Yongming poetry

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Yongming poetry refers to a poetic flowering during the brief existence of the fifth century China Chinese state of Southern Qi (one of the Southern Dynasties). Yongming (Chinese: 永明; pinyin: Yǒngmíng; Wade–Giles : Yung-ming; literally: "Forever Bright") was an era name of Emperor Wu of Southern Qi. The Yongming period was from 483-493.[1] However brief this era, it is now associated with a major movement within Classical Chinese poetry.


Despite the disturbances and instability which preceded and followed the Yongming era, there was also something special about it. In his Zizhi Tongjian, Song Dynasty historian Sima Guang characterized the Emperor Wu and his Yongming era, saying that:

This was also an era that came to be associated with significant poetic achievements.


Rebuilt tomb of Su Xiaoxiao.
  • Wang Jung (468 - 494) was one of the most important of the Yongming poets. He became quite involved in political affairs. Eventually this involvement resulted in his early death.[2]
  • Fan Yun (451 - 503) was another of the Yongming poets. A poet at young age, he had a quick wit and learned to write poems at the age of eight. He was a personal friend of Emperor Wu, and was politically powerful.
  • Su Xiaoxiao (蘇小小, died c. 501, also known as Su Xiaojun, or "Little Su") was in her brief life a famous courtesan and a poet from the city of Qiantang (now Hangzhou, in modern Zhejiang province, China). Beautiful and talented at an early age, Su Xiaoxiao became terminally ill in her late teens. She took the view that Heaven was giving her the special opportunity to die young and leave a legacy of the beauty of her memory.


The life and poetry of Su Xiaoxiao was a source of inspiration for later poets and artists including Tang dynasty poets Bai Juyi, Li He, Wen Tingyun, and the Ming dynasty writer and poet Zhang Dai.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Davis, viii
  2. ^ Davis, vii - viii


  • Davis, A. R. (Albert Richard), Editor and Introduction, The Penguin Book of Chinese Verse. (Baltimore: Penguin Books (1970).