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Names
Xìng 姓: Xīn 辛
Míng 名: Qìjī 棄疾/弃疾
Zì 字: Yòuān 幼安
Hào 號/号: Jiàxuān 稼軒/稼轩

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

Contents

Life

At the time of his life, northern China was occupied by the Jurchens, 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 of Shandong Province, and 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. In fact, 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 Jurchens alongside another resurgent Geng Jing's much larger troops, consisted of tens of thousands of men. Although they had some small-scale victories, in 1161, because the Jurchens were getting more united internally, Xin persuaded Geng Jing to join forces with the Southern Song army in order to fight the Jurchens more effectively. Geng Jing agreed. Unfortunately, just when Xin finished a meeting with the Southern Song Emperor, who endorsed Geng Jing's troops, Xin learned that Geng Jing had just been assassinated by their former friend-turned-traitor, Zhang Anguo. With merely fifty men, Xin fought his way through the Jurchens' 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 Jurchens, Xin was pushed over. 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 Jurchens as well as other state affairs, he was never taken seriously. Finally he resolved to doing things on his own. He improved the irrigation systems in his district, he relocated poverty-struck peasants, and he 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 reenacted for another minor post because the man who had previously occupied it 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 Jurchens were pressing harder against the Southern Song border, Han Tuozhou, the consul of the Southern Song court, in need of militarists, took Xin under his arm. However, Han Tuozhou disregarded Xin's sincere advice for effective military moves, and he removed Xin from his team the very next year, conveniently accusing Xin of being lubricious, avaricious, and many other non-existent faults. The crucial moment came in 1207 when the Jurchens 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 a second to respond to Han's call for help; unfortunately, he died of old age soon afterwards[6].

Work

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

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Poetry

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

Here are some of the most quoted lines from his poetry.

"众里寻他千百度,蓦然回首,那人却在灯火阑珊处。" -《青玉案·元夕》

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

"少年不识愁滋味,爱上层楼。 爱上层楼,为赋新词强说愁。 而今识尽愁滋味,欲说还休。 欲说还休,却道天凉好个秋。" -《丑奴儿》

"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

  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.

See also


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