Thursday, May 17, 2018

The ultimate origin of the “tripod” and “harmonizing stew”

I have been suggesting that references to “harmonizing stew” in the last three flowering plum poems indicated a relationship between the poems. After a bit of digging, I have found that the “harmonizing stew” allusion itself has a long history prior to the Qing, so the relationship may not be as close and immediate as I had thought. In the discourse below, the king of Shang uses the term “harmonious stew” when asking Yuè for guidance and teaching:

The Book of Documents, fascicle 10, Book of Shang: Charge of Yuè, part III: The king said, “Come, Yuè [说]. I, the humble one, used to study with Gān Pán [甘盘], then went and lived in the wild and dwelt on the Yellow River [河]. From the river I went to Bó [亳], and yet in the end I have not attained prominence. You, consider my aspirations, as when making sweet wine you consider the yeast, or when making a harmonious stew you consider the salt and prunes. Try to polish me, without giving up, and I will be able to follow your instructions.” 
The prune, of course, is the fruit of the plum tree [梅] whose flower is called nenden ilha in Manchu and is the subject of these poems. It turns out this is connected with the idea of the tripod through an ancient “container-for-the-thing-contained” metonymy, wherein the term 和鼎 can refer to salt and prunes, since these were used by the ancients for flavoring. (Thanks to 漢語大詞典 for this explanation!)

So going back to original poem, I am no longer so confident that the mucihiyan of last lines necessarily hints at authorship by Mucihiyan, the colleague of Jakdan.

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