Chinese Poems The Shijing And The Chuci

Table of Content

Two of the most of import aggregations of verse forms in the long history of Chinese literature are the Shijing ( Book of Odes ) and the Chuci ( Songs of Chu ) . The Shijing is the oldest aggregation of Chinese poesy ; it dates from the 10th through 7th centuries B.C. , during the Zhou Dynasty, and Northern Chinese feudal aristocracy are thought to hold authored most of the plants. The poesy of the Shijing is non really complex ; instead it is characterized for its realistic capable affair, which tended to be the many facets of modern-day life of the clip. The Shijing has four subdivisions: Daya ( Great Odes ), Xiaoya ( Lesser Odes ), Guofeng ( Airs ) and Songs ( Hymns ). The aggregation has been cut to and added to through the old ages ; it is said that Confucius from an original organic structure consisted of over 3000 verse forms, selected 305 verse forms for it.

The Chuci, on the other manus, originates from South China. Much of the earlier plants in it, such as  Lisao, are credited to Qu Yuan (278 B.C.) , an under-appreciated functionary during the Warring States period land of Chu. There is a spiritual subject in many of the verse forms of the Chuci, with shamanism as a prevalent subject, peculiarly in the Jiuge ( Nine Songs ) .

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Chinese poesy is hard to understand and construe, with the demand for interlingual rendition and cultural ignorance being two of the chief perpetrators impeding a complete apprehension. This paper will compare and contrast these two aggregations of poesy in order to derive a better apprehension of Chinese poesy. In the effort to make so, these two aggregations ( with an accent on the Chuci ) will be extracted, explored, and explicated.

The Shijing: Great Odes and Smaller Odes

The  Great Odes consists of 31 verse forms. In general, the verse forms of the Great Odes  take the signifier of 8 stanzas dwelling of 8 lines per stanza. Many verse forms of the Great Odes are historical verse forms ; the beginnings of the Zhou Dynasty and the great accomplishments of the Zhou swayers are reoccurring subjects. Take Spreading, which is an history of the colony of the field of Zhou. Stanza three reads:

The Plain of Zhou was fat and just,

Where thistle and butterflower tasted like honey.

There he started, there he reckoned, there he pierced our tortoise shells.

Stop, it was, and Stand, in this topographic point they built houses.

In the ulterior parts of this verse form, there is a description of the Zhou metropolis and the enlargement of the land by suppressing environing lands. There is about an heroic poem feel to this verse form ; the reader gets the sense that the laminitis ( Dan-fu ) of the Zhou is legendary.

The Greater Brightness is another illustration of a verse form in the Great Odes, gives an history of how the Zhou came to power through good workss, strategic matrimonies, and by following the program from the Charge of Heaven to govern. The Greater Brightness. The beginning of the 2nd stanza reads:

From Zhi the 2nd girl, Ren,

went from the land of Yin and Shang.

She came to get married into Zhou, in its great metropolis, foreign bride.

Together so with Ji the King they did that work of Power.

Owen calls poems that celebrate the dynasty anointing by right of having Heaven s Charge propaganda of Zhou. Some of this propaganda of Zhou is seen in the 4th stanza:

Heaven scanned the land below,

its charge was laid upon him.

In the first making of King Wen

Heaven made a mate for him.

In the 6th stanza we read:

There was a charge from Heaven,

a charge for Wen the King.

I who preserve you, bear down you

to fall in and smite the great Shang.

Subsequently on in the verse form, the Zhou would destruct the Shang. It is of import to observe that a batch of the verse forms in the Greater Odes concentrate on the male monarch and Heaven, therefore giving the verse form a more mythic tone to them. The Lesser Odes besides contains verse forms refering military personal businesss, but as Owen points out, the focal point of the verse forms in the Lesser Odes is non on the high swayer or Heaven, instead the limelight is on the officers and soldiers. Political sarcasm was besides a common capable affair of the Odes, and there are even blazing ailments pointed towards those in power. The verse form of the Lesser Odes can be in the first individual, whereas in the Great Odes the verse forms are more in the 3rd individual.


