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Utopian Visions in Disguise: The “Fu ming” Genre and Its Intricate Textual Strategies

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2018/2019 School of Chinese Research Student Seminar

Utopian Visions in Disguise: The “Fu ming” Genre and Its
Intricate Textual Strategies

Chan Chok Meng 陳竹茗

February 22, 2019 (Friday); 5:30-6:45pm
Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus
Language: English

Under the subcategory “Fu ming” (lit. “portents for the mandate”), juan 48 of the Wen xuan collects three panegyrics composed in the Han dynasty. The glorifying, if not sycophantic, nature of the understudied pieces often obscures the fact that they are highly imaginative compositions within a hybrid literary genre.

Out of political zeal, Sima Xiangru (179–117 BCE) not only extolled the contemporary regime as the best one since time immemorial, but went so far to say the Han dynasty’s (Fire) virtue nourished the realm so that all living beings benefited from its grace. Yang Xiong (53 BCE–18 CE) then modelled his “Ju Qin mei Xin” on Sima’s “Fengshan wen” and refined this fu-inspired panegyrical style by dropping the fictionalized dialogue and didactic admonishment, employing no less fanciful extended metaphors, and enumerating even more signs of a utopian world of great peace. But it is Ban Gu (32–92 CE) who perfected the genre and took the laudatory mode to the extreme. His “Dian yin” harks back to the genesis of the world as Yang did, while portraying the “Fire Virtue” as the generative force behind all things and making the bold suggestion that human history has paved the way for Han rulership, even the order of the universe depends upon it.

Inspired by David R. Knechtges’ close reading and literary interpretation of the Yang Xiong piece (“Uncovering the Sauce Jar,” 1978), this talk analyzes how the three panegyrists deployed intricate textual strategies to project the image of the Chinese “philosopher king” onto the reigning emperor, and in so doing, extolled their vision of an ideal Confucian state under the guise of an apparent eulogy on emperorship.



1978年康達維教授發表其大作〈發醬瓿之覆〉(“Uncovering the Sauce Jar”),從純文學角度對〈劇秦美新〉作文本細讀和深入詮釋,是次講座即受其啟發,分析三位文豪如何運用迂迴而巧妙的文本策略,將聖王的形象投射到在位者身上,在贊美帝德之隆的頌文裏,曲折道出心目中的「郅隆之治」。


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