The Four Categories of Literature
The Shijing 詩經 or "Book of Songs" is one of the traditional Confucian classics. It is a collection of three different types of songs originating in the Shang 商 (17th to 11th cent. BC) and the early and middle Zhou period 周 (11th. cent.-221 BC), in 305 chapters. Of 6 chapters only the names are preserved (Nangai 南陔, Baihua 白華, Huashu 華黍, Yougeng 由庚, Chongqiu 崇丘, and Youyi 由儀).
The three types of songs are feng 風 "airs", ya 雅 "odes", and song 頌 "hymns". The 160 Airs are arranged according to the state where they originate from (hence called guofeng 國風 "airs from the states"). The Odes are divided into Major (daya 大雅) and Minor Odes (xiaoya 小雅) and arranged in decades (shi 什). The Hymns are religious chants sung in the ancestral temples of the states of Zhou 周, which was the royal house, as well as Lu 魯, the home state of Confucius, and the house of Shang 商 whose descendants lived in the state of Song 宋. The Airs of the states are folksongs, often concered with a love theme. The Odes are said to come from the aristocratic class, the Major Odes being sung at the royal court, the Minor Odes at the court of the feudal lords. The songs collected in the Shijing are not only of a high literary value as the oldest songs in China but they also reveal a lot of the actvities of different social strata in early China.
The oldest sources say that once the court of the Zhou dynasty ordered the collection of folksongs from among the empire, quite similar to what the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BC-220 AD) did later with the establishment of the Music Bureau (yuefu 樂府). This is how the Airs came into being. The Odes were instead are said to have been submitted by their composers to the throne directly. It is said that an original collection of songs included 300 chapters, a corpus which was compiled by Confucius 孔子 who chose the best from more than 3,000 songs. In reality the compilation of the Shi corpus, as it was called in earliest times, began in the 6th century BCE. It might be that the compilation took place in Lu, the home state of Confucius, which was famous for its musical tradition. That the "songs" were music and not recited poems is revealed by numerous sources. The oldest parts are said to be the hymns from Zhou and the Major Odes, written in the early decades of the Zhou period. The Minor Odes and a part of the Major Odes were probably written in the late Western Zhou period. The largest part of the Airs and the Hymns of Lu and Shang were only written during the Spring and Autumn period.
There must have been other types of songs (altogher six, the liushi 六詩) of which no examples are preserved, namely the types of fu 賦 "straightforward" (which during the Han period reappears as the genre of prose rhapsody), bi 比 "simile, parable", and xing 興 "with introduction". The great Tang period 唐 (618-907) commentator Kong Yingda 孔穎達 interpretes those terms in the following way: feng, ya and song are designations for certain external compositional forms, while fu, bi and xing were designations for certain methods how the content of the poem was approached (together the liuyi 六義 "six meanings"). During the Han period, when only the four designations of feng, daya, xiaoya and song were used, they were interpreted as the four beginnings (sishi 四始) describing the flourishing and decline of the royal house of Zhou. A very good example for the xing type is the air Guanju 關雎, an example for the bi type is the air Shuoshu 碩鼠, an example for the fu type is the air Qiyue 七月.
Especially the Hymns, but also the Odes, can also be used as historiographic sources for the late Shang and early Zhou periods. Informations about institutional history, leisuretime activities of the upper class, as well as the hardships of the life of ordinary people can be found. Many of the Airs are simple love songs, the most famous of which is the first song of the Shijing.
Very typically for the airs, but also some of the minor odes, is the repetition of verses in each of the stanzas, a phenomenon which is known in the west in poems of the rondo type, but also in many folksongs. Another phenomenon very common in the airs are double rhymes (dieyun 疊韻, like in the verse yao tiao shu nü 窈窕淑女), multiple or special readings (shuangsheng 雙聲, like in the verse cen ci [instead of cancha] xing cai 參差荇菜) and repeated words (diezi 疊字, like in the verses feng yu qi qi, ji ming jie jie 風雨凄凄，鷄鳴喈喈). A large part of the verses has four syllables, especially among the airs. The songs in the Shijing are the oldest example for regular poems which later became so popular.
From a linguistic viewpoint the rhymes of the songs are an important help for the reconstruction of the archaic Chinese language.
The Shijing had always attracted the interest of all groups of persons. Confucius once said that without the Shijing there was nothing to talk about. With many examples from the Shijing he even educated his disciples.
