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China Perspectives
Wang Anshi

Wang Anshi

  茂录聧茂录聧Fireworks crackle, the year ends

    Spring wind wafts, and I downed cups of wine

    茂录聧茂录聧Early New Year morning, as sun shines bright

    Every household is busy replacing old with new

    This is a poem depicting a happy Spring Festival when the Chinese people rang out the old year and rang in the new. Together with this long茂录聧standing tradition, this poem has been passed down the centuries and is popular to this day. It was written by Wang Anshi, an outstanding statesman, essayist and poet of the Song Dynasty.

    Wang Anshi was born in Lingchuan, Jiangxi and grew up beside the Fu River. He plodded at his books, reading every book he could get his hands on and came out with flying colors at imperial examinations. He later moved with his father to Jiankang Prefecture in south China, which is present茂录聧day Nanjing of Jiangsu Province.

A well茂录聧known man茂录聧of茂录聧letters, Wang Anshi produced many outstanding essays and poems.

    Green in the spring winds

    the south bank of the Yangtse

    When will the bright moon

    light my journey home

    The above are his very reputed lines. One of eight famous literati of Tang茂录聧Song period, Wang Anshi was known for writing with succinctness and profundity. He laid stress on literature"s social function and that writings should serve a purpose. His essays "A Visit to Baochan Mountain" and "In Reply to Official Censor Sima"s Letter" are widely read by posterity.

    Wang Anshi lived in a time when Northern Song Dynasty was wrought with contradictions after enjoying 100 years of peace. The country"s economy was declining. On top of that, invasion threatened too. As an official, Wang Anshi stepped forward and sent in a "Ten茂录聧thousand茂录聧word Petition" to the emperor, explaining the need to reform the laws and policies that lagged behind the times.

    Wang Anshi won the support of Emperor Shen Zong who appointed him prime minister. Starting from 1069, he introduced a sweeping program of reforms, the core of which being to invigorate agriculture and revitalize economy, enrich the country and strengthen the troops. New laws concerning seedlings, exemption from military service, and field irrigation alleviated the farmers" burdens and mobilized their positive factors. Officials and civilians working side by side to build irrigation works pushed forward the development of agriculture.

As a reformer, Wang Anshi met with widespread opposition from bureaucrats in the government. In face of difficulties, he proclaimed: "Fear not vicissitudes of heaven; follow not ancestors to the letter; worry not what people say." This is known as his "three nots". Though he carried out successful reforms, he also met with many setbacks, which caused his final failure.

    Wang Anshi returned to Nanjing to live in Banmuyuan where he led a peaceful life of a poverty茂录聧stricken poet and scholar. His dauntless spirit in carrying out reforms is treasured by posterity.

 

 
   
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