In this critical review, I choose two readings. The first one is An Annotated Translation of Yan Yu’s “Canglang Shihua.” Pp. 8-20. And the second one is Chinese Aesthetics: The Ordering of Literature, the Arts and the Universe in the Six Dynasties (Cai Zongqi) pp. 123-140.
For the first article, An Annotated Translation of Yan Yu’s “Canglang Shihua.” Pp. 8-20. It is an analysis of the Chinese poetry manual of the early thirteen century and is titled,
“An Annotated Transition of Yan Yu’s Canglang Shihua.” The dissertation, written by Ruey-Shan Sandy Chen in 1996, highlights Yan Yu’s early Chinese poetry. The dissertation offers a translation of the poetry works of Yan Yu while at the same time criticizes the Chinese literary tradition. The article begins by providing a detailed annotation of the classical words used in the Chinese literary tradition as well as the figures, textual allusions, the philosophies, the cultural concepts, religious beliefs, the political and social conditions and the legends of the Chinese literature. The translation and explanation of these concepts make it easier for the modern reader to access and understand the early works of Chinese literary writers. In the introduction, the author explores various perspectives of Yan Yu and later critics of the early Chinese literature.
As a poet and literary theorist, it turns out that Yan Yu was an archaist who advocated for a return to High-Tang poetry due to its possession of magnificent imagery and atmosphere. Similarly, according to the author, Yan Yu had an insightful analogy illustrated by his great poetry skills as well as attainment of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism (Chen 1997). The great influence of Yan Yu’s perspectives on the early Chinese literary tradition to the readers and critics of Chinese literature in and beyond China makes it necessary to explore his literature. The author analyzes the five sections contained in the Canglang shihua including the poetry argument which constitutes the main thesis on Yan Yu’s perspectives and views of poetry.
Similarly, the author examines the various forms of poetry in terms of the poetic styles and genres used by different persons and at different times in the Chinese literary tradition as well as the methods of poetry used. Under the methods of the poetry section, the author suggests various ways of writing excellent poetry. Moreover, the Canglang shihua provides various commentaries on poetry by evaluating several traditional Chinese poets as well as traditional Chinese poems followed by a section that offers various proofs of poetry. This section provides a collation of textual discrepancies in traditional Chinese poetry while at the same time discusses the dates and authorship of the various Chinese poems. According to Yan Yu, poetry creates a sense of direction and offers the truth to all members of the society regardless of their religious and philosophical beliefs. It offers a meeting point for the Confucianists who believe in the concern for humanity, the Daoists who are guided by the law of the universe and the Buddhists who believe in the emptiness and impermanence of nature.
For the second reading, Chinese Aesthetics: The Ordering of Literature, the Arts and the Universe in the Six Dynasties (Cai Zongqi) pp. 123-140. This article illustrates the history and development of the Chinese literary tradition is entitled “The Ordering of Literature, the Arts, and the Universe in the Six Dynasties,” by Shuen-fu Lin. The article is a detailed prologue of the historical context of Chinese literary developments during the era of the six dynasties. The author presents a comprehensive and nuanced analysis of Chinese aesthetic practice and thought in the era of the six ancient Chinese dynasties. According to the author, despite various social and dynamic upheavals experienced during the era of the six dynasties, several artists remained focused on developing various literary areas such as poetry, drama, fiction, song, prose, lyrics and parallel prose. The author presents a chronological growth of the Chinese literature throughout the six dynasties detailing the milestones achieved in each of the dynasties.
Significant developments were realized in the Chinese garden throughout the six dynasties. At first, the six dynasties saw people move from the art of building gardens and parks for utilitarian purposes such as production of goods, hunting and gathering and rearing of cattle and horses to the culture of creating gardens and parks for recreation, rest and enjoyment purposes as well as for pursuing other aesthetic interests (Cai 2004). The second phase was characterized by a reduction in the size of the emperor’s parks in Qin and Han. In an attempt to compensate for the reduction in the size of the parks, the people of China embraced the art of garden building which resulted in the construction of artificial features such as hills and various water bodies as well as the careful selection of animals, birds, plants, and rocks.
Similarly, the period was characterized by a replacement of the culture of the construction of imperial parks with the skillful management of pavilions, water, hills, woods and halls. Furthermore, this period was characterized by the use of various techniques of appreciating scenes from nature outside the garden in extending the ideal space beyond the walls. For instance, developments in Chinese aesthetics such as calligraphy, poetry, as well as the painting of the literati were infused in the art of garden development. Hence, Chinese aesthetics was used in making the garden a beautiful and magnificent place with beautiful colors, sounds, and sights throughout the entire course of the Six Dynasties.
In the third phase, artists of the Six Dynasties used a realistic and suggestive approach in improving the appearance of the garden. The beauty of the garden was improved using