The origins and development of jueju verse
One of the most popular and important of genres in the Chinese poetic tradition is the jueju, or quatrain. It is at first striking that such a brief and apparently minor form played such an important role in the poetic tradition. But during the golden age of Chinese poetry, the High Tang (mid-eighth century), all the great masters of the day excelled at this genre, with a number of poets being known primarily for their jueju poems. The jueju continued to possess a rich vitality after the Tang and through succeeding dynasties even as the classical verse tradition declined.The purpose of this study is to trace origins and development of this genre. It is only by examining the early evolution of the genre before its maturation that we can begin to understand the reasons for its greatness. We find that the jueju is more than a bare form, that it is a blend of elements that evolved over a very long period of time. The themes, occasions, diction, and approaches that characterize the jueju often can be traced back to developments that took place centuries before the Tang. For example, during the Tang, the jueju was a favorite genre for composing informal parting verse. Antecedents for this practice can be found as early as the fourth and fifth centuries in the quatrain love lyrics of the Southern Dynasties. Lovers often sang these songs when they parted, and later literati would imitate these songs to express feelings of friendship. As a genre the jueju has a certain character or personality, and in a very real sense this study is a biography of the jueju during its all important formative stages.The approach of this dissertation is primarily historical. The different stages of the evolution of the jueju are identified and described as it evolves from simple rhymes, to folk and popular song, and finally into a true poetic form. Special attention is focused upon the art and structure of the jueju, and the various means and paths by which it was able to advance from a simple, sub-literary form to a major genre.
- East Asian studies