Friday, May 10, 2024

Boating on Ruoye stream in the spring

The Government of Zhejiang Province have recently launched the Poetry Road Cultural Belt. There is a fascinating article on the literary sources for this, ‘Spatial patterns, causes and characteristics of the cultural landscape of the Road of Tang Poetry based on text mining: take the Road of Tang Poetry in Eastern Zhejiang as an example’ by Xuesong Xi, Xingrun An, Guangming Zhang & Shifan Liang. They analyse 1593 poems written in Eastern Zhejiang by 451 poets of the Tang Dynasty. These relate to 79 places ‘which are classified into four categories, including natural land-scapes, residences of celebrities, Buddhist temples and Taoist temples, and administrative zones.’ The authors find 47 natural landscapes covered in the poems, ‘of which 36 are related to mountains and 11 to water landscape, such as Mount Tiantai, Mount Wozhou, Mount Wanwei, Jinghu Lake, Ruoye River and Shanxi River’. I've reproduced their map below.

The ‘celebrity houses’ the poems refer to are Lanting (the ‘Orchard Pavilion’ associated with Wang Xizhi, who I've mentioned on this blog before) and the houses of the politician and poet He Zhizhang (c. 659-744), Zheng Qian (a Han Dynasty diplomat) and Yan Wei (a brave Three Kingdoms period general). The Tang poems also reference the ‘folk-cultural landscape’: ‘the perch and Brasenia of Eastern Zhejiang, the Shan paper and wine of Shaoxing, the famous tea of Eastern Zhejiang from the Shanxi River and the Mount Tiantai, the various kinds of valuable medicinal herbs produced in the Mount Tiantai, and the rattan of Yuezhong, the Huading Rattan, which was preferred by the literati.’ 

I feel I should now conclude by mentioning some actual Tang Dynasty landscape poetry from Zhejiang. However, the study only covers the area south of the Fuchun River, so excludes Wuxing, where the poet-monk Jiaoran had his tea farm, Duqing where Meng Jiao lived, and the great city of Hangzhou, where Bai Juyi (as governor) built a causeway and Meng Haoran wrote a poem about watching the tidal bore (maybe I'll write about this natural phenomenon in a future post). I could talk about Hanshan (Cold Mountain) and his Buddhist friends in the Tiantai mountains, but they have featured here before. So I'll go for Qiwu Qian (692-749), whose 'Boating on Ruoye stream in the spring' is in the famous anthology of Three Hundred Tang Poems (a fraction of the number analysed by Xuesong Xi et al!)

Qiwu Qian was a friend of Wang Wei, who wrote a poem immortalising his failure to get into the civil service, 'To Qiwu Qian Bound Home After Failing an Examination'. Ruoye River is at the foot of the Kuaiji Mountain. As Stephen Owen says (in The Great Age of Chinese Poetry), Qiwu Qian's poem traces ‘the oldest thematic pattern in Chinese landscape poetry: the poet moves through the landscape, attaining enlightenment or understanding the futility of public life.’ Qiwu’s boat is blown by the evening breezes. ‘Mist over pools flies billowing, rolling, and the moon of the forest lowers behind me.'

No comments: