By / 01-24-2019 / (Chinese Social Sciences Today)

When used as a noun, this character often refers to a place of residence, such as gong yu, which refers to an apartment. The word yu yan, in which yan means word or speech, refers to fable. When used as a verb, this character means implying or suggesting something.


yù qíng yú jǐng

Yu refers to imply a meaning and qing refers to emotion or feeling. Jing is usually known as scenery. This term describes a traditional approach to express the author’s feelings indirectly in Chinese literature, especially poetry. When using this approach, the whole text is about the scenery with little reference to emotion in the lines, but readers can still feel what the author feels through the description of the scenery.

There are many famous poems adopting this approach in ancient China. “Chuzhou Xijian” (“West Brook at Chuzhou”) by the Tang poet Wei Yingwu (737–792) is one of them. “Most lovely are these grasses that grow hidden by the banks,/ Where orioles sing from deep within the overhanging boughs./ Quickened by the evening rain, the spring flood swells the rustic crossing./ No one aboard, the ferryboat rights itself upon the tide” (Translated by Zhang Tingchen and Wei Bosi). The natural scene depicted in the former portion of the poem conveys a feeling so pure and serene. “Most lovely” highlights the author’s preference for the grasses growing in an unnoticed place over beautiful flowers, indicating his uncommon aspirations. The empty ferryboat floating freely on the tide implies that the author enjoys the freedom brought by solitary life. The vigorous mood raised from the “evening rain” and “spring flood” has a sharp contrast with the aforementioned serene feeling. One can sense the author’s joy in nature from these images. Wei lived during the turning point of the Tang Dynasty, which began to decline after the An Lushan Rebellion. It is said that the turbulence and lack of strong central leadership in China during Wei’s poetry-writing years was a major influencing factor upon his work. According to Bai Juyi, a great poet in the Tang Dynasty, Wei’s poems are inspired by the feelings which natural scenery stirs. It seems that Wei was interested in drawing the reader into a landscape or a mood, especially the moods of seclusion and serenity.


(edited by REN GUANGHONG)