32 Wang Anshi



Tchun of TANG a.d. 805 Ngan’s Reforms

Nineteenth Dynasty SUNG 960

 Ezra Pound The Cantos New York: New Directions, 1998. 255


Canto LV covers the period 805-1172, 367 years.

  • It starts with Shunzong Emperor of Tang, the 12th of his line, who reigned for just one year, 805 AD. The dynasty itself disintegrated by 907, ten emperors later. Pound mentioned all the late Tang emperors in lines 1-71.
  • The canto then covers he period called Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-979), mentioning the rise of the Liao empire of the Khitans in the north and the struggles between the Han and the Khitans until the emergence of the Song dynasty in 960 and beyond. Lines 72-138.
  • The rise and early period of the Song dynasty, also called Northern Song (960-1127). Pound provides more detail on the reign of Emperor Shenzong of Song (1067-1085) who allowed his minister Wang Anshi to implement economic reforms. Lines 138-285.
  • A new Tungusic dynasty called Jin emerged in Manchuria under a rebel/founder Aguda from the Jurchen tribe, in 1115. Ten years later, it destroyed the Liao, forcing the Khitans to the west, where they formed a short-lived empire called Western Liao, or Qara Khitai (1125-1218). The Song dynasty was defeated by the Jin in 1127, when the Jurchens conquered its capital, Kaifeng. The Song withdraw to the south of the Hoai river, henceforth bearing the name “Southern Song.” Lines 285-299.
  • The rise of the Mongol empire under Genghis Khan and his son, Ögedei. The canto closes in 1231, with a Mongol incursion into the territory of the Jin empire. The Jin would fall to the Mongols three years later. Lines 300-328.


“Through the first third of canto 55 things go on in much the same way for another century and a half, as in a repeating pattern, in the fabric of time, until the rise of the Sung dynasty under whom China enjoyed both a renaissance and a fatal loss of will. […] then in the eleventh century came Ngan [Wang Anshi], the next great reformer after Confucius. He re-established the regulation of markets, that the right price of things be set daily, that a market tax should go to the emperor and the poor be thus relieved of charges, and that commerce be enlivened ‘by making to circulate the whole realm’s abundance’. […] 

Ngan’s thoroughly Confucian reforms worked for twenty years, yet they were not only complained about by the mandarins and rich merchants whose greed they were designed to constrain, but were argued against as too radical and impractical by a fellow minister, Ssé-ma Kouang [Sima Guang], who had them rescinded. Yet Ssé-ma Kouang was the great Confucian scholar who put together the Comprehensive Mirror for the Aid of Government. When he died, ‘merchants in Caïfong put up their shutters in mourning’; but Ngan’s fate was to be driven from office, vilified by conservative Confucians as guilty of Taoist and Buddhist errors.”

David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet II: 279


A Draft of XXX Cantos

ship4 for c1

Eleven New Cantos

rsz guido cavalcanti