From Phoenix to Duck: The Fu of Wang Bo Written before and on His Sojourn in Shu

Vol. 46 No.3 Sept, 2016


From Phoenix to Duck: The Fu of Wang Bo Written before and on His Sojourn in Shu


Chan, Timothy Wai Keung









Key words

Wang Bo, Shu region, Lu Zhaolin, lyrical rhapsody on objects, prosodic rules and meter


Wang Bo’s 王勃 (650-676) journey to the Shu region (in modern Sichuan province) demarcates his fu (rhapsody) style, which underwent a dramatic change from elegance to freshness. This paper examines the factors behind this change and discusses the aesthetic appeal of these fu in an attempt to reconsider the contributions of Wang’s fu to Chinese literature.

Wang Bo’s early career success shaped his fu, which were mainly products of social gatherings written in a sycophantic tone and a highly embellished style. However, he was dismissed in 669 from a prince’s patronage and became a vagabond in Shu, and his three-year sojourn there triggered a crucial transformation in his literary style. When the unhappy poet encountered the scenery of this strange land, a new poetic style emerged in his writing. The present essay focuses on three fu about birds: one written before the dismissal and two after. It compares their forms and styles, and argues that these fu, along with a number of others with similar backgrounds, are all written in the then-prevalent quasi-regulated fu form and feature a high level of lyricism. This paper constructs a complex picture of Wang’s fu and sheds light on the fu of the early Tang period, when the regulated fu form became fully developed.



Author: Chan, Timothy Wai Keung
Genre: Article