Exiles, Poetry Society, and Meditation-Hall: The Bing-Tian Poetry Anthology as a Text

Vol. 50 No. 1  3/2020


Exiles, Poetry Society, and Meditation-Hall: The Bing-Tian Poetry Anthology as a Text


Liu Wei-chih











Key words

Bing-Tian Poetry Society 冰天詩社, exile, Hanke 函可, intertextuality, Julia Kristeva, religious literature


This paper examines the Bing-Tian Poetry Society 冰天詩社, the first literary society in the history of Northeast China. Founded in 1650, the society was comprised mainly of Han people exiled to the northeastern borderlands by the Qing court. Having a total of 33 members who used pseudonyms as variegated as grotesque, the poetry society reflected the ethos that its members’ poems and pseudonyms were mutually referential.

In view of this conundrum, rather than regarding the poetry society as a community, this paper treats the Bing-Tian Poetry Anthology as a text. Applying Julia Kristeva’s theory of intertextuality, this paper argues that the key to understanding the constant mutation of the meanings of its members’ pseudonyms, places of ancestry, and works lies not so much in the differences between the old and new meanings as in the process of transition from one meaning system to another; to wit, the ceaseless change of meanings.

To accommodate the exiles, who not only experienced the turmoil of dynastic changes and the horrors of war but also confronted ethical dilemmas and physical sufferings, their fellow poet Hanke 函可 offered them a makeshift space where they could settle down and give vent to their feelings under the pretext of the literati tradition of association. In addition, summoning supernatural beings, animals, and sentient and non-sentient beings, this shelter-oriented poetry society was filled with anachronisms as well as inconstant interpretations and signifiers.


Author: Liu Wei-chih
Genre: Article