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53 Interesting Facts About The Number 53 #5: Philosopher Poet Yang Xiong Born 53BC

February 8, 2015


Just in time for the Chinese New Year Feb. 19, is
53 Interesting Facts About The Number 53 #5:
In 53 BC the Chinese philosopher Yang Xiong was born;  he died AD 18.

According to Wikipedia, Yang Xiong was a Han dynasty scholar, poet, and author known for his philosophical writings and fu poetry compositions.

Fu poetry? FU POETRY? What the fu is fu poetry?Because it is just un FU believable, before we get into FU POETRY, first we must investigate who Yang Xiong was as a philosopher.

Hailed by Huan Tan as the “Confucius from the western parts,” Yang Xiong did not believe human nature was inherently good (as Mencius had written) nor inherently bad (as written by Xunzi c. 300–230 BCE). Instead he saw human nature as a mixture of both. Huan Tan (d. 28 CE), his colse associate, was an Old Texts realist who may have heavily influenced the works of Wang Chong (27–c. 100 CE).

Yang is also known for his protest against the verbosity of the fu.

Yep, that fu.

At this point, are you thinking what the fu? I mean really, this is info from Wikipedia. Is someone fu-ing with us?

So I did what I tell my students to do: research the research. Where do the sources lead you?

In this case, it seemed like it was all in Chinese–might as well be Greek to me.

But then I found a text in English in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy for Yang Xiong (53 B.C.E.—18 C.E.) which also says that “He is best known for his assertion that human nature originally is neither good (as argued by Mencius) nor depraved (as argued by Xunzi) but rather comes into existence as a mixture of both.”

Wow! So is he for real?

And what about fu poetry? Wikipedia says:

Fu (Chinese: ), variously translated as rhapsody or poetic exposition, is a form of Chinese rhymed prose that was the dominant literary form during the Han dynasty. Fu are intermediary pieces between poetry and prose,[1] in which an object, feeling, or subject is described and rhapsodized in exhaustive detail and from as many angles as possible. Classical fu composers attempted to use as wide a vocabulary as they could, and often included great numbers of rare and archaic terms in their compositions.[2] Fu poems employ alternating rhyme and prose, varying line length, close alliteration, onomatopoeia, loose parallelism, and extensive cataloging of their topics.[3]

That is just too interesting. Too fu. In fact I have to sleep on this.

But first consider this from the Fu entry in Wikipedia:

There is no counterpart or similar form to the fu genre in Western literature.[5] During a large part of the twentieth century, fu poetry was harshly criticized by Chinese scholars as excessively ornate, lacking in real emotion, and ambiguous in its moral messages.[6]

Sounds a lot like what I am trying to do with 53 Interesting Facts About the Number 53, doesn’t it?



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