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How Did Buddhism Matter in Tang Poetry?

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Buddhism was often a theme in poetry, especially when writing to monks and on Buddhist sites; it was sometimes a deep conviction on the part of individual poets that contributed to the way they represented the world. There was a period, however, from the ninth through early eleventh century, when Chan meditation shaped how poets thought about the very way of writing poetry. The common use of the [Buddhist] “Way” or Chan in parallel with “poetry” in couplets from this period worked through the possible relations: identity, similarity, complementarity, and mutual exclusion. But the presumption was that the composition of poetry was the counterpart of Chan meditation. Such serious reflection on the relation between Chan meditation practice and poetry eventually devolved into Yan Yu’s thirteenth-century comparison of Chan sectarian doctrine with the study of poetry.
Le bouddhisme est un thème très fréquent dans la poésie chinoise, en particulier quand le poète écrit à un moine ou au sujet d’un site bouddhique. Il constitue dans certains cas une conviction profonde qui contribue fortement à forger la représentation du monde telle que le poète l’exprime en vers. Il y eut cependant une époque, entre le ixe et le début du xie siècle, où la méditation Chan a façonné la façon même dont les poètes concevaient l’écriture poétique. L’usage fréquent des termes “Voie”  (bouddhique) ou Chan en parallèle avec celui de “poésie” dans les couplets de cette époque couvre la gamme de leurs relations possibles: identité, similarité, complémentarité et exclusion mutuelle. L’hypothèse commune à ces diverses options était que l’écriture poétique était l’homologue de la méditation Chan. Ces réflexions élaborées sur les rapports entre les pratiques de la méditation Chan et de la poésie ont débouché au xiiie siècle sur la comparaison menée par Yan Yu entre la doctrine Chan et l’étude de la poésie.

Affiliations: 1: Harvard University


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