Wang Kaiyun, Deng Fulun, and the
During the period between the late Daoguang reign era and the early Xianfeng reign era (i.e., the years around 1850), the poetry of mid-Qing masters such as Yuan Mei (zi Zicai, hao Jianzhai, alt. Suiyuan Laoren; 1716–1798), Zhao Yi (zi Yunsong, hao Oubei; 1727–1814), and Shu Wei (zi Liren, hao Tieyun; 1765–1816) still held sway in terms of popularity and influence.1 Theirs has been typified as an individually oriented and creative, though disinterested, poetry geared primarily toward the entertainment of its writers and the diversion of its gentry readership. It was against such a literary backdrop and after China’s defeat in the Opium War that Wang Kaiyun together with Deng Fulun and Deng Yi, two brothers from Wugang; Long Rulin from You xian (county); and Li Shourong from Changsha formed the Orchid Grove Poetry Society (Lanlin shishe) in 1851. These “Five Talents of Hunan” eventually began to work toward a revival of both “recent” and ancient-style verse as a vehicle for serious poetic comment. In Jiangxi, where the influence of rival schools was particularly strong, Gao Xinkui from Hukou, Fan Yuanheng from Dehua, and Xu Zhenyi from Fengxin are said to have “responded to the poetic impetus” of the Lanlin shishe.2
In his youth Wang Kaiyun had studied the Lisao and developed a strong admiration for the poems of the Han, Wei, and Six Dynasties. He regarded the movement for a return to ancient
1 Kurata Sadayoshi places Wu Songliang (the author of Xiangsushanguan shiji, pub. 1843) in the position of Zhao Yi and Shu Wei in his assessment of Wang Kaiyun’s predecessors. But Wu was, in fact, a less prominent figure at the time. Cf. Kurata, p. 207.
2 Ibid., p. 207. Qian Jibo (1986), p. 39, gives the name as Lanling cishe (Orchid Hill Lyric Society).