Wen Tianxiang

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is 文 (Wen).
Bust of Wen Tianxiang in his temple in Beijing.

Wen Tianxiang (Chinese: 文天祥; pinyin: Wén Tiānxiáng; Wade-Giles: Wen T'ien-hsiang; June 6 1236 – January 9 1283), also Man Tin Cheung, Duke of Xingguo, "The Song Dynasty's Top Ranking Scholar and Prime Minister, the West River's Filial Son and Loyal Subject." In 1256, Wen was the top scholar in the imperial examinations and successively held posts in the Ministry of Punishments and in local government offices in Hunan and Jiangxi. In 1274, the Mongols sent armies under the general Bayan to invade the Song, and as Song generals were defeated, cities were sacked, and people deserted the areas around the Yangtze, Wen Tianxiang went to the capital to support Song Dowager Empress Xie-shi. He was made Prime Minister and sent to negotiate peace with the Mongols. Wen was arrested by Bayan after he accused him of invasion, but escaped and returned to Wenzhou, where he led the Song troops into battle. In 1278, Wen was captured and "offered" a Yuan post, which he rejected. He adamantly refused an order to write a letter to the remaining Song forces, advising them to surrender. He suffered for four years in a military prison, rejecting all the inducements offered by the Yuan rulers to win him over, until he was executed in 1283. During this time he wrote the famous classics "Song of Righteousness" (Zhengqige), and "Passing Lingdingyang."

Contents

Wen Tianzang’s reputation as a patriot overshadows his achievements as a poet. A dozen of his lyric poems are extant, including Zhinanlu (Pointing South), a historical diary in poetry of his flight to Yangzhou. Wen Tianxiang is considered one of the most famous symbols of loyalty and patriotism in China. His writings on righteousness are still widely taught in schools today.

Early Life

Wen was born June 6, 1236, in Luling (present-day Ji'an), Jiangxi Province during the Song Dynasty, to a family of scholars. Wen's father, who was learned in the classics, histories, and belles lettres, as well as in astronomy, geomancy, and medicine trained his son strictly. In 1256, he was the top scholar in the imperial examinations and successively held posts in the Ministry of Punishments and in local government offices in Hunan and Jiangxi.

Defense of Song Dynasty

In 1275, when the Song Emperor Duzong died, and his four year old son, Emperor Gongdi (Zhao Xian, reign 1274-1275), was made into emperor, the Mongols sent two generals, Shi Tianze and Bayan, on a full campaign against Song. Shi Tianze died on route. Bayan took over numerous cities on the way, slaughtered one town, and killed and captured numerous Song generals. Song Dowager Empress Xie-shi had no choice but to rely on Jia Sidao to lead the defense against the Mongols. Hearing that Liu Zheng, a Mongol general, had passed away, Jia Sidao led an army of about 130,000 against the Mongols, but was defeated on the Yangtze River. The Jiangsu areas, around the Yangtze, including Zhenjiang and Jiangyin, were deserted in face of Mongol attacks. Jia Sidao sent an emissary to Bayan for peace, but this offer was declined. Jia Sidao then asked the Dowager Empress to move the Song capital to a more secure location, but Empress Xie-shi refused. Several ministers at Song court requested that Jia Sidao be deprived of his posts, and Song released former Mongol emissaries like Hao Jing as a good-will gesture. At this moment, Zhang Shijie of E'zhou (Hubei Province), Wen Tianxiang of Jiangxi and Li Fei of Hunan came to the east to help the Song court.

Jiankang (Nanking) was deserted by a Song general. Changzhou and Wuxi were taken by the Mongols. Various attempts to negotiate a cease-fire were sabotaged when overzealous Song killed or captured the emissaries of both sides. The Mongols stopped peace talks, attacked Yangzhou, and defeated Zhang Shijie's navy on the Yangtze. Wen Tianxiang arrived in Lin'an (Hangzhou), the capital, but Empress Dowager did not take his advice. Taizhou of Jiangsu was lost to the Mongols, and Changzhou was slaughtered. In Hunan, Li Fei died, and both Hunan and Jiangxi Provinces were lost. After taking over Dusong-guan Pass, the Mongols were closing in on the Song capital. The Mongols declined several peace overtures, and sacked Jiaxing and An'jie in Zhejiang Province. Wen Tianxiang and Zhang Shijie advised that the Song court take refuge on the islands in the sea, but Prime Minister Chen Yizhong decided to send imperial seal to Mongols for a surrender. Bayan requested that Chen personally come to Mongols, and Chen fled to Wenzhou, a southern Zhejiang coastal city. Zhang Shijie led his people into the sea. Wen Tianxiang was made the Prime Minister and was ordered to go to Mongols to sue for peace. Wen was arrested by Bayan after he accused him of invasion, but escaped and returned to Wenzhou, where he led the Song troops into battle. In 1276, Bayan took over Lin'an and forced the Dowager Empress to issue the order to surrender. The Song royal family, including dowager empress and Emperor Gongdi, was sent to Peking.

In 1278, suffering a defeat at Haifeng, Wen was captured by the invading Yuan armies of Kublai Khan, and made two unsuccessful attempts at suicide. He was "offered" a Yuan post, which he refused. The following year he was ordered by the Yuan general Zhang Hongfan to write a letter to the remaining Song forces headed by Zhang Shijie, advising them to surrender. Wen sternly refused and wrote a poem which ends with two famous lines:

What man is ever immune from death?
Leave me with a loyal heart shining in the pages of history

In April 1279, Wen was sent north under armed escort and reached the capital Dadu on October 1. There he suffered for four years in a military prison, rejecting all the inducements offered by the Yuan rulers to win him over, until he was executed in 1283. During this time he wrote the famous classics "Song of Righteousness" (Zhengqige), and "Passing Lingdingyang."

Before his execution Wen is reputed to have said: "I have done all I can for my country." When the chief executioner asked him if he would relent and join the Yuan, he refused, and said, "Because I am dying for my country, there is nothing to say." When news of his death reached his wife, who was a prisoner in Dadu, she said, "My husband has remained faithful to his country; I shall not betray him," and with that, seized a knife and cut her throat.

Poetry

Wen Tianxiang is primarily remembered as a national hero, a martyr and an example of the ideal of loyalty, and this reputation as a historical figure overshadows his achievements as a poet. Fewer than a dozen lyric songs (ci) are attributed to Wen Tianxiang, including those in the Zhinanlu (Pointing South) and those of controversial authorship. The Chinese literary scholar Wang Guowei (1877-1927) acclaimed them as "sublime in wind and bone (feng gu)" and "far superior" to the works of some of Wen's contemporaries. Wang Guowei suggested that the poignancy and intensity of Wen’s poetry was heightened by the life-and-death circumstances under which he wrote.[1]

Many of the patriotic poems and essays in Wen Tianxiang's complete works were widely known in China by the time he was incarcerated in the capital. His famous Song of Righteousness was written while he was in the Yuan Dynasty military prison.[2]Wen Tianxiang's Zhinanlu (Pointing South) is an account of his flight to Yangzhou, which is primarily featured in three series of poems: "The Escape from Jingkou," "Out of Zhenzhou," and "Arriving at Yangzhou." Wen wrote in the heptasyllabic jueju instead of the pentasyllabic gushi which was more frequently adopted as the form for such narrative account. Each of these series was written in a progressive sequence of many poems, together with corresponding prose notes, to chronicle his daily experiences. The poem series serves as an alternative form of historical record, and as a diary of Wen’s own role during the final days of the Song Dynasty. The prose notes do not simply repeat the contents of the poems, but complement the verse and emphasize its themes. [3]

Ancestry and Descendants

Wen Tianxiang adopted the three sons of his younger brother when his own two sons died young. Some researchers claim that Wen Tianxiang was of Hakka (客家) descent, but there is no solid historical evidence for this assertion.

Legend has the Wen family name existing during the western Zhou Dynasty over 3,000 years ago. Historical lineages can be documented to 1,500 years ago to Sichuan province.

There are now at least five branches of the Wen family in the provinces of Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Fujian, and Hong Kong. Local dialect pronunciations would be Man (Cantonese) and Oon (Fujianese). The Man clan are considered one of the original founding families in the history of Hong Kong.

Some descendants from the Chaozhou coastal section of the Wen family branch immigrated to Indochina, with Văn a common pronunciation. "Văn" would also be the Vietnamese pronunciation of the Chinese character 文.

The well-known Ming Dynasty painter and calligrapher Wen Zhengming also belonged to the Wen family. The mother of Mao Zedong was a descendant as well. The majority of Wen Tianxiang's descendants still live in mainland China.

One of the oldest continuous branches of the Wen family established itself in the Hengyang/Hengshan area of present-day Hunan shortly after AD 1000. A branch of this Wen family settled in the United States in the mid-1940s and is related through marriage to the prominent Sun family of Shouxian, Anhui (Sun Jianai; Fou Foong Flour Company 福豐麵粉廠) and the Li family of Hefei, Anhui (Li Hongzhang 李鴻章).

Wen Tianxiang Monuments

Statue of Wen Tianxiang in San Tin Hong Kong.

Jiangxi

Wen Tianxiang Memorial Park San Tin HK.

Wen Tianxiang's hometown in Ji'an, Jiangxi honors the famous national hero with a mausoleum. Exhibitions of paintings, calligraphy, and even army uniforms supposedly left by Wen are displayed in the Wen Family Ancestral Temple in Futian. The Wen Tianxiang Mausoleum is located in Wohushan.

