Emperor Qianlong’s Poetry on the Revolts in Taiwan

Conference: The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2021)
Title: Emperor Qianlong’s Poetry on the Revolts in Taiwan
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies and Theory
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Sherman Han, Brigham Young University, United States


Emperor Qianlong (乾隆) of the Qing Dynasty (1711-1799) claimed the suppression of the revolts in Taiwan in 1787 and 1788 as one of the "Ten Great Military Achievements" during his long reign (1735-1796). Being an avid amateur poet, the emperor had written numerous poems to commemorate this accomplishment. This paper will focus on the poems collected in The Royal Version of Recordings regarding the Pacification of Taiwan, Volume I (欽定平定臺灣計略,卷一). They can generally be divided into three groups based on the themes: First, the emperor’s critical observations of the battles between his generals and the rebel. Second, his reflections on the political strategies adopted for the residents in Taiwan. Third, his emotional feelings with regard to the consequences of the various military actions taken place all over the island. In addition to analyzing their merits as pure literary pieces by means of New Criticism, the writer of this paper will try to apply the approach of Historical Criticism guided by these three poetic themes in order to look for insights about the revolts from a perspective that can only be revealed from the emperor’s first-person poetic narrative. Those poems will also be translated into English in the traditional closed form in order to retain the flavors of their original style of regulated verse in Chinese.

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