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


An Alternative Interpretation of the Poem “Says the Wife, ‘Cocks are Crowing’”

Vol. 45 No. 3   09/2015  


An Alternative Interpretation of the Poem “Says the Wife, ‘Cocks are Crowing’”


Lin, Horng-jia









Key words

Classic of Poetry (Shijing), “Says the Wife, ‘Cocks are Crowing,’” shifting between different perspectives


      The poem “Says the Wife, ‘Cocks are Crowing’” in the Classic of Poetry (Shijing) has previously been interpreted as praising a couple who encouraged and supported each other in their marriage. Nowadays, it is often regarded as a model for conveying the poetic imagery of a happy marriage. In contrast to this view, this article argues that the structural arrangement of the poem becomes more intelligible by removing the third-person perspective utilized in contemporary interpretations. In the final stanza of the poem, the gentleman’s gift of a piece of his girdle jade to the lady depicts a courtship ritual done before marriage. It would thus contravene established practice for the gentleman to perform the ritual if they were already married. It would moreover cause interpretive difficulties, particularly regarding the happy marriage described in the first two stanzas, if the poet had intended to simply depict a simple courtship. To
solve this dilemma, it is claimed here that the first two stanzas of the poem should be read as describing the lady’s imagination of a happy marriage, and that the final stanza should be understood as her statement on how the gentleman should express his feelings to her. Other associated questions such as the identity of the gentleman and the shift between different perspectives are elaborated upon in the final part of the paper in an effort to construct a more reasonable structure for interpreting the poem and lay a solid foundation for a deeper exploration of the poet’s true intention.



Author: Lin, Horng-jia
Genre: Article
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