gōng ānpài 公安派
The Gong’an School of Literary Writing
This was a literary school represented by three brothers, namely Yuan Zongdao(1560-1600), Yuan Hongdao (1568-1610) and Yuan Zhongdao (1570-1626), who lived in Gong’an, Hubei Province, in late Ming times. Of the trio, Yuan Hongdao was the most accomplished and renowned. Next was Yuan Zhongdao, who in turn outshined his brother Yuan Zongdao. They advocated giving full expression to one’s true feelings and so opposed some early-Ming men of letters’ soulless emulation of ancient literature. They also advocated genuine interest or concern as the criterion for literary criticism, stating that writing should flow forth from one’s heart and not be constrained by particular regulations and formulae. Putting their efforts mainly in prose and poetry, they paid particular attention to writing in a leisurely and carefree mood. The Gong’an School accepted and appreciated folk literature and stressed the need for writers to draw sustenance from vernacular literature. This attitude reflected to some degree the aesthetic tastes of the newly-emerging urban middle class during the mid-Ming period.
When the theories of poetry advocated by Wang Shizhen and Li Mengyang first flourished throughout the literary community, the Yuan brothers showed reservations about them. Yuan Zongdao, together with his colleague Huang Hui, vehemently opposed Wang and Li’s theories. They favored the works of the Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi and Song Dynasty writer Su Shi. Yuan Zongdao even applied the name “Bai-Su” for his studio. Yuan Hongdao, in his turn, tried especially hard to rectify the prevalent emulation of old literary styles with his refreshing, innovative way of writing. Thereupon, most literary men abandoned Wang Shizhen and Li Mengyang in favor of the “Three Yuans.” Hence comes the term “Gong’an style.” (The History of the Ming Dynasty)