Critics and Commentators: The <i>Book of Poems</i> as Classic and Literature

Critics and Commentators: The Book of Poems as Classic and Literature

by Bruce Rusk


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At once a revered canon associated with Confucius and the earliest anthology of poetry, the Book of Poems holds a unique place in Chinese literary history. Since early imperial times it served as an ideal of literary perfection, as it provided a basis for defining shi poetry, the most esteemed genre of elite composition. In imperial China, however, literary criticism and classical learning represented distinct fields of inquiry that differed in status, with classical learning considered more serious and prestigious. Literary critics thus highlighted connections between the Book of Poems and later verse, while classical scholars obscured the origins of their ideas in literary theory.

This book explores the mutual influence of literary and classicizing approaches, which frequently and fruitfully borrowed from one another. Drawing on a wide range of sources including commentaries, anthologies, colophons, and inscriptions, Bruce Rusk chronicles how scholars borrowed from critics without attribution and even resorted to forgery to make appealing new ideas look old. By unraveling the relationships through which classical and literary scholarship on the Book of Poems co-evolved from the Han dynasty through the Qing, this study shows that the ancient classic was the catalyst for intellectual innovation and literary invention.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674067011
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 12/17/2012
Series: Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series , #81
Pages: 300
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Bruce Rusk is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Tables and Figures xi

Conventions xii

Abbreviations xiii

Chart of Historical Periods Discussed xv

Introduction 1

A Critic in the Borderlands 1

From Margin to Footnote 4

The Formation of a Canon 5

Structure of the Book 10

Implications 13

1 Poems and Poems 15

Talking with a Madman 17

A New Classic: The Songs of Chu 22

The Shi Thing 25

Poems on Stone 30

Genre Trouble 35

Supplementing and Rewriting 41

Rhyme as a Reason 45

Three Hundred More 51

2 Re-Collections 57

Early Anthologies: Plans and Principles 59

Collecting the Classics 68

The Poetics of Completism 70

Found Poetry: The Stone Drums 78

Verse Inscribed 81

A Market for Antiquity 83

Boundaries Restored 86

Recalling the Canon: The Classic Inspires Anthologies 88

3 In the Image of the Classic 95

Ritual Models 97

Autocommentary: Prefaces 99

Commentary Where It Counted 100

Rewriting the Canon: Song Dynasty Ritual Songs 105

New Doubts in the Song 110

4 Circulation in the Troposphere 115

Defining and Refining the Tropes 117

Interpreting Creation 120

Borrowing Back 123

Zhu Xi: Engaging with Two Canons 126

Joining Fortes: Tropes in Combination 130

Speaking with Master Qu: Zhu Xi and the Songs of Chu 134

Counterfactual Canons: Extending the Principles 141

Recombination 143

5 Inventious Discovery 149

The Lu School, Lost and Found 150

The Mind's Eye: New Readings in the Ming 152

Reinvented Traditions 158

Pernicious Poems? 169

The Breakdown of Song Learning 172

Better Writing Through Forgery 177

Duplicitous Standards: The Manipulation of the Lu Poems 180

Hidden Legacies 188

Debunking and Rethinking 189

Conclusion 194


I The Han and Mao School Readings of "Heaven Made" 203

II Early Witnesses to Shao Yong's Couplet 204

III The Authenticity of Shizbun &Chinese character; and Shiyi &Chinese character; 206

IV Tang to Ming Collections with Titles Alluding to the Poetry Classic 208

Reference Matter

Notes 219

Works Cited 253

Index 271

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