During the so-called literary inquisition under the First Emperor of Qin 秦始皇 (r. 246/221-210 BCE) the Shijing survived virtually without damage, certainly because most of its songs were also transmitted orally, which is easier for songs than for prose texts. During the early Han period there were four different versions available: the Qi 齊, Lu 魯, Han 韓, and Mao 毛 versions. The three former were written in the modern chancery script style (lishu 隸書) and were thus considered so-called new texts, while the Shijing of Mao – the Maoshi 毛詩 – was written in ancient characters and thus from the old text tradition. For the Qi, Lu and Han versions there were professors (boshi 博士 "erudites") established at the National University (taixue 太學), which means that those versions were the imperially acknowledged ones. The Lu version was already lost in the 4rd century CE, the Han version survived until the end of the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126). A kind of commentary to the Han version has survived, the Hanshi waizhuan 韓氏外傳, which has been treated as a sub-classic writing since. The Qi version was lost during the 3rd century. The Mao version had been transmitted by descendants of Zixia 子夏, a disciple of Confucius. Mao Heng 毛亨 and Mao Chang 毛萇 introduced this version of the Shijing to Han period scholars but it only obtained official status during the Later Han period (25-220 AD) and was revised and commented by Zheng Zhong 鄭眾, Jia Kui 賈逵, Ma Rong 馬融 and Zheng Xuan 鄭玄. The latter wrote a commentary called Maoshi zhuanjian 毛詩傳箋. After the Han period the Mao version was the only surviving version.
During the Tang period 唐 (618-907) Kong Yingda 孔穎達 wrote his famous commentary Maoshi zhengyi 毛詩正義 "The true meaning of the Shijing". The great Neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Xi 朱熹 assembled all Song period 宋 (960-1279) commentaries on the Maoshi and published them as Shijizhuan 詩集傳.
All poems have a small preface (xiaoxu 小序), the first poem has a Great Preface (Daxu 大序).
1.-160. 國風 Guofeng Airs of the States 1-160|
(for the location of the particular states, see also the map of Western Zhou)
1.-11. 周南 Airs South of Zhou 1-11
12.-25. 召南 Airs South of Shao 1-14
26.-44. 邶 Airs of Bei 1-18
45.-54. 鄘 Airs of Yong 1-10
55.-64. 衛 Airs of Wey 1-10
65.-74. 王 Airs of the Royal Domain 1-10
75.-95. 鄭 Airs of Zheng 1-21
96.-106. 齊 Airs of Qi 1-11
107.-113. 魏 Airs of Wei 1-7
114.-125. 唐 Airs of Tang 1-12
126.-135. 秦 Airs of Qin 1-10
136.-145. 陳 Airs of Chen 1-10
146.-149. 檜 Airs of Gui 1-4
150.-153. 曹 Airs of Cao 1-4
154.-160. 豳 Airs of Bin 1-7
161.-234. 小雅 Xiaoya Minor Odes 1-74|
161.-170. 鹿鳴之什 Luming Decade Deer Cry
171.-180. 南有嘉魚之什 Nan you jiayu Decade In the South there are Lucky Fish
181.-190. 鴻鴈之什 Hongyan Decade Wild-Geese
191.-200. 節南山之什 Jienanshan Decade High-Crested Southern Hills
201.-210. 谷風之什 Gufeng Decade Valley Wind
211.-220. 甫田之什 Futian Decade Large Field
221.-234. 魚藻之什 Yuzao Decade Fish and Water-Plants
235.-265. 大雅 Daya Major Odes 1-31|
235.-244. 文王之什 Wenwang Decade King Wen
245.-254. 生民之什 Shengmin Decade Birth to the People
255.-265. 蕩之什 Tang Decade Mighty
266.-305. 頌 Song Hymns 1-40
266.-296. 周頌 Hymns of Zhou 1-31
-- 266.-275. 清廟之什 Qingmiao Decade Hallowed Temple
-- 276.-285. 臣工之什 Chengong Decade Servants and Officers
-- 286.-296. 閔予小子之什 Min yu xiaozi Decade Pity Me, Your Child
297.-300. 魯頌 Hymns of Lu 1-4
301.-305. 商頌 Hymns of Shang 1-5
Sources: Wang Xiandu 汪賢度 (1986), "Shijing 詩經", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, p. 728-731. ● Yin Falu 陰法魯 (1992), "Shijing 詩經", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, pp. 921 f.
July 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
Chinese Literature over time