On Canonization of Qing Ci



Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.12, 2013


On Canonization of Qing Ci



Sha Xianyi and Zhang Hongsheng


The Qing ci (lyric poem) both carries on and transcends the Tang and Song ci (唐宋词), pouring into them new elements of the spirit of the times and of aesthetics. The Qing ci broke new ground in subject, creative technique, and mood, creating literary classics comparable to the Song ci. Whether in terms of theoretical critiques or literary creation, there was a clear awareness in the Qing of the canonical place of ci written during that dynasty. From the early years of the Qing, and especially in the late Qing and the early Republic, scholars of the ci constructed the canon of Qing ci through anthologies, discussion and critiques of ci, discussing matched couplets in ci (jueju 绝句), lists of poets in rank order (点将录), imitative ci, answering ci, literary histories, arrangments of literary documents, and research on particular subjects. The process of constructing the canon not only reflected appreciation of the Qing ci but also displayed different facets of its value. This is of great significance for our thinking about traditional literary genres from the Ming and Qing on. The multitude of works, the fact that we are not far enough removed from them, and the suspicion and condemnation that some scholars have heaped on classical literature’s tradition of elegance and balance (yazheng 雅正) since the May Fourth New Culture Movement-all these mean that compared to Tang and Song ci, the process of Canonization of Qing Ci is still inadequate.