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


On the Models and Selection Criteria of Memorials on Yielding Position in the Wenxuan

Vol. 49 No. 4  12/2019


On the Models and Selection Criteria of Memorials on Yielding Position in the Wenxuan


Ho Wei-kang











Key words

thrice yielding position, the Wenxuan文選, ghostwriting, models, memorials on yielding position


Memorials to the throne functioned as a means of presenting requests to the emperor. An important subcategory of memorials to the throne was memorials on yielding position, which were used by potential candidates to politely decline official positions, noble ranks, enfeoffment and awards. The reason behind this literary genre’s emergence during the Six Dynasties has become an intriguing literary and historical problem. The custom of thrice yielding position had been practiced since the Eastern Han Dynasty. As in the Southern Dynasties, turning down positions higher than the third rank was common, which suggests the existence of an inner logic to the rise of memorials on yielding position. Also, literary composition gradually became a field of expertise in the Southern Dynasties, and many such memorials came to be written by professional ghostwriters. Since most reasons for turning down positions had become cliché, creating original content while taking care not to damage the delicate relationship between monarchs and courtiers constituted a real challenge for ghostwriters. The memorials on yielding position included in the Wenxuan文選reveal the shift from the social aspect of distinguishing men of future generations to the artistic aspect of highlighting literary skill. This indicates that the objective of these memorials was more oriented towards literary merit than the formal presentation of a request. Moreover, the rationales and structures used in these memorials also provided future literati with models to emulate.


Author: Ho Wei-kang
Genre: Article
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