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The ''Classic of Poetry'', also ''Shijing'' or ''Shih-ching'' (), translated variously as the ''Book of Songs'', ''Book of Odes'' or simply known as the ''Odes'' or ''Poetry'' (), is the oldest existing collection of
Chinese poetry Chinese poetry is poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and ...
, comprising 305 works dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC. It is one of the "
Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of Confucianism in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world ...
" traditionally said to have been compiled by
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...

Confucius
, and has been studied and memorized by scholars in China and neighboring countries over two millennia. It is also a rich source of ''
chengyu 250px, / (simplified/traditional) ''Chengyu'' () are a type of traditional Chinese idiom An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative language, figurative, non-literal meaning (linguistic), meaning attached to the ...

chengyu
'' (four-character classical idioms) that are still a part of learned discourse and even everyday language in modern Chinese. Since the
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, its rhyme patterns have also been analysed in the study of
Old Chinese phonology Scholars have attempted to reconstruct the phonology of Old Chinese from documentary evidence. Although the writing system does not describe sounds directly, shared phono-semantic, phonetic components of the most ancient Chinese characters are bel ...
.


Name

Early references refer to the anthology as the ''300 Poems'' ('' shi''). ''The Odes'' first became known as a ''jīng'', or a "classic book", in the
canonical Canonical may refer to: Science and technology * Canonical form In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geo ...
sense, as part of the
Han Dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han Dynasty
official adoption of
Confucianism , Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of th ...
as the guiding principles of Chinese society. The same word ''shi'' later became a generic term for poetry. In English, lacking an exact equivalent for the Chinese, the translation of the word ''shi'' in this regard is generally as "poem", "song", or "ode". Before its elevation as a canonical classic, the ''Classic of Poetry'' (''Shi jing'') was known as the ''Three Hundred Songs'' or ''the Songs''.


Content

The ''Classic of Poetry'' contains the oldest chronologically authenticated Chinese poems. The majority of the ''Odes'' date to the
Western Zhou The Western Zhou ( zh, c=, p=Xīzhōu; c. 1045 BC – 771 BC) was the first half of the Zhou dynasty of ancient China. It began when King Wu of Zhou King Wu of Zhou () was the first king of the King of the Romans (variant used in the ...
period (1046–771 BC), and were drawn from around provinces and cities in the
Zhongyuan Zhongyuan (), the Central Plains, also known as Zhongtu (, lit. 'central land') and Zhongzhou (, lit. 'central region'), commonly refers to the lower and middle reaches of the Yellow River, centered on the region between Luoyang to Kaifeng. It h ...

Zhongyuan
area. A final section of 5 "Eulogies of Shang" purports to be ritual songs of the
Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang dynasty
as handed down by their descendants in the
state of Song Sòng (; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on orac ...
, but is generally considered quite late in date. According to the Eastern Han scholar
Zheng Xuan Zheng Xuan (127–200), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, an ...
, the latest material in the ''Shijing'' was the song "Tree-stump Grove" (株林) in the "Odes of Chen", dated to the middle of the
Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the ...
(c. 600 BC). The content of the ''Poetry'' can be divided into two main sections: the "Airs of the States", and the eulogies and hymns. The "Airs of the States" are shorter lyrics in simple language that are generally ancient folk songs which record the voice of the common people. They often speak of love and courtship, longing for an absent lover, soldiers on campaign, farming and housework, and political satire and protest. On the other hand, songs in the two "Hymns" sections and the "Eulogies" section tend to be longer ritual or sacrificial songs, usually in the forms of courtly
panegyric A panegyric ( or ) is a formal public speech, or (in later use) written verse, delivered in high praise of a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness ...
s and dynastic hymns which praise the founders of the Zhou dynasty. They also include hymns used in sacrificial rites and songs used by the aristocracy in their sacrificial ceremonies or at banquets. "Court Hymns", contains "Lesser Court Hymns" and "Major Court Hymns". Most of the poems were used by the aristocracies to pray for good harvests each year, worship gods, and venerate their ancestors. The author of "Major Court Hymns" are nobilities who were dissatisfied with the political reality. Therefore, they wrote poems not only related to the feast, worship, and epic but also to reflect the public feelings.


