Wanyue School / Graceful and Restrained School
As one of the two ci (词) lyric schools of the Song Dynasty, the graceful and restrained school mainly dealt with romantic love or parting sorrow. It featured sentimental and nuanced expression of one’s feelings, graceful and melodious metric patterning, and mellow and subtle use of language. Ci lyrics of this school emerged early, and many poets were famed for writing this style of ci, especially Wen Tingyun and Li Yu of the Five Dynasties period, Ouyang Xiu, Yan Shu, Yan Jidao, Liu Yong, Qin Guan, He Zhu, Zhou Bangyan, and Li Qingzhao of the Northern Song Dynasty, as well as Jiang Kui, Wu Wenying, and Zhang Yan of the Southern Song Dynasty. The graceful and restrained school occupied a dominant position in terms of both quantity and quality in over one thousand years of poetry’s development. It should be mentioned that poets of this school also cared deeply about the fate of the nation, but they tended to express their concerns in a personal and sentimental way, often through depicting scenery. Therefore, their poems should not be regarded as lacking of vigor and energy.
Some ci lyrics are graceful and restrained, and some are bold and exuberant. The former are written in a nuanced way, whereas the latter are powerful and unrestrained. This difference is due to different temperament of poets. But ci lyrics are about expressing one’s nuanced feelings, so the graceful and restrained school is representative of ci lyrics. (Xu Shizeng: A Collection of Introductory Remarks on Various Styles)
Li Qingzhao was the best ci poetess of the graceful and restrained school, whereas Xin Qiji was the best of the bold and exuberant school. This view, important as it is, was not mentioned by literary critics of the Ming Dynasty.(Shen Zengzhi: Random Notes on Ci Lyrics from the Junge Studio)