Jump to the main content block
Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


An Examination of Yen Y ü ’s Giving Himself the Sobriquet ‘ Ts ’ ang-lang Pu-k ‘ o ’

Vol. 27 No. 2   6/1997  


An Examination of Yen Y ü ’s Giving Himself the Sobriquet ‘ Ts ’ ang-lang Pu-k ‘ o ’


Tim Wai-keung Chan









Key words

fleeing traveler, vagrant sojourner


      This study advances a different view on the commonly accepted account of Yen Yü’s adoption of his sobriquet Ts’ang-lang pu-k’olit. Fleeing Traveler of the Ts’ang-lang River, which holds that Yen Yü once dwelt at the river of the Ts’and-lang and dubbed himself accordingly. A careful examination of the related sources enables us to disprove this traditional account. The present study will then go on to suggest a new interpretation of Yen’s sobriquet.

    This paper consists of three parts. Part one is an examination of the sources, including the most influential biography, Chu Hsia’s (ca. 1670)“Yen Yüchuan,” and some other related records in various gazetteers. These sources suggest as an explanation for Yen’s sobriquet that the Ts’ang-ling river located by Yen’s dwelling inspired him to call himself“Ts’ang-lang pu-k’o.” However, the only dependable biographical sources, the works of Yen and his contemporaries, along with Huang Kung-shao’s preface to Yen’s collected works“Ts’ang-lang yin-chüan hsüs,” written shortly after Yen’s death, include no record of any Ts’ang-lang river in Yen’s hometown Shao-wu, in Fu-chein Province.

    In part two, I provide the first of my three in terpretations of the subject matter. First,I shall look at the intrinsic connections among his given name (ming), two by-names (tzu), and sobriquet (hao), and their relation to T aoist thought, particularly concepts of the reclusive life. Second, I will discuss Yen’s early life in seclusion, and his association with friends of Taoist inclinations as contributing factors to his adoption of his sobriquet, which expresses an ideal of flight from secular troubles.In part three I present further interpretations of the significance of Yen’s choice of sobriquet. His inspiration for dubbing himself“Ts’ang-lang pu-k’o.”derived most likely from the“Yen Yü”[Fisherman] chapter of the Ch’u-tz’u anthology. In which a Ts’ang-lang” rier serves as a symbol of worldly society However, on tracing the itinerary of Yen’s travels, I find no mention of the real Ts’ang-lang river recorded in the“Yü-fu.” A discussion of Yen’s thought suggests that his sobriquet was more likely derived from the discourse of the“Yü-fu,” which presents two seemingly antithetical ideals: the spirit of patriotic sacrifice, represented by Ch’ü Y üan, and self-cultivation through withdrawal from the mundane realm, represented by the fisherman. In Yen’s own poetry, we find evidence of these contradictory impulses. Considering Yen’s life in the context of the late Sung dynasty, we find that such attitudes were prevalent among intellectuals of the era.



Author: Tim Wai-keung Chan
Genre: Article
Click Num: