Ouyang Xiu

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Names
Xìng 姓: Ōuyáng 歐陽(欧阳)
Míng 名: Xiū 修
Zì 字: Yǒngshū 永叔
Hào 號: Zuìwēng 醉翁
Liùyī Jūshì 六一居士¹
Shì 謚: Wénzhōng 文忠²
1. late in his life
2. hence referred to as Ōuyáng
Wénzhōnggōng
歐陽文忠公

Ouyang Xiu (Traditional Chinese: 歐陽修; Simplified Chinese: 欧阳修; Wade-Giles: Ou-yang Hsiu) (1007 – September 22, 1072 [1]), literary name Tsui-weng courtesy name is Yongshu, also self nicknamed The Old Drunkard 醉翁, or The Retired Scholar of the One of Six 六一居士 in his old age, was a Chinese statesman, historian, essayist, and poet of the Song Dynasty. Ouyang Xiu is considered a prime example of the Chinese ideal of the multi-talented scholar official. Unable to afford traditional tutoring, Ouyang was largely self-taught. In 1030, he placed first in the imperial examinations and was appointed a judge at the western capital, Lo-yang. Throughout his career, his independent thinking, forthrightness and efforts at reform alternatively got him in trouble and won him respect.

Contents

In his prose works, Ouyang followed the example of Han Yu, promoting the Classical Prose Movement. Zuiweng Tingji (Regarding the Pavilion of The Old Drunkard: 醉翁亭记), a lyrical description of his pastoral lifestyle among the mountains, rivers and people of Chuzhou, is acclaimed as one of the highest achievements of Chinese travel writing. He wrote both shi and ci. His series of ten poems entitled West Lake is Good, set to the tune Picking Mulberries, helped to popularize the genre as a vehicle for serious poetry.

Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072), Contemporary Drawing

Early Life

Ouyang Xiu was born in 1007 in Sichuan (Mote 1999), though his family came from present day Ji'an, Jiangxi. His family was a relatively humble family, not descended from one of the old great lineages of Chinese society. Ou-yang Hsiu’ father, a judge in Mien-yang, Szechwan province, died when he was three (Mote 1999), and his literate mother was responsible for much of his early education. The legend that his family was so poor that he learned to write with a reed in the sand is probably exaggerated, but Ouyang was unable to afford traditional tutoring and was largely self-taught. Han Yu( 韓愈), a literatus from the late Tang Dynasty, was particularly influential in his development.

Official Career

In 1030, he placed first in the imperial examinations and was appointed a judge at the western capital, Lo-yang. He was already known as a brilliant young writer, and at Lo-yang he befriended the renowned essayist Yen Shu and the poet Mei Yao-ch'en. These friendships not only enhanced Ou-yang's status but, more important, reinforced his strong preference for the simplicity and clarity of the “ancient style.” Some years before, he had read the works of Han Yü, the great master of T'ang Dynasty literature, whose pure and easy “ancient style,” free of outworn metaphors and allusions, had greatly impressed him. Eventually, his leadership and advocacy of that style paved the way for a new literary movement.

He passed the jinshi degree exam in 1030 on his third attempt at the age of 22, and was appointed to a minor office in Luoyang, the old Tang Dynasty eastern capital. While there, he found others with his interest in the ancient prose of Han Yu (Mote 1999). Politically, he was an early patron of the political reformer Wang Anshi ( 王安石), but later became one of his strongest opponents. At court, he was both much loved and deeply resented at the same time. He maintained his reputation as an independent thinker.

In 1034, he was appointed a collator of texts at the Imperial Academy in Kaifeng( 開封) where be became an associate of Fan Zhongyan ( 范仲淹), the prefect of Kaifeng. Two years later, Fan was banished after criticizing the Chief Councilor and submitting proposals for reform in promoting and demoting officials. Ouyang than submitted a critique of Fan’s principle critic at court. While he earned a demotion to Western Hubei (Mote 1999) for his efforts, he won praise as a principled official and this led to his being a central figure in the growing reform faction. While serving in a low judicial position in Hupeh and Hunan provinces, he wrote the Hsin Wu-tai shih (“New History of the Five Dynasties”), a history of a period of political chaos lasting through almost the entire tenth century. Ou-yang's strong sense of justice inspired him to devote special sections to political outcasts such as martyrs, rebels, and traitors.

Threats from the Liao Dynasty and Xi Xia in the north in 1040 caused Fan Zhongyan to come back into favor. He offered Ouyang a choice position on his staff. Ouyang’s refusal won him further praise as a principled public servant who was not willing to take advantage of connections (Mote 1999). Instead, Ouyang was brought to the court in 1041 to prepare an annotate catalogue of the Imperial library. In 1043, he became an imperial counselor. Together, Ouyang and Fan spurred the Qingli Reforms. Fan submitted a ten-point proposal addressing government organization. Among other things, these included increasing official salaries, enforcement of laws, eliminating favoritism, and the reform of examinations to focus on practical statecraft (Mote 1999). The reformers were only in ascendancy for two years before the emperor rescinded these decrees of what became known as the Minor Reform of 1043.

