Works of Gold and Jade -Cao Zhi (192-232 CE): The Man and His Poetry
This thesis is an analysis of the life and poetry of Cao Zhi 曹植. It will seek to prove that Cao Zhi was a transitional poet during a transitional era. It will demonstrate how he revived the poetic traditions of the past, but at the same time, transformed literary traditions so that they embodied a new kind of individualism which revolutionised the Chinese poetic tradition. The seeds of this new poetic movement began during the Jian’an period 建安 (196-220 CE) and Cao Zhi’s life and poetry reflect this new individualist movement that would later be embraced by Chinese intellectuals during the Wei-Jin 魏晉 (220-420 CE) dynasties which is often referred to as the “literary awakening period.” This thesis will demonstrate how Cao Zhi remained grounded in Confucian values throughout his life, mainly manifested by his love for, and loyalty to his family. However, it was this same loyalty that would create contradictions within him that were vividly revealed through his poetry. This thesis will not only explore the complex relationship he had with his family members, but also the rich and rewarding friendships he cultivated with his contemporaries and how their praise and encouragement enriched his poetic expression and led to his determination to redefine the traditional parameters of literary competence. This thesis will also explore how Cao Zhi’s forthright personality led him to become alienated from the court. It will explore how his feelings of despair and rejection contributed to a new kind of awakening of the human spirit through the medium of poetry and this thesis will demonstrate that such a spirit emerges not from those who remain ensconced within the comfortable environment of the court but springs from a rebellious individual like Cao Zhi who forges ahead in an environment of oppression, by holding steadfast to his ideals and distancing himself, on an emotional level, from the petty affairs of the world. This thesis will demonstrate that Cao Zhi forged a new path in poetry, in terms of his original imagery and rich imagination that surpassed that of his contemporaries. Cao Zhi longed to be remembered for his heroic deeds but this thesis will demonstrate that it was during his quiet moments away from the court, that he would produce his finest works which would become his legacy to the world, due to the fact that he revealed his heartfelt compassion for the downtrodden and his quest for freedom and justice for all. This thesis will reveal how the life and works of Cao Zhi embodied the highest ideals of the Jian’an period which contributed to a new trend of individualism. It will explore how Cao Zhi questioned the past, while at the same time broadening his horizons by encompassing new themes into his poetry which showed his deep reverence for human life and his inherent belief that one individual can make a difference.
Advisor: Zhao, Xiaohuan
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Languages and Cultures
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Chinese Poetry; Three Kingdoms; Cao Zhi; Jian'an Period; Wei-Jin Period; Six Dynasties; Poetic Art; Pentasyllabic Poetry; Banquet Poetry; Heroism; Daoist Beliefs; Friendship Poetry; Literary Awakening Period; 魏晉; 曹植; 建安; 三國; 文選; Wenxuan; 曹丕; Cao Pi; Cao Cao; 曹操
Research Type: Thesis