Chu Ci (Songs of Chu)
- "From the light came light, and from the dark came darkness, but from whence did they appear? Yin and yang combine to create all things, but which is the source, and which was born from it?"
Lament for Ying
- "Time rolls ever forward without a pause,
The seasons cycle through spring and autumn.
As I watch the green fade all around me,
I fear the sun setting on my youth."
Living during the Warring States period, Qu Yuan was perhaps the earliest “patriotic” poet, as well as a statesman, diplomat, reformer, and ideologist. Considered one of the four great poets of civilization, he is best known for his volume of poetry 'Chu Ci' (“Songs of the South”). The first reference to Qu Yuan appears in a poem written in 174 BC by Jia Yi, an official banished from the Han court, likening his fate to that of “Qu Yuan.”
It is surmised by historians that Qu Yuan was born c. 339 BC and died c. 278 BC, all based upon a somewhat confused biography by the Han dynasty scholar Sima Qian. According to that, Qu Yuan lived in the Chu kingdom where he assisted King Huai in governing. When the resurgent Qin invaded others of the Warring States, Yuan suggested an alliance with the Qin. But jealous ministers convinced the fatuous Huai that Yuan was corrupt; whether false accusations or not, Huai sent Yuan into exile. Soon enough Huai was imprisoned by the Qin and his even more fatuous son took the throne, though not for long.
It was during his exile that Qu Yuan wrote his most famous pieces: 'Li Sao' (The Lament), 'Tian Wen' (Asking Questions of Heaven), 'Jiu Ge' (Nine Songs), and 'Huai Sha' (Embracing the Sand). Upon hearing that Chu had been absorbed by the Qin, on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (an auspicious date) the distraught Yuan threw himself into the Miluo River after tying himself to a boulder.