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An Analysis of the Change in the Style of Tang Poems

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An Analysis of the Change in the Style of Tang Poetry 马瑶

Abstract: Certain literature, which always comes into being under certain social circumstances, generally including economic , political and traditional factors, always distinguishes itself with distinctive mark of era. Even for the same literature , in different period of development, also shows distinct features. Men of letters always possess certain common characters of that era which is the prime reason for diverse literary genres. This paper is going to discuss about changes of Tang poetry in there different periods of Tang Dynasty .
Key words: poetry, poet, Tang Dynasty, feature

I. The brief introduction to the four historical eras in Tang Dynasty According to the social situation,The history of Tang Dynasty is divided into four consecutive periods by historian:the early Tang, the flourishing Tang, the middle Tang and the late Tang. The early Tang is the primary period with all new things ascending, blooming and gradually coming into being ,which is the base of whole Tang. The flourishing Tang is product the of the early one, when all things reached a climax with a distinctive Tang culture after the preparation in early Tang. The early Tang and the flourishing Tang has a lot of mutual features , especially in poetry field, which therefore will be discussed together. Then came a hinge point in Tang history, the AnShi rebellion,bringing a great detriment to Tang society ,from when Tang went into the middle part in which phase Tang suffered a lot and began descending. During late Tang the sway was dangerous because of the more and more social problems and class conflicts, Tang fell into decline and showed a desolate scene.

II. The respective feature of Tang poetry in every era There is one paragraph in 《诗薮》,summarizing the general features of poetry in three eras.

盛唐句,如“海日生残夜,江春入旧年”;中唐句,如“风兼残雪起,河带断冰流”;晚唐句,如“鸡声茅店月,人迹板桥霜”。皆形容景物,妙绝千古,而盛、中、晚界斩然,故知文章关气运,非人力。 ——胡应麟 《诗薮·内篇》

1. the Flourishing Tang Dynasty (also including the early one) —— 海日生残夜,江春入旧年 During this period, all things ascended and finally got into the climax. In politics the ruler and mandarins were wise and discharged their duties conscientiously. They had a broad sight open to the world and assimilated various cultures from other areas. Under their administration, the national strength and social development reached an unparalleled prosperity —— economy and commerce flourished, the social order was stable, and the national boundaries were open to foreign countries, companied by the bloom of the culture, especially the literature. In such an open ,free and affluent society, people enjoyed their lives , attaching more attention to spirit. Poets during this time all have a broad mind and a vitality of youth which endowed them with a grand sight , a optimistic outlook on life and great ambition. This sentence, “海日生残夜,江春入旧年” reflected the grand view : sea ,sun, spring, the turn of years---- the grand objects chosen by the poet means the new things will finally replace the old things and tomorrow would be a better day. What a breadth of mind! How hopeful and energetic! The two most representative poet ,of course,are the greatest romantic one----LiBai and the realistic one -----DuFu. LiBai, as a symbol of the flourishing Tang, had the characters which only belongs to the poets in that specific era. He was ambitious, romantic, broad-minded, bold and unconstrained. He smiled,cried,shouted,danced ,sang, did everything he what to pursue the ideal life he wanted. When for the first time becoming a mandarine ,hoping to discharge duties for common people, he laughed with shouts of “仰天大笑出门去,我辈岂是蓬蒿人!”;When disillusioned by the frustration in career, awakened to the corruption and felt into the disgrace with the ruler TangXuanZong , he immediately cried out “安能摧眉折腰事权贵,使我不得开心颜!” , adhering to his interior principal , insisting his integrity and moral courage , turning back to the nature to continue his pursuit without gloom. He loved life, loved nature, love everything beautiful. He allowed his imagine full play in 《梦游天姥吟留别》; he knew well how to indulge himself in the short life: “ 人生得意须尽欢,莫使金樽空对月!” Even his death was full of romance and turned out to be a legend: in order to chase the serene moon in the lake he thrown himself into the lake and finally he lied immorally with that moon. DuFu, a great realistic poet , different from LiBai who is romantic and imaginative , he is so real ----- he focused on the suffering of mankind. If LiBai led us upward toward the heavens, dufu brought us back to the earth. Echos of cries of pain reverberated in his heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors ,helpless old people, a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of poverty ,pain and suffering accompanied by the affluent and rotten life led by the rich and up-class people, made a mockery of what human life should be . He longed to alleviate the evil, and he tired many times , each time ending with failure. He was so disappointed and disillusioned , which when reflected in his poems became the lament which recorded the history of that time. Thus , his poems was called history of poetry. When seeing a person starving to death just in front of the door of a rich aristocrat ,he deplored : “朱门酒肉臭,路有冻死骨”,revealing the distinct and brutal gap .When his shabby thatched cottage was broken by heavy rain and strong wind, he sighed with a worried air: “安得广厦千万间,大庇天下寒士俱欢颜!风雨不动安如山!”
Though there exist many discrepancies between LiBai and DuFu, we still can distinguish the features they shared in common——some character that era bestowed on them: people in flourishing Tang were full of hope, youth, courage, imagination and the most beautiful ,healthy and sound personality. They thrived and bloomed in the rich earth of flourishing Tang with a inherent confidence and ambition , in return,bringing the fabulous poems , full of enthusiasm and fervor, presenting the natural beauty. The poetry written by them possessed broad and outward artistic conception as if the whole world and history ,in both time and space, stretched before them in a magnificent panorama .

