Qu Yuan was the earliest known poet whose birthday could be verified according to his own account at the beginning of Li Sao. Zang Rongxu of the Southern Dynasty set a precedent for the commemoration of poets’ birthdays. He celebrated Confucius’ birthday by displaying and worshiping the Five Classics. The ceremony was quite different from birthday celebrations for the living because it was held in memory of poets who had already passed away. This kind of celebration became a hot trend of the Qing Dynasty, which was accompanied by a large number of literary gatherings and responsorial activities and a body of poetical works. Representative examples include Shou Zheng (Zheng Xuan) Hui, Shou Bai (Bai Juyi) Hui, Shou Ou (Ouyang Xiu) Hui, Shou Su (Su Shi) Hui, Shou Huang (Huang Tingjian) Hui, and Shou Gu (Gu Yanwu) Hui. These literary activities also had a great influence on Korean and Japanese literati at that time. Shou Su Hui, one of the most influential activities, played a significant role in shaping East Asian culture.
Looking through the literary context and life scenes of Qing poets, this research attempts to present a dynamic process consisting of the following steps: the reception of predecessors’ works by Qing Poets, the influence of these works on Qing poems and the remodeling of predecessors’ images through the creation of poems. Birthday anniversaries for poets of the past were also a unique way to make friends with the ancients for Qing poets (Shang You Gu Ren). The life style, the mentality and the aesthetic orientation of the Qing poets could be revealed by their choices of the object of worship, forms of poetry and focus of poems. Moreover, the researcher may re-examine the practice of the literary theory of Zhi Ren Lun Shi and the deep reasons for the change of poetics in the Qing Dynasty.
Dongxiao Huo is a PhD candidate in Chinese Literature at Zhejiang University, China.