Qu Yuan 屈原

A great patriotic poet


Chinese Name: 屈原

English Name: Qu Yuan

Other Names: Qu Ping 屈平, Qu Zi 屈子, Qu Zhengze 屈正则

Born: 340 B.C.

Died: 278 B.C


Advocating the cultivation of the law and selection of talents 主张举贤修法

Uniting Qi to resist the Qin Dynasty 联齐抗秦

Creating new poetry in Sao style 创作骚体新诗

Main Works:

Li Sao《离骚》

Jiuge 《九歌》

Jiuzhang 《九章》

Tianwen 《天问》

Qu Yuan 屈原
Qu Yuan 屈原

Brief Biography of Qu Yuan

Qu Yuan was a poet and statesman of the state of Chu 楚国 in the Warring States period 战国. He is the descendant of Qu Xia 屈瑕, the son of Xiong Tong 熊通, King Wu of Chu 楚武王.

Qu Yuan (about 340 B.C. – 278 B.C.), surnamed Mi 芈, courtesy name Yuan 原. was born in Zigui 秭归 (now Yichang 宜昌, Hubei Province 湖北省), Danyang 丹阳, the state of Chu 楚国. As a teenager, he received a good education and was knowledgeable and ambitious. In his early years, he was trusted by King Huai of Chu 楚怀王. He served as a Zuotu 左徒 and Sanlu doctor 三闾大夫, and concurrently took charge of domestic and foreign affairs.

He advocated the selection of talents and the cultivation of laws, and the unity of external forces to resist the Qin Dynasty. Because he was ostracized and slandered by the nobles, he was exiled to the northern Han 汉北 and the Yuanxiang River Basin 沅湘流域. After the Yingdu 郢都, the state of Chu was conquered by the Qin army, he sank in the Miluo River 汨罗江 and died for the state of Chu.

Qu Yuan 屈原
Miluo River 汨罗江

Qu Yuan is a great patriotic poet in Chinese history, the founder of Chinese Romantic literature, and the founder and representative writer of “Chu Ci 楚辞“, who pioneered the tradition of “fragrant grass beauty” and is known as the “ancestor of Chu Ci”. Song Yu 宋玉, Tang le 唐勒, and Jing Cha 景差, the famous poets and Fu Writers in the Chu, were all influenced by Qu Yuan.

The appearance of Qu Yuan’s works marks that Chinese poetry has entered a new era from elegant singing to romantic originality. His main works include Li Sao 离骚, Jiuge 九歌, Jiuzhang 九章and Tianwen 天问. Chu Ci, with Qu Yuan’s works as the main body, is one of the sources of Chinese Romantic Literature and has a profound impact on later poetry. It has become a bright pearl in the history of Chinese literature, “Yi Xiang Wei Ci, outstanding for a lifetime 逸响伟辞,卓绝一世”.

There is a long way to go, and I will go up and down to seek 路漫漫其修远兮,吾将上下而求索.” Qu Yuan’s spirit of “seeking” has become a noble spirit believed and pursued by people with lofty ideals in later generations.

Personal Life and Major Contributions

Throw himself into the Miluo River

In the 35th year of King Nan of the Zhou Dynasty 周赧王 (280 BCE), the 19th year of King Qingxiang of Chu 楚顷襄王, Qin general Sima Cuo 司马错 attacked the Chu, and the Chu ceded Shangyong 上庸 and Hanbei 汉北. In the second year, Bai Qi 白起 attacked the Chu and captured Xie 邪, Deng 邓, and Xiling 西陵.

Qu Yuan 屈原
Qu Yuan temple 屈原祠

In the 37th year of King Nan of the Zhou Dynasty (278 BCE), Bai Qi further captured Yingdu 郢都, and King Qingxiang of Chu had to flee in confusion with the ruling nobles. Feeling extremely depressed and completely desperate, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Miluo River on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This year was about the 21st year of King Qingxiang of Chu (278 BCE). Qu Yuan was about 62 years old at that time.

Literature achievements

Qu Yuan was a poet. Only from him did China have writers famous for their literature. He founded the style of “Chu Ci 楚辞” (also known as “Sao style 骚体”).

According to the proofreading of Liu Xiang 刘向, Liu Xin 刘歆, and Wang Yi 王逸’s annotation, Qu Yuan’s works include 25 pieces, namely one piece of Li Sao 离骚, one piece of Tianwen 天问, and 11 pieces of Jiuge 九歌 (Eastern Emperor Taiyi 东皇太一, Yunzhongjun 云中君, Xiangjun 湘君, Madame Xiang 湘夫人, Dasiming 大司命, Shaosiming 少司命, Dongjun 东君, Hebo 河伯, mountain ghost 山鬼, Guoshang 国殇, and Lihun 礼魂). There are nine chapters Xi recitation 惜诵, wading across the river 涉江, mourning Ying 哀郢, taking a thought 抽思, Huaisha 怀沙, thinking of beauty 思美人, cherishing the past 惜往日, ode to orange 橘颂, and sad wind 悲回风). There are charpters named Yuan you 远游, Buju 卜居, and Fisherman 渔父.

Qu Yuan 屈原
Li Sao 离骚

According to Sima Qian 司马迁‘s words in “historical records · biographies of Qu Yuan”, there is also one “soul summoning 招魂”. Some scholars believe that Da Zhao 大招 is also Qu Yuan’s work; however, some people doubt that the following chapters in Yuan you 远游 and some chapters in Jiuzhang 九章 were not written by Qu Yuan. According to Guo Moruo 郭沫若‘s research, there are 23 Works of Qu Yuan handed down. Among them, there are 11 chapters of Jiuge 九歌, one chapter of Li Sao 离骚, Tianwen 天问, and soul summoning 招魂.

The origin of the Dragon Boat Festival

According to legend, the day Qu Yuan threw himself into the river was the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the Dragon Boat Festival. The Dragon Boat Festival was originally a festival for the Chinese people to cure diseases and prevent epidemics. Before the Spring and Autumn Periods 春秋 in the Wuyue area, there was a custom of holding tribal totem sacrifices in the form of dragon boat races on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Later, because Qu Yuan died on this day, it became a traditional festival for the Chinese people to commemorate Qu Yuan.

Qu Yuan 屈原
the Dragon Boat Festival 端午节

The binding of Qu Yuan and the Dragon Boat Festival began in the documents of the Southern Dynasty. The Dragon Boat Festival originated from Qu Yuan and was first spread in the Jingchu region. After the unification of the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the custom of commemorating Qu Yuan on the Dragon Boat Festival was not limited to the Jingchu area but became a national festival custom, which has been handed down to this day.

Video: Qu Yuan 屈原

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