Images and Ideas in Chinese Classical Prose: Studies of Four Masters

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The classical prose essay (ku-wen) of the T'ang and Sung dynasties is one of the major Chinese literary genres, of far greater significance in the Chinese literary tradition than the comparable essay form is in Western literature. This first comprehensive study of Ku-wen in English focuses on its four most important writers: Han Yu and Liu Tsung-yuan of the T'ang, and Ouyang Hsiu and Su Shih of the Sung. With this work, the author hopes to restore a balance to Western study of the literature of the T'ang and Sung, which tend to be regarded as ages of poetry. The four masters, all of them major poets as well, took their prose writings in ku-wen very seriously, leaving a heritage of masterpieces as models to be emulated by all subsequent Chinese writers. In treating the individual writers, the author emphasizes the relationship between a writer's ideas, his literary temperament, and his stylistic practices, in the process showing how each writer attempted to create a ku-wen that would serve as a multi-faceted medium of literary discourse. The author demonstrates that T'ang and Sung ku-wen theories and practices were not nearly as homogeneous as they have been made to appear in the past. As we progress from the T'ang to the Sung, we see a shift in perspective from the unique to the universal, and a movement toward lyricism and the poet. But Su Shih's moved increasingly away from questions of history, politics, and nature to analysis of an author's own perceptions and his art of representation. Many of the extensive excerpts from ku-wen included in this book appear in English for the first time.<