An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Qing bada mingjia ciji 清八大名家詞集

Aug 24, 2022 © Ulrich Theobald

Qing bada mingjia ciji 清八大名家詞集 is a collection of the complete poems of the lyric-metre style (ci 詞) of eight outstanding writers of the Qing period 清 (1644-1911). The book was compiled by Qian Zhonglian 錢仲聯 (1992). The writers are Chen Weisong 陳維崧 (1626-1682), Zhu Yizun 朱彝尊 (1629-1709), Nalan Xingde 納蘭性德 (1655-1685), Li E 厲鶚 (1692-1752), Gong Zizhen 龔自珍 (1792-1841), Xiang Hongzuo 項鴻祚 (1798-1835), Wen Tingshi 文廷式 (1856-1904), and Zhu Zumou 朱祖謀 (1857-1931).

Three schools can be discerned that dominated the landscape of lyricists during the Qing period, namely the Zhexi School (Zhexi cipai 浙西詞派) founded by Zhu Yizun and holding high the elegance and purity of the poetry from the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279); the Yangxian School (Yangxian cipai 陽羨詞派) founded by Chen Weisong, venerating the high the depth and soundness of Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037-1101) and Xin Qiji 辛棄疾 (1140-1207); and the Yinshui School (Yinshui cipai 飲水詞派) founded by Nalan Xingde, who estimated the subtlety and the emotions of ci lyrics of the late Tang 唐 (618-907) and Five Dynasties 五代 (907-960) periods. The Zhexi School flourished in the first half of the 18th century, with Li E as its last representative. This school degraded somehow in the latter half of the 18th century and ended by just imitating Song-period poetry. The ci poets of this time were basically specialized poets (shiren 詩人) and writers only interested in the literary sphere.

A second wave of ci writers emerged in the 19th century, with a spirit of some novelty due to the historical circumstances. The theoretician Zhang Huiyan 張惠言 (1761-1802) explained that inner meaning and outer words (yi nei yan wai 意内言外) had to correspond to each other, and many critical works appeared thereafter, like Liu Xizai’s 劉熙載 (1813-1881) Yigai 藝概, Tan Xian’s 譚獻 (1832-1901) Futang cihua 復堂詞話, Kuang Zhouyi's 況周頤 (1859-1926) Huifeng cihua 蕙風詞話, Chen Tingzhuo's 陳廷焯 (1853-1892) Baiyuyhai cihua 白雨齋詞話 or Wang Guowei's 王國維 (1877-1927) Renjian cihua 人間詞話. At the same time, important collections and editions of ci poetry were published, like Zhu Zumou’s Qiangcun congshu 彊村叢書, Wang Pengyun’s 王鵬運 (1849-1904) Siyinzhai suo ke ci 四印齋所刻詞 or Wu Changshou’s 吳昌綬 (b. c. 1867) Shuangzhaolou yingke Song-Yuanben ci 雙照樓影刻宋元明本詞.

The Changzhou School dominated the 19th century. With the principle of "great meanings in subtle words" (weiyan dayi 微言大義), they tried to express contemporary matters in the shape of exquisite poetry. Imagery and metaphors reflected issues of society and politics, and the purpose of ci poetry could therefore match the teachings of shi poetry (cizhi heng shijiao 詞旨衡詩教). In this way, stylistic devices used since antiquity, like parables (bi 比) and "moods" (xing 興), found their entrance in ci poetry. The writers of this period were literati or scholar-officials (xueren 學人), and thus a much larger group of persons that was involved in administration and policy making, e.g. Wang Pengyuan, Zheng Wenzhuo 鄭文焯 (1856-1918), Kuang Zhouyi or Zhu Zumou.

The number of Qing-period ci poetry amounts to more than 100,000, with more than 5,000 male and female writers – even if the compilers of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 rated ci lyrics as an inferior style of poetry. Because the original melodies were lost, the composition of ci poetry was difficult to master, and the genre became a matter of specialists. Unlike theatre, novellas or regular poems (shi 詩), did therefore not experience popularization or “revolution” in the late 19th century.

Table 1. Contents of the Qing bada mingjia ciji 清八大名家詞集
湖海樓詞集 Huhailou ciji (Qing) 陳維崧 Chen Weisong
曝書亭詞集 Pushuting ciji (Qing) 朱彝尊 Zhu Yizun
通志堂詞集 Tongzhitang ciji (Qing) 納蘭性德 Nalan Xingde
樊榭山房詞集 Fanxie Shanfang ciji (Qing) 厲鶚 Li E
定庵詞集 Ding'an ciji (Qing) 龔自珍 Gong Zizhen
憶雲詞集 Yiyun ciji (Qing) 項鴻祚 Xiang Hongzuo
雲起軒詞集 Yunqixuan ciji (Qing) 文廷式 Wen Tingshi
彊村詞集 Qiangcun ciji (Qing) 朱祖謀 Zhu Zumou
Chen Ming 陳銘 (1992). "Qingdai citan liubian: Dai houji 清代詞壇流變——代後記", in Qian Zhonglian 錢仲聯, comp., Chen Ming 陳銘, comm. Qing bada mingjia ciji 清八大名家詞集 (Changsha: Yuelu shushe), 983-990.