2.the middle Tang —— 风兼残雪起,河带断冰流 When time went into the middle Tang , the momentum of thriving had gone in the wake of the AnShi rebellion in which the economy had been broken largely , politics disturbed ans society left in chaos. After the rebellion , Tang took a long time to recover but still failed to reach the state of flourishing Tang. In such circumstance ,People fell into deep melancholy ,letting go of the great passion for life, diminishing their confidence and optimism . However, though they might lose some enthusiasm and romance , they still conserve the character of toughness. Compared with the poetry of flourishing Tang Dynasty, the creation mood of poetry of middle Tang changed a lot along with the social culture change. It were implicit and sentimental, the mood of it wae narrow. They focused of on the trifles in daily life instead of the events about nation; on finding consolation in nature instead of lauding the beauty and magic of nature; on lamenting the deaths of soldiers instead of praising their passionate patriotism. 关城榆叶早疏黄,日暮沙云古战场。 表请回军掩尘骨,莫教士卒哭龙荒。 ——《回军行》 In this poem, there is no passion , no romance, but lament , which shows the poet waked up to the brutal reality.

3.The late Tang —— 鸡声茅店月,人迹板桥霜 The economic and political condition continued deteriorating for the external attacks and civil wars in the middle Tang era, leading to the power of Tang Dynasty further diminished. Poets were more sensitive than common people to the decline of a great empire , realizing the close future downfall of Tang Dynasty while couldn’t do anything. In this case,the basic emotion of poems in late Tang is desolation and melancholy with a smaller mood than before. But most of the poets in that era , though disappointed at the reality and often satirizing it in poems, still longed to contribute themselves to society and the unremitting pursuit of the meaningful life.

千里莺啼绿映红,水村山郭酒旗风。 南朝四百八十寺,多少楼台烟雨中? ——杜牧《江南晚春绝句》 In this poem, DuMu described a stylish scenery with numerous temples in the drizzle, which should be a beautiful scene . However DuMu used this scene to accuse the incompetent emperor and mandarins of their dereliction of duties, expressing his worry for the country. There are a lot of poets like DuMu in that period who cherished their dreams while had no opportunity to realize them, which brought them endless disappointment and gloom . Their confidence and pride are diminishing day by day, then finally lose the natural passion and the hope, the core thing in generating poems. It’s said that poets in late Tang Dynasty didn’t lake the knowledge but the passion of flourishing Tang; not lake the ambition but the hope of middle Tang. Without illuminating surroundings, they made a great effort in improving the artificial decoration and ,fortunately, to certain extent compensated for the losing of the natural one. Experts always distinguish the poems in flourishing Tang from that in late Tang by standard of natural epiphany for flourishing Tang and the artificial decoration for late one. The poems written in late Tang Dynasty no longer show resplendence compared with the full flourishing Tang; however they take on a particular characteristics in literature history by discovering, diversifying and specializing.

Conclusion: Affected by the enormous and dramatic social change in Tang Dynasty, the poets in different eras possessed different characters. In flourishing Tang , poets are optimistic ,confident and energetic ; in middle Tang , depressed but still tough ; in late Tang , dejected and hopeless. Accordingly, the artistic conception of poems became narrower and narrower and the emotions conveyed by poems changed from fervor and enthusiasm to depression . Accompanied by the change of subjective emotions and mentality, the aesthetic psychology also changed from natural beauty to artificial one.

Reference:
《诗薮》胡应麟(HuYinglin),Ming Dynasty WANG Yan:The Mood of Poetry of Middle Tang Dynasty Varies from Flourishing Tang Dynasty ,( Henan Engineering Institute , Zhengzhou 450007 , Ch i na ) ZHANG Jianjun: The New Change of Artistic Conception of Poem in Middle Tang Dynasty,( The Professional and Technological Institute of Jin cheng, Jincheng, Shan xi , 04 80 00 , China) WU Bang-jiang1, GE Xue-mei2, Step into the Heaven of Poetries in the Setting Sun and Autumn Wind in Late Tang Dynasty (1. School of Humanities and Social Science, Changzhou Institute of Technology,China; 2, School of Education, Changzhou Institute of Technology , China)…...

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