Chinese Literature 114: Zhou

Zhou Dynasty
conquered Shang 1020BC —- in 700s BC western capital is sacked, moves to Luoyang as Eastern Zhou. Legendary founders King Wen and King Wu (who conquered the preceding Shang dynasty)

She Bore The Folk
Belongs to category “Temple Hymns of Zhou” in Hymns section of Classic of Poetry
“She who first bore the folk
Jiang it was, First Parent
How was it she bore the folk?–
she knew the rite and sacrifice.”
Ritual song explaining origin of harvest ceremony

Classic of Poetry
Over 300 poems
collection became fixed 600BC
record of oral transmission
oldest pieces may come from 10th century BC
four sections: Hymns, Great Odes, Lesser Odes, Airs
Include: “She Bore the Folk”, “Spreading”, “The Greater Brightness”, “We Have in Hand”, “Overbearing”
May give actions legitimacy and meaning by reflecting them in accordance with political ideology
May serve to transform action into ritual

Classic of Poetry: “Airs”
First part of Classic of Poetry
Some belong to the court; some are transcribed folk songs
Regional song traditions transformed by traditions of Zhou court
first poem: “Fishhawk”
Divided into 15 regions
More than half of the 300 Shijing poems

“The fishhawks sing gwan gwan
on sandbars of the stream.
Gentle maiden, pure and fair
fit pair for a prince”

First poem of Classic of Poetry
According to traditional Confucian Mao commentary, poem represents “virtuous attainment” of Queen Consort of King Wen of Zhou, an absence of jealousy in her husband’s search for concubines– demonstrates perfect harmony of royal household

Mao commentary
Traditional Confucian commentary on Classic of Poetry
Great Preface treats theory of poetry in general (no later than 1st century AD)
Lesser Prefaces offer interpretations of all the individual poems in the Classic of Poetry

Great Preface
definitive pre-modern Chinese treatise on poetry
attached to Fishhawks in the Shijing
loose synthesis of shared “truths”
no later than first century AD
uses the word “Feng” to mean: wind; “airs”; customs; “to influence”
says: poetry expresses that which is intently on the mind
music and words of the Shijing expresses sociopolitical context of era
Six principles of Shijing: 3 main divisions of poems (hymns, odes, airs) and 3 modes of expression: exposition, comparison, affective image
Values of aesthetic restraint

“bi” vs “xing”
“bi” is comparison, direct simile
“xing” is a more mysteriously associated “affective image”
for examples of “xing”: consider the formal pattern of the Shijing wherein the first part of a stanza is a set of alternations of natural image and the second part is a set of alternations in the human world (such as in Fishhawks”

Classic of Poetry: Hymns
often end with “spreading, extension and continuity” rather than conclusion

Zuo Tradition
Late fourth century BC
traditionally treated as a commentary on The Springs and Autumns of Lu
along with Guo-yu (discourses of the domain), first example of extended historical writing
accounts are often frames for ethical points

Springs and Autumns of Lu
Kept by domain of Lu 722-481BC
“springs and autumns” a generic term for “annals”
Confucius traditionally said to have been author

Han Feizi
Legalist philosopher 280-233 BC
wrote story of Bian He’s Jade– Bian He’s legs are chopped off because rulers keep thinking the real jade he presents is a fake– metaphor for recognizing a person’s worth