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Xiaofei Tian

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528448

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528448.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM HONG KONG SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hongkong.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hong Kong University Press, 2022. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HKSO for personal use.date: 23 May 2022

Ironic Empires

Ironic Empires

(p.56) 4 Ironic Empires
Reading Du Fu

Lucas Rambo Bender

Hong Kong University Press

This chapter considers the irreducible complexity of Du Fu’s relationship to the Tang empire in his late poetry from Kuizhou. During this period, his poems repeatedly portray miniature versions of the empire in the ostensibly private, domestic affairs that occupied his attention in a region where he had no property and few friends. Readers have been divided as to the significance of these poems: for some, that he should have continued even in his exile to see the empire everywhere he turned has evidenced his continuing commitment to the Tang; to others, the patent absurdity of some of these miniature empires has suggested a mockery of imperial pretensions. This chapter argues that both of these antithetical interpretations are correct. As soon as Du Fu seeks to assert his continued connection with the values of the empire, he recognizes the absurdity of his overreach; and as soon as he recognizes the absurdity of his overreach, he acknowledges the darker ways in which he remains dependent, even in Kuizhou, upon imperial hierarchies of questionable justice.

Keywords:   empire, Kuizhou, humor, domestic affairs, private Life

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