Style

Whether the various ''Shijing'' poems were folk songs or not, they "all seem to have passed through the hands of men of letters at the royal Zhou court". In other words, they show an overall literary polish together with some general stylistic consistency. About 95% of
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s in the ''Poetry'' are written in a four-syllable
meter The metre ( Commonwealth spelling) or meter ( American spelling; see spelling differences) (from the French unit , from the Greek noun , "measure", and cognate with Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, no ...
, with a slight
caesura 100px, An example of a caesura in modern western music notation. A caesura (, . caesuras or caesurae; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was orig ...
between the second and third syllables. Lines tend to occur in
syntactically In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...

syntactically
related
couplet A couplet is a pair of successive Line (poetry), lines of Metre (poetry), metre in poetry. A couplet usually consists of two successive lines that rhyme and have the same metre. A couplet may be formal (closed) or run-on (open). In a formal (or ...

couplet
s, with occasional parallelism, and longer poems are generally divided into similarly structured
stanzas In poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre (poetry), ...
. All but six of the "Eulogies" consist of a single stanza, and the "Court Hymns" exhibit wide variation in the number of stanzas and their lengths. Almost all of the "Airs", however, consist of three stanzas, with four-line stanzas being most common. Although a few rhyming couplets occur, the standard pattern in such four-line stanzas required a rhyme between the second and fourth lines. Often the first or third lines would rhyme with these, or with each other. This style later became known as the "'' shi''" style for much of Chinese history. One of the characteristics of the poems in the ''Classic of Poetry'' is that they tend to possess "elements of repetition and variation". This results in an "alteration of similarities and differences in the formal structure: in successive stanzas, some lines and phrases are repeated verbatim, while others vary from stanza to stanza". Characteristically, the parallel or syntactically matched lines within a specific poem share the same, identical words (or characters) to a large degree, as opposed to confining the parallelism between lines to using grammatical category matching of the words in one line with the other word in the same position in the corresponding line; but, not by using the same, identical word(s). Disallowing verbal repetition within a poem would by the time of
Tang poetry Tang poetry () refers to poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, ...
be one of the rules to distinguish the
old style Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) indicate a dating system from before and after a calendar change, respectively. Usually this is the change from the to the as enacted in various European countries between 1582 and the 20th century. In ...
poetry from the new, regulated style. The works in the ''Classic of Poetry'' vary in their lyrics, lyrical qualities, which relates to the musical accompaniment with which they were in their early days performed. The songs from the "Hymns" and "Eulogies", which are the oldest material in the ''Poetry'', were performed to slow, heavy accompaniment from bells, drums, and stone chimes. However, these and the later actual musical scores or choreography which accompanied the ''Shijing'' poems have been lost. Nearly all of the songs in the ''Poetry'' are rhyming, with end rhyme, as well as frequent internal rhyming. While some of these verses still rhyme in modern varieties of Chinese, others had ceased to rhyme by the Middle Chinese period. For example, the eighth song (芣苢 ''Fú Yǐ'') has a tightly constrained structure implying rhymes between the penultimate words (here shown in bold) of each pair of lines: The second and third stanzas still rhyme in modern Standard Chinese, with the rhyme words even having the same tone, but the first stanza does not rhyme in Middle Chinese or any modern variety. Such cases were attributed to lax rhyming practice until the late-Ming dynasty scholar Chen Di argued that the original rhymes had been obscured by sound change. Since Chen, scholars have analyzed the rhyming patterns of the ''Poetry'' as crucial evidence for the reconstruction of
Old Chinese phonology Scholars have attempted to reconstruct the phonology of Old Chinese from documentary evidence. Although the writing system does not describe sounds directly, shared phono-semantic, phonetic components of the most ancient Chinese characters are bel ...
. Traditional scholarship of the ''Poetry'' identified three major literary devices employed in the songs: straightforward narrative (''Fu (poetry), fù'' ), explicit comparisons (''bǐ'' ) and implied comparisons (''xìng'' ). The poems of the ''Classic of Poetry'' tend to have certain typical patterns in both rhyme and rhythm, to make much use of imagery, often derived from nature.


Authorship

Although the ''Shijing'' does not specify the names of authors in association with the contained works, both traditional commentaries and modern scholarship have put forth hypotheses on authorship. The "Golden Coffer" chapter of the ''Book of Documents'' says that the poem "Owl" () in the "Odes of Bin" was written by the Duke of Zhou. Many of the songs appear to be folk songs and other compositions used in the court ceremonies of the aristocracy. Furthermore, many of the songs, based on internal evidence, appear to be written either by women, or from the perspective of a female persona. The repeated emphasis on female authorship of poetry in the ''Shijing'' was made much of in the process of attempting to give the poems of the women poets of the Ming Dynasty, Ming-Qing Dynasty, Qing period canonical status. Despite the impersonality of the poetic voice characteristic of the ''Songs'', many of the poems are written from the perspective of various generic personalities.


Textual history

According to tradition, the method of collection of the various ''Shijing'' poems involved the appointment of officials, whose duties included documenting verses current from the various states which constituting the empire. Out of these many collected pieces, also according to tradition, Confucius made a final editorial round of decisions for elimination or inclusion in the received version of the ''Poetry''. As with all great literary works of ancient China, the ''Poetry'' has been annotated and commented on numerous times throughout history, as well as in this case providing a model to inspire future poetic works. Various traditions concern the gathering of the compiled songs and the editorial selection from these make up the classic text of the ''Odes'': "Royal Officials' Collecting Songs" () is recorded in the ''Book of Han'', and "Master
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...

Confucius
Deletes Songs" () refers to Confucius and his mention in the ''Records of the Grand Historian'', where it says from originally some 3,000 songs and poems in a previously extant "''Odes''" that Confucius personally selected the "300" which he felt best conformed to traditional ritual propriety, thus producing the ''Classic of Poetry''.


Compilation

The Confucian school eventually came to consider the verses of the "Airs of the States" to have been collected in the course of activities of officers dispatched by the Zhou Dynasty court, whose duties included the field collection of the songs local to the territorial states of Zhou. This territory was roughly the Central Plain (China), Yellow River Plain, Shandong, southwestern Hebei, eastern Gansu, and the Han River (Yangtze River tributary), Han River region. Perhaps during the harvest. After the officials returned from their missions, the king was said to have observed them himself in an effort to understand the current condition of the common people. The well-being of the people was of special concern to the Zhou because of their ideological position that the right to rule was based on the benignity of the rulers to the people in accordance with the will of Tian, Heaven, and that this Mandate of Heaven, Heavenly Mandate would be withdrawn upon the failure of the ruling dynasty to ensure the prosperity of their subjects. The people's folksongs were deemed to be the best gauge of their feelings and conditions, and thus indicative of whether the nobility was ruling according to the mandate of Heaven or not, accordingly the songs were collected from the various regions, converted from their diverse regional dialects into standard literary language, and presented accompanied with music at the royal courts.


Confucius

The ''Classic of Poetry'' historically has a major place in the Four Books and Five Classics, the canonical works associated with
Confucianism , Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of th ...
. Some pre-Qin dynasty texts, such as the ''Analects'' and a recently excavated manuscript from 300 BC entitled "Confucius' Discussion of the ''Odes''", mention Confucius' involvement with the ''Classic of Poetry'' but Han dynasty historian Sima Qian's ''Records of the Grand Historian'' was the first work to directly attribute the work to Confucius. Subsequent Confucian tradition held that the ''Shijing'' collection was edited by
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...

Confucius
from a larger 3,000-piece collection to its traditional 305-piece form. This claim is believed to reflect an early Chinese tendency to relate all of the
Five Classics The Four Books and Five Classics () are the authoritative books of Confucianism in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world ...
in some way or another to Confucius, who by the 1st century BC had become the model of sages and was believed to have maintained a cultural connection to the early Zhou dynasty. This view is now generally discredited, as the ''Zuo zhuan'' records that the ''Classic of Poetry'' already existed in a definitive form when Confucius was just a young child. In works attributed to him, Confucius comments upon the ''Classic of Poetry'' in such a way as to indicate that he holds it in great esteem. A story in the ''Analects'' recounts that Confucius' son Kong Li told the story: "The Master once stood by himself, and I hurried to seek teaching from him. He asked me, 'You've studied the Odes?' I answered, 'Not yet.' He replied, 'If you have not studied the Odes, then I have nothing to say.'"


