Contested Classicism in Modern Transitions: Chinese Classic-Style Poetry after 1917
4: Revisiting Classical Lyricism in Lu Xun's Xiangling Poems
Sunday, March 27, 2022
9:00am – 10:30am EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Shanghai Normal University, China (People's Republic)
Many a historian, including Peter Zarrow, has called China’s early twentieth century “transitional” as it marked the end of one sociopolitical system and the beginning of another. This leads to a condition in the context of “generational struggles” in defining any entire set of beliefs or practices as either “traditional” or “modern.” That is, what historians label transitional in this period is experienced as “clashes, compromises, and sometimes seamless restructuring of everyday [values and assumptions in Chinese culture and society].” My presentation turns on the referential/allusive transmutation of the conceptual metaphors of xiangling, the Goddess of the Xiang River, and jiaogui, a spice herb that made its first appearance in Liu Xiang (ca. 77-6 B.C.E.)’s Chuci threnody “Jiu Tan” (Nine Laments) from the Han Dynasty in Lu Xun’s poems on xiangling during the chaotic 1920s—1940s, a period of civil war and white terror. While the mortification of a worthy individual is often implied by the cruel wreckage of the herb (jiaogui dianfu) in the poetry of the Chuci writers in the Tang and Song Dynasties, the persecution of modern revolutionists is likewise allegorized as the crushing and burning of the herbs (jiaozhe guifen) in Lu Xun’s poems. It is arguable that with the double mediation of the Chuci poetics and the Maratic spirit from translated Western Romantic literature, these classical metaphors survived and gained new sociopolitical meanings as Lu Xun vented his despair and rage through classical Chinese poetry.