The sequence of generation is typically prescribed and kept in record by a generation poem (banci lian 班次聯 or paizi ge 派字歌 in Chinese) specific to each lineage. While it may have a mnemonic function, these poems can vary in length from around a dozen characters to hundreds of characters. Each successive character becomes the generation name for successive generations. After the last character of the poem is reached, the poem is usually recycled though occasionally it may be extended.
Generation poems were usually composed by a committee of family elders whenever a new lineage was established through geographical emigration or social elevation. Thus families sharing a common generation poem are considered to also share a common ancestor and have originated from a common geographical location.
Important examples are the generation poems of the Kong and Meng family. During the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Jianwen respected Confucius and Mencius so much that he honored their families with generation poems. These generation poems were extended with the permission of the Chongzhen Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, the Tongzhi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the Ministry of Interior of the Beiyang Government. Another notable generation poem is the Nguyễn dynasty's Đế hệ thi (帝係詩 ‘Poem of the Generations of the Imperial Family’), created by Minh Mạng emperor.
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Famous quotes containing the words poem and/or generation:
“It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you arent there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.”
—John Ashbery (b. 1927)
“Doubtless, we are as slow to conceive of Paradise as of Heaven, of a perfect natural as of a perfect spiritual world. We see how past ages have loitered and erred. Is perhaps our generation free from irrationality and error? Have we perhaps reached now the summit of human wisdom, and need no more to look out for mental or physical improvement? Undoubtedly, we are never so visionary as to be prepared for what the next hour may bring forth.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)