Han dynasty

According to Han tradition, the ''Poetry'' and other classics were targets of the Burning of books and burying of scholars, burning of books in 213 BC under Qin Shi Huang, and the songs had to be reconstructed largely from memory in the subsequent Han period. However the discovery of pre-Qin copies showing the same variation as Han texts, as well as evidence of Qin patronage of the ''Poetry'', have led modern scholars to doubt this account. During the Han period there were three different versions of the ''Poetry'' which each belonged to different hermeneutic traditions. The Lu ''Poetry'' (魯詩 ''Lǔ shī''), the Qi ''Poetry'' (齊詩 ''Qí shī'') and the Han ''Poetry'' (韓詩 ''Hán shī'') were officially recognized with chairs at the Imperial Academy during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han (156–87 BC). Until the later years of the Eastern Han period, the dominant version of the ''Poetry'' was the Lu ''Poetry'', named after the Lu (state), state of Lu, and founded by Shen Pei, a student of a disciple of the Warring States period philosopher Xun Kuang, Xunzi. The Mao Tradition of the ''Poetry'' (毛詩傳 ''Máo shī zhuàn''), attributed to an obscure scholar named Máo Hēng (毛亨) who lived during the 2nd or 3rd centuries BC, was not officially recognized until the reign of Emperor Ping of Han, Emperor Ping (1 BC to 6 AD). However, during the Eastern Han period, the Mao ''Poetry'' gradually became the primary version. Proponents of the Mao ''Poetry'' said that its text was descended from the first generation of Confucius' students, and as such should be the authoritative version. Xu Shen's influential dictionary ''Shuowen Jiezi'', written in the 2nd-century AD, quotes almost exclusively from the Mao ''Poetry''. Finally, the renowned Eastern Han scholar
Zheng Xuan Zheng Xuan (127–200), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, an ...
used the Mao ''Poetry'' as the basis for his annotated 2nd-century edition of the ''Poetry''. Zheng Xuan's edition of the Mao text was itself the basis of the "Right Meaning of the Mao ''Poetry''" ( ') which became the imperially authorized text and commentary on the ''Poetry'' in 653 AD. By the 5th-century, the Lu, Qi, and Han traditions had died out, leaving only the Mao ''Poetry'', which has become the received text in use today. Only isolated fragments of the Lu text survive, among the remains of the Xiping Stone Classics.


Legacy


Confucian allegory

The ''Book of Odes'' has been a revered Confucian classic since the Han Dynasty, and has been studied and memorized by centuries of scholars in China. The individual songs of the ''Odes'', though frequently on simple, rustic subjects, have traditionally been saddled with extensive, elaborate allegorical meanings that assigned moral or political meaning to the smallest details of each line. The popular songs were seen as good keys to understanding the troubles of the common people, and were often read as allegories; complaints against lovers were seen as complaints against faithless rulers, "if a maiden warns her lover not to be too rash... commentators promptly discover that the piece refers to a feudal noble whose brother had been plotting against him...". The extensive allegorical traditions associated with the ''Odes'' were theorized by Herbert Giles to have begun in the Warring States period as a justification for
Confucius } Confucius ( ; zh, s=, p=Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Master Kǒng"; or commonly zh, s=, p=Kǒngzǐ, labels=no; ) was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), d ...

Confucius
' focus upon such a seemingly simple and ordinary collection of verses. These elaborate, far-fetched interpretations seem to have gone completely unquestioned until the 12th century, when scholar Zheng Qiao (鄭樵, 1104–1162) first wrote his skepticism of them. European sinologists like Giles and Marcel Granet ignored these traditional interpretations in their analysis of the original meanings of the ''Odes''. Granet, in his list of rules for properly reading the ''Odes'', wrote that readers should "take no account of the standard interpretation", "reject in no uncertain terms the distinction drawn between songs evicting a good state of morals and songs attesting to perverted morality", and "[discard] all symbolic interpretations, and likewise any interpretation that supposes a refined technique on the part of the poets"., cited in , p. 20. These traditional allegories of politics and morality are no longer seriously followed by any modern readers in China or elsewhere.


