An Introduction to Jin-Ti-Shi (近体诗)
– Chinese modern style classic poem             
                                   
 [撰文]天涯醉客   
                                                   Written by Tianya Drake
玉诗坊
JADE POETRY STUDIO
                     
                                         Buffalo, New York,  USA            

Lushi (律诗) and Jue-Ju(绝句) are both Chinese Jin-ti-shi(近体诗). Jin(近)
means near or recent, Ti(体) means body or form, and Shi(诗) is simply
poem in Chinese. Together, Jin-ti-shi is often translated as “modern style
poem”. Keep in mind, however, that the term was coined in the Song
dynasty to distinguish it from Gu-ti-shi (古, ancient),the ancient style poem,
that is prevalent before the Tang dynasty, and the word modern has lost its
timeliness and is somewhat confusing to the uninformed. Since Lushi is also
translated as regulated verse, I would consider “regulated classic style” a
better, less confusing term.

Being included as part of official literary examinations at all levels, the rules
for the tonal patterns of Jin-ti-shi are highly developed during the Tang
dynasty. It remains to be the dominant form of Chinese classic poem --
classic as opposed to the modern in “Chinese modern poem” (现代诗), the
western style, more freely formatted poems that flourished since the early
20th century.

Jin-ti-shi can be five characters a line (Wu yan 五言) or seven characters a
line (Qi yan 七言).

The basic form of Lushi has eight lines, rhyming on the 2nd, the 4th, the 6th,
and the last line. Rhyming on the first line is optional. Rhyming usually
occurs on level tones(Ping, Chinese 平声). Rhyming on deflected tones(Ze,
Chinese 上,去,入声) is allowed, but is rarely used.

Within each seven character line, the 2nd, the 4th, and the 6th characters
need to alternate in tone. That is, the pattern is either level, deflected, level,
or deflected, level, deflected. For a Lushi that rhymes level, the 7th character
is level (and rhyming) on the rhyming lines, and deflected on the non-
rhyming lines.

There are four basic standard forms of the so called Lu-ju (regulated line 律
句):

A. 平平仄仄平平仄 LL DD LL D
B. 仄仄平平仄仄平 DD LL DD L
C. 平仄仄平平仄仄 LD DL LD D
D. 仄平平仄仄平平 DL LD DL L

On these four standard forms tonal variations can be made on the odd (but
not the last) positioned characters. The 1st, 3rd, and 5th characters of each
line are often said to be tonally un-regulated (一三五不论). But that is just a
general and overly simplistic statement. Other rules governing the total
mixture of tones begin to apply when such variations are made. The most
important rules are the avoidance of the so called san-ping (三平,three
consecutive level tones at line-end), san-ze-wei (三仄尾,three consecutive
deflected tones at line-end), and gu-ping (孤平,single level-tone, this rule is
involved and controversial. It would be explained clearly in the Jpoetrystudio
lectures).

Every two lines form a couplet, with tonal contrast(对).That is, if the first
line has the level-deflected-level form, then the second line of the couplet has
to have the deflected-level-deflected form, and vice versa. Tonal-continuation
(粘) also needs to be observed between couplets. That is, if one couplet ends
with a level-deflected-level line, then the next couplet also has to start with a
level-deflected-level line. There are even rules for the so called tonal
compensation(拗救). When a tonal change is made on a character that ends
up violating some rules, often a compensation can be made either within the
same line or within the opposing line in the couplet to make it tonally-correct
again. All these tonal rules are not arbitrary but refined and perfected before
mid-Tang to achieve the best musical quality when reading a poem. Modern
Chinese pronunciations has changed over the ages and it is said that the
Cantonese and Fujianese dialects more closely reflect the Tang
pronunciations than the Mandarin Chinese, the official dialect today. To
check and appreciate the tonal patterns in a Tang poem, one sometimes has
to refer to a yun-shu (韵书, book of rhyming classification). Contemporary
poets has the choice of using the traditional Ping-Shui-Yun (平水韵,the
traditional rhyming classification) or Xin-yun (新韵, the rhyming
classification according to modern Chinese).  There are numerous books
written on the topic but it is probably a futile effort to say more about it
without starting to speak Chinese.

Lushi also requires that the second and the third couplet to have contrast and
parallel. This means the opposing line within the couplet have the same
sentence structure, the corresponding characters are of the same parts of
speech, and if a multiple character idiom is used in one place, it is required
that the corresponding place in the opposing line also contains an idiom.
Especially regarding nouns, the corresponding and opposing characters are
preferred to be nouns of the similar categories.

