An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Cilin guanzhi 詞林觀止

Feb 28, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Cilin guanzhi 詞林觀止 is an anthology of lyric-metre-style poetry (ci 詞) through the ages. The editor, Chen Bangyan 陳邦炎 (b. 1920), was a famous scholar of Chinese poetry. His most important publications are Qingci mingjia lunji 清词名家论集 (with Ye Jiaying 葉嘉瑩), Linpulou lun shici cungao 臨浦樓論詩詞存稿, Shuoci baipian 說詞百篇, and Shuoshi baipian 說詩百篇. Apart from the Cilin guanzhi, he also published a similar anthology, Quyuan guanzhi 曲苑觀止, which focuses on aria-style poetry (qu 曲).

The aim of the collection was to provide an overview of the history of ci-style poetry from its origins in the Tang period 唐 (618-907) to the end of the Qing dynasty 清 (1644-1911), and at the same time providing a well-balanced selection of poems of all genres, of the prevalent styles wanyue 婉約 "delicate restraint" and haofang 豪放 "heroic abandon", as well as poems not belonging to either of the two styles. Chen analyses three general misinterpretations (pianjian 偏見) concerning ci-style poetry, namely that lyric-metre style poems were believed to be just a kind of "lesser art" (xiaodao 小道) expressing beauty and charm (yanke 豔科, mei 媚) in contrast to regular shi-type 詩 poems, which were an expression of gravity and seriousness. He shows that with the beginning of the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279), the originally refined style was replaced by heroic sentiment of patriotism.

Another misunderstanding is that ci-type poetry only flourished during the Song period 宋 (960-1279). This idea had been brought into the world by Wang Guowei 王國維 (1877-1927), Hu Shi 胡適 (1891-1962), and Liu Dajie 劉大傑 (1904-1977) who used to identify historical phases with certain types of poetry (Han fu 漢賦, Tang shi 唐詩, Song ci 宋詞, and Yuan qu 元曲). A third misconception was launched by Zhang Ting 張綎 (fl. 1536) in his book Shiyu tupu 詩餘圖譜, where he argued that there were only the two genres of wanyue and haofang, an opinion adapted by Xu Shizeng 徐師曾 (1517-1571) in his influential theory Wenti mingbian 文體明辨. While these theoreticians opted for the prevalence of the wanyue genre, others had voted for the superiority of the haofang genre, for instance, Wang Zhuo 王灼 (1105-1160) in his Biji manzhi 碧雞漫志 or Liu Xizai 劉熙載 (1813-1881) in his book Yigai 藝術概. As a consequence, many anthologies like Hu Yun's 胡雲翼 (1906-1965) Songcixuan 宋詞選 tend to favour ci poems of the haofang genre. In fact, however, there were many more styles and genres emerging over time, so that a truthful discussion about styles and genres would have to take into account a constant change from "orthodox" (zheng 正) or "genuine" (bense 本色) to "alternate" (bian 變, fei bense 非本色) forms.

Chen therefore tried to overcome these shortcomings and provide a reliable, objective overview of lyric-metre style poetry. All 736 poems of 278 writers are commented, analyzed, and accompanied by short biographies. The collection is arranged chronologically and includes also poems found in non-traditional sources (Dunhuang quzi ci 敦煌曲子词). The punctuation follows the two standard works Qinding cipu 欽定詞譜 and Wan Shu's 萬樹 (1630-1688) Cilü 詞律.

The anthology was published in 1994 by the Shanghai Guji Press 上海古籍出版社.

Chen Bangyan 陳邦炎 (1994). "Xuyan 序言", in Cilin guanzhi 詞林觀止 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe), 1-10.