Chinese Poetry

In ancient China, people had profuse feelings to express when historical events took place, both joyful or of grief. Classical literature possesses a profound culture, and is the epitome of the spirit, morals and wisdom of the Chinese people. It reflects the high level of civilization. The literary forms vary over this long period and each had its blaze of glory.

Long before the written word appeared, there was an oral tradition of tales of fairies and legends. However, it is a pity that most of these have been lost as they were not collected and duly recorded for posterity.


Classical poetry cares a great deal for rhythm. Poetry is one of the earliest artistic forms as well as the most fully developed in China. Poems written in verse outpour strong sensibility through imagination and lyrics. Tone, rhythm and couplets are all strict. Only by having an embodiment of appreciation, can one feel the artistic conception and implication. The effect is like the after taste of a cup of tea, lingering and appealing.

The Classic of Odes

is the first poem collection covering 305 poems from the early Western zhou dynasty (11th century BC - 711 BC) to the middle

spring and autumn period (770 BC - 476 BC). As the starting point of Chinese literature, it enjoys a high reputation of artistic value and had a great influence on the works that followed. The works can be divided into three parts: Feng, Ya, and Song (Ode), which derived its name from music items. Feng indicates the local tune and collected folk songs of 15 states, Ya including Daya and Xiaoya are the movements for nobles; and Song is the music used during sacraments in temple. The writing skills rely on the 'Fu' (narrative), 'Bi' (figuration (simile and metaphor)), and 'Xing' (symbolization, and contrast), and give aesthetic feelings in tone. Throughout the book you can read by means of the connotation between the lines the reality of people of different classes.

Chu Ci

Chu Ci, or The Songs of the South, is another important poem collection which appeared 300 years after The Classic of Odes. It was finished by Liu Xiang in Western han dynasty (206 BC - 24), through collecting works of the noted poet Qu Yuan and his disciples. Chu Ci, as the book's name indicates, is derived from the songs of the southern state Chu during the warring states period (476 BC - 221 BC).

Qu Yuan, who furthered the development of the new poem style, is famed as a great patriotic poet and politician in the Chu state. Although talented, he was never appointed to positions of importance on account of his directness and the treachery of another official. He tried his best to ease the conjunctures of the state but failure led him to throw himself into the Miluo River with disappointment, sorrow and wrath. His story is reflected in the most well-known poem among the works is Li Sao.

This poetry book changed the simple and brief style of The Classic of Odes, and completely distinctive. It is magnificent in its length and rhetoric and ornate diction, and shows the writers' fertile imagination and effusive emotion. The ancient poetry really enlightened the poets that came after with its romanticism.

Han Yuefu

Yuefu in han dynasty (206 BC - 220) is a creation of the lower class working people. Thus with quite natural and simple language, the contents are colorful in its expression of narrative and lyrics. Stories in the poems are vivid and lively, and employ the methods of figurative speech and personification. Despite their needy lives, people still cherished the stability of love, retained goodness and opposed evils and wars. The most prominent works are Mo Shang Sang, Zhan Cheng Nan (War in the South of Town), Orphan's Song, and A Pair of Peacocks Southeast Fly.

Mo Shang Sang tells a story of a beautiful woman who rejects flirtatious officials and pays tribute to her charm and enduring faith. Zhan Cheng Nan is a poem that complains about the cruelty of war. In the Orphan's Song, the orphan tells of his sadness following the death of his parents, although he has brother and sister-in-law. A Pair of Peacocks Southeast Fly praises the unwavering love of a couple despite the opposition of their parents who try to obstruct them.

The han dynasty Ode is another popular style originated in the first unprecedented powerful empire - Han. It is An artistic reflection of the optimism and self-reliance of that time. Although the mode of expression is a little Bit flowery, it gives an insight into the abundance of products, vastness of the country, splendor of the palace And the achievements of emperors. Lament for Qu Yuan, Ode of Returning-to-Land, and Ode of two Capitals Are the most sublime representatives.

Tang Poetry

Poetry in the tang dynasty (618 - 907) is an unparalleled system and reaches the pinnacle in the development Of the poem. It really deserves its fame as a rarity of Chinese culture. Its dazzling value consists of an ideal Combination of thoughts and art. In later study of literature, it is spoken of as being representative of the whole Classical literature along with two other styles of poetry - Tang Shi, Song Ci, Yuan Qu (Poetry in the tang dynasty, Ci in the song dynasty, and Qu in the yuan dynasty).

When considering authors, we find that, poets exist in all walks of life, ranging from emperors, officials, Monks, peasants, fishermen and even children. From the point of view of themes, it tells of politics, the Military, history, landscapes, street scenes, love and so on. From angle of style, there are creations of varying Depth and initiated through numerous and complicated genres. As for quantity, a total of over 50,000 poems Have been collected and no one has any idea how many more have been lost.

Depending upon the period of its development poetry dating from the tang dynasty, can be classified into four Groups, namely early tang dynasty, Flourishing Tang, Mid-Tang and late tang dynasty.