Such rules make Lushi, the regulated verse, a highly technical art form. In a
traditional official literary examination, the rules can not be bent since they
serve as the objective standards. Because of this, one has to be fluent of the
rules and patterns, has to acquire a large vocabulary, and has to be able to
coin new terms that is grammatically correct, yet meaningful and poetic, in
order to maneuver within the rules' boundaries and still be able to express
what a poem is supposed to express. A beginner is often tempted to consider
this literary acrobat, to oppose the restrictions, and to claim sole focusing on
the substance, image, thoughts, and feelings. There indeed has been many
discussions and controversies around this aspect of Lushi. Great poets too
are also known to have bent the rules here and there, though never
wholesale. Amazingly enough, numerous beautiful, and totally regulated
Lushi have passed down to us from ancient times and even more are still
being created by modern poets, including the beautiful ones written by the
founder of this studio.

Since every government official above a certain level has to pass the official
literary examination and Lushi is one of the tested item, it was said that
every  government official before the modern era could have been a poet.
Great poems are usually written to express one's deep thoughts and feelings,
but because poem writing is so literally and technically challenging, it had also
become a form of entertainment among the educated. Literate people often
get together in high-style for food, drinks, and poem writing. This is referred
to as chang-he (唱和,singing and according), whereas the first poet will
write a poem,  quite often about the special event itself for which they were
gathering. This could be for someone's departure, for some celebrative event,
for a particularly scenic place, or for the seasonal blossom of a flower, etc.
Once the first poem is written, other poets would “accord” according to rules
agreed upon. The most challenging way of according is to use the same
rhyming characters in the corresponding positions of the first poem. This is
called bu-yun (步韵, stepping into the rhyme)。A more relaxed way of
according is to simply pick rhyming characters from the same rhyming sets.
This is called tong-yun (同韵, same rhyming set). Great work rarely comes
out of such ad lib'ed efforts. However, it does not take much imagination to
appreciate why the activity is so popular among the talented and well-
educated and how joyful it must have been. The most famous occurrence of
Chang-he actually happened in the fourth century,way before Tang, and is
recorded by the famous calligrapher Wang-Xi-Zhi (王羲之) in Lan-Ting-Ji-
Xu (兰亭集序,Orchid Pavilion Gathering) . Chang-he also happened by
correspondence, and it is mostly this kind of chang-he that has passed down
to us. Chang-he by correspondence is still done today. With the help of
computers and the internet, now poets from all over can and do meet in
cyberspace to enjoy such literary satisfaction.

To conclude this section, let me use the one of the jue-ju written by the Tang
poet Du-Mu. One can check the tonal contrast between the first and the
second line, and again between the third and the fourth line, the tonal
continuation between the second line and the third line, the deviations from
the basic standard forms (1st,3rd characters on the first line, etc.), and the
parallel maintained between the first line and the second line (Note that it is
optional in jue-ju to maintain parallel in opposing lines).


    齐 安 郡 中 偶 题   [唐] 杜牧  
    In Qi-An County(One of two)  


    两        竿      落        日         溪       桥          上
    Liang  Gan    Luo       Ri        Xi       Qiao     Shang
    D           L         D       D          L         L             D
    --Two    poles  setting   sun    stream   bridge   on

    Two poles of bamboo
    the sun setting on
    the bridge over the stream

    半     缕     轻        烟        柳       影         中
    Ban    Lv   Qing     Yan     Liu      Ying    Zhong
    D       D       L         L         D        D           L
    --Half thread light mist    willow reflection  in

    Half a thread of thin mist
    Among the willows’ reflection

    多         少        绿       荷       相          倚       恨
    Duo     Shao    Luu       He      Xiang      Yi        Hen
    L          D          D         L        L            D          D
    Many   few      green  lotus    mutual   support  remorse

    How many lotus a’leaning
    on each other with remorse


    一       时         回         首         背         西      风
    Yi       Shi       Hui        hou       Bei        Xi      Feng
    D         L          L           D          D          L        L
    One  Moment   turn     head     back     west    wind

    For a moment I swirl my back
    To the westerly wind
                                                                           --11.2007
                                                                  
=======================================================
© 玉诗坊资料版权所有,未经玉诗坊同意,其他媒体一律不得转载
Copyright © JPoetryStudio.com All Rights Reserved.