Chü Yüan

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Ch’ü Yüan

 

Born circa 340 B.C; died circa 278 B.C. Chinese poet.

Ch’ü Yüan was the first Chinese poet to be known by name. In his capacity as a high official he helped formulate government decrees and influenced the court’s foreign policy. Ch’ü Yüan was unjustly slandered and was exiled. In protest against this injustice, he drowned himself in the Milo River in Ch’angsha.

Ch’ü Yüan was the first Chinese poet to express social and historical conflicts, profound love of the homeland, and the emotions experienced by a lofty soul tormented by anguish over injustice and the tragic fate of his native land. Ch’ü Yüan created the ch’u tz’u (also called sao t’i), one of the main genres of ancient Chinese poetry. The folklore of the Ch’u kingdom was the main source of Ch’ü Yüan’s imagery, whose mythical character was nevertheless linked with actual life. According to the Han shu (History of the Han), Ch’ü Yüan wrote 25 works, including the elegiac narrative poem Li sao, which expressed his world view most fully.

The poems of Ch’ü Yüan constituted the most important works in the Ch’u tz’u (Elegies of Ch’u; third century B.C.), a poetry collection compiled in the Ch’u kingdom in South China. The concepts expressed in the Ch’u tz’u became widely known after Liu Hsiang compiled a collection of the same name in 77–66 B.C. Wang I (first to second centuries A.D.) compiled an annotated edition of the Ch’u tz’u that has become a classic. A photographic facsimile of the Ch’u tz’u published in 1953 was a reproduction of a xylograph (engraving on wood) of 1234 that was based on a similar collection by Chu Hsi (1130–1200). The brilliant poems of Ch’ü Yüan were the first works of Chinese literature whose author was known by name.

WORKS

Ch’u tz’u chu. Peking, 1953.
In Russian translation:
Stikhi. Moscow, 1954.
Stikhi. Moscow, 1956.
“Chuskie strofy.” In Antologiia kitaiskoi poezii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1957.

REFERENCES

Fedorenko, N. T. “Problema Tsiui Iuania.” Sovetskoe kitaevedenie, 1958, no. 2.
Fedorenko, N. T. “Poeziia Tsiui-Iuania.” In International’noe i natsional’noe v literaturakh Vostoka. Moscow, 1972.
Fedorenko, N. T. “Bessmertie Tsiui Iuania.” Problemy Dal’nego Vostoka, 1973, no. 2.
Serebriakov, E. A. “O Tsiui Iuane i chuskikh strofakh.” In the collection Literatura drevnego Kitaia. Moscow, 1969.

N. T. FEDORENKO

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