Fan and Ouyang were considered to have formed a faction, which by definition was deemed subversive to the government. Ouyang wrote an essay defending associations of gentlemen scholars, pointing out that Confucius himself said that good persons in society would naturally flock together in furtherance of their own goals (Mote 1999). His courage and forthrightness earned the respect of the emperor, Jen Tsung, and he was commissioned to record Jen Tsung's daily life and to draft edicts. His frank opinions and severe criticisms of others created many enemies, however, and in 1045 he was accused and tried for having had illicit relations with his niece many years before, a charge to which his romantic life, during his days in Lo-yang, lent support. Although he was finally acquitted, his reputation was seriously impaired. He was demoted to a succession of magistracies in the provinces. After serving briefly in Chuzhou, Anhui in 1049, he was recalled to the court to serve in an advisory capacity. However, the death of is mother in 1052 forced him to retire for more than two years to carry out his filial obligations.

After a term as defense commander of the southern capital of Kuei-te, in Honan Province, he was recalled to court and appointed a Hanlin Academy academician. He was also charged with heading the commission compiling the New Tang History (Hsin T'ang shu) a task not completed until 1060 (Mote 1999). He was also sent as Song ambassador to the Liao on annual visits, and in 1057 he was placed in charge of the jinshi examinations, working on improving them in the process. He favored those who wrote in the “ancient style,” but failed those who employed literary embellishments; disgruntled candidates attacked him for imposing his own ideas of literature on the traditional examination system. He survived this assault, and the literary style which he championed by him set a new course for Chinese literature. He praised and promoted brilliant young writers such as Wang Anshi and Su Tung-p'o.

When the “New History” was finished in 1060, he was rapidly promoted to the highest councils of state, leaving a remarkable record in social, financial, and military affairs. In the early 1060s, he was one of the most powerful men in court, holding the positions of Hanlin Academician, Vice Commissioner of Military Affairs, Vice Minister of Revenues and Assistant Chief Councilor concurrently (Mote 1999). Ouyang’s power aroused jealousy. Upon the ascension of the Shenzong emperor in in 1067, the name of Wang Anshi came to the attention of the emperor. Ouyang’s enemies had him charged with several crimes, including incest with his daughter-in-law. Though no one believed this charge credible, it still had to be investigated, causing him irreparable harm. Increasingly isolated in the capital, he repeatedly asked to be relieved of his responsibilities. Instead, the new emperor sent him to serve as magistrate successively in Anhwei, Shantung, and Honan.

In Shantung he refused to carry out the reforms of his former protégé, Wang Anshi, particularly a system of loans to farmers at a low interest rate. In 1071, he was retired, five years before the standard retirement age, with the title of Grand Preceptor of the Crown Prince. He intended to make his permanent home in beautiful Anhwei, the place of his Old Drunkard Pavilion (Ts'ui-weng T'ing), but within months he died, on September 22, 1072 .

Works

Prose

In his prose works, Ouyang followed the example of Han Yu, promoting the Classical Prose Movement. While posted in Luoyang, Ouyang founded a group who made his “ancient prose” style a public cause. He was traditionally classed as one of the Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song. Among his most famous prose works is the Zuiweng Tingji (Regarding the Pavilion of The Old Drunkard: 醉翁亭记, a description of his pastoral lifestyle among the mountains, rivers and people of Chuzhou. The lyrical work is acclaimed as one of the highest achievements of Chinese travel writing).

Historian

Ouyang led the commission compiling the New Tang History, which completed its work in 1060. He also wrote a New History of the Five Dynasties on his own, following his official service. His style resembled that of the great Han Dynasty historian Sima Guang. He also focused on ethical considerations in historical analysis (Mote 1999).

As a historian, he has been criticized as being overly didactic, but he played an important role in establishing the use of epigraphy (the study of inscriptions) as a historiographic technique. Epigraphy, as well as the practice of calligraphy, figured in Ouyang's contributions to Confucian aesthetics. In his Record of the Eastern Study he describes how literary-minded gentlemen might utilize their leisure to nourish their mental state. The practice of calligraphy and the appreciation of associated art objects were integral to this Daoist-like transformation of intellectual life. He also composed the New History of the Five Dynasties and New Book of Tang in 1053 and 1060 respectively.

Poetry

His poems are generally relaxed, humorous, and often self-deprecatory; he gave himself the title “The Old Drunkard.” He wrote both shi and ci. His shi are stripped-down to the essentials emphasized in the early Tang period, eschewing the ornate style of the late Tang. He is best known, however, for his ci. His series of ten poems entitled West Lake is Good, set to the tune Picking Mulberries, helped to popularize the genre as a vehicle for serious poetry.

Legacy

Despite his success in his various endeavors, he did not accumulate great landholdings and wealth, and only his third son attained the highest jinshi degree (Mote 1999).

He died in 1072 in present day Fuyang, Anhui. His influence was so great that even opponents like Wang Anshi wrote moving tributes on his behalf, referring to him as the greatest literary figure of his age.

