By “key concepts in Chinese thought and culture” we mean concepts and keywords or phrases the Chinese people have created or come to use that are fundamentally pertinent to Chinese philosophy, humanistic spirit, way of thinking, and values.
Melancholy and Resentment
Melancholy and resentment, which here refers to a sense of helplessness found in poems, is one of the 24 poetic styles summarized by Sikong Tu, a poet in the late Tang Dynasty. Faced with frustrations and tough challenges in life, or overwhelmed by the immensity of nature or major events, poets were often seized by dejection, grief, sadness, and anger, which gave rise to a “melancholy and resentment” style in poetry writing. While the style bears similarity with the genre of tragedy in Western literary tradition, it is more influenced by Daoism, often featuring a sense of resignation or stoic optimism.
Winds are howling, waves raging, and tree branches breaking. Gripped by an agonizing pain at my heart, I yearn for a spell of peace but only in vain. As time slips by, year after year, decade after decade, all the riches, fame, and splendor are but nothing. Facing moral degeneration, who will rise and salvage the world? With sword in hand, I heave a deep sigh and stare intensely at the sky. Overwhelmed with sorrow, all I can do is to watch leaves falling and hear rain beating against the moss. (Sikong Tu: Twenty-Four Styles of Poetry)
After a deep sigh, he wrote a poem to admonish and comfort me, in which he expressed his indignation and resentment by making an analogy with imagery. He advised me not to grudge about tough times or be complacent when everything goes well in life. (Su Shi: A Poem in Reply to Wang Jinqing with a Preface)