Poetry about Immortals

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Poetry about Immortals is a type of Daoist poetry. It originally refers to poetry which sings the feelings of immortals' roam. Generally, the poems have five characters to a line, and there are ten, twelve, or sixteen lines in a poem. Predecessors classified poetry about immortals in different ways: according to the author's ideological tendency, poems about people of wealth and rank are classified as orthodox ones while poems about the common people are called deviant ones; or according to form, poems about the roam of both the author and immortals are classified as archaic ones, while poems about the roam of immortals alone are called modern ones. Poetry about immortals originated from poetry and fu (an intricate literary form combining elements of poetry and prose) before the Han dynasty. There were chapters describing immortals' blissful ascent to heaven even as early as in The Elegies of the Chu ( 楚辭 Chuci ). Take the chapter Far-Off Journey ( 遠遊 Yuanyou ) as an example. It puts ancient immortal tales into the form of poetry. Through the description of the "journey", it represents a free world and expresses one's troubled thoughts. It appears in an embryonic form of poetry about immortals. In the Qin dynasty, the first emperor was fond of immortality. He "had a court academician write poems on immortals and Perfect Men ( 真人 Zhenren ), and when traveling around the world, he ordered musicians to sing and play them." The emergence of these poems reflected the vogue of the pursuit of immortality at that time. Afterwards, in the yuefu poetry of the Han dynasty, there appeared works on immortality, such as Ri Churu ("The Rising and Setting of the Sun) and Tianma ("The Heavenly Horse") in the 19 sacrificial poems, which express the ideal of enjoying a tour in space. However, it was after the Han dynasty that poetry about immortals began to be disseminated as a mature type of literature. Not only Daoists, but also scholars created poems about immortals, which became a common poetic type. Therefore, the first collection of selected literary works of our country, the Selected Literary Works compiled by Xiao Tong of the Liang dynasty, classified them as a type of literature. Liu Xie specially commented on poetry about immortals in his The Literary Mind and Carving of Dragons, and Zhong Rong's Categories of Poetry gave a more detailed appraisal of the style of the works of Guo Pu and the like. After the Wei, the Jin and the Northern and Southern dynasties, although poetry about immortals was not as popular as it had been before, many people still wrote poems of this style. For example, works by Bai Juyi, Li He, etc. took on the traits of poetry about immortals.

From the point of view of thought, poetry about immortals tends to express an intense aspiration to transcend mundane society; from the perspective of art, it expresses a peculiar imagination and is uses varied figures of speech, such as hyperbole, personification and symbolization, while the Daoist illusions about immortals make poetry about immortals appear more romantic.