Conceptualization of Space within the Tang Landscape Quatrain

Access full-text files




Xu, Tan Grace

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The thesis explores the poet’s creation of conceptualized space within the Tang landscape quatrain in the Tang dynasty (618-907) by usage of literary techniques, the focal point being that of temporal and spatial progression to create dynamic and static space. “Space” within the thesis is defined as the “matrix of which forms emerge, medium in which they are related,” a mentalization and visualization of breadth, depth, and width created within the artistic medium.

I argue that the concision of Classical Chinese allows the poet to transcend the linguistic limitations imposed by rules of verse to create boundless, semantic space by constructing vivid tableaus of scene and emotion. In Classical Chinese, there are no verb tenses, no indication of plurality in nouns, and no gender or cases for pronouns. The poet must use language to mold intangible form into tangible existence. The deliberate application of ambiguity is a vital component in the creation of multi-layered dimensions of space within Classical Chinese poetry.

The Tang dynasty is often known as the golden age of Chinese poetry, dominated by the emergence of new innovations and form as poetry writing became more ubiquitous. The breaking from traditional rules of verse allowed the poet to uniquely utilize space to further their reflections in their poetry. The thesis examines the poet’s creation of spatiality through two lenses of spatiality: creation of external space through landscape, and secondly, the creation of internal space through mental reflection upon that very landscape. The Tang poet approaches the landscape not only as a place setting, but also as an entire subliminal entity in which he aims to capture with his senses and perceptions to create space in which the reader can visualize. The descriptive poetry of the landscape quatrain is simply not a limitation as a medium of visual communication as Tang poets infuse layers of meaning with the economy of a few characters.

The significance of framing this study within traditional poetic concerns is to understand the intersections of nature, landscape, literary technique, and aesthetic experience. There has been much academic scholarship on the poetry of the High Tang by scholars such as James J. Y. Liu, Stephen Owen, Burton Watson, just to name a few. However, the objective of this thesis is to offer a new perspective through the lens of spatial creation. Quatrains written by famous Tang poets, Li Bai (701-762), Wang Wei (701-761), and Meng Haoran (689-740) are selected to illustrate how the technique of progression is uniquely utilized to create depth and perspective of space.



LCSH Subject Headings