SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Tetrasyllabic Poetry on Bronze Inscriptions and the Zhou Hymns

IMG - Chen Zhi
Professor Chen Zhi (BNU-HKBU United International College)

Date: 25 April 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 25 April 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: S209

Type of Event: Lecture

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In this presentation Professor Chen Zhi examines formulaic expressions and set phrases that appear both in the received version of the Shijing (Book of Songs), China’s earliest anthology of poetry, and excavated Western Zhou bronze inscriptions (1045-771 BC). By looking across these two different corpuses of texts, transmitted and unearthed, Chen shall demonstrate how the shaping of a specific poetic form in the bronze inscriptions, i.e. tetrasyllabic meter and rhyme structure, can be dated to mid-Western Zhou—primarily to the reigns of kings Gong (ca. 917-900 BC) and Yi (ca. 899-873 BC), and implies that the early rhyme poems in the Shijing’s “Ya” 雅and “Song” 頌sections can be dated no earlier than this. Chen argues that the early development in form and style of these two genres of texts grew out of songs recited by worshippers in sacrificial and ceremonial activities. This study sheds new light on the origin of the tetrasyllabic poem and traces its roots back to elite court music related to ritual activities. Chen ultimately disagrees with the commonly held opinion that the tetrasyllabic poems, the earliest poetic genre in Chinese literary history, were improvised folk songs.


Chen Zhi (Chinese: 陳致; pinyin: Chén Zhì; born 1964) is a Chinese scholar and researcher in classical Chinese Studies, the Vice President (Academic Affairs) of Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College (UIC) and Director of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology (JAS) at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Chen was born in 1964 in Beijing. In 1981, he was admitted to Peking University with a major in History. After graduation, he furthered his study and received his M.Phil. in Chinese Literature from Nanjing University in 1988 and Ph.D. in Chinese Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1999.

His diverse interests in Chinese Studies range from classical studies, early Chinese culture and history, historiography, traditional Chinese poetry, excavated documents such as bronze inscriptions and bamboo and silk writings, and paleography to the intellectual history of the Ming and Qing dynasties. He was the founding editor of the Bulletin of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology, and one of the two editors of the Jao Tsung-I Library of Sinology book series.

In addition to his prolific scholarship in various fields of Chinese Studies, which has made him one of the leading figures in the studies of the Confucian classic Shijing (Book of songs) and bronze inscriptions, Chen is also an experienced university administrator. After serving as the Head of Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) between 2010 and 2013, he was appointed Acting Dean of the university's Faculty of Arts between 2015 and 2017. From 2012 to 2014, he was appointed Acting Director of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology and has been its founding Director since 2014.


This event is open to the public and free to attend, however registration is required. Online Registration

Chair: Prof. Bernhard Fuehrer

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

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Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4823

Sponsor: Sino-British Fellowship Trust (SBFT)