New faculty publication on poetic address (Thomas Mazanec)

Professor Thomas Mazanec‘s article on the topic of poetic address in medieval China has been published in the 38th issue of Tang Studies. It will be of interest not only to specialists in Chinese literature, but to anyone interested in lyric theory or the poetics of inscriptions.

“Of Admonition and Address: Right-Hand Inscriptions (Zuoyouming) from Cui Yuan to Guanxiu.” Tang Studies 38 (2020): 28–56. PDF.


This essay traces the development of the right-hand inscription (zuoyouming 座右銘) from its birth in the second century CE through its culmination as a complex literary subgenre in the tenth. Over the course of these eight centuries, right-hand inscriptions were used by some of the most prominent poets of their respective eras, including Cui Yuan 崔瑗 (77–142 CE), Bian Lan 卞蘭 (ca. 230), Zhi Dun 支遁 (314–366), Bai Juyi 白居易 (772–846), and Guanxiu 貫休 (832–913). These writers used the subgenre to advocate for many different kinds of wisdom, often reflecting intellectual trends of their times. The inscriptions underwent a process of literarization, meaning they became more deeply embedded in a self-consciously literary tradition. By the end of this process, with the poet-monk Guanxiu, the temporal spectrum of address (past-present-future) comes to dominate the others. Poetic address, in this subgenre of verse as in shi-poetry 詩, comes to focus more on the literary tradition itself than the poem’s immediate readership.

Professor Mazanec has also written about the story behind the article on his personal website. See here for more: