In the mid-Tang dynasty, the theory of yuanqing (conveying emotions) was popular again, due to the further development of jintishi (regulated verse), especially the qiliangti (a popular style of poetry in the Qi and Liang dynasties). As authors of ancient-style prose, Dugu Ji and Liang Su advocated that the essence of literature was yanzhi (expressing aspiration). In Dugu’s opinion, aspiration expressed in literature should embody the Confucian morality. In the same vein, Liang “prioritized morality over literature”. Both, however, also followed the tradition of yuanqing in the Six dynasties, while developing the traditional ideas of yanzhi and bixing (metonymy and metaphor). Although Quan Deyu inherited the theory of yanzhi greatly from Dugu Ji, he advocated “conveying emotions heartily”, approved florid rhetoric, and even claimed that “florid rhetoric has changed the poetic style of the times”. Considered together with his other writings, the essence of literature according to Quan Deyu was largely more inclined to yuanqing. In such a complex context with multiple pursuits, the interpretation of traditionally orthodox yanzhi was further enriched; and more importantly, a new meaning was given to yuanqing that had traditionally been seen as the source of the ornate style in the Six dynasties. It can be said that at some point the theories of yanzhi and yuanqing were unified again in the writing of poetry and prose in the mid-Tang dynasty.


essence of literature, yanzhi, yuanqing, wendaoguan (view on the relationship between literature and Confucian morality), Dugu Ji, Quan Deyu

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