By Stephen Owen
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Extra info for Remembrances: The Experience of Past in Classical Chinese Literature
The mode of the fragment is one of the most distinctive traits of Chinese literary art: the text is permeable, joined with lived time before and after the poem. In the same way the poem enters the lived time of its readers, Yuan Chen and the later-born, who recite out loud this poem of Po Chu-yi, written on reading out loud Yuan Chen's poems, which Yuan had earlier recited out loud as he composed them.
Permanence is central to the moral order, both in the transgression of "intending a single overlordship for ten thousand years" and in the disfigurement that follows retribution. In this passage human actions reach out and write their transgressions in the cycles of the plant and animal world, producing grotesque forms in which the poet can read an indictment of the former inhabitants. " . . 64 Remembrances ' " He looks into the past and has a vision of splendor lost; there is a pang of desire for those all too alluring transgressions of opulence and pleasure.
Their stories become cautionary tales gone wrong; and in later poetry, drama, and fiction they exercise an allure for readers in which moral judgment is only the flimsy garment. Suppose we look on the site of a ruined city, as Pao Chao looked on the ruins of Kuang-ling in the middle of the fifth century. Two models compete to shape our understanding; it may be that the ruin is the result of some transgression on the part of its inhabitants (nature as moral order), or it may be that the city's fall is part of a cyclical process of inevitable decline (nature as amoral mechanism).
Remembrances: The Experience of Past in Classical Chinese Literature by Stephen Owen