The Xikun Poetic Style
This poetic style pursued rhetorical beauty and symmetrical structure. In the early years of the Northern Song Dynasty, poets such as Yang Yi, Liu Yun, and Qian Weiyan gathered in the emperor’s private library to compile Important Mirrors for Governance, a book that records the activities of monarchs and their ministers in all previous dynasties. During spare time, they wrote poems to each other. Later, they put these poems into a collection titled A Collection of Xikun Poems. (Xikun, in an ancient Chinese legend, was a place where books of emperors were supposedly housed, thus the title for their collected poems.) Xikun style poets drew inspiration from Li Shangyin, who was meticulous about the use of allusions and whose poems had subtle appeal. These poets prized metrical rigor and metonymy. Their works were exquisite in diction, highly rhythmical, and strictly parallel, doing away with the insipid and shallow features of poetic style in the late Tang as well as the following Five Dynasties and Ten States period. Xikun style poetry exerted a considerable influence on poetry writing in the later periods. However, being written impromptu just to echo each other, such poems tend to be overly polished and lacking in true sentiments, and their vanity was frowned upon by later critics.
After Yang Yi and Liu Yun wrote poems to each other, A Collection of Xikun Poems became popular, and its style was emulated by poets of the later periods, thus transforming the poetic style. A new way to write poetry, known as the Xikun style, emerged. From then on, collections of Tang poems were all but forgotten.(Ouyang Xiu: Ouyang Xiu’s Criticism of Poetry)