Rediscovering Wen Tingyun

A Historical Key to a Poetic Labyrinth

By Huaichuan Mou

Subjects: Asian Literature
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791459362, 202 pages, November 2003
Hardcover : 9780791459355, 202 pages, November 2003

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Table of contents





The Time of Wen Tingyun: Rampant Eunuch Power
The Study of Wen Tingyun: Lasting Historical Prejudices
Is Wen Tingyun Writing Another's Dream?


1. Family Background


Clan Origin and Native Place
Remaining Prestige of an Aristocratic Family
Special Social Connections


2. Wen's Birth Year


A Most Abstruse Allusion to the Eunuchs
The Year of Having the Way and Epistle Presented to Prime Minister Pei
Other "Circumstantial Evidence"


3. Before the Year of "Having No Doubts"


Days of Diligent Studies
Far Wanderings and Wen Zao
Journey along the River and Friendship with Buddhist Monks


4. Wen's Marriage—A Case of Scandal


Relationship with Wang Ya
An Initial Investigation of the Jianghuai Incident
Further Study and Clarification of the Incident


5. Secret Attendance upon the Heir Apparent


Introductory Remarks
Clues Found in Wen's Works
Evidence Elicited from a Study of Two Epistles
The Hidden Story in Hundred-Rhyme Poem


6. Mystifying Poetry


An Enigma of the Sphinx
Theory Guiding Wen's Poetic Composition
More Examples


7. Changing Name and Taking the Examination


"Equivalent to Passing" Yet "Failed to Pass"
The Change of Name
Wen's Afterthought


8. Highlights during the Dazhong Era


Complications in Wen's Frustrated Efforts
The Truth of the Fourteen Pusaman







A new look at the life, times, and work of the great Tang dynasty poet, Wen Tingyun, that rebuts the negative aspects of his reputation. Translations of a number of his works are included.


In this book, Huaichuan Mou takes a fresh look at the life, times, and work of Wen Tingyun, the great poet of the late Tang dynasty in China, whose reputation has been overshadowed by notoriety and misunderstanding for more than a thousand years. In probing the political intricacies of the major events of Wen's life and the complex contexts in which these events took place, Mou presents a historical key to Wen's artistic labyrinth, unraveling many of Wen's poetic puzzles and rediscovering a historical past that vividly represents his unyielding pursuit of ideal government and true love. This reconstruction of the poet's life results in a new understanding not only of his literary work but also of late Tang history as well. Translations and close readings of a number of poems and prose essays are included.

Huaichuan Mou is Lecturer in Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia.