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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


The Spirit of Buddhist Monks’ Ascenticism and the Clear-and-Cold World in Jia Dao’s Poetry

Vol. 34 No. 2   3/2004


The Spirit of Buddhist Monks’ Ascenticism and the Clear-and-Cold World in Jia Dao’s Poetry


Chi Xiao









Key words

Jia Dao, inscape of the clear-and-cold, asceticism (dhūta-guna), poverty, Buddhist Monks’ everyday practice


       This essay discusses the clear-and-cold inscape in Jia Dao’s poetry in terms of cultural intertextuality between Buddhism and the p sychology of frustrated literati. Starting with observing Jia Dao’s highlight of Buddhist monks’ asceticism (dhūta-guna), the author reveals how the Buddhist metaphorical meaning of poverty is used by Jia to gibe a sense of dignity to the poet himself. Through this aesthetic appreciation of poverty, a term in poetics, qing (literally, “clearness”), was re-defined to diverge from its original meaning as an ideal ofthe romantic literati of Wei-jin period. While qing for Jia suggests a disdain of all luxurious happiness in the human world as a night-blooming cereous, the character han (literally, “coldness”) in the compound word qing han bears the meaning of poverty, of the bleak and the desolate, and downheartedness. Using the clear-and-cold inscape as a lens, the essay goes on to analyze Jia Dao’s landscape poems. It argues that Jia’s power is to derive poetic significance that is equivalent to the Buddhist ultimate meaning of life from such traditionally negative images as poverty, the bleak and the desolate, loneliness, wildness, old-age, the passage of time, and even death. At the same time, however, the fact that the poet was a monk in the past and a frustrated literatus at the present creates a gap between his theme and structure. Jia’s lyric style emerged in China’s transition from mid-ages to modern time. The functi on of the Southern school of Chan, a religion of the common people, in the reformation of a new literary culture is particularly worthy of reconsideration by literary historians.



Author: Chi Xiao
Genre: Article
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