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4 Creating a Book and Performing It: The “Yao lüe” Chapter of the Huainanzi as a Western Han Fu

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Chapter Summary

Despite Major's stylistic observations, the Huainanzi remains primarily discussed in terms of intellectual history while only limited attention is given to its language and rhetorical force. To begin with, Liu An's court produced a large and wide-ranging body of prose and poetic writings encompassing diverse fields of knowledge and philosophical thought. More specifically, the Hanshu "Monograph on Arts and Writings" credits Liu An with no fewer than eighty-two "poetic expositions" and his retainers with another forty-four; by comparison, the retrospectively most celebrated author of Liu An's time, Sima Xiangru (179-117 BCE), has twenty-nine pieces listed under his name. The summary of this chapter "Seasonal Rules" is composed in a rather different poetic form, namely, the classic tetrasyllabic meter associated with the Shijing but now actualized in Han language. While the summary is longer than the one for "Heavenly Patterns", its introductory and closing formulae serve similarly as framing devices.

Keywords: Hanshu; Huainanzi; Liu An; Shijing; Sima Xiangru; Western Han language



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