Volume 8 Issue 8 - May 8, 2009
From the Notion of Xing to an Aesthetic of Contrasting – Focusing on the Exploration of Xia Yu’s Poetry
Man-Han Yung

Department of Chinese Literature, College of Liberal Arts, National Cheng Kung University

Bulletin of Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy Academia Sinica, No.31, pp.121-148 (2007)

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Author’s attempt in exploring contemporary poetry has focused on further analyzing poets with different theories. To be more precisely speaking, the writer intends to unravel poetic language with different styles and sentence composition, which aims to find a lead to history involving misunderstood poets and languages and styles as to their contributions for modernization in Chinese poetry.

Trace back to source of most ancient poetry – Classic of Poetry written in a time when poetry is examined for its structure and style. Han dynasty’s poetry interpreter had passed down “six types of poetry”, which are “Fong”, ”Ya”, ”Song”, ”Fu”, ”Bi”, and ”Xing”. Until Zhu Xi in Song dynasty (1130-1200), also known as a philosopher, had recompiled Classic of Poetry’s three hundred poems into three types. We are able to simply follow instructions of “Fu”, or “Bi”, or “Xing” to fully grasp unbounded imagination of scenes and emotions. This is a fantastic method to interpret those poets. “Fu”, “Bi”, and “Xing” do not contain contents; however, they provide connections between external life style images and internal emotions. As to select particular type of connections, that also affects this poet’s reading method.

This study emphasizes on studying conversion of “Xing” definition that is included into research region of contemporary poetry, research of aesthetics of contrasting (“contrasting” term is created by the writer to stimulate aesthetical concept). While the writer was reading and digesting the content of “Xing” type of poets, they are found that some scenes written in the poems was not completely integrated with emotions as compared to those in Tong dynasty’s poets. Those scenes in the poem demonstrate occasionally consistent yet not consistent status. This unknown connection seems to have some similarities with Taiwan’s postmodern poems few decades ago. However, in order to draw relations between scenes and emotions in “Xing” type of poets, it is much harder as to rather complicated contents than that in postmodern poems. Hence, this study picks four scholars from different theories for their explanations of “Xing” definition as to further extend to modern connotation of “Xing”. For example, Chen Shixiang (1912 – 1971) considers that ‘ “Xing” as sound of group dancers from ancient times, which brought vividly inspiring atmosphere and held up and are surrounded by one single object….In Classic of Poetry, it wrote that “Xing” contained characteristic made from fresh world.’

To advance scope of “Xing” definition to a wider level is a philosopher in younger generation, Jiang Nianfong (1955 – 1996). He considers that, “Xing” contains images of human inspiring spirit that can be seen in many occasions. He also mentions that, in Confucius books, many naturally scenes are portrayed and many metaphors are conveyed into one feature that is to build up one great character. In Classic of Poetry, definition of “Xing” can be applied an initial path to unmask mysteries of entire pre-Qin Confucius theory. From philosophy’s perspective, Jiang rather concerns spiritual scope behind those poetic words.

Yie Jiaying (1924 -), dedicated in study of Classical Poetry and Western Teaching Model, had generated eight major “abstract images” features of Western poetry from perspective of poetry grammar structure, such as simile, metaphor, metonymy, symbol, personification, synecdoche, allegory, and objective correlative, and generated these models into scope of “Bi”. As to relations of “Heart” and “Object”, then these terms represent simply a relation of “heart” and “object”. As to “Xing” term, in English critic term, it does not contain a word to translate properly. She also mentions that this implies limited techniques required to “abstract images” arrangement in Western poetry. As to “Xing”, type of energy for inspiring writing and reading poems has less connection to direct inspiring type of writing style.

Xu Fuguan (1902 – 1982) has proposed a very impressive description for “Xing” in which he mentions accidental feature of “Xing”. He has explained that, behind accidental issues, there hides immeasurable and unconfined emotions. This has huge impacts like a huge magnetic field that can turn anything into emotional expressions. Consequently, this “accidental issue” did not happen with no cause; on the contrary, it happened with a significant meaning.

The author had generated four styles from below then combined with own explanations of “Xing” from Classic of Poetry: ‘ The beauty of “Xing” merges “objects” of different types to build a sense of mystery towards relationship of contrasting. As for poetry in Tong dynasty, many masterpieces had already been creating with integrated scenes. However, the unique feature of “Xing” in Classic of Poetry lies in contrasting instead of integration. In these, there are no comparisons of beauty to ugliness instead there are meanings as to which objects is located right next to the other. ’

After generating some relevant academic data, the writer is proposing to review “Xing” in Classic of Poetry from a modern creation perspective. Such as birds, animals, insects, fishes, grasses, trees, lakes, and rivers, as to daily living tools such as all kinds of timber, mobiles, carts, oils, furs, hair styles, hats, and clothes can be imagined with different “emotional perspectives” and reproduced in different forms. Even though all “objects” are not real, they are corresponding with intangible spirits with different emotional environments.

