Song Yu

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Song Yu

Song Yu (Chinese: 宋玉; Wade–Giles: Sung Yü; fl. 298–263 BC) was an ancient Chinese writer from the late Warring States period, and is known as the traditional author of a number of poems in the Verses of Chu (Chu ci 楚辭). Among the Verses of Chu poems usually attributed to Song Yu are those in the Jiu Bian section. Also credited to Song Yu, somewhat improbably, are several fu collected in the 6th century literary anthology Wen Xuan.[1]


Biographic information about Song Yu tends to be anecdotal, rather than truly historical,[2] and little reliable information about Song's life exists.[3] Historical accounts agree that Song was from the state of Chu, and was born in the city of Yan (modern Yicheng, Hubei Province), and lived during the reign of King Xiang of Chu (r. 298–263 BC).[4]


According to the section of Literature and Art in Book of Han, Song has altogether written 16 pieces of work, but only 14 of them have been handed down, such as Jiu Bian and Dengtuzi Haose Fu (登徒子好色赋). What is more, it is doubted if, with the exception of Jiu Bian, these works are written by Song at all. Wang Yi the noted Chu Ci anthologist and commentator also attributes the "Zhao Hun" (Summons of the Soul" to Song Yu.[5] As a writer of cifu, Song is an accomplished successor to Qu Yuan with his own original style. In the fu poems attributed to Song Yu in the Wen Xuan literary anthology compiled by Xiao Tong (501–531), the poems appear in the context of a purported dialog between Song Yu and King Xiang of Chu, in which the King requests a fu on a certain subject; however, this is likely to be a literary device deployed by a later author, rather than an authentic historical record of a real event.[6] Song's name has long been put together with Qu Yuan as "Qu-Song". Qu Yuan is known for writing poems with a strong personal voice. Song Yu's main general contribution to Classical Chinese poetry may be the development of the theme of nature together with an implicit sense of inherent pathos.[7] Apart from proving a rich source of reference points for Chinese poets in centuries and millenniums to come, many Chinese idioms that are still widely used today can be traced back to his poems, including “阳春白雪”,[8] “嫣然一笑”,[9] “空穴来风”,[10] and “回肠荡气”.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hawkes, 207-8
  2. ^ Hawkes, 207–208
  3. ^ Knechtges (2014), p. 1007.
  4. ^ Knechtges (2014), p. 1008.
  5. ^ Hawkes, 208
  6. ^ Hawkes, 207–208
  7. ^ Hawkes, 208
  8. ^ 文選.宋玉.對楚王問:「客有歌於郢中者,其始曰下里巴人,國中屬而和者數千人。其為陽阿薤露,國中屬而和者數百人。其為陽春白雪,國中屬而和者不過數十人。」
  9. ^ 文選.宋玉.登徒子好色賦:「嫣然一笑,惑陌城,迷下蔡。」
  10. ^ 文選.宋玉.風賦:「臣聞於師:『枳句來巢,空穴來風,其所託者然,則風氣殊焉。』」
  11. ^ 战国.楚. 宋玉.高唐赋:「感心动耳,回肠伤气。」


  • Hawkes, David, translator and introduction (2011 [1985]). Qu Yuan et al., The Songs of the South: An Ancient Chinese Anthology of Poems by Qu Yuan and Other Poets. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-044375-2
  • Knechtges, David R. (2014). "Song Yu 宋玉". In Knechtges, David R.; Chang, Taiping. Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature: A Reference Guide, Part Two. Leiden: Brill. pp. 1007–1022. ISBN 978-90-04-19240-9.
  • Jiang, Liangfu, "Song Yu". Encyclopedia of China (Chinese Literature Edition), 1st ed.

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