Beginnings of a Poetic Vein in Ci: Zhang Zhihe’s ‘Fisherman Lyrics’

Yim Tze Charles KWONG

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Other Conference Paperpeer-review


In classical Chinese poetry, the farmer, fisherman and woodcutter stand as emblems of a life in peace and harmony with Nature. Yet even more than the other two, the fisherman has been a symbol of spiritual transcendence since pre-Qin times, whether in the unworldly terms of Zhuangzi or the more engaged terms of Chu ci. This can be seen in the sizable quantity of shi poems and a small but growing number of song lyrics (ci) on the “fisherman theme”, even though ci is largely suffused with “feminine” sentiments. This paper proposes to examine Zhang Zhihe’s (c. 741–775) five song lyrics to the ci tune “Yufu/ Yuge
zi” (“Fisherman” or “Fisherman’s Song”) on at least the following grounds. First, they have intrinsic artistic merit, especially one included in virtually all ci anthologies. Second, they offer an early case of cross-fertililisation between shi and ci, later to be celebrated when Su Shi’s ci breaks the barrier between the two genres. Third, they mark a cross-fertilisation of folk and literati ci writing; folk pieces on identical and related subjects will also be examined. Fourth, they can be said to have established a distinctive thematic and stylistic vein—more visible in shi—within a poetic genre permeated by feelings of romance, nostalgia, delicacy and melancholy, at least where literati ci is concerned. In retrospect, this group of song lyrics opened up a broader vein of ci poems, later developed by poets like Ouyang Xiu and Su Shi, centring around the beauty of Nature and the spiritual independence of non-official life.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2017
EventThe 21st biennial conference of the European Association for Chinese Studies - St. Petersburg State University; the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts RAS; the State Hermitage Museum, Russia, Russian Federation
Duration: 23 Aug 201628 Aug 2016


ConferenceThe 21st biennial conference of the European Association for Chinese Studies
Abbreviated titleEACS2016
Country/TerritoryRussian Federation
Internet address


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