Ci­cada in Chi­nese Po­etry

That's China - - Catching Cicadas 捉知了 -

The first one to use ‘ci­cada’ as a mo­tif for po­etry cre­ation in China's Tang dy­nasty, of­ten con­sid­ered as the Golden Age of Chi­nese po­etry, isYu Shi­nan (558–638), a Chi­nese of­fi­cial, lit­ter­a­teur, Con­fu­cian scholar and cal­lig­ra­pher who rose to promi­nence dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Taizong, who once men­tioned that Yu was "a man of

nd five ab­so­lute mer­its". The crea­ture’s un­der­ground strug­gle to sing in the broad day­light of sum­mer comes in handy for down­cast Chi­nese po­ets to mo­ti­vate them­selves in down-and-out times, as fully re­flected by one of the po­ems by Luo Bin­wang (619–684?), one of the ‘Four Paragons of the Early Tang’ and among the most out­stand­ing po­ets of his time. In 678, Luo Bin­wang was dis­missed and im­pris­oned for crit­i­cis­ing Wu Ze­tian (Em­press Dowa­ger Wu), and he wrote a par­tic­u­larly sharp-worded declaration against her. Lan­guish­ing in jail, the man heard the ci­cadas sing out­side. Over­come by feel­ings of sor­row, he wrote a poem en­ti­tled Ci­cada. Among the ‘ci­cada’-themed Tang po­ems, the one by Li Shangyin (c. 813–858), "re­dis­cov­ered" in the 20th cen­tury by young Chi­nese writ­ers for the imag­ist qual­i­ties of his tan­ta­liz­ing ‘no ti­tle’ po­ems. In 1968, Roger Wa­ters of the rock band Pink Floyd bor­rowed lines from his po­etry to create the lyrics for the song "Set the Con­trols for the Hear t of the Sun" from the band's sec­ond al­bum A Saucer­ful of Se­crets.The metaphor­i­cal sub­tlety in Li’s ‘Ci­cada’ was re­garded by Qing scholar Zhu Yizun (1629-1709) and Chi­nese lit­er­ary mas­ter Qian Zhong­shu (19101998) as “su­perb”.

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