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Title: Muddy waters : political tensions and indentity in the writings of Xu Wei (1521-1593)
Author: Luper, Edward Isaac
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 9075
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The late Ming artist and poet Xu Wei (1521-1593) is most well known for his self-representation as a cultured "mountain hermit" and "eccentric", pursuing the literary ideals of originality, simple language and direct emotional expression. His wild ink-brush paintings, mental instability, numerous suicide attempts and the murder of his third wife all helped to consolidate Xu's image as China's Van Gogh. However, later hagiographies of Xu as the "patron saint of eccentrics" have led to a one dimensional view of Xu. This thesis presents Xu as someone who explored and wrestled with different and sometimes contradictory self-representations against a thorny political and social backdrop. It moves away from Xu's "eccentric" persona, instead examining his writings within the political context of the 16th century. Against the backdrop of Mongol and pirate invasions, Xu's close friend Shen Lian was executed by the Chief Grand Secretary Yan Song and his clique. Yet only a month after his friend's execution, Xu switched sides and worked as a ghost-writer for Hu Zongxian, a protégé of Yan Song. Yet with the fall of Yan Song in 1562 and the arrest of Hu Zongxian, this became an embarrassment for Xu. Fearing that he would be implicated with the Yan Song clique, Xu distanced himself from his flattering ghost-written poems. Overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, he explored the complexities of loyalty and identity in his poetry. Xu's career is representative of many Ming scholars who were frustrated by examination failure and the inability to find an official post. His literary ideals contradicted with lived reality. Xu is unique among Ming literati in voicing these contradictions.
Supervisor: Ditmanson, Peter Sponsor: Davis Fund of the Institute of Chinese Studies ; Oxford ; Pembroke College ; University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Chinese literature--Ming dynasty ; 1368-1644--History and criticism ; Literature and society--China ; Politics and literature--China--History ; China--Intellectual life--960-1644