Adaptations for Southern Song’s Poem “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai”( “Eighteen Songs of a Nomad’s Flute”) and their Historical Significance
Journal of Zhejian University 42:1 (Jan., 2012), pp.128-138.
Cai Yan, daughter of Cai Yong, was a renowned poet in the Eastern Han Dynasty. After Cai Yan’s husband Wei Zhong Dao had passed away, she went back to her parents’ home because she did not manage to bear any children. In 194-195AD, during the Hun Invasion, Cai Yan was then captured by them for twelve years. While in captivity during this period, she had two children. After which, Cao Cao, a long time friend of Cai Yong, offered to redeem Cai Yan out of respect and gratitude for his old friend and married her off to Dong Si. Throughout this period Cai Yan had much grievance about her whole life, thus the reason to write this poem for remembrance.
There were speculations amongst the people which lead them into believing that there were three poems which were attributed to Cai Yan, namely two versions of “Bei Fen Shi” and “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai”. However, there are some debates over the identification of the real author for “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai”. As the poem was believed to be very close to Cai Yan’s sentiments and thoughts, many have argued that she was the actual author based on the content and vocabulary used in the poem. Subsequently, there were more poets adopting the same title “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai”, such as Liu Shang in the Tang Dynasty; along with Wang An Shi, Li Gang and Wen Tian Xiang in the Song Dynasty.
The “Ji Ju Shi” which was also known as the “lines collection poems”, which was written by Wang An Shi are known to be “fast paced”, “good in antithetic parallelism” and “better than the original writer”. His writing style for lines collection poems were recognized as “Jing Gong Ti”, and his version of “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai” is considered one of his many remarkable works. Wang An Shi was well known for his display of quirkiness in his poem, being able to create one with no difficulty and still remained composed while crafting a poem.
Li Gang’s version of “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai” was not created to help Cai Yan express her sorrow, but to express his own feelings instead. Based on the artistic achievement, this version of “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai” did not have a clear narrative structure. The image of the whole poem was very concentrated and it had a lot of obscure literary allusions. However, some of the literary allusions used in the poem were repetitive, therefore Li Gang’s version of “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai” was not as fluent as Cai Yan’s and as natural as Wang An Shi’s.
Comparatively, Wen Tian Xiang’s version of “Hu Jia Qu” was more musically inclined than Wang An Shi’s and Li Gang’s version of which one hundred and sixty lines of poem were all quoted from Du Fu’s poems. “Hu Jia Qu” combined the styles from both Cai Yan and Du Fu, which was then mixed with Wang An Shi’s meticulous way of lines collective writing style, followed by Li Gang’s intention of “writing poems to express history”. Therefore we can deem the poem “Hu Jia Qu” as a work that integrates and embodied loyalty, love and affection within one poem.
As for the content of these three poems, Wan An Shi adopted an objective point of view to describe Cai Yan’s life story; whereas in Li Gang’s version he did not include any historical facts about Cai Yan; and in another example Wen Tian Xiang was using Cai Yan’s tragic experience to describe his own turmoil and vagrant life. These respective content in the three poems was unique in their own way.
In Wang An Shi’s version of “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai”, there were occasions when he used the first person perspective to narrate the story, and sometimes he would change to the observer’s omniscient perspective. In general, his narrative tone and structure was quite similar to Cai Yan’s “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai”. In Li Gang’s version of “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai”, the author purposely eliminate the content of Cai Yan’s tragic life experience, and made use of the structure to narrate the history of the “An Shish Rebellison”. In Wen Tian Xaing’s version of “Hu Jia Qu”, as the author had encountered the same tragic experience of separation from his children as Cai Yan, he paid more attention to narrate his empathy. In this way, Wen Tian Xiang had not only portrait a macro-historical picture, but also painted out his own endless frustration and bitterness.
This paper aims to focus on discussing Li Gang’s and Wen Tian Xiang’s version of “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai” and how they were used in comparison with Cai Yan’s original poem. In conclusion, both versions of “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai” have three significant main points:
1. A continuation of Wang An Shi’s “Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai” writing style, which imitates how Cai Yan narrates her tragic life experience.
2. Establish the status of Du Fu’s literary, promote his poems as the classic example of lines collection poems.
3. Fulfill the concept of “reflecting history in poetry” and expand the referral meaning of it.