Huang T'ing-Chien's "Incense of Awareness": Poems of Exchange, Poems of Enlightenment
Posted on 25. May, 2009 by James Miller
|Title||Huang T'ing-Chien's "Incense of Awareness": Poems of Exchange, Poems of Enlightenment|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2001|
|Authors||Sargent, Stuart, and Huang T'ing-Chien|
|Journal||Journal of the American Oriental Society|
The writing of poems in association with objects that were exchanged as gifts became a common practice in eleventh-century China. Two sets of poems by Huang T'ing-chien written in 1086 in response to gifts of incense provide an index of his poetic techniques and an instructive contrast with the techniques of Su Shih. In the first set, Huang sees incense in terms of the process by which it is made or the ways in which it functions in the life of those who use it; there are both social and religious themes. Huang also explores in complex and subtle ways the multiple meanings of words, a central theme of his poetics. In the second set, Huang T'ing-chien enters into several exchanges of poems with Su Shih. Su characteristically makes us see his active mind interpreting the world and interacting with the other party to the poetic exchange; Huang also shifts his focus to his friendship with the other poet, but he does not depart from the incense theme, as Su does. Finally, an unrelated pair of poems written in jest takes us back for a concluding look at Huang's primary interest: the contingent reality of both incense and words.