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Qu Yuan

Category: Poet

Portrait of Qu Yuan by Chen Hongshou

Qu Yuan or Ch’u Yuan (c. 339 BC–unknown; alt. c. 340–278 BC) was a Chinese poet and minister who lived during the Warring States period of ancient China. He is known for his patriotism and contributions to classical poetry and verses, especially through the poems of the Chu Ci anthology (also known as The Songs of the South or Songs of Chu): a volume of poems attributed to or considered to be inspired by his verse writing. Together with the Shi Jing, the Chu Ci is one of the two great collections of ancient Chinese verse.

Historical details about Qu Yuan's life are few, however, he is widely accepted to have written Li Sao, the most well-known of the Chu Ci poems. The first known reference to Qu Yuan appears in a poem written in 174 BC by Jia Yi, an official from Luoyang who was slandered by jealous officials and banished to Changsha by Emperor Wen of Han. While traveling, he wrote a poem describing the similar fate of a previous "Qu Yuan." Eighty years later, the first known biography of Qu Yuan's life appeared in Han Dynasty historian Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian.

 

From A Lute of Jade – Being selections from the Classical poets of China [The Wisdom of the East series] edited and translated by L.  Cranmer-Byng and Dr S. Kapadia [1918]
A loyal minister to the feudal Prince of Ch'u, towards the close of the Chou dynasty. His master having, through disregard of his counsel, been captured by the Ch'in State, Ch'u Yuan sank into disfavour with his sons, and retired to the hills, where he wrote his famous Li Sao, of which the following poem [see observation] is one of the songs. He eventually drowned himself in the river Mi-Lo, and in spite of the search made for his body, it was never found. The Dragon-boat Festival, held on the fifth day of the fifth moon, was founded in his honour.

 

Observations

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