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Yutai xinyong 玉臺新詠

Jul 3, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Yutai xinyong 玉臺新詠 "New songs from a Jade Terrace" is an anthology of poems from the Eastern Zhou 東周 (770-221 BCE) to the early Liang period 梁 (502-557). It was compiled by Xu Ling 徐陵 (507-583) during the mid-Liang period.

In 10 juan (fascicles), the Yutai xinyong contains 769 poems, divided into the following categories: Regular poems (shi 詩) in 8 juan, popular songs (gexing 歌行) in 1 juan, and quatrains (wuyan siju shi 五言四句詩) in 1 juan. There is actually only one poem dating from the Zhou period (Yueren ge 越人歌), while all others were written during and after the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE). According to the preface (Xu 序), the songs were selected according to their content, with a preference for love songs (yange 豔歌).

Unlike the anthology Wenxuan 文選, it is therefore a specialized collection. There are, nevertheless, also some children songs (tongyaoge 童謠歌) among the selection and more popular songs than in the Wenxuan, like the famous ballad Kongque dongnan fei 孔雀東南飛 "Peacock flies to the south-east". The Wenxuan thus represents probably a comparatively higher level of literature.

The chapter containing quatrains is especially noteworthy because it demonstrates how the development of the jueju genre 絕句 of short poems developed which flourished during the Tang period 唐 (618-907). The Yutai xinyong also includes a lot of contemporary poems of the elegant and refined "Yongming style" (Yongmingti 永明體) prevailing at that time, like for instance, Shen Yue's 沈約 (441-513) Bayong 八咏, which gives an impression of the confluence of the shi genre with the genre of rhapsodies (fu 賦). Some poems included in the Yutai xinyong are not to be found in other anthologies, like Cao Zhi's 曹植 (192-232) Qi fu shi 棄婦詩, Yu Xin's 庾信 (513-581) Qixi shi 七夕詩 or works of female poets like Ban Jieyu 班婕妤 (48 BCE-2 CE), Bao Linghui 鮑令暉 (5th cent.) or Liu Lingxian 劉令嫻 (6th cent.). A lot of poems included in the Yutai xinyong belong to the best pieces of Chinese poetry, like Shangshan cai miwu 上山采蘼蕪, Mo shang sang 陌上桑, Yulin lang 羽林郎 or the above-mentioned Kongque dongnan fei.

The earliest extant print is that of Master Sun 孫氏 from Wuxi 無錫 from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). Zhao Jun 趙均 (c. 1600) during the late Ming period reproduced a Song-period 宋 (960-1279) print. The Yutai xinyong is included in the series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊. The Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Wu Zhaoyi 吳兆宜 (fl. 1672) wrote a commentary and a critique.

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