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No Going Back, Or, Youthful Bravado at the Baochan Mountain Cave.

The Journal of the American Oriental Society 2006, April-June, 126, 2

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Description

Wang Anshi's travelogue about the Baochan Mountain Cave is best known as a stern plea to ignore the throng and explore our surroundings. Pithy and plain, almost devoid of description, it has been anthologized, translated, annotated, and held up as a model essay for young people to learn from. (1) Yet--and this may be part of its appeal--it also exhibits an off-kilter quality, a sense of incongruity that nags around its edges. The oddness sharpens when we ask a rather obvious question about Wang's outing. An answer to that question may be found by decoding what seems to resemble a clue, set in plain sight within a single word. Could Wang's stern lecture contain remnants of an inside joke? Does his spirit of delving for knowledge extend to analysis of word-play--always a risky philological method? As a step toward approaching these issues, it might make sense to look behind the essay and try to reconstruct the trip: who the explorers were, and what they were doing there. The year was 1054. Wang Anshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1021-1086)--who would later become Grand Councillor, architect of state reforms, compiler of new glosses on the Classics and the lexicon itself--was thirty-three, living at home in Jinling [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (modern Nanjing). He had recently finished a two-year stint at Qianshan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], up the Yangzi River in what is now Anhui province, as assistant prefect (tongpan) for Shuzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. During his Qianshan appointment he had written a sizeable number of poems, and some essays, that depict him seeking affirmation or guidance from the wellsprings, brooks, peaks, and pools that he saw on his official rounds. His younger brother Wang Anguo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1028-1074) accompanied him on many of these excursions. Sometimes they wrote poetry together, most notably two long rhyme-jousts inspired by the mysterious hauteur of the Jiuhuashan mountain range. (2) The final and best-known of these explorations of truth from the Yangzi River landscape came on a midautumn day when Wang and a group of intimates went upriver about fifty miles from Jinling to Hanshan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], where they explored a cavern at Mount Baochan: (3)

No Going Back, Or, Youthful Bravado at the Baochan Mountain Cave.
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  • 2,99 €
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: 01 April 2006
  • Publisher: American Oriental Society
  • Print Length: 32 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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