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Plums are falling,
seven are the fruits;
many men want me,
let me have a fine one.
–“Plums are Falling,” pg. 686

The need and desire for women to have a husband certainly is, of course, timeless. This poem smacks of coquettishness and at the same time, an ancient utilitarianism requiring that a good man be steady.

Additionally, this poem is individualized. Note the difference between epic poetry and lyric poetry; the shift in type reflects a development of consciousness. Westernized literature began more with epics–the group, the tribe, the nation. But lyric poetry is more about the individual. It’s remarkable that the Chinese here are already doing lyric.

That boat of cypress drifts along,
it drifts upon the stream.

Here the drifting of the boat reflects the drive of the poet’s thoughts, the uneasy heart, the restless heart, the drifting heart. The poetic use of image to reflect inward states or to illuminate other realities is poignant, fitting, and universal.

* * *

These Chinese poems, according to Confucious, do many things.:
1. They are a tableau of rural life. It helps us keep tabs on people. It’s a spiritual census.
2 There’s a pedagogic use to them–wisdom, “sophia.”
3. They can lead to “wen”–artistic refinement (catharsis . . .)

Some Types of Chinese Poetry:
1. Feng: An air, a venting. Directly cathartic.
2 Fu: Exposition, explanation, procedure.
3. Pi: metaphorical comparison.
4. Hsing: Image based (reminiscent of haiku).

All the poems reflect the development of a dis-wordly religion. Not really religious in the everyday sense.

Taoism (“The Way”) is a another development of this confucianism. One major concept is wu wei–you get to a point where you recognize that there is action in inaction.

Photo by aspearing


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