Poems

A Light Boat With Short Oars
A light boat with short oars- West Lake is good.
A gentle curve in the green water,
Fragrant grass along the dyke,
The faint sound of pipes and song follows me everywhere.
Without a wind, the water's surface lies as smooth as glaze.
I don't notice boats passing,
Tiny movements start up ripples,
Startled birds rise from the sand and graze the bank in flight.
Ouyang Xiu [2]


Deep in Spring, the Rain's Passed
Deep in spring, the rain's passed- West Lake is good.
A hundred grasses vie in beauty,
Confusion of butterflies, clamour of bees,
The clear day hurries the blossom to burst forth in the warmth.
Oars in lilies, a painted barge moving without haste.
I think I see a band of sprites-
Light reflected in the ripples,
The high wind carries music over the broad water.
Ouyang Xiu [3]
A Painted Boat Carrying Wine
A painted boat carrying wine- West Lake is good.
Urgent rhythms and pressing tunes,
A jade cup's imperious summons,
Gently floating on tranquil ripples, appointed Sleeping Drunk.
The moving clouds somehow are under the moving boat.
Empty water's clear and fresh,
Look up, look down, I linger on,
I feel as if here on this lake there is another heaven.
Ouyang Xiu [4]


After the Fresh Blossoms Have Gone
After the fresh blossoms have gone- West Lake is good.
Tattered scraps of remnant red,
Mist of cotton catkins flying,
Weeping willow by the railing in the wind and sun.
Pipes and song scatter and cease, visitors depart.
I start to feel that spring is empty,
Let the curtain fall back down,
A pair of swallows going home through the drizzly rain.
Ouyang Xiu [5]
Who Can Explain Why We Love It
Who can explain why we love it- West Lake is good.
The beautiful scene is without time,
Flying canopies chase each other,
Greedy to be among the flowers, drunk, with a jade cup.
Who can know I'm idle here, leaning on the rail.
Fragrant grass in slanting rays,
Fine mist on distant water,
One white egret flying from the Immortal Isle.
Ouyang Xiu [6]
After the Lotus Flowers Have Opened
After the lotus flowers have opened- West Lake is good.
Come for a while and bring some wine,
There's no need for flags and pennants,
Before and behind, red curtains and green canopies follow.
The painted boat is punted in to where the flowers are thick.
Fragrance floats round golden cups,
Mist and rain are so, so fine,
In a snatch of pipes and song I drunkenly return.
Ouyang Xiu [7]
Heaven's Aspect, the Water's Color
Heaven's aspect, the water's color- West Lake is good.
Creatures in the clouds all fresh,
Gulls and egrets idly sleep,
I follow my habit as of old, listen to pipes and strings.
The wind is clear, the moon is white, the night is almost perfect.
One piece of beautiful land,
Who would crave a steed or phoenix?
One man on his boat is just like an immortal.
Ouyang Xiu [8]


Scraps of Cloud in Rosy Dusk
Scraps of cloud in rosy dusk- West Lake is good.
Flowers on the bank, duckweed on sand,
A hundred acres of peaceful ripples,
On the overgrown bank, no man- just the stroke of a boat.
South-west, across the moon, scattered clouds are drifting.
Cool rises at the terrace rail,
Lotus flowers' scent is clear,
Wind from the water's face makes the wine face sober.
Ouyang Xiu [9]
All My Life, I Have Loved It
All my life, I have loved it- West Lake is good.
A crowd around the red wheels,
Riches and honors are floating clouds,
Look down, look up, the years flow on, twenty springs have passed.
Now returned, I look like a crane from the distant east.
The people around the city walls,
All are new that meet the eye,
Who can remember their governor from those olden days?
Ouyang Xiu [10]

Notes

  1. Eighth day of the eighth month of Xining 5 (熙寧五年八月八日), which corresponds to September 22, 1072 in the Julian calendar.
  2. Ouyang Xiu. Ouyang Xiu English Translations, Chinese Poems. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  3. Ouyang Xiu. Ouyang Xiu English Translations, Chinese Poems. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  4. Ouyang Xiu. Ouyang Xiu English Translations, Chinese Poems. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  5. Ouyang Xiu. Ouyang Xiu English Translations, Chinese Poems. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  6. Ouyang Xiu. Ouyang Xiu English Translations, Chinese Poems. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  7. Ouyang Xiu. Ouyang Xiu English Translations, Chinese Poems. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  8. Ouyang Xiu. Ouyang Xiu English Translations, Chinese Poems. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  9. Ouyang Xiu. Ouyang Xiu English Translations, Chinese Poems. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  10. Ouyang Xiu. Ouyang Xiu English Translations, Chinese Poems. Retrieved December 15, 2007.

References

  • Carpenter, Bruce E. 1988. "Confucian Aesthetics and Eleventh Century Ou-yang Hsiu" Tezukayama University Review. 59:111-118.
  • Egan, Ronald C. 1984. The Literary Works of Ou-yang Hsiu. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052125888X.
  • Liu, James T.C., Herbert Franke. 1976. Sung Biographies. Wiesbaden, DE: Steiner. ISBN 3515024123.
  • Mote, F.W. 1999. Imperial China: 900-1800. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674445155.

External links

All links retrieved August 1, 2013.



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