Xie Lingyun Biography


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)


Xie Lingyun (SHEE-EH LIHNG-yewn) was born into one of the most powerful aristocratic families of the Six Dynasties, one that was at the center of cultural and literary movements. The Xie family moved from Henan to Zhejiang province. His great wealth gave him all the leisure he needed. His book collection made him one of the most learned poets of his time, and he was famous as a calligrapher and painter. He was an eccentric and had a special love for nature. Xie spent much time wandering around the country looking at celebrated landscapes.

His poems were a blending of sentiment, reason, and beauty of nature with Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucian philosophy. Xie edited the southern version of the Mahaparinirvana-sutra, wrote a “discussion of essentials,” and identified the combination of Nirvana and Samsara with the doctrine of Void. These were tasks well suited to a mind accustomed to the Daoist teachings of the Dao De Jing (possibly sixth century b.c.e., probably compiled late third century b.c.e.; The Speculations on Metaphysics, Polity, and Morality of “the Old Philosopher, Lau-Tsze,” 1868; better known as the Dao De Jing) and the Zhuangzi (traditionally c. 300 b.c.e., compiled c. 285-160 b.c.e.; The Divine Classic of Nan-hua, 1881; also known as The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, 1968; commonly known as Zhuangzi, 1991).


Xie was regarded as the first of the nature poets and the founder of the school of mountains and waters poetry (shanju fu). His editions and commentary on Buddhism popularized this religion with educated Chinese scholars.

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(The entire section is 719 words.)