Han Yü's Poetische Werke

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Harvard University Press, 1952 - Literary Criticism - 393 pages
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About the author (1952)

In his own day, Han Yu was hailed as a great innovator in both poetry and the prose essay. He advocated a "return to antiquity"; in prose this meant avoiding ornate parallelism and stilted language in favor of earlier, more natural forms of expression, and in poetry it meant an "opposition poetics" that tried to replace the elegance and wit of court poetry with bold simplicity and serious meaning One of Han Yu's most famous essays, "Memorial on the Bone of the Buddha," took the emperor to task for a great ceremonial event he was planning on the occasion of a religious relic---a bone of the Buddha---being brought to the Imperial Palace. Not mincing words, he reminded the emperor that Buddha was nothing but a long dead barbarian in India who hadn't known the Chinese language, or anything about Chinese ethical principles, so it was unseemly to make such a fuss over his decayed and rotten bone, a "filthy and disgusting relic." For his trouble, in 819 the emperor banished Han Yu to exile in the south, but after Han wrote an abject apology, he was allowed to return to the capital in the following year. Han had never had an easy time; orphaned at the age of 2, he had been raised by his elder brother in the capital at Ch'ang-an, but that brother and two others all died young. The psychological scars that these untimely deaths left him with are evident in another of his most beloved essays, "Lament for My Nephew Shih-erh Lang.

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