Literary controversy at the liang court revisited

Nicholas M WILLIAMS*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The literary thought of the Liang dynasty (502-557) has occasioned considerable debate in recent years. The fulcrum of discussion in Chinese and Western scholarly circles is a half-century-old article in which Zhou Xunchu presented a tripartite classification for Liang literary thought. In 2007, Tian Xiaofei argued that Zhou had overstated the degree of disagreement at the Liang court, and claimed instead that Liang writers agreed on most literary principles. On reexamination, Zhou's scheme certainly oversimplifies the Liang literary scene, and there is room for disagreement about individuals and the content of the three schools. But close reading of primary texts by three Liang princes confirms the existence of real controversy as well, particularly with regard to the direction of literary change and the proper balance of classical scholarship and belles lettres. This article addresses the question in a new way by translating key primary sources, either in entirety or in substantial extracts. The principal texts translated are two letters to Xiao Yi (508-555) from his older brothers Xiao Gang (503-551) and Xiao Tong (501-531), as well as some revealing quotations from Xiao Yi himself. These texts collectively substantiate Zhou's general thesis, while individually indicating some important corrections to it as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-92
Number of pages30
JournalEarly Medieval China
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory

User-Defined Keywords

  • Liang dynasty
  • Literary criticism
  • Xiao gang
  • Xiao Tong
  • Xiao Yi


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