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the subsequent verse presents a variety of situations and topoi that can hardly be subsumed under one single scenario. These verses draw both on the yuefu and the sao traditions and freely incorporate «Chuci» poetics, early Daoist descriptions of «free and easy roaming», Daoist techniques of levitation and some popular imagery. Such is, for example, the «Youxian pian» by Cao Zhi: 人生不滿百 歲歲少歡娛 意欲奮六翮  排霧陵紫虛 蟬蛻同松喬 翻跡登鼎湖  翱翔九天上, 騁轡遠行遊 東觀扶桑曜. 西臨弱水流 北極登玄渚 南翔陟丹丘

Human life never fills a hundred years, Year after year one’s joys abate. I wish to spread my six wings, Push the mists apart, skim the Purple Void. Like Red Pine and Wang Qiao slough off my old shell. Reverse the tracks, climb up from the Cauldron Lake Hover above the Nine Heavens, loose the reigns and wander afar. In the East I’ll watch the blaze of the Fusang tree In the West approach the Weak Water’s stream Advancing in the North, climb the Dark Islet, Soaring in the South, ascend the Cinnabar Hill. (Lu Qinli: 456)

A common feature is that the experience of reaching the higher realms and higher state of being is no longer important. These scaled down versions of the cosmic journey seldom contain a comprehensive process of physiological and spiritual cultivation or a successive progress through the cosmic landmarks, as in the earlier «Yuanyou». Most of these poems are voiced as wishful thinking, expressed through verbs such as yuan 願 («to wish, long for»), yu 欲 («to desire»), si 思 («to think, brood, long for»), xiang 想 («to think, imagine»). At times a poem with the title «Youxian» might not even present scenes of immortal life or distant journeys but merely voices the poet’s futile longing to attain the perfected state (the 5th poem of the «Youxian» cycle by Guo Pu 郭璞 (276–324). Thus, in the course of the IIIrd and IVth centuries the theme of journey into immortality is transformed into a reflection of the meaning and the limitations of human life. Preoccupied with lyrical self-expression, the youxian verse of that period often comes close to the point of merging with the current of yonghuai, «voicing of one’s innermost thoughts». Indeed, over one quarter of Ruan Ji’s eighty-two «Poems Singing of my Heart» («Yonghuai shi» 詠懷詩) take immortals as their theme. Side by side with the increasing subjectivisation, a certain «naturalization» in the treatment of the «distant journey» theme can be observed during the 4th century. Instead of leading into distant otherworldly realms, the fantastic journey in search of immortality often unfolds on the scale of earthly mountains. This new turn in the youxian verse was connected both with the religious and with the literary developments of the period. The very ideal of immortality had undergone a significant change by that time. Authors such as Ge Hong 葛洪 (284–364) privileged the concept of the 396

terrestrial immortal (dixian地仙) who lingered in absolute freedom and everlasting life in this world amid the great mountains and rivers instead of rising at once to Heaven. Although in the divine hierarchy he belonged to an inferior grade, compared to the Heavenly immortals (tianxian 天仙), he enjoyed more freedom and bliss than his celestial counterparts, who were burdened by a number of tedious bureaucratic duties. About the same time there was formed the concept of the paradise «grotto-heavens» (dongtian 洞天) which were contained on earth within certain sacred mountains. The immortals roamed for pleasure in these subterranean paradises, but only a few initiated mortals could find their elusive passageways and penetrate them. Furthermore, during the third century youxian poetry had been developing parallel to the currents of xuanyan 玄言 verse, and poetry written in praise of living in reclusion (zhaoyin shi). Although it is possible to single out typical poems on reclusion and typical poems on journeys into immortality, no clear-cut boundary exists between them, and both were coloured by the ideas and language of the xuanyan poetry. It was the setting above all that determined the sub-genre under which a poem was classified in traditional nomenclature, as can be seen in the «Wenxuan» anthology. While the zhaoyin poetry describes the alluring wilderness of remote mountains, the youxian verse is generally set in higher otherworldly realms. Both youxian and zhaoyin, however, offered poetic stylizations of idealised worlds, and in the IVth century the rather artificial borderline between them is often blurred. In the poetry of the period the images of the transcendental immortals and of the Daoist hermit, sharing the same mountainous surroundings and the same attitude towards «mandated» service, often merge together. This «naturalization» of the originally fantastic theme is most pronounced in the «Youxian» cycle by Guo Pu. Although some of his poems describe paradise sceneries and distant journeys (VI, IX, X), many of the pieces take as their locus «mountains and forests» (shanlin 山林). In the opening poem of the «Youxian» cycle Guo Pu even questions the need to strive after distant paradises and give preference to eternal life in this earthly paradise instead of a celestial flight to the worlds beyond: 臨源挹清波

By a spring scooping up clear waters,


On a ridge gathering cinnabar buds.


The Magic Gorge is fitting for withdraw,


What need to climb the Cloud-ladder?1 (Lu Qinli: 865)

Similarly, during the IVth century the journey in search of the immortals often leads the poet not into distant other-worldly realms (Kunlun, Penglai, etc.), but into the famous mountains of China. Moreover, in the poetry of the period the image of 1

According to the «Wenxuan» commentator Li Shan 李善the Magic Gorge/Stream (靈谿) is the

name of an actual river, whereas the expression to «climb the cloud-ladder» (登雲梯) refers to the search for xian immortality. 397

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393 395 394 1 According to the «Wenxuan» commentator Li Shan 李善the Magic Gorge/Stream (靈谿) is the name of an actual river, whereas the expre...


393 395 394 1 According to the «Wenxuan» commentator Li Shan 李善the Magic Gorge/Stream (靈谿) is the name of an actual river, whereas the expre...

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