Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府诗集

The earliest and most complete collection of Yuefu poems extant in China


Chinese Name: 乐府诗集

English Name: Anthology of Yuefu Poetry

Author: Guo Mao Qian 郭茂倩

Originally Published: AD 960 — 1127 (Northern Song 北宋)

Genre: Literature, Poems

Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府诗集
Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府诗集

Brief Introduction of Anthology of Yuefu Poetry

Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府诗集, compiled by Guo Maoqian of the Northern Song, is the earliest and most complete collection of Yuefu poems extant in China. It is the essence of the folk songs of the Han 汉, Wei 魏, Jin 晋 and Northern and Southern dynasties 南北朝. It is rich in content and reflects a wide range of social life. With a total of more than 5000 pieces, divided into 12 categories and 100 volumes, including the famous folk song Mulan Poems 木兰诗.

“Yuefu”, originally the name of the organ in charge of music, was first established in the Reign of Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty 汉武帝时期, and there were also Yuefu organs in the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Its specific task is to produce music scores, collect lyrics and train musical talents. There are two sources of lyrics: one is specially written by literati, the other is collected from Chinese folk. Later, people called the poems collected by Yuefu organs Yuefu, or Yuefu Poetry. So Yuefu from the official name into the name of poetry.

The arrangement of the Anthology of Yuefu Poetry is to put the “ancient Ci 古辞”(earlier anonymous works) or earlier poems of each tune in the front, and the proposed works of later generations in the back, so that the readers can understand that some literati poems are influenced by folk songs or previous literati.

Anthology of Yuefu Poetry collects and classifies the songs of the past dynasties according to their tunes, so that many works can be compiled into books, which provides great convenience for the collation and research of Yuefu poetry. Meanwhile, it also makes a detailed introduction and explanation of the origin, nature and musical Instruments used in singing of various kinds of music. It is of great value to the study of literature and music history.

Folk songs are the essence of Anthology of Yuefu Poetry.The content of folk songs is very rich, which can be summarized as the following aspects. First, it directly revealed and satirized the ugly face of the ruling class, reflecting the tragic fate of the working people, and the feelings of resistance against the ruling class, as well as some scenes of struggle.

Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府诗集
The content of the first volume of Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府诗集第一卷的内容

Second, the oppression of the feudal class on the peasants was not only reflected in politics and economy, but also in the feudal ethics and feudal morality. The rulers seriously bound the working people with the spiritual shackles of the “Three Fundamental Bonds and Five Constant Virtues” 三纲五常, and the oppression of women was especially serious.

Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府诗集
A scene from Mulan’s poem – Mulan takes her father’s place in the army 木兰诗中的一个场景——木兰替父从军

Third, it showed healthy and pure love.

Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府诗集
The scene of Jiangnan, a famous chapter of Anthology of Yuefu Poetry — lotus girl picking lotus 乐府诗集的有名篇目《江南》的场景——采莲女采莲

Author of Anthology of Yuefu Poetry

Guo Maoqian (1041-1099) was a native of Dongping 东平, Shandong 山东 province. He was born in a family of officials. He was influenced by poetic rites from an early age. He was very interested in poetry, and later became famous for compiling the earliest and most complete collection of Yuefu poems in China.

Guo Maoqian has been paid attention to by the academic circle for his research. The poem of Mulan and the Peacock Flies Southeast 孔雀东南飞 in Anthology of Yuefu Poetry are collectively called two classics of Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府双璧 by later generations. He died at the age of 59.


Anthology of Yuefu Poetry 乐府诗集
Guo Maoqian 郭茂倩

Excerpts From Anthology of Yuefu Poetry


Don’t the soldiers feel that the battlefield thousands of miles away is far away, climbing over the mountains as fast as flying.


Passers-by on the road saw Luo Fu, put down the burden and stroked his beard; When the young man saw Luo Fu, he took off his hat and straightened his scarf.


Until the mighty mountains disappear and the mighty rivers run dry. Unless the winter thunder rolls, unless the summer snow flies, unless heaven and earth together, until such things happen, I will not dare to abandon your love.

Evaluation of Anthology of Yuefu Poetry

Anthology of Yuefu Poetry have a great influence on later generations, and its narrative scenery has no artificial traces.

Shen Deqian 沈德潜

Anthology of Yuefu Poetry contains many excellent works that have never been done before.

Hu Yinglin 胡应麟

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