Political influence

''The Odes'' became an important and controversial force, influencing political, social and educational phenomena. During the struggle between Confucian, Legalism (Chinese philosophy), Legalist, and other schools of thought, the Confucians used the ''Shijing'' to bolster their viewpoint. On the Confucian side, the ''Shijing'' became a foundational text which informed and validated literature, education, and political affairs. The Legalists, on their side, attempted to suppress the ''Shijing'' by violence, after the Legalist philosophy was endorsed by the Qin Dynasty, prior to their final triumph over the neighboring states: the suppression of Confucian and other thought and literature after the Qin victories and the start of Burning of books and burying of scholars, Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars era, starting in 213 BC, extended to attempt to prohibit the ''Shijing''. As the idea of allegorical expression grew, when kingdoms or feudal leaders wished to express or validate their own positions, they would sometimes couch the message within a poem, or by allusion. This practice became common among educated Chinese in their personal correspondences and spread to Japan and Korea as well.


Modern scholarship

Modern scholarship on the ''Classic of Poetry'' often focuses on doing linguistic reconstruction and research in Old Chinese by analyzing the rhyme schemes in the ''Odes'', which show vast differences when read in modern Mandarin Chinese. Although preserving more Old Chinese syllable endings than Mandarin, Modern Cantonese and Min Nan are also quite different from the Old Chinese language represented in the Odes. C.H. Wang refers to the account of King Wu of Zhou, King Wu's victory over the
Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang dynasty
in the "Major Court Hymns" as the "Weniad" (a name that parallels ''The Iliad''), seeing it as part of a greater narrative discourse in China that extols the virtues of ''wén'' ( "literature, culture") over more military interests.


Contents list

''Summary of groupings of poems from the ''Classic of Poetry'' Note: alternative divisions may be topical or chronological (Legges): Song, Daya, Xiaoya, Guofeng


Notable translations

*
Part 1Part 2
rpt. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press (1960). * * * Latin translation. * ; rpt. New York: Paragon (1969). * * Translated into English by E. D. Edwards (1932), ''Festivals and Songs of Ancient China'', New York: E.P. Dutton. * Rpt. New York: Grove Press, 1996, with a Preface by Joseph Allen. . * Reprint of ** ** * * * Cheng, Junying 程俊英 (1985). ''Shijing Yizhu'' 诗经译注 ''[Shijing, Translated and Annotated]''. Shanghai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe and * Cheng, Junying 程俊英 (1991). ''Shijing Zhuxi'' 詩經注析 ''[Shijing, Annotation and Analysis].'' Zhonghua Publishing Hous

* Mekada, Makoto 目加田誠 (1991). ''Shikyō'' 詩経. Tokyo: Kōbansha.


See also

* Chinese classics * Classical Chinese poetry * Geese in Chinese poetry * "Guan ju" * Chengyu * Chinese art


Notes


References


Citations


Works cited

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


Bilingual Chinese-English searchable edition
at Chinese Text Project *
Shi Ji Zhuan
' from the Chinese Text Initiative, University of Virginia: Chinese text based on Zhu Xi's edition; English translation from James Legge, with Chinese names updated to pinyin.
''The Book of Odes''
at ''Wengu zhixin''. Chinese text with James Legge and Marcel Granet (partial) translations.
Legge translation of the ''Book of Odes'' at the Internet Sacred Text Archive.


(Chinese text)

at Chinese Notes; Chinese and English parallel text with matching dictionary entries. {{Confucian texts Classic of Poetry, Chinese classic texts Confucian texts Chinese poetry collections Chinese folk songs Poetry anthologies Old Chinese Zhou dynasty texts 1st-millennium BC books Four Books and Five Classics Thirteen Classics