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Yuan Haowen's Exploration of Du Fu's Poetry
The influence of Du Fu’s poetry on Yuan Haowen (also known as “Yi Shan”) has long been noted by critics. Traditional critics cite the large amount of quotations from Du Fu that are present in Yuan’s poetry, as well as his poems’ historic content and forceful and unconstrained style to illustrate the relationship between the two poets. While accepting the influence of the above three aspects of Du Fu’s poetry, this article also recognizes Yuan Haowen’s individual outstanding talent. In Yuan Haowen’s time, the Southern area of China under the Song Dynasty was at the height of its power and splendor; however, northern China was facing recession and bleak economic times. Yuan Haowen was the only person to make a compilation of Du Fu’s poetry. These books not only revealed how academic exchange occurred between the north and the south, but also highlighted Yuan’s dissatisfaction with the attention paid to Du Fu’s poetry at that time. Yi Shan believed that readers should search for the deeper and more complex meanings in poetry in order to understand the real message, rather than conducting a meandering investigation of words, terms and sources which focus on the exterior medium, thereby arbitrarily drawing conclusions by assuming the meaning of the poem merely from its words. This obviously created a wave of unrest as this style of criticism totally departed from that of the Song and Jin Dynasties. This article also will attempt to explain, using observations concerning “hypertextuality”, the influence of Du Fu on Yi Shan’s work. In particular, it will elucidate the sentence “Shaoling ziyou lianchengbi” 少陵自有連城璧 in Yi Shan’s “A Poetical Discourse of Quatrains.” Yuan Haowen believed that Du Fu’s most valuable contribution to poetry was not his particular style or technique, but the use of his talent and poetic spirit to model a new poetic tradition, and consequently to construct a new value system of philosophy and history. This ultimate achievement was also what Yi Shan aspired to for his own literary career.
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