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Chinese Literature

Introduction to Chinese Literature

China is the only country in the world with a literature written in one language for more than 3,000 consecutive years. This continuity results largely from the nature of the written language itself. The dominance of the written language has had significant effects on the development of the literature. The use of Chinese characters is most important in the Chinese