Beijing

The Memorial to Prime Minister Wen Tianxiang was built in 1376, during the reign of the Ming Emperor Hongwu, by the Associate Commissioner of the Beiping (as the city was then called) Judiciary. The site of Wen's execution is thought to have been the firewood market in the "Teaching Loyalty District," near the entrance to Fuxue Alley in the East City District of Beijing, and today the memorial stands on the northern side of the entrance to South Fuxue Alley near Beixinqiao, on the grounds of the Fuxue Alley Primary School. According to one modern scholar, however, the execution grounds during the thirteenth century were located in the southern part if the city and the majority of executions during the Ming and Qing dynasties were carried out there as well.

The memorial contains only a fragment of a stela, while the remainder of its contents has become part of the permanent collection of the Beijing Bureau of Cultural Relics. According to historical records, there was once a memorial archway outside the memorial's eastern wall inscribed with "Teaching Loyalty District" (Jiaozhongfang), the old name of that section of Beijing. "The Song Dynasty's Top Ranking Scholar and Prime Minister, the West River's Filial Son and Loyal Subject," is carved into the columns of the memorial's main hall. In the center of the hall stands a sculpture Wen Tianxiang holding an official tablet before him. To the left of Wen' s likeness, and below with the 32-character "Clothes and Belt Inscription"which ends with the lines" and today and ever after his conscience is clear," four large inscribed wooden plaques hang inside the hall. They read, "Loyalty and devotion to old friends"; "Righteousness in heaven and on earth"; "The utmost in benevolence and justice"; and "The Song Dynasty survives here." A screen bears the complete text of Wen Tianxiang' s Song of Righteousness (Zhengqige). [4]

The memorial once housed three ancient scholar trees, as well as a "Prime Minister" elm and a date tree, with their branches and trunk leaning very noticeably southward. According to local legend, these trees represented Wen Tianxiang' s longing for his old home in the south. The three scholar trees disappeared long ago, but the date tree is still thriving.

Hong Kong

The San Tin village in the New Territories of Hong Kong, has many residents surnamed "Wen" ("Man" in Cantonese). The "Wen" villagers trace their ancestry to Wen Tianxiang via Wen Tianshui (Man Tin-Sui), also a famous Song Dynasty general and the cousin of Wen Tianxiang.

A Wen Tianxiang Memorial Park and "Wen" ancestral hall and residences (Tai Fu Tai) in San Tin are a popular historical attraction in Hong Kong.

  • 人生自古誰無死,留取丹心照汗青。—None since the advent of time have escaped death, may my loyalty forever illuminate the annals of history.
Crossing Lonely Sea
Delving in the Book of Change, I rose through hardship great,
And desperately fought the foe for four long years;
Like willow catkin, the war-torn land looks desolate,
I sink or swim as duckweed in the rain appears.
For perils on Perilious Beach, I heaved and sighed,
On Lonely Sea now, I feel dreary and lonely;
Since olden days, which man has lived and not died?
I'll leave a loyalist name in history!
Translated by Xu YuanZhong [5]

See also

  • History of the Song Dynasty
  • List of Chinese people
  • Chancellor of China
  • Wang Anshi
  • Sima Guang
  • Fan Zhongyan
  • Qin Hui

Notes

  1. Introduction to Yang Ye. "Writ in Blood": Wen Tianxiang's Lyric Songs, University of California, Riverside. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  2. Memorial to Prime Minister Wen, China Internet Information Center. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  3. Introduction to Yang Ye,"Writ in Blood": Wen Tianxiang's Lyric Songs, University of California, Riverside. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  4. Memorial to Prime Minister Wen, China Internet Information Center. Retrieved December 15, 2007.
  5. Wen TianXiang Poetry, www.chinapage.org. Retrieved December 15, 2007.

References

  • Burgess, David J. 1985. Wen Tianxiang a preliminary study of his life and poetry. Thesis (M.A.)—George Washington University.
  • Brown, William Andres. 1986. WEN T'IEN-HSIANG: A Biographical Study of a Sung Patriot. Chinese Materials Center Publications. ISBN 0896446433
  • Barnstone, Tony, and Ping Chou. 2004. The Anchor book of Chinese poetry. New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 0385721986 ISBN 9780385721
  • Fuller, Michael A. Intellectual and Aesthetic Contexts for Wen Tianxiang's Poetry. University of California, Irvine.
  • Liu, Wuji, and Irving Yucheng Lo. 1975. Sunflower splendor three thousand years of Chinese poetry. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books. ISBN 0385097166 ISBN 9780385097161
  • Tong, Yuanfang. 2000. Two journeys to the north a comparative study of the poetic journals of Wen T'ien-hsiang and Wu Mei-ts'un = Wen Tianxiang yu Wu Meicun : liang zu bei xing shi de bi jue yan jiu. Taipei, Taiwan: Bookman Books. ISBN 9575868501 ISBN 9789575868505
  • Ye, Yang. Writ in Blood: Wen Tianxiang's Lyric Songs. University of California, Riverside.
  • Yuan-fang Tung. Writing Poetry as Diary: Wen Tianxiang's Poem Series. The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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