The taste of the ocean: Jiaoran's theory of poetry

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4 Scopus citations


This essay seeks to place Jiaoran's views on poetry in the context of contemporary religious developments and also in relation to the literary heritage of the Six Dynasties. Jiaoran's key concept of zuoyong "creating an effect" is likely influenced by the Chan belief in the identity of practice and insight, as in the sermons of Mazu Daoyi. Jiaoran's views on the poetry of the past, like his theory of composition, typically assign priority to idiosyncratic styles or literary innovations over the continuity of tradition. In this respect he stands in stark contrast with Liu Xie, and an extended contrast of the two critics demonstrates how innovative Jiaoran can be even when his critical vocabulary is conservative. Jiaoran's special admiration for Xie Lingyun also tends to elevate Xie outside of his historical milieu, as Jiaoran attributes his greatness to transcendent spiritual insight. Throughout his work Jiaoran asserts the Chan-like view that a moment of poetic creativity can outweigh centuries of tradition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalT'ang Studies
Issue number31
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Chan buddhism
  • Jiaoran
  • Liu xie
  • Tang poetry
  • Xie lingyun

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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