The paper "Xiang Jun in Chinese Literature" is an excellent example of a literature essay. The period of ancient Chinese poetry characterized by the “ Nine Songs” — and in particular the song called “ Xiang Jun” — is one of great interest in the relationship between man and divinity. The world is often depicted as full of spirits and the biggest issue is how humans are to deal with this fact. But it also shows the development of Chinese poetry and how additional layers are being added to what was once considered simple forms.
The Nine Songs are somewhat different than other classical works. In a song such as “ Xiang Jun” what appears at first to simply be a shamanistic poem, dedicated to the Xiang River, and infusing the natural world with a life of its own, turns out to be a political allegory. Just as much of the poetic work of the period sought to emphasize the connection between the heavens and ancient China’ s rulers at the time in line with the doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven, so to did the shamanistic poetry of the time push this agenda.
In opposition to the king, the unruly Xiang river is intended to be the barbarian tribes, and the speaker is said to be attempting to woo the tribes after having been rejected by the king. This complication or extra layer to what could have been a “ low” shamanistic poem shows how the form was being adopted by the more complex Confucianists of the period. Chinese poetry was developing layer upon layer, the better to comment on the politics and theology of the time.