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


On the Recreation of Lyric Time in Ruan Ji's Poems of My Cares

Vol. 38 No. 4   12/2008    


On the Recreation of Lyric Time in Ruan Ji's Poems of My Cares


Simon Man Ho Wong









Key words

Ruan Ji, Poems of My Cares, vision of time, Zhouyi, Chinese lyricism


  Based on the premise that thinking about time is the essential horizon for Ruan Ji's “lamentation of life," this article explores how Ruan opened up a new vision of time for Chinese lyricism through his Poems of My Cares. Taking Ruan's study on The Zhouyi (The Book of Changes) as the ground of discussion, this article compares Ruan's view of time with that of Qu Yuan and shows that Ruan adopted a paradoxical stance. On the one hand, unlike his predecessors, Ruan not only lamented the quantitative passage of time but also worried about some "determined qualitative changes" in time, a concept which was derived from the “given temporal schemata" of the 64 hexagrams of The Zhouyi. On the other hand, Ruan's study of The Zhouyi also led him to cling to a moral obligation even in the face of difficult cir cumstances. In combining the two aforementioned aspects, the poet espoused a persistent belief in both a “reality principle" (based on a “limited fatalistic belief") and a moral principle.

  This article then discusses three kinds of time in Ruan's My Cares Through the lens of The Zhouyi, Ruan viewed the future of his world as compartmentalized and pessimistic. However, because he confronted the hopelessness of the future, the lyric poet was able to transcend The Zhouyi's view of temporal progression toward the future and rediscover the real value of life in the momentary mood of the present, particularly as expressed in treasured human love. By alluding to the past, his poetry embodied the transcendence of original substance to its archetypal realm found within The Zhouyi. The article concludes that Ruan Ji was a poet who recreated lyric time once again, following the precedent set by Qu Yuan. In transcending his predecessors, Ruan advanced a new concept of lyricism that re-defined the value of individuallife in terms of momentary mood and, in particular, in terms of love instead of sensual pleasures. As a thinker, Ruan also foreshadowed Guo Xiang's concept of time. Ruan highlighted “images of space" as compensation for using the past merely as image. In so doing, with his recognition of the difference between the time of an individual life and that of the cosmos, he created a new tradition of diaogu (meditation on the past) for Chinese lyricism. This new tradition endowed the landscape with a historical dimension, namely, a deeper conception of space and a more three dimensional notion of time.



Author: Chi Xiao
Genre: Article
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