was not taken and he was ostracized by other officials in court. Witnessing the corruption of his colleagues and the inability of his king, Qu Yuan was rather worried, so he wrote a great number of poems expressing his resentment. Afterwards, defamed by other villains, Qu Yuan was exiled to lead a vagrant life for a long time and finally drowned himself in the Miluo River (mì luó jiāng 汨罗江). On the Dragon Boat Festival (duān wǔ jié 端午节) every the Dragon Boat Festivelyear, Chinese people will wrap glutinous rice dumplings (bāo zòng zǐ 包粽子) and hold dragon boat race (sài lóng zhōu 赛龙舟) to commemorate him. His main works include On Encountering Trouble (Li Sao, lí sāo 离骚), Heavenly Questions (Tian Wen, tiān wèn 天问), Nine Songs (Jiu Ge, jiǔ gē 九歌), etc.
On Encountering Trouble (Li Sao) is a colossal political lyric made up of over 370 lines with 2400 characters. Drawing on the technique of romanticism, the poet recounted his life, his beliefs and misfortunes, expressed his concern over the fate of the Chu State and his determination to maintain his lofty aspirations. In this poem, riding on a rainbow chariot driven by dragons as white as jade (yù lóng 玉龙), guarded by the god of wind, god of sun, and god of moon, he soared to heaven in search of his ideals. Finally he was forced to leave his most beloved Chu State. Qu Yuan’s patriotism and unyielding spirit has moved and encouraged many readers down through the generations, edifying their sentiment.

Other poets
The Book of Han (hàn shū 汉书) noted 106 Chu poets with 1,318 compositions. Many established Han poets also imitated the style of Chu Ci and produced their fair share of notable poems. After Qu Yuan, Song Yu (sòng yù 宋玉) and Tang Le (táng lè 唐勒) also wrote exquisite works in Chu Ci style, making Chu Ci a typical genre of poetry in a certain period, which was called the “Poetry of sorrow” (sāo tǐ shī 骚体诗).

Appreciation

On Encountering Trouble 

On Encountering Trouble (part)
离骚(节选)
A prince am I of ancestry renowned,
帝高阳之苗裔兮,
Illustrious name my royal sire hath found.
朕皇考曰伯庸。
When Sirius did in spring its light display,
摄提贞于孟陬兮,
A child was born, and Tiger marked the day.
惟庚寅吾以降。
When first upon my face my lord's eye glanced,
皇览揆余初度兮,
For me auspicious names he straight advanced,
肇锡余以嘉名:
Denoting that in me Heaven's marks divine
名余曰正则兮,
Should with the virtues of the earth combine.
字余曰灵均。

 楚辞

     Chu Ci “楚辞”又称“楚词”,是战国时代的伟大诗人屈原创造的一种诗体。作品运用楚地(今两湖一带)的文学样式、方言声韵,叙写楚地的山川人物、历史风情,具有浓厚的地方特色。汉代时,刘向把屈原的作品及宋玉等人“承袭屈赋”的作品编辑成集,名为《楚辞》。并成为继《诗经》以后,对我国文学具有深远影响的一部诗歌总集。 
      楚辞,其本义是指楚地的言辞,后来逐渐固定为两种含义:一是诗歌的体裁,一是诗歌总集的名称(在一定程度上也代表了楚国文学)。从诗歌体裁来说,它是战国后期以屈原为代表的诗人,在楚国民歌基础上开创的一种新诗体。从总集名称来说,它是西汉刘向在前人基础上辑录的一部“楚辞”体的诗歌总集,收入战国楚人屈原、宋玉的作品以及汉代贾谊、淮南小山、庄忌、东方朔、王褒、刘向诸人的仿骚作品。
      “楚辞”之名首见于《史记 • 张汤传》。可见至迟在汉代前期已有这一名称。其本义,当是泛指楚地的歌辞,以后才成为专称,指以战国时楚国屈原的创作为代表的新诗体。这种诗体具有浓厚的地域文化色彩,如宋人黄伯思所说,“皆书楚语,作楚声,纪楚地,名楚物”(《东观余论》)。西汉末,刘向辑录屈原、宋玉的作品,及汉代人模仿这种诗体的作品,书名即题作《楚辞》。这是《诗经》以后,我国古代又一部具有深远影响的诗歌总集。另外,由于屈原的《离骚》是楚辞的代表作,所以楚辞又被称为“骚”或“骚体”。汉代人还普遍把楚辞称为“赋”。《史记》中已说屈原“作《怀沙》之赋”《汉书 • 艺文志》中也列有“屈原赋”、“宋玉赋”等名目。
      在汉代,楚辞也被称为辞或辞赋。西汉末年,刘向将屈原、宋玉的作品以及汉代淮南小山、东方朔、王褒、刘向等人承袭模仿屈原、宋玉的作品共16篇辑录成集,定名为《楚辞》。楚辞遂又成为诗歌总集的名称。由于屈原的《离骚》是《楚辞》的代表作,故楚辞又称为骚或骚体。

 

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