From an overview of Taiwan poems, the writer had selected the poet, Xia Yu, that is considered to be most capable of demonstrating stimulus-response model. Xia Yu (1956 - ), first poems collection, “Memorandum” was published in 1984 and had widely influencing younger generation for over 20 years. The impact has involved advertising proposals and popular songs’ lyrics in Taiwan. As to evaluate Xia Yu’s work, it is approximately categorized into three directions: (1) Considered as model for postmodern society; (2) Considered as best model for female-oriented significance; (3) Considered as great example from peer poets. Nevertheless, female-oriented significance attempting to overthrow male-oriented society can also be classified as part of postmodern society phenomenon. Therefore, aside from admirations of different levels from peer poets, to further analyze Xia Yu’s phenomenon can be generated as: she established a new generation that gradually enhance Taiwan to transform into a postmodern society in over 20 years.

As a highly self-conscious poet like Xia Yu, even though she has included discussions relating to society issues and created a new style to exploit and lead a new generation; however she has also maintained quality in her works.We considers that, Xia Yu as a contemporary poet is one of rare poets that can be assessed using strict attitude as with analyzing classical poems. Each word in her poems seems to be describing daily life actions and seem to be writing daily conversation and quoting no classic sayings, but in fact each word’s sound, favor, weight, and color follows a high level of restriction and rhythm. Her own punctuation and markings are used with significances. Hence since her first publication, “Memorandum”, was published, Taiwan had silently engaged with a revolution of language and words.

《Fuyushu- Ventriloquism》1991
Amongst Xia Yu’s four publications, “Memorandum” was most quoted. The following three publications were also receiving lots feedbacks but are harder to be understood. If “postmodern” term are still used to explain the following three publications, it is even not possible for general critics to analyze publication like “Salsa”. As for now, following clues of “stimulus-response structure” to review Xia Yu’s works, from “Fuyushu- Ventriloquism” initial experiment, “Rub Ineffable” wilder experiment, to “Salsa”, can be hardly distinguishing which is the major volume and which is minor, or the imaginative illustration for “stimulus” or “response” is disappearing. Xia Yu has transformed “stimulus-response relationship”. Each set of lyrics can initialize its “Xing-Stimulus” meaning and also have a corresponding “Response” meaning. Therefore, all lyrics can be either independent, transform, wonder, collide, or merge. As to level of tangibility and meanings, once these are under controlled, they are integrating with their own rhythm with no boundary. As each time background is changed, its content must be updated. Xia Yu poems open up this generation’s endless pursuing “now” and “migrating” features which is connotation of aesthetics of contrasting. If postmodern term is truly the tag of our generation, as for its connotation is building up for merging other races, this feature will evolve to a more mainstream style.

This study as per artistic changes of her four volumes of works concluded three types of analysis relating to “Xing” meaning of Classic of Poetry: (1) Subverting virtual language of poets from last generation and respond to tangible object giving virtual meaning tradition in Classic of Poetry; (2) In poems, tangible objects are interacting mutually using stimulus-response relationship and enrich the content; (3) Entire performance of “stimulus-response relationship”: constantly form transforming. Using this type of “Xing” definition to observe Xia Yu’s works, it is discovered that what general critics consider to be puzzled and unsolvable and meaningless parts can be easily untangled; furthermore, it reads revolutions of Xia Yu’s works regarding progress of her poem writing skills. This study has converted poems writing methods from two or three thousand years ago into a modern critic concept; moreover, it provides a brand new perspective for postmodern poetry that provides answers to Xia Yu’s post works, “Salsa” and following publications.       
《Rub Ineffable》1995

If “postmodern” term is a tag of our generation, then with merge of each race, its connotation raises to a higher level of mainstream style as each feature is migrated. In Chinese literature, except for studying further into Western classics, maybe it is more needed to utilize postmodern previous principles – trace back own root and find out the puzzles in some local works and from there it enrich foundation of postmodern values.Certainly, poets are not writing for one particular concept. Hence, carefully absorbing contexts of poetry, flavors and smells in these works can be found; furthermore, it perceives some valuable cultural notations. A good poet can sometimes unconsciously writes out status of future world and make extensive influences.

To combine “Xing” spiritual condition to postmodern poems(or every kind of arts) connotation, it can be a very meaningful research. As for now, the author had provided language analysis to one particular poet (style). Even though, Xia Yu had its own importance, her influence is limited. Hence this research had only submitted one particular concept and is looking forwards other numerous scholars’ achievements.
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