While Chinese poets of the early medieval period have long been credited with the development of shanshui 山水 (landscape) poetry, the precursors of the prosody they employed merit further scrutiny. This article argues that an ancient poetics of visual augury informed early medieval shanshui lyricism and that similar iterations of nature writing emerged earlier than is often recognized. By tracing the use of the divinatory utterance yangfu 仰俯 (looking up and looking down) in earlier depictions of the natural world, the author reconsiders the visual poetics of later shanshui literature alongside texts that use analogous mantic terminology. This study concludes that, while China's first “nature poets” constructed imagery, lyrics, and personae that appear distinct if not even contradictory to one another, the poets relied on a common visual prosody derived from preestablished mantic approaches to the natural world and its representation. In so doing, this article also further highlights the underappreciated prosodic and ideological indebtedness of later shanshui poets to the authors of the Eastern Han and provides insight into the correlations that ran between diverse forms of linguistic visuality and the poetic explorations of the natural world in early China.

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