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Liu Zongyuan
Liu Zongyuan.jpg
Born 773
Yongji, Shanxi
Died November 28, 819(819-11-28) (aged 45–46)
Liu Zongyuan
Chinese 柳宗元
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 子厚
Literal meaning (courtesy name)

Liu Zongyuan (773 – 28 November 819) was a Chinese writer, politician, and poet who lived during the Tang Dynasty. Liu was born in present-day Yongji, Shanxi. Along with Han Yu, he was a founder of the Classical Prose Movement. He has been traditionally classed as one of the "Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song".


Early life

Liu Zongyuan was born in 773. His courtesy name was Zihou.

Civil service career

Liu Zongyuan's civil service career was initially successful; but, in 805, he fell out of favour with the imperial government because of his association with a failed reformist movement. He was exiled first to Yongzhou, Hunan, and then to Liuzhou, Guangxi, where he eventually became the city Governor. A park and temple in Liuzhou is dedicated to his memory. His exile allowed his literary career to flourish: he produced poems, fables, reflective travelogues and essays synthesizing elements of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

Liu Zongyuan Statue


He died in 819.


Zhou Wenjing-Landscape
Landscape by Zhou Wenjing, featuring part of Liu Zongyuan's poem "Winter Snow" in the upper right corner ("孤舟蓑笠翁,獨釣寒江雪")

Liu's best-known travel pieces are the Eight Records of Excursions in Yongzhou (永州八游记). Around 180 of his poems are extant, of which five have been collected in the anthology Three Hundred Tang Poems. Some of his works celebrate his freedom from office, while others mourn his banishment.

One of his most famous poems is "Jiangxue" (江雪), sometimes translated into English as "Winter Snow" or "River Snow": this poem has been an inspiration to many works of Chinese painting.

River Snow

A thousand mountains, no sign of birds in flight;
Ten thousand paths, no trace of human tracks.
In a lone boat, an old man, in rain hat and straw raincoat,
Fishing alone, in the cold river snow.

Liu Zongyuan wrote Fei Guoyu (T: 非國語, S: 非国语, Argument against the Harangues of the Various States), a criticism of Guoyu. In response, Liu Zhang (劉 章, circa 1095–1177); Jiang Duanli (T: 江端禮, S: 江端礼); and Yu Pan (虞 槃 fl. 1300), Yu Ji's (虞 集, 1272–1348) younger brother, wrote texts titled Fei Fei Guoyu T: 非非國語, S: 非非国语; Argument against the Argument against the Harangues of the Various States) in opposition to Liu Zongyuan's essay.

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