In the early tang dynasty, most of the poets followed the style of their forebears and created a blend of the Characteristics of the north and south. Eventually the field of literature was refreshed and became more Vigorous as a result of those who are known as The Four Talents - Wang Bo, Yang Jiong, Luo Binwang, and Lu Zhaolin,. In spite of their lower social status, each of them was gifted and has left us with their cheerful Spirit.

Famous Tang Poets

Poems of the period known as the flourishing tang dynasty enjoyed a golden environment owing to the wise Reign, prosperous economy, and the prevailing strength of diplomacy. The era endowed poets with broad Hhorizons, positive and unrestrained emotion, and innovative inspiration. There are many representatives we Can enumerate:

Li Bai enjoys the title of the 'Supernatural Being of Poem'. He was a genius whose works were full of passion, Iimagination and also elegance. Even now his 'Jing Ye Si' (Thoughts on the Silent Night) is quite popular and Nearly everyone knows it even children as young as two years of age. His other verses, exceeding nine hundred In all, are also notable.

Du Fu, known as the 'Saint of Poem', was strict in his use of metrical verses. His Deng Gao (Climbing Up) Achieved the perfection of sheer professionalism.

Wang Wei, the poet of landscape, has written lots of elegant and exquisite verses, such as 'bright moon lighting On the pine forests, clear water found running on the stones'. The tranquil feeling he gave through his poetry is Utterly wonderful.

Cui Hao created the best of the seven-worded regulated poems - The Yellow Crane Tower with the verse 'yellow crane flies and never back, white cloud floats away for thousand years'.

Cen Shen was skillful in his descriptions of colorful scenes in the then northwest China and his famous Sentence conveying the delight with snow 'just like the sudden spring wind overnight blows, thousands of pear Trees come to bloom'.

In the Mid-tang dynasty, numerous poets came to prominence. In this period, the politics suffered many Rebellions and became recessionary. The poets also subsequently diverted the attention from state affairs to the Trivialities of daily life, and from the glorification of landscapes to the anchorage of spirits and hopes. Poets like Liu Zongyuan and Wei Yiwu expressed themselves through the plain depiction of sights around them - a lonely Old man fishing on the river that was covered with snow is the typical scene of their poems. Another renowned Literary figure is Bai Juyi. His The Old Charcoal Seller fully satirized the dark social reality. And the Chang Hen Ge (Song of Eternal Lament) praised the eternal love between Emperor Xuanzong in flourishing Tang and his Beloved concubine Yang Guifei.

In late tang dynasty, with the deterioration of government, the poems reflected more and more the hopeless And helpless feelings of the people in a heavy way. Poets turned to song with nostalgia for the old times and Former splendor. The most talented of these were Li Shang Yin and Du Mu. Some of their works are about Beauty, some about disconsolation as rulers were fatuous and failed to value them.

Song Ci

Ci in the song dynasty (960 - 1279) indicates another type of poetry at that time. It came into being in the tang dynasty and reached its summit in the Song literature. This type of poem is akin to lyrics created for Musical accompaniment as the meter varies in the way that the words had to match the rhythm of the music. This was the emanation of Ci in the song dynasty (Song Ci).

Ci, depending upon its length, can be divided into Xiao Ling (small-sized, less than 58 characters), Zhong Diao (middle-sized, 59 - 90 characters), and Chang Diao (long-sized, more than 91 characters). Some of them have Only one verse, some have two, and some have three or four, each of which has its own appellation.

Each Ci has a title as well as a Cipai which is the name of the tonal pattern and decides the rhythm and form of A verse. The names of Cipai, such as 'The Beautiful Lady Yu', 'Buddha Dance', and 'Wine Spring', are derived From historical figures or events, discourse, and former musical names, although later Ci evolved separately From music.

Poets in the song dynasty developed Ci that was deeper in content and broader in form. Those who made a Great contribution were Liu Yong, Su Shi, Yan Shu, Li Qingzhao, Xin Qiji, etc. If you seek out their fine Ci and Study it further, you may find it a source of infinite interest.

Generally speaking, Ci has two main genres - Wanyue (graceful and mild) and Haofang (bold and Unconstrained). Ci of Wanyue genre endows delicate things with exquisite feeling and elegance. The most Famous verses are 'How helpless I see the flowers falling, the swallows seem to know winter is coming again' By Yan Shu. Ci of Haofang genre began to be popular since the creation by Su Shi who changed Ci into a Lyrical art. He took pastoral scenes, splendid landscapes and a dedication to his motherland into his works, Which was greatly accepted.

Yuan Qu

Qu in the yuan dynasty (1271 - 1368) has two forms. One is San Qu, and the other is drama called Yuan Za Ju. San Qu is similar to the Xiao Ling of Song Ci. It can be sung along with a melody and the types of the Performance can be various. Compared with Ci, San Qu approaches more of a colloquial style and more is Lively. In the succeeding dynasties, poetry followed thick and fast, and poets once again entered into the 'bel-Esprits' and furthered their art unremittingly.

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