"I Rambled and Roamed Together with You": (D. 217) Four Poems to Cao Pi

By Wu, Fusheng | The Journal of the American Oriental Society, October-December 2009 | Go to article overview

"I Rambled and Roamed Together with You": (D. 217) Four Poems to Cao Pi


Wu, Fusheng, The Journal of the American Oriental Society


The Jian'an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (196-220) period witnessed a flourishing of "presentation and reply" poetry (zengda shi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (1) Many of these poems were written between friends and colleagues, and as such they often reveal an informal and sometimes intimate relationship between the two parties. In this essay I examine a group of four poems, entitled "To the Central Commander of Five Guards" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], that Liu Zhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (?-217) wrote to Cao Pi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (187-226), who was named the Central Commander of Five Guards by his father Cao Cao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (155-220) in the sixteenth year of Jian'an (212). My goal is to demonstrate that subjective quality of these hitherto little-studied texts manifests a unique relationship between Cao Pi and the members of his literary circle at the city of Ye [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] from 211 to 217, a period of vigorous poetic activity in the history of Chinese literature. Unlike the often-romanticized praises of the Caos' (Cao Cao, Cao Pi, and his brother Cao Zhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 192-232) patronage of writers by critics and historians of later periods, (2) these contemporaneous materials provide us with an engaged and firsthand representation of certain aspects of this patronage. They shed light on an important facet of poetic production during this brief but significant era.

Liu Zhen's poems were included in the zengda section of the Wenxuan, which divided its poetic selection into twenty-three sections according to their topics and occasions. (3) Of these, the zengda section, which is made up of seventy-two poems, is the second largest next only to the "Miscellaneous Poems" zashi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] section. Jiang Yaling noted in her exhaustive but mainly formalistic study of this type of poetry that, although similar poems were written as early as the Latter Han (25-220 C.E.), Xiao Tong was entirely responsible for making it into a distinct subgenre by creating the term zengda for it. (4) All the poems in this section bear either zeng or da in their titles, but there is no evidence that a zeng or "presented" poem was always da or "replied," although the Wenxuan does include a number of paired pieces. (5) This information is important to my present discussion, because the Wenxuan does not include Cao Pi's reply poems, if he had ever written any; in writing his poems to Cao Pi, Liu Zhen might never have expected a response from him.

A brief account of Cao Pi's relationship with the writers at Ye and their poetic activities will help to contextualize Liu Zhen's "To the Central Commander of Five Guards." (6) Whereas Cao Cao and his policies were responsible for attracting many famous scholars of the time to his side, (7) Cao Pi played a crucial role in forming the literary circle at Ye, a city that Cao Cao took from Yuan Shao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in the ninth year of Jian'an (205). Between 212 and 217, several members of the "Seven Masters of Jian'an" (jian'an qizi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], (8) including Liu Zhen, Xu Gan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (170-217), and Ying Yang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (?-17), served as Cao Pi's "Instructor" (wenxue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), an educational position in the establishment of the Heir Apparent. In addition to the aforementioned writers, the Sanguo zhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] also mentioned Wang Can [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (177-217), Chen Lin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (ca. 160-217), and Ruan Yu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (?-212) as those who were befriended by Cao Pi out of his love of literature. (9) Thus, the literary circle at Ye included the entire "Seven Masters" except Kong Rong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (153-208), who had been put to death by Cao Cao in the thirteenth year of Jian'an (208). …

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