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An Explanation of Gexing

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Gexing歌行 is a historical and robust prosodic style that flourished (not originated) in the Tang dynasty. Since ancient times, the understanding of the prosody of gexinghas remained in debate, which focuses on the relationship between gexingand yuefu乐府 (collection of ballad songs of the music bureau). The points-of-view held by all sides can be summarized as a “grand gexing” perspective (defining gexingin a broad sense) and four major “small gexing” perspectives (defining gexingin a narrow sense). The former is namely what Hu Yinglin 胡应麟 from Ming dynasty said, “gexingis a general term for seven-character ancient poems.” The first “small gexing” perspective distinguishes gexingfrom guti yuefu古体乐府 (tradition yuefu); the second distinguishes it from xinti yuefu新体乐府 (new yuefupoems with non-conventional themes); the third takes “the lyric title” as the requisite condition of gexing; and the fourth perspective adopts the criterion of “metricality” in distinguishing gexingfrom ancient poems. The “grand gexing” perspective is the only one that is able to reveal the core prosodic features of gexingand give specification to the intension and extension of gexingas a prosodic style.


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