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


Exemplary, Contrapuntal, and Expressive Writing: A Discussion of Nine “Matching Poems to Tao's Works Mimicking an Old Style" in Su Shih's Collection

Vol. 36 No. 2   12/2006    


Exemplary, Contrapuntal, and Expressive Writing: A Discussion of Nine “Matching Poems to Tao's Works Mimicking an Old Style" in Su Shih's Collection


Chen -huei Lee









Key words

exemplary, contrapuntal, expressive writing, matching poems to Tao's works, mimicking poems in old style


       The more than 100 pieces of Su Shih's matching poems to Tao Yuanming's (1037-1101) works (和陶詩) were composed during his late years and are well-known as the reflection and autobiographical writing of Su by taking Tao as his model. Su was fully aware of the unprecedented nature of the task he was undertaking, as he once announced in a letter to his brother that “there are poems written to mimic old style by ancient poets, but not a single piece has been made to match old works. Writing matching poems across time was started by Dong-po." The consciousness urged by Su to create and experiment with a new way of writing through those matching poems with the combination of traits from “Ni Gu Shi" (mimicking poems in an old style 擬古詩), which originated in the Six Dynasties, and “He Shi" (matching poems 和詩), which were fashionable then as exchanging poems was a common activity among friends in the Tang and Song dynasty. Moreover, since ‘Ni Gu Shi' had been long developed and become kind of a special writing pattern, the combination, therefore, made the nine “He Tao Ni Gu" poems (matching poems to Tao's woks mimicking an old style 和陶擬古九首) outstanding examples to demonstrate Shi's attempt to break and reinvent modes in writing, and to examine his achievements.

       This article focuses on Su Shih's nine “He Tao Ni Gu" poems. Based mainly on a contrapuntal concept acquired from music that was long and widely applied in the research of literature and culture, this article reveals and analyzes the delicate structural arrangements and replacement of words in these nine poems; thus it shows how it was possible for Su to converse with Tao across centuries, and spontaneously to mimic, then to transform, the model set up by Tao into an autobiographical writing for himself. This study brings up a new perspective and method on reading Su's matching poems to Tao and enables a better understanding and identification of Su's contribution to Chinese poetics.



Author: Chen -huei Lee
Genre: Article
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