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The Beginning of Literati Poetry: Four Poems from First-century BCE China

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This article examines a set of four tetrasyllabic poems from the first century BCE, situating them between the ancient poetry of the Shijing and the medieval poetry that would appear two centuries later. The author outlines the emergence of a learned elite in the latter half of the Western Han and shows how the intellectual and socio-political background of this group is instantiated in the poems. As statements of a classicist mentality ascendant in the late Western Han, the poems stand firmly in their age, but as products of this newly emerging group they bear definite connection to the literati poetry of medieval China. Thus, the poems offer a viewpoint onto both the scholarly culture of the first century BCE and the poetic culture of early medieval China. Cet article s'intéresse à un ensemble de quatre poèmes quadrisyllabiques datant du Ier siècle avant notre ère en les situant à mi-chemin entre la poésie antique du Shijing et la poésie médiévale. L'auteur décrit l'émergence d'une élite savante pendant la seconde moitié des Han occidentaux et analyse la façon dont les circonstances intellectuelles et socio-politiques de ce groupe s'illustrent dans les poèmes. En tant qu'expression d'une mentalité classiciste devenue dominante à la fin des Han occidentaux ces poèmes sont bien de leur époque; mais dans la mesure où ils émanent de cette élite en train de s'imposer ils se connectent incontestablement à la poésie lettrée de la Chine médiévale. De la sorte, les poèmes présentés donnent un aperçu aussi bien de la culture savante du Ier siècle avant notre ère que de la culture poétique du début du Moyen Âge chinois.

Affiliations: 1: University of Alberta


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