Written at Imperial Command

Panegyric Poetry in Early Medieval China

By Fusheng Wu

Subjects: Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791473702, 299 pages, January 2009
Hardcover : 9780791473696, 299 pages, March 2008

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Table of contents

1. Han Epideictic Rhapsody: The Prototype of Panegyric Poetry
2. Self-Foregrounding in the Panegyric Poetry of the Jian’an Era
3. Archaic Elegance in the Panegyric Poetry of the Jin Dynasty
4. Addressing the Best and Worst of Rulers: Panegyric Poetry of the Liu Song Dynasty
5. Praising Rulers throughout Calm and Conspiracy: The Southern Qi Dynasty
6. The Flourishing of Panegyric Poetry during the Liang Dynasty
7. Poetry’s Embarrassment: Panegyric Poetry of the Chen Dynasty
8. Becoming Chinese: Panegyric Poetry during the Northern Dynasties
9. Matching Poems with a Cruel but Talented Ruler: The Sui Dynasty

Explores both the literary features and historical context of poetry written for imperial rulers during China’s early medieval period.


This is the first book-length study of panegyric poetry—yingzhao shi or poetry presented to imperial rulers—in the Chinese tradition. Examining poems presented during the Wei-Jin Nanbeichao, or early medieval period (220–619), Fusheng Wu provides a thorough exploration of the sociopolitical background against which these poems were written and a close analysis of the formal conventions of the poems.

By reconstructing the human drama behind the composition of these poems, Wu shows that writing under imperial command could be a matter of grave consequence. The poets' work could determine the rise and fall of careers, or even cost lives. While panegyric poetry has been largely dismissed as perfunctory and insincere, such poems reveal much about the relations between monarchs and the intellectuals they patronized and also compels us to reexamine the canonical Chinese notion of poetic production as personal, spontaneous expression.

Fusheng Wu is Associate Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at the University of Utah and the author of The Poetics of Decadence: Chinese Poetry of the Southern Dynasties and the Late Tang Periods, also published by SUNY Press.


"There is much to recommend this volume, not least of which is the author's impressive knowledge of early medieval literature and history … this volume is a welcome addition to English-language scholarship on medieval Chinese literature. Countless scholars and graduate students making their way through the understudied and often treacherous terrain of the early medieval period will be grateful to Wu for his erudition and scholarly generosity." — China Review International

"…[this] sophisticated study … marks a great contribution to the field of Chinese poetry, and it ends a long period of neglect and disparagement of this type of poems." — Journal of Chinese Studies

"…this book is a welcome addition to the study of early medieval poetry. The number of poems and the time-span covered betrays an ambitious range." — Journal of the American Oriental Society

"Wu argues convincingly that authors of panegyrics were more concerned with the internal literary value of their verse than they were given credit for and that the praising/advising function often associated with yingzhao shi … 'becomes secondary.' … Wu writes well, and his scholarship is discerning, meticulous, and revealing." — CHOICE

"This book brings into focus a longstanding subgenre of classical Chinese poetry. The author's handling of the subject is historically informed and textually sensitive. His scholarship is meticulous." — Xiaoshan Yang, author of Metamorphosis of the Private Sphere: Gardens and Objects in Tang-Song Poetry