Xie Lingyun 謝靈運

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Chinese: 康樂縣侯【(陳郡陽夏)】謝靈運
Death: 433 (47-48)
Immediate Family:

Son of 謝瑍 and 劉氏
Father of 謝鳳

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About Xie Lingyun 謝靈運

Xie Lingyun 謝靈運 (385–433). Eastern Jin and Liu-Song period writer.

Xie Lingyun belonged to the distinguished Xie family that originally came from north China. Their ancestral home was in Yangjia 陽夏 county (modern Taikang 太康, Henan).

After the north fell to non-Han Chinese invaders in 317, the family fled south. The branch of the Xie family to which Xie Lingyun belonged established a large estate in Shi'ning 始寧 county in Guiji 會稽 commandery (the modern Shaoxing area of Zhejiang). Xie Lingyun is the grandson of Xie Xuan 謝玄 (343–388), who was a nephew of Xie An 謝安 (320–385). Xie Xuan is famous for leading the Eastern Jin army that defeated the troops of Fu Jian 苻堅 (338–385) at the Fei River 淝水 in 383. Xie Lingyun's father Xie Huan 謝瑍 reputedly was not very intelligent. Little is known about him.

For the first fifteen years of his life, Xie Lingyun lived in Qiantang 錢塘 (modern Hangzhou) with the family of a Taoist master named Du Mingshi 杜明師 (Enlightened Master Du).2 The Du family belonged to the Heavenly Master sect and was known for its expertise in calligraphy. Xie was placed with the Du family for several reasons. First, he was entrusted to this Taoist retreat for his education, which undoubtedly included extensive instruction in the Ruist classics. Second, he was sent here for his health, for Xie was quite sickly as a youth, and the Taoist diet and exercise regimen were thought to be beneficial for the boy's health. Because he was a visitor in the Du family Xie's boyhood name was Ke'er 客兒 (Guest lad). Later, he was called Xie ke 謝客 (Guest Xie).

In 399, Xie Lingyun returned to the family estate in Shi'ning. In the same year a Taoist master named Sun En 孫恩 (d. 402), leading an army of peasants, revolted in the southeastern coast area. When the rebels entered Guiji, the Xie family fled for safety to the capital, located to the north in Jiankang 建康 (modern Nanjing). In Jiankang the family had a large mansion in the fashionable Wuyi xiang 烏衣巷 (Dark robe lane). Xie Lingyun was a member of a Xie family literary group that included Xie Zhan 謝瞻 (ca. 383–421), Xie Hongwei 謝弘微 (392–433), Xie Zhan's younger brother Xie Hui 謝晦 (390–426), and Xie Yao 謝曜 (d. 427), Xie Hongwei's older brother. This group was called the “Wuyi associates” 烏衣之遊. The leader of the group was Xie Hun 謝混 (381?–412).

In 402, Xie Lingyun inherited his grandfather's title of Duke of Kangle 康樂, which gave him considerable prestige as well as the income from 3,000 households. Xie Lingyun is often referred to as Xie Kangle.

In 404, various regional commanders began to contend for supremacy. In March of 404, Liu Yu 劉裕 (363–422) defeated Huan Xuan 桓玄 (369–404), who had overthrown the Jin emperor and established his own dynasty. In 405, Xie Lingyun began his official career as an aide to the Prince of Langye, Sima Dewen 司馬德文 (385–421), the future Emperor Gong (r. 419–420). Another powerful military man who helped defeat Huan Xuan was Liu Yi 劉毅 (d. 412). Soon Liu Yu and Liu Yi became rivals. The Xie clan allied with Liu Yi, and Xie Lingyun served as an aide to Liu Yi from 405 to 412. During 411 and 412, Xie was stationed in Xunyang 尋陽 (near modern Jiujiang, Jiangxi), which was the home area of Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (365–427). However, there is no record that the two great poets ever met, and in fact it is unlikely that they did so. While in the Mount Lu area, Xie Lingyun visited the Eastern Grove Monastery of Huiyuan 慧遠 (334–416), where he was accepted as a member of the Mount Lu Buddhist community.

By autumn 412, Liu Yi began to make preparations to make a full assault on Liu Yu. From his base in Jiangling 江陵 (modern Hubei), Liu Yi dismissed all of the local magistrates and replaced them with his own men. At this point, however, Liu Yi fell ill, and Liu Yu took the opportunity to wipe out Liu Yi's supporters, including Xie Hun. Finally, in December 412, one of Liu Yu's generals defeated Liu Yi's army at Jiangling. Xie Lingyun was captured, and Liu Yi, who managed to escape, later hanged himself after being refused refuge in a Buddhist monastery. Although Xie could have been executed for his support of Liu Yi, Liu Yu appointed him to his staff, and except for a brief period in 415, when he was dismissed for a minor offense, Xie continued to serve Liu Yu in a series of high positions.

In September 416, Liu Yu led a large army north against the Later Qin ruler Yao Hong 姚泓 (388–417). Xie Lingyun was assigned as adviser to Liu Yu's younger brother Liu Daolian 劉道憐 (d. 422), who was left behind to guard the capital. In the ninth lunar month of 416, Liu Yu's army reached Pengcheng 彭城 (modern Xuzhou). In December of this year Xie Lingyun was sent to Pengcheng to reward and entertain the troops. He returned to the capital in March 217. About this time Xie composed “Zhuan zheng fu” 撰征賦 (Fu recounting a journey), which is detailed poetic travelogue of his journey to Pengcheng.

On 10 August 418, Liu Yu was named Duke of Song and counselor-in-chief. He appointed Xie Lingyun gentleman attendant at the palace gate. Xie Lingyun again was sent to Pengcheng. On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month of 418, Liu Yu hosted a banquet at the Xima Terrace 戲馬臺 in honor of Kong Jigong 孔季恭 (347–422), who was returning home after leaving office. Liu Yu commanded his courtiers to compose poems for the occasion. Both Xie Lingyun and Xie Zhan's poems are extant. Shortly thereafter, Xie Lingyun learned that one of his retainers, Gui Xing 桂興, had seduced his favorite concubine. Xie killed Gui Xing and threw his corpse into the Yangzi River. The vice director of the Department of State Affairs Wang Hong 王弘 (370–432) presented to the court a petition impeaching Xie for this offense. Xie was dismissed from office.

On 28 January 419, Liu Yu had the Jin emperor strangled and replaced by Sima Dewen. In the spring of the following year (420), Liu Yu deposed Sima Dewen and set himself up as emperor of a new dynasty. Liu Yu assumed the imperial throne as the first emperor of the Song dynasty on 10 July 420. One of his first acts was to reduce the ranks of all nobles, and Xie Lingyun was demoted from duke to marquis. His income was reduced accordingly from 3,000 to 500 households. Xie was named cavalier attendant-in-ordinary and left commandant for the heir designate Liu Yifu 劉義符 (406–424), the future Emperor Shao (422–424).

Xie Lingyun was displeased at not being given an opportunity to participate in major decisions of the court. Xie and some of his friends allied with Liu Yizhen 劉義真 (407–424), Prince of Luling 廬陵, Liu Yu's second son. Liu Yizhen and his elder brother, Liu Yifu 劉義符 (406–424) were rival candidates to succeed their father to the throne. Some members of the court supported Liu Yizhen, while others supported Liu Yifu. Liu Yu died on 26 June 422. The factions supporting the two contenders immediately began to maneuver to eliminate opposition. Xie Lingyun's faction, which included the literatus Yan Yanzhi 顏延之 (384–456)) and the Buddhist monk Huilin 慧琳 (n.d.), was the weaker of the two, and Liu Yifu's supporters led by Xu Xianzhi 徐羨之 (364–426), Xie Hui, and Fu Liang 傅亮 (374–426) had Liu Yifu installed as emperor on 26 June 422. One of the new emperor's first acts was to expel all of the members of Liu Yizhen's faction from the capital. Xie Lingyun was given an appointment in the remote seacoast commandery of Yongjia 永嘉 (modern Wenzhou, Zhejiang).

Xie Lingyun left for Yongjia in the seventh month of 422. After stopping briefly at his family estate in Shi'ning, he took a leisurely excursion through the southeastern mountains and rivers. Xie spent about a year in Yongjia. Since his duties were not particularly burdensome, he had the leisure to write poetry, and it is during this time that Xie began to write landscape verse.

In autumn of 423, Xie Lingyun resigned his position on grounds of illness, and he returned to Shi'ning. At Shi'ning he devoted himself to improving the estate, writing poetry, and studying Buddhism. This was a highly productive period for his poetry, and his verses became well known in the capital. Xie describes his life at Shi'ning in a long fu titled “Shan ju fu” 山居賦 (Fu on dwelling in the mountains).

In August 424, Liu Yizhen was murdered at the age of eighteen. Xie Lingyun wrote several poems lamenting the death of the young prince. At the same time Fu Liang, Xu Xianzhi, and Xie Hui deposed and murdered Liu Yifu. They installed on the throne Liu Yu's third son Liu Yilong 劉義隆 (407–453), who is known by his posthumous title Emperor Wen (r. 424–453). Although Emperor Wen was expected to do the bidding of court officers, by February 426 he began to assert his own authority. He executed Fu Liang, Xu Xianzhi, and Xie Hui. As a result of this purge, in 427 Xie Lingyun was invited back to court, where he was appointed director of the palace library in which capacity he participated in number of scholarly projects, including a history of the Jin dynasty and the composition of catalogue of the imperial collection and various anthologies. After two years in the capital, Xie became disgruntled with his lack of participation in policy decisions, and in April 428 he returned to Shining where he enjoyed a life of leisure and continued to write poetry. He also enjoyed the companionship of his younger cousin Xie Huilian 謝惠連 (397–433), He Zhangyu 何長瑜 (d. 444), Xun Yong 荀雍, and Yang Xuanzhi 羊璿之 (d. 459). They were known as the “Four Companions of Xie Lingyun.”

In 430, the magistrate of Guiji, Meng Yi 孟顗 (n.d.), who was an old enemy of Xie's, accused him of planning an insurrection. Xie rushed to the capital to protest his innocence. Emperor Wen did not punish Xie, but kept him in the capital where Xie was given the task of polishing up a translation of the Mahāparinirvāṇa sūtra (Discourse on the final nirvana) that had been done in the Later Liang by Dharmaks ̣ ema 曇無讖 (385–433).

In 431 Emperor Wen assigned Xie Lingyun as governor of Linchuan 臨川 (west of modern Fuzhou 撫州, Jiangxi). This was tantamount to an exile. On his way to his post, he visited Poyang Lake and Mount Lu. The following year Xie was impeached for neglect of duty. When the official came to put Xie under arrest, instead of submitting, he held the official captive. He fled the city, but was soon captured. In 433, as punishment, he was sentenced to banishment to Nanhai 南海, which is modern Guangzhou. A few months after arriving in Nanhai, Xie Lingyun's enemies accused him of arranging a plot to rebel and having himself rescued from exile. Xie was sentenced to death and publicly executed in the marketplace of Nanhai. On his way to execution, Xie reputedly cut off his splendid beard and presented it to a monastery to serve as a beard for an image of Vimalakirti.

Xie Lingyun's son Xie Feng 謝鳳 died in Nanhai. Feng's son Xie Chaozong 謝超宗 (d. 483) remained there until the end of the Yuanjia period (424–454). He became a famous literatus during the late Song and early Southern Qi periods.

Xie Lingyun has some ninety shi extant as well as a substantial prose collection. In addition to being a skilled poet, he was a painter and calligrapher. He also wrote one of the earliest known youji 遊記 (travel notes), the You mingshan zhi 遊名山志 (Journal on roaming famous mountains), which is only partially extant.

Xie Lingyun spent much of his leisure time in the mountains of Zhejiang and Jiangxi. He loved making long treks into the wilds. He reputedly was a skilled mountain climber and is credited with inventing a type of climbing boots that had removable studs. Xie found poetic and philosophical inspiration in the mountains. His long fu, “Shan ju fu,” to which he also wrote a commentary, is the most extensive mountain poem in Chinese literature.

In spite of Xie Lingyun's great love for nature, especially wild nature, he occasionally views the wilds, especially the mountains, as forbidding and terrifying. Never does Xie describe nature for its own sake, and he often presents the landscape as a barrier that he is unable to penetrate. In many of his poems, especially his early pieces written just after his dismissal from the capital, Xie appears almost overawed by the landscape, so much so that he cannot achieve any harmony with it, and he finds it difficult to escape completely from his worldly attachments, namely his desire to be of service to the state and continue associating with his good friends. Xie uses several key terms that are important to understanding his poetry. The first is shang 賞, which means “to appreciate.” As Xie Lingyun uses this term, shang refers to the appreciation of natural scenery that he so much admired. Linked with shang is li 理, which is variously translated as reason, innate principle of things, or the natural order. In Xie Lingyun, li has a transcendental sense, and he stresses that a mystical appreciation of landscape is the prerequisite for understanding li. Opposed to li in Xie Lingyun are shi 事, worldly, mundane affairs, and qing 情, worldly passions, attachment to shi. Shi and qing are barriers that prevent him from fully appreciating (shang) a natural scene. Xie finds it extremely difficult completely to remove himself from the world, and thus his confrontation with nature often is sorrowful.

The “Monograph on Bibliography” of the Sui shu (35.1072) lists a collection by Xie Lingyun in nineteen juan. A Liang catalogue listed a version in twenty juan plus a table of contents in one juan. This must have been lost already by Tang times. The two Tang histories record a collection of fifteen juan. This was lost in the Song. The extant collections are all late reconstructions. The earliest extant anthology of Xie Lingyun's poetry is contained in the San Xie shi 三謝詩 edited by Tang Geng 唐庚 (1071–1121) and printed in 1204. This contains forty poems by Xie Lingyun, five poems by Xie Huilian, and twenty-one poems by Xie Tiao. The earliest extant (but not complete) collection of Xie's works is the Xie Kangle ji 謝康樂集 edited by Shen Qiyuan 沈啟原 (Ming) and printed by Jiao Hong 焦竑 (1541–1620) in 1583.

Xie Lingyun compiled a large number of anthologies: Fu ji 賦集 (Collection of fu) in 92 juan, Shi ji 詩集 (Collection of poetry) in 50 juan, Shi ji chao 詩集鈔 (Extracts from the Shi ji) in 10 juan, Shi ying 詩英 (Blossoms of verse) in ten juan, Qi ji 七集 (Collection of sevens) in 10 juan, and Lianzhu ji 連珠集 (Collection of ‘strung pearls”) in 10 juan. These were all lost by the Song.

Xie Lingyun had a strong interest in Buddhism. In 412, he visited the Buddhist center at Mount Lu headed by Huiyuan. Xie Lingyun wrote a dirge upon Huiyuan's death. He mentions that he had admired Huiyuan from the early age of fifteen. However, Xie probably did not meet Huiyuan until some ten years later when Xie was serving as an aide to Liu Yu. We do not know how long Xie Lingyun stayed on Mount Lu, but we know that he was involved in an important event that occurred on Mount Lu in the spring of 412. Huiyuan had become interested in the story of Buddha's shadow, which was reported throughout Buddhist circles in China by the monk Faxian 法顯 (d. 421) who had seen it in the year 399 in a cave of Nagarahāra (modern Jelālābād, Afghanistan). This shadow reputedly had been left there by Buddha after his death. After hearing the account given by Faxian, Huiyuan decided to have a copy of the Buddha shadow painted on silk and put in a shrine that backed to a mountain and overlooked a river. This image was hung in the shrine on 27 May 412. Xie Lingyun was commissioned to write an inscription on it.

Xie Lingyun also was one of the first Chinese laymen to learn Sanskrit. He was also the first Chinese to write an account of the Kharos ̣t ̣i script. Xie Lingyun was also an expert in the Buddalogical realm. Xie together with two Buddhist monks polished up a Chinese translation of the Mahāparinirvāṇa sūtra. He also wrote a commentary to the Diamond Sutra and composed a set of eight encomia for analogies that the Vimalakirti sūtra uses to illustrate the impermanence of the human body (bubble, foam, flame, plantain, phantom, etc.). Perhaps Xie Lingyun's most famous Buddhist work is the “Bian zong lun” 辨宗論 (Disquisition on distinguishing the essentials) in which Xie argues that enlightenment can be attained “instantaneously.”

About 康樂縣侯 謝靈運 (中文)

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Xie Lingyun 謝靈運's Timeline

Age 48