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In writing regulated verses 近體詩, there's a saying "一三五不論,二四六分明。" (We don't care the tone 平仄 of the odd-numbered characters in each line, but we care about that of the even-numbered ones.)

However, Baidu's page about seven-character jueju 七絕 shows that the tone of the 5th character of each line is fixed.

I wonder if one has the freedom to choose the tone of the 5th character in a seven-character jueju.

Let's take a concrete example. Is it ok to take a deflected 仄 tone at the 5th character at the first (out of four) verse?

秋風拂澗泛桑葉,舉目棕巢掛禿枝。
平平仄仄仄平仄,仄仄平平仄仄平。
碧水浮鵝追舫艇,舟乘遠去土盧茲。[1]
仄仄平平平仄仄,平平仄仄仄平平。

[1]: 土盧茲 (Toulouse, capital of Occitane region in France)

Remarks:

  1. In principle, I'm following Shiwen 詩韻 published by the Hong Kong Public Library (HKPL). This is the standard for regulated verses in the HKPL's Chinese Poetry Writing Competition. In practice, I'll first use my mother tongue to determine the tones 平仄, before verifying Pingshui Yun 平水韻 online. Cantonese's accuracy rate is over 90% since it preserves 入聲 in medieval Chinese. The rationale for sticking to an ancient phonetic standard for composing regulated verses nowadays is to maintain the universality of this genre of poems: if poets compose in their own dialect, the 平仄 tones won't be carried to other dialects. This inhibits others from appreciating the poem, and this genre would loss its influence in the long run.
  2. I know very well that the first verse has a problem of "isolated plane tone" 孤平 according to "the second school of thought" 乙派 in the linked Baidu 百度 page, but let's adopt the "first school of thought"'s 甲派 viewpoint on this issue.
  3. From my user profile, I'm neither a writer nor a poet. I've written some regulated verses simply to cultivate my character 陶冶性情.
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  • If you want an example from the masters: 曲江其二 (The Qu River, No. 2) by 杜甫 Du Fu has a deflected 仄 in the 5th character of line 6 out of 8. [Although caveats about emulating the way the masters of an art break the rules apply!]
    – Michaelyus
    Jul 16, 2019 at 17:04
  • @Michaelyus Thanks for comments. I've checked that poem. The tone of 6th line is regular "仄仄平平仄仄平". The tone of the upcoming line "中仄平平仄平仄" is a well-known form of aogu 拗句 known as 出句自救. What I'm not sure is issue of isolated flat tone on second last character of a verse. Jul 18, 2019 at 12:18
  • Whoops I did mean line 7, with that 拗句.
    – Michaelyus
    Jul 18, 2019 at 12:46

3 Answers 3

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It is actually a big topic on the tone of Chinese poetry, even in different dynasties the rule is slightly different. I recommand you read Wang Li's (王力) book named 《诗词格律》, which has a systematic description on it.

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  • Am I reading the same version as yours? So what do you think about the tone 平仄 of the 1st verse of my sample poem? You describe Prof. Wang's work as "systematic", so you might be able to find a "systematic" way to tackle this problem. It seems that from chap 2 sect 3 & 7 that the tone of my sample poem is not regular enough. I'd love to hear your feedback. Jul 19, 2019 at 23:32
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"一三五不論,二四六分明。" is just a rule of thumb to help people quickly get the main idea. It's not always accurate or reliable. The 5th character is often very important in terms of 平仄.

As the other answer suggests, Wang Li's book 诗词格律 is highly recommended. In my understanding, the tone of the 5th character in your first verse is not good. The sentence should be 平平仄仄平平仄.

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Short answer to my main question: yes, as long as it's not causing problems like "three consecutive flat-toned end" (三平尾), "three consecutive deflated-toned end" (三仄尾), "isolated flat-toned verse" (孤平), etc.

I think I've found the answer to my question by chance, as a side-product of today's work, which involves "塞雲" (clouds along the territory's boundary). I tried searching on Souyun (搜韻), and I found this poem by luck.

書事五首(壬午) 其四 晚清 · 雷鐘德

水陸軍聲羽檄紛,詔書特起故將軍。
但聞巴蜀索軍實,不見旌旗卷塞雲。
胡騎數傳邊報急,秦庭可有哭聲聞。
聖恩寬大惟行賞,敕賜金錢策戰勳。

In the 3rd verse, "索軍實" has two deflated-toned word surrounding one flat-toned word. I've checked the tones of this poem on Souyun so I'm 100% sure about this.

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