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Chinese Literature
Guyaoyan 古謠諺 "Ancient Ballads and Common Sayings"


The Guyaoyan 古謠諺 "Ancient ballads and common sayings" is a collection of ancient popular verses compiled by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Du Wenlan 杜文瀾 (1815-1881), courtesy name Du Xiaofang 杜小舫. He came from Xiushui 秀水, Zhejiang, and was a circuit inspector (daoyuan 道員) in Jiangsu and salt distribution commissioner (yanyunshi 鹽運使) of the Liang-Huai region 兩淮. Famous for his skill in poetry, he compiled the books Caixiangci 采香詞 and the commentary Cilü jiaokanji 詞律校勘記.
According to Liu Yusong's 劉毓崧 preface the Guyaoyan must have been finished in 1861. The 100 juan "scrolls" long collection includes popular ballads and common sayings from oldest times to the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). It is the first collection of products of this literary genre and therefore an important contribution to the preservation of ancient literature, all the more as Du Wenlan begins his collection with a definition of the two genres and an investigation of the literary, historiographical and social significance. The ballads vary widely in the themes, but most of them focus on agricultural activities, weather and astrology, landscape or the challenges of daily life. Many ballads, both popular ballads (minyao 民謠) as well as childrens' rhymes (tongyao 童謠) refer to a historical or pseudo-historical event that is praised, criticized or simply narrated. To the latter category belong verses that tell of inventions of cultural features by the mythical emperors.
One of Du Wenlan's criteria for selection was whether the period of origin can be seen in the text of the rhyme or not. The ballads included were all sung without musical accompaniment (tuge 徒歌). Of the common sayings, both popular verses and such of literary refinement were included. The commentary part of the collection also includes "variations" (yiwen 異文) providing information about the time and place of origin and the history of transmission. The individual pieces are arranged according to their content and the traditional pattern of the four literary genres. The main part of the book with the actual text is 85 juan long, and the rest of the book includes additional material. The last juan (Jishuo 集說) is a general discussion of the two genres.
The first print of the Guyaoyan was included in the collectaneum Mantuoluohuage congshu 曼陀羅華閣叢書. In 1958 the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局 published a new edition with a commentary by Zhou Shaoliang 周紹良.


Sources:
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 2835.
Xu Yu 許鈺 (1986). "Guyaoyan 古謠諺", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學, Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe, vol. 1, p. 196.
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

May 19, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail