China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The legendary banquets of the Jian’an 建安 (196-220) era were depicted by Jian’an poets, and were a popular subject for later generations of poets. This paper compares the banquet poetry of the Jian’an poets to the later renditions conceived during the Southern Dynasties 南朝 (420-589). I address two discrepancies in the depiction of food and drink (yin shi 飲食), and make two related arguments—one within the literary context, and the other socio-political.
First, I will demonstrate a difference in the presentation of food and drink in Jian’an banquet poems and other writings dated from the Jian’an era, and argue that this discrepancy is due to the compositional formality (part of a shared poetics of the third century) that dictated the writing of banquet poems.
Second, I will compare the food and drink couplet in banquet poems written by Jian’an poets with those imitation poems by poets of fourth, fifth and sixth century, in particular Xie Lingyun 謝靈運 (385-433). I will argue that the increasing cultural value that had been placed on the social act of drinking had led the later poets to perceive the Jian’an era as being predominantly associated with drinking. This skewed view of the Jian’an era led later poets to neglect the description of food in their poems imitating Jian’an banquet poems, thus breaking the compositional formality that was characteristic of Jian’an banquet poems.