This paper compares affection poems and lust poems and attempts to find out Chu-tzu’s standard in discriminating between these two types of poems.
Chu-tzu first proposed some poems may be called lust poems. He highly regarded the collection of love songs of ordinary people in the 《Book of Odes》, thus negating the view expressed in the 《Prologue of the Collection of Poetry》that poems in the Book of Odes are mostly praise and sarcasm. Poems that express mutual affection between men and women need not always be lust poems. According to Chu-tzu, the main dividing line is this: Affection poems express “pure” affection and love whereas lust poems express “defiled” love and affection. The question then is: how to distinguish between these two kinds of love?
The main characters of love poems are mostly men. This feature can be found in some famous love poems 〈Kwan-Ju〉, 〈Han-Kang〉. Unmarried women in those poems usually possess high moral integrity that cannot be trespassed. Married women in those poems possess gentle integrity and traditional ethics.
Love that violates established social fabrics governing interpersonal relationships is deemed as “lust”. This includes: (1) love and affection outside marriage, (2) marriage not endorsed by parents and arranged by marriage brokers but through the free will of the couple is deemed as “lust”. Chu-tzu regarded all poems that described affection before marriage as lust poems.
Consequently we have to ask: are social fabrics the only yardstick of heavenly theory (moral principle)? What is the relationship between heavenly theory (moral principle) and social fabrics? We also discuss rationalism as the standard Chu-tzu used to lay down his heavenly theory.