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《Social Sciences in China》 2008-05
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"From the Higher to the Lower":A Convention in Referencing between Literary Forms in Ancient China

Jiang Yin  
Referencing between literary forms was quite common in ancient Chinese literary writings. The prevalence of referencing between different forms, such as ci and qu (two verse forms), classical and popular texts, fu (a prose poem) and historical biography, and even between the two literary categories of verse and prose was noted very early on. In such referencing, there was a convention that it was desirable to use the superior literary form to polish the inferior one, while the reverse was unacceptable. This orientation and its artistic effect are illuminated most clearly and directly in calligraphy, which therefore was often used by ancient critics to describe and explain this convention. The calligraphic term "hybrid style" (poti) was introduced into literary criticism in the Tang dynasty. In the Song dynasty, with its fine discrimination between styles, this and "original style" became a complementary pair of concepts in the discussion of such referencing, shaping the aesthetic evaluation of specific instances of this practice. The aesthetic foundations of the "higher to lower" convention can essentially be found in the "wooden barrel" theory. Specifically, this meant that the style and taste of a piece of literary work as a whole was determined by its lowest part; the borrowing of a superior form could elevate the style of the whole work, while reference to an inferior form would degrade it. But what makes the issue more complex is that because such referencing involves the literary function, there are different degrees of exceptions to the rule.
【CateGory Index】: I206.2
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