The largest and latest subdivision of the Shijing is known as the Airs. It is estimated that this subdivision of poesy became fixed around the 7th century B.C. There is a scholarly argument as to whether the Airs represents the voice of the Zhou people, or whether the Airs  came to fruition under the counsel of the Zhou feudal tribunals. If one looks at the plants, this can be argued both ways. From the position of the Mao commentary, every verse form is interpreted as in some manner covering with the moral history of the Zhou Dynasty. Therefore, any verse form is seen as in some manner as an allegorical mention to how the Zhou Dynasty dealt with quandary or attained illustriousness.


The Hymns contains 40 verse forms. It is of import to observe that in the other three subdivisions of the Shijing, the even lines rhyme. This is non the instance in some of the verse forms in the Hymns. The verse forms in the Hymns  are the oldest of the verse forms in the Shijing. Like the Odes, affairs of province are frequently touched upon. There are besides many ceremonial verse forms that were Sungs or recited during spiritual ceremonials.

The Chuci Tradition: Encountering Sorrow

The gap work of the Chuci is called Lisao  Encountering Sorrow ) . It is 92 stanzas long, with four lines per stanza. In comparing to other verse forms of the Chuci, this is a long verse form, but justifiably long. Like many other plants in the Chuci Tradition, Encountering Sorrow makes legion mentions to flowers, herbs, and spices, but their readings are up in the air. The ground for this is partially due to the trouble of interlingual rendition. Owen contends that the flowered features could mention to qualities of the divinity, who is, on one juncture addressed by a flower name. It is of import to observe the being of this argument ; how one interprets the flowers will hold an impact on the significance of the verse form.

Encountering Sorrow appears to be an autobiographical work by Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan is like an ancient version of today s postal worker. Harmonizing to Wilt Idema and Lloyd Haft, Qu Yuan became the archetypal theoretical account of the loyal but unrecognised official. He is disgruntled, and this dissatisfaction evolves into torture. He was under appreciated by his male monarch, and fell into the male monarch s disfavour as a consequence of challengers who slandered him! The poet says, They made abusive vocals, / they said I loved lewdness. / Legend has it that he was banished from his fatherland. He allegorically represents his expatriate by comparing himself to a priest-doctor who is in love with a goddess and so wrongfully scorned and the affair is broken off. Qu Yuan writes in “Encountering Sorrow” of how the times were morally backwards ; how the wicked are promoted and the good are banished:

Of these times the house folkways: to be adept in craft,

confronting compass and square,

they would change the borehole.

They forswear the consecutive line,

travel trailing the crooked ;

challengers for false faces,

such is their step.

He is left experiencing hollow. He yearns for a new lucifer, a new lover. Surely, the events that had stripped him of his self-respect had a really profound consequence on him. Alternatively of floging out by killing his colleagues, he killed himself: Best to decease quickly, to disappear off, / for I can non bear to demo myself thus. Before making this, Qu Yuan ascends to the Heavens and goes on a eccentric pursuit of fulfilment. He entreaties to divinities to help him, but to no help:

I tied there a message,

and offer Lady Mumbler act as my minister plenipotentiary

she all of a sudden balked, she could non be swayed .

though beautiful truly, she lack right behaviour,

I let her travel so, I sought for another.

The events of his past life have made Qu Yuan really misanthropic. This creates a duality between Qu Yuan  actions and his attitudes. He is in hunt of an ideal that fulfills his longings, yet he is unsure as to whether this ideal exists or non. Qu Yuan is given a good piece of intelligence from the Sovereign spirit on where to happen what he is looking for. He reaches his finish merely to make it instead anticlimactically. My driver grew sad, my Equus caballuss felt attention and would non travel on. / In all the land there is no adult male, no adult male who knows me. He is left dejected and pondering: so why should I care for that metropolis my place? Qu Yuan is genuinely tragic, but after 1000s of old ages he is redeemed. Modern Chinese society positions him as a nationalist.

The Nine Songs

The Nine Songs incorporate shaman verse forms dedicated to different divinities from the assorted countries of South China: The Monarch of the East, Lord in the Clouds, The Princess of the Xiang River,  Lady of the Xiang River, Junior and Senior Master of Lifespans, The Lord of the East, The River God, and  The Mountain Spirit. From the English interlingual renditions, there does non look to be a fit signifier for the vocals. Some of the vocals are one long stanza, whereas others contain stanzas with a different sum of lines per stanza.

The Monarch of the East is a description of some sort of priest-doctor ceremonial where there are offerings in the signifier of nutrient, drink, and incense that are given up to the Monarch and it seems to follow a ritual format. There are membranophones that are beaten, bells that are struck, and vocals that are chanted, all in efforts to convey pleasance to the divinity. The spirit descends and the rite is a success: the divinity is pleased.

In the Lord in the Clouds, once more the priest-doctor has prepared him/herself in expectancy of the divinity: I have washed in brew of orchid, bathed in sweet aromas, / many-coloured are my garments ; I am like a flower. The divinity descends down, but this clip the divinity leaves the priest-doctor feeling empty, hankering for the divinity. This yearning that the priest-doctor is left with introduces an titillating component in the relationship between the priest-doctor and the spirit, something that is common in these vocals.

In The Princess of the Xiang River, the Princess ne’er really has a meeting with the priest-doctor in hunt of her. Along the Great River he searches for her, but all for nothing. The priest-doctor is left lonely and aimless.

The Lady of the Xiang River is really similar to the old vocal. There seems to be a form organizing here. The priest-doctor is in hunt of a spirit for romantic grounds, it seems. The spirit seems like it is badgering the priest-doctor, go forthing the priest-doctor at the terminal of each vocal sad and absolutely dejected.

The forms continue to organize in Senior Master of Lifespans. In the old vocals, the priest-doctor rides some kind of conveyance to run into the divinity. In this peculiar vocal, the priest-doctor rides a dark cloud. The shaman meets the divinity, merely to be abandoned in the terminal. Another reoccurring action seems to be the priest-doctor picking a flower in hopes of giving it to the divinity.

In the Junior Master of Lifespans, there is a turn to the conventional form that was being developed. In this vocal, the God handpicks the priest-doctor ; they meet without a word from the God, and following case in point, he abandons the now melancholic priest-doctor.

The Lord of the East is a description of a shamanistic musical ceremonial. There is no romantic meeting or longing, and the priest-doctor is non left in desperation. Alternatively, the vocal gives a description of the spirit descending and observes the instrumentalists and their assorted instruments. The spirit so ascends, hiting an pointer at a star, and drinks some cassia-juice. The spirit so descends once more and caputs east.

The River God is an history of an experience the priest-doctor has with Ho-po, the river God. The two ride a boat down the Nine Rivers and the priest-doctor is in an enraptured province, but is saddened by ideas of the decision of their journey. They go every bit far as the southern shore, but this is every bit far as the priest-doctor goes. Ho-po foliages and caputs east.

The Shaman in the Mountain Spirit is converting herself that the spirit loves her. The priest-doctor has come out on top of the mountain to run into the divinity, but it seems as if the spirit is tardily. The shaman gathers flowers to give the spirit, but alas, the spirit ne’er shows. This is a familiar subject ; the priest-doctor is left with the blues.


After reading plants from both anthologies, it is easy to state that there are non many similarities between the two. Subjects of the Shijing vary from the history of the Zhou Dynasty, mundane life in the Zhou Dynasty, to political sarcasm and affairs of province. Many of the verse forms have a mythic component to them. The plants of the Chuci have a religious/shamanistic tone to them, and the importance of one figure, Qu Yuan, varies. One tradition developed in the North in the 10th through 7th centuries B.C. , while the other developed in the South some four centuries subsequently.

A commonalty that joins the two is the trouble that bookmans have had in both translating and construing the aggregations. Depending on who you ask, all plants of the Shijing could cover with affairs of the Zhou feudal elite, or they could all cover with the Zhou people, doing the anthology a aggregation of common people verse forms, or possibly it a combination of the two. It is in contention whether the Chuci had anything to make with Qu Yuan, which if non the instance, could change the whole significance of Encountering Sorrow. Even if grounds were dug up to back up anyone theories, it would still be a dashing undertaking to make a consensus on the interlingual renditions and readings of these two mulct aggregations.


  1. Haft, Idema, and Lloyd, Haft. A Guide to Chinese Literature. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1997.
  2. Owen, Stephen. An Anthology of Chinese Literature. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company, 1996.
  3. Waley, Arthur. The Nine Songs. London, Great Britain: George Allen and Unwin Ltd. , 1955.

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Chinese Poems The Shijing And The Chuci. (2017, Jul 19). Retrieved from

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