(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Lu Ji (lew JEE) was from a military family of the kingdom of Wu (222-280 c.e.). His grandfather was a founder of Wu, his father a commander, and he himself a young general. After Wu was subjugated by Western Jin (265-316 c.e.), Lu Ji turned to literary studies and in 290 c.e. relocated to Luoyang, the Jin capital, with his younger brother Lu Yun. Their literary talents created a furor, and they were soon known as the “two Lu’s.” There Lu Ji became an adviser to the prime minister and commander in chief of Hebei, but he was framed and executed by Sima Ying, king of Chengdu, when Lu Ji was a defeated rear general of Ying’s punitive expedition against the king of Changsha.

Lu Ji’s pianwen (rhythmical prose) was marked with rich parallelism and rhapsodic diction, as in Diao Weiwudi Wen (third century c.e.; in memory of Emperor Wudi of kingdom Wei) and Bianwang Lun (third century c.e.; on the capitulation debate). More influential was his Wen Fu (third century c.e.; The Art of Letters, 1951). Written in the fu form (prose interspersed with verse), this treatise discusses the methods of composing fu poetry, criticizes the vogue of imitation of the great masters, and encourages originality in creative writing. His original works did not survive, but Lu Shiheng Ji (writings of Lu Shiheng), collected by later scholars, is extant.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Lu Ji’s pianwen enriched literary parallelism, and his The Art of Letters secured a place in history for early literary criticism.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Hamill, Sam, trans. The Art of Writing: Lu Chi’s Wen Fu. Minneapolis, Minn.: Milkweed, 1991.

Watson, Burton. Early Chinese Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.