Chinese poetry is one of the most popular literature genres in China. The variety of dynasties, their unique and unpredictable approaches to the representation of their ideas, their unbelievable passion to writing – all this seems to be amazing in the world of Chinese literature.
The Tang Dynasty, Song Dynasty, or Yuan and Ming Dynasty – each of them adds more captivating details to poetry and makes this genre more and more popular. Right now, among all Chinese dynasties known, I want to single out the Song Dynasty and its magnificent poetry. Though this poetry is originated from the Tang Dynasty, there are so many differences which are worthy of attention.
The Song Dynasty has many famous writers who have made considerable contribution to the development of poetry and the role of Chinese literature in the whole world. Such writers like Du Fu, Liu Zongyuan, Li SHangyin, Tao Qian, Su Shi, and Mei Yao-ch’-en introduce the works which help to connect normal everyday routine to some large issues and to analyze people’s ordinary actions from the philosophical perspective.
During the Song Dynasty, Chinese poetry gained true and worthwhile recognition as the poetry of the ci form. This form is characterized by the deep expression of feelings such as desire, passion, and care. However, it is not the only issue that makes ci form poetry recognizable. To understand deeper the ideas which are introduced in the Song Dynasty poetry, it is better to pick out several poems and try to evaluate the messages represented by the authors.
In this paper, such poems like Writing of My Sorrow by Mei Yao-ch’-en and The Immortal by the River by Su Shi will be analyzed because they help to feel what may improve this life, what are the most crucial aspects of this life, and what people have to be the most important in this life.
Writing of My Sorrow by Mei Yao-ch’-en
Writing of My Sorrow is the poem written by Mei Yao-ch’-en from the Song Dynasty. This author is known as one of those Chinese writers who introduce a new style of poetry that is characterized by numerous descriptions of ordinary life’s aspects. His personal experience influences considerably his poetry and his writing style. Even the title of this poem shows that this author relies a lot on his personal emotions, his personal pain, and his sorrow. “My two eyes are still not dry,/ my heart desires only death” (Yao-ch’-en 578).
The emotional state of the author makes the reader think about the events that happened to this man. He lost his wife and his son. He cannot imagine what may improve his situation. He is in the trap that is created by this life. It is useless to fight against the destiny; it is wrong to be mad on someone; and it is too late to admit the fact that family is the only thing that makes this life fulfill.
The author makes numerous attempts to answer the questions “to whom now can I turn?/ Emaciated, a ghost in the mirror” (Yao-ch’-en 578). Is it possible to get the necessary answer from the ghost? Is it correct to believe that the other world exists and hides those who are already dead from those who are still on the earth and waiting for their time?
Mei Yao-ch’-en demonstrates one of the most captivating and appropriate ways of how to unite everyday life and personal experience to larger and more important ideas. His words influence considerably human state of mind and attitude to this life. Though death of close relatives should not be a normal experience for people, this event is hard to overcome or prevent.
Death will never cooperate with people; death comes, takes someone’s soul, and disappears. It becomes clear that the main philosophical aspect of this novel is the issue of death and its significant impact on human lives. “Rain falls and soaks into the earth,/ a pearl sinks into the ocean’s depths” (Yao-ch’-en 578).
Can it be that the author chooses water by chance or in order to underline the connection between death and water? It is possible to give different questions, and in my opinion, the idea to united water and the issue of death is one of the most brilliant steps in this poem. People spend much time to subjugate oceans and seas, however, they are not sure of their victories and success.
I think that one of those philosophical messages which the author wants to send to the reader is the necessity to comprehend that life is too short, and it is impossible to be sure to “return to the source below” (Yao-ch’-en 578). This is why it is better to enjoy what you have now and try to help the other do the same. Life is complex and unpredictable, and people have no other way but accept it as it is without attempts to resist.
The Immortal by the River by Su Shi
Su Shi is one of the brightest representatives of the Song Dynasty whose poetry attracts the attention of many readers. The style of this writer perfectly suits the requirements offered by the Song Dynasty period: he makes use of the ci form in order to underline the joys of this life and explain how people can relax and get pleasure.
However, his Immortal by the River is not about all those joys of life but about the turmoil that the author wants to escape (Shi 690). This poem introduces a bit grievous picture of the events the author has to face. It is impossible to prevent everything; it is hard to live this life day by day; and it is very difficult to be good for everybody around and lie to oneself.
The style of life described by the author makes it possible to enjoy and even be drunk of the walk through East Slope (Shi 690). If we talk about ordinary things in this life and their interpretations from the philosophical perspective, this poem by Su Shi may be used as the most appropriate example. With the help of several lines, the author shares his personal disappointments concerning this life and his role in it.
He returns home to his “house-boy” who “snores like thunder” and thinks about one thing that his “body belonged to someone else” (Shi 690). No, he is not tired of his family and his house. He gets tired with the idea of living in the same way. This is why he decides to address and trust to the sea and its calm. Su Shi is another author who finds a kind of relief in water. Water is calm; water makes people free; water is able to relax and relief.
It is possible to become immortal in the river and admire all those amenities of this life. When a person is close to water, he/she is able to feel something that has never been felt before. It is not painful, scared, or difficult. It is just another way out; the solution that is in so demand by the author and the reader who tries to get the lessons from this poem. Does this poem have philosophical roots? Of course, it does! Even more its educative side is able to heel the reader who is sick and tired of this life and the character of the poem.
These two poems become a kind of Grail in the Chinese literature. Mei Yao-ch’-en and Su Shi represent unbelievable picture that teaches, impresses, and makes the reader think about the essence of this life and the issues that fulfill this life.
It does not take much time to read the poems of the Song Dynasty and enjoy the way authors use to share their ideas, their hope, and dreams. There are so many troubles which worsen this life, and it becomes possible to get the necessary solutions and answers in poetry, in water, in the air. The only thing that is required is the desire to observe, think, and evaluate everything around.
To get an opportunity and become immortal because of the river or to be able to survive after the death of dear people – these are the main lessons which may be got after the reading Yao-ch’-en’s Writing of My Sorrow and Shi’s Immortal by the River. On the one hand, it seems to be impossible; and on the other hand, it opens a new world that helps to re-evaluate this life and our role in it.
Shi, Su. “The Immortal by the River.” In Stephen Owen An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911. New York: Norton, 1996.
Yao-ch’-en, Mei. “Writing of My Sorrow.” In Stephen Owen An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911. New York: Norton, 1996.