Quan Deyu (權德輿, 권덕여, 759-818) was a mid-Tang dynasty period (唐, 당, 618-907) bureaucrat and poet. He was born in Tianshui (天水, 천수); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Zaizhi (載之, 재지); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Wengong (文公, 문공). From an early age, Quan Deyu was recognized for his literary talents. By the age of 15, he had already published a volume containing hundreds of his poems in the Collection by a Child Ignoramus (童蒙集, 동몽집). When Tang Emperor Dezong (唐德宗, 당 덕종, 742-805, r. 779-805) heard of him, he appointed Quan Deyu to the prestigious positions of the Scholar of the Ministry of Ceremonies (太常博士, 태상박사) and Drafting Official of the Secretariat (中書舍人, 중서서인). During his time at the Ministry of Rites, Quan Deyu was tasked on three occasions with selecting qualified candidates from the imperial examination. He especially excelled at choosing candidates from the countryside, who were often overlooked, thereby earning the nickname “Obtainer of [Talented] Men” (得人, 득인). By being favored at the imperial court, Quan Deyu was promoted to higher positions later on. During the reign of Tang Emperor Xianzong (唐憲宗, 당 헌종, 778-820, r. 805-820), he became the Minister of Rites (禮部尚書, 예부상서) and Regional Governor of the Shannan West Circuit (山南西道節度使, 산남서도 절도사). Few years into his last post, Quan Deyu became gravely ill, and decided to return to his home village but passed away en route.
His own literary talents were recognized well after his death. His works appear in both the Complete Literary Works of Tang (全唐文, 전당문) and the Complete Tang Poems (全唐詩, 전당시), anthologies that were compiled in the 19th and 18th centuries respectively. In the poem below, Quan Deyu tersely describes the celestial order in relation to the Earth’s seasons, in particular reflecting upon the Summer Solstice (夏至, 하지). The Summer Solstice marks the day when the Sun is at the celestial longitude of 90 degrees, and falls around June 21 or 22 on the Western Gregorian Calendar.
Written on Summer Solstice Day
璇樞無停運 선구무정운 平平平平仄
四序相錯行 사서상착행 仄仄平仄平(韻)
寄言赫羲景 기언혁희경 仄平仄平仄
今日一陰生 금일일음생 平仄仄平平(韻)
The celestial jade and pivot, without stopping, translate;
The four orders mutually staggered travel.
Send a message to the bright, shining sun:
Today, the first of the Yin (陰, 음) arises.
Star name • pivot • without • to stop • to move
Four • arrangement • mutually • to stagger • to travel
To send • message • bright • bright • sunlight
Today • day • one • Yin • to arise
- Pentasyllabic truncated verse (五言絶句, 오언절구) with an invocation of an exception. Riming character (韻, 운) is 庚(경). This poem has — I believe — two examples of broken form (拗體, 요체), which refers to specific types of violation of the conventional tonal meter that were considered acceptable, and were frequently employed in recent style poems during the Tang and Song dynasty periods in China.
- The first couplet exhibits a doubly broken form (雙拗, 쌍요). In the first line, the fourth character (停, 정) should be an oblique tone (仄, 측), but is a plain tone (平, 평) thereby breaking (拗, 요) the tonal meter (平仄, 평측); however, the couplet is “saved” (救, 구) with the use of a plain tone in the third character (相, 상) of the second line.
- The third line exhibits a singly broken form (單拗, 단요). In this line, the third character (赫, 혁) should be a plain tone, but is an oblique tone; however, the line is saved with the use of a level tone in the fourth character (羲, 희).
- 璇(선) – Literally “jade.” Refers to Beta Ursae Majoris, which is also referred to as Merak in English.
- 樞(구) – Literally “pivot.” Refers to Alpha Ursae Majoris, which is also referred to as Dhube in English. It is at the front of the Big Dipper asterism.
- 四序(사서) – Literally “four orders.” Refers to the four seasons.
- 今日一陰生(금일일음생) – Under the Yin and Yang duality (陰陽, 음양), the Yin is said to arise between during the the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, as the days become shorter.
- Korean translation available here.