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Collected Works of Dingmao--One of Zhenjiang’s Masterpieces

Release Time:2017-06-29 Source:Zhenjiang Library Author:jsb Views:471

Collected Works of Dingmao was composed by Xu Hun of the Tang dynasty, whose literary name is Yonghui or Zhonghui. He was a native of Danyang, Runzhou prefecture (now Danyang, Zhenjiang city, Jiangsu province). His date of birth or death is unknown to us. In the 6th Dahe year of the Tang dynasty (832 AD), he passed the imperial examination and got awarded the title of Jinshi. He was successively appointed investigating censor, minister of war of Runzhou Prefecture, governor of Mu Prefecture and governor of Ying Prefecture, so he was also known as Xu Yingzhou (the last official position of his). During his late years, he took abode in a cottage at Dingmao, Runzhou (now Zhenjiang), where he compiled his poems and essays into the book titled Collected Works of Dingmao.  

About 500 poems of Xu Hun’s are now extant, most of which were composed when the poet mediated on the past when ascending a hill or mountain. His famous poems include “East Building of Xianyang City”, “Meditation on the Past in Jinling”, “The Old City of Luoyang”, “Lingxiao Terrace”, in which the poet contemplated the historic relics and lamented over the vicissitude of dynasties. In his poems of official travel, compliments and acknowledgments, and lamentations, there are quite a few beautiful lines, say, “We see on horseback all willow leaves north of Yangtse picked, we see in a boat all flowers south of the Five Ridges withered” (“Dusk Found Me Staying at Dongxi Brook”, “Flowers fall in wild night wind on either rock, spring rain soak the overgrown grass along the path” (“Scholar Zheng from the West Carries My Home Letter”, in which his depiction of a scene is imbued with affection in melodious words. Collected Works of Dingmao there are no poems in an ancient form, but mainly five-character or seven-character lvshi (poem in a strict tonal pattern and rhyme scheme), which are fairly neatly contrived in sound and rhythm. Xu Hun’s versification was praised to be “no less mature than any others” (Collected Works of Ancient Joyous Hall by Tian Wen). The aphorisms in Xu Hun’s poems often appear in the second couplet, for example, “Immediately the brook cloud rises with the falling sun behind a pavilion, the mountain rain is threatening the building shivering in the win(d)” (East Building of Xianyang City”).

Xu Hun likes to change the rhyme scheme of the three ending words of couplet to a pattern of “Zhe Ping Zhe” in parallel with “Ping Zhe Ping” to highlight a variation on the average tonal pattern, which was imitated by many poets of later generations and called “Dingmao structure”.

The climber of a high city is saddened by a myriad of regret, but the reeds and willows seem to form an islet.

Immediately the brook cloud rises with the falling sun behind a pavilion, threatening the building shivering in the wind is the mountain rain.

The birds behold at sunset a Qin garden overgrown with green grass, while the cicadas chirp in autumn over a Han palace.

The pedestrians are not expected to talk about the past, for the Wei River flows east to my hometown blessed.

—— “East Building of Xianyang City”