Xin Qiji

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Xin.
The statue of Xin Qiji, located in Changsha, Hunan, China.
Xin Qiji
Traditional Chinese 辛棄疾
Simplified Chinese 辛弃疾
You'an
(courtesy name)
Chinese 幼安
Jiaxuan
(art name)
Traditional Chinese 稼軒
Simplified Chinese 稼轩

Xin Qiji (28 May 1140 – 1207) was a Chinese poet, military leader and statesman during the Southern Song dynasty.

Life[edit]

During Xin's lifetime, northern China was occupied during the Jin–Song wars by the Jurchens of the Jin Dynasty, a nomadic people from what is now north-east China then regarded as barbarians. Only southern China was ruled by the Han Chinese Southern Song dynasty. Xin was born in the modern city of Jinan in Shandong Province. In his childhood his grandfather told him about the time when the Han Chinese ruled the north and told him to be an honorable man and seek revenge against the barbarian for the nation. It was then when he developed his patriotic feelings. His grandfather named him after a legendary military commander from the Western Han, Huo Qubing. Both "Qubing" and "Qiji" mean to deliver oneself from diseases.[1]

Xin started his military career at the age of twenty-two. He commanded an insurrection group of fifty men and fought the Jurchen alongside Geng Jing's much larger army that consisted of tens of thousands of men. Although they had some small-scale victories, in 1161, because the Jurchen were becoming more united internally, Xin persuaded Geng Jing to join forces with the Southern Song army in order to fight the Jurchen more effectively. Geng Jing agreed but just as Xin finished a meeting with the Southern Song Emperor, who endorsed Geng Jing's troops, Xin learned that Geng Jing had been assassinated by their former friend-turned-traitor, Zhang Anguo (张安国/張安國). With merely fifty men, Xin fought his way through the Jurchen camp and captured Zhang Anguo. Xin then led his men safely back across the border and had Zhang Anguo decapitated by the emperor.[2]

Xin's victory gained him a place in the Southern Song court. However, because the emperor was surrounded by people who supported "an appeasement policy"[3] rather than open warfare with the Jin, Xin was sidelined. From 1161 to 1181, he held a series of minor posts that never amounted to anything momentous. Although during the same period, he tried to offer the emperor his treatises on how to manage the invasions by the Jin as well as other state affairs, he was never taken seriously. Finally he resolved to do things on his own. He improved the irrigation systems in his district, relocated poverty-struck peasants and trained his own troops. His ambition soon aroused suspicion against him. In 1181, he was forced to resign. He left for Jiangxi where he then stayed and perfected his famous ci form of poetry for ten depressing years.[4]

In 1192, Xin was recalled to the Song court to take up another minor post because the previous incumbent had died. This job did not last long because once he completed the requirements of his job, he started training men for military purposes again. He was soon discharged.[5]

In 1203, as the Jin began pressing harder against the Southern Song border, Han Tuozhou, the consul of the Southern Song court, in need of militarists, took Xin under his wing. However, Han Tuozhou disregarded Xin's sincere advice for effective military moves, and he removed Xin from his team the next year, accusing Xin of being lubricious, avaricious, and many other non-existent faults. The crucial moment came in 1207 when the Jin defiantly asked for Han Tuozhou's head for a peace treaty. It was then that Han realized that he needed Xin again. Xin did not hesitate in responding to Han's call for help; unfortunately, he died of old age soon afterwards.[6]

Work[edit]

Some six hundred and twenty of Xin's poems survive today, all were written after he moved to the south.[7]

Poetry[edit]

Scholars consider Xin equally talented in ci as Su Shi[citation needed]. Their difference, however, is that the content of Xin's poetry spans an even greater range of topics. Xin is also famous for employing many allusions in his poems.[8]

Some of the most quoted lines from his poetry (with accompanying translations) are shown below.

"衆裏尋他千百度,驀然回首,那人卻在燈火闌珊處。" -《青玉案·元夕》

"Having almost exhausted my energy searching for that person (vague), I suddenly turned my head, and there they were, standing at the far end of the street where the candlelight is the dimmest."

"少年不識愁滋味,愛上層樓。 愛上層樓,為賦新詞強說愁。 而今識盡愁滋味,欲說還休。 欲說還休,卻道天涼好個秋。" -《醜奴儿》

In searching the feeling of sadness in my youth,

I liked to climb pagodas.

Climbed up the pagodas,

For the sake of writing new verse, I talked much about melancholy.

Yet now that I've known in full melancholy's taste,

I hesitate to mention it.

Hesitate to mention it,

Rather I blabber, the weather's cold, a fine autumn.

"When I was young, I could not tell what melancholy was, but I loved to climb towers. As I climbed up this and that tower, I wrote many a poem too, but these poems did not communicate true melancholy, they were simply a word game for me. As for now, I have grown old and tasted the bitter taste of melancholy, I wish to talk and write about it, but I am silenced, I give up even before I try. How I want to talk and write about it, but give up even before trying! I find myself exclaiming instead, that this chilly weather makes a good fall!"

In this last line, the sudden transition from Xin's personal understanding of melancholy to the season that he's experiencing while writing the poem requires a leap of melancholy on the reader's part. This leap probably presents itself as a formidable psychological and cultural obstacle for a non-Chinese speaker. For a Chinese speaker, it is, however, still hard to tell whether Xin chooses to avoid any talk on melancholy or he is staying on the topic of melancholy. The fall carries so many meanings in Chinese literature that pinning one down for the sake of making sense of this poem just seems flippant. This combination of open-endedness with explicitness is probably one reason that people love this poem and quote it ever so often today.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  2. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  3. ^ Lo.
  4. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  5. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  6. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  7. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14
  8. ^ Liu Zhong Mei. 9-14

Liu, Zhongmei, Ed. Xin Qiji. Beijing: Wuzhou Chuanbo Chubenshe, 2005.

Lo, Irving Yucheng. Hsin Ch'i-chi. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971.

Further reading[edit]

  • Deng, Guangming (2007). Biography of Xin Qiji (辛弃疾传) & Chronicle of Xin Qiji’s Life (辛稼轩年谱) (in Chinese). Sdx Joint Publishing Company. ISBN 978-7-108-02647-7. 
  • Deng, Guangming (1993). Annotated Papers of Xin Qiji (稼轩词编年笺注) (in Chinese). Shanghai Antiquarian Press. ISBN 978-7-5325-1469-4. 

See also[edit]