The Early Reception of Yu Xin in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries

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Yiyi Luo



This article investigates the early reception of Yu Xin, one of the most important court writers of the sixth century in China. It traces portrayals and evaluations of Yu Xin and his work from the late years of the Northern Zhou (557–581) to the early Tang (618–907) by focusing on four texts of different nature: a preface to the literary collection of Yu Xin dated to 579, his biography in the Zhoushu, and two discourses in historical records that evaluate his achievement as a writer. While the former two texts supply valuable information about Yu’s family background, official career, and social network, the latter two voice their criticism of the man along with their overall negative attitude toward literature of the Southern Dynasties. The perception of Yu Xin as a frustrated and nostalgic poet as highlighted by his Zhoushu biography has played a major role in the interpretation of his writings in later ages, but an examination of a wider range of sources shows that there was more than one way of evaluating his writings in the sixth and seventh centuries. A study of these multiple voices in interpreting Yu Xin and his works reminds us of the vibrancy and complexity of understanding the identities of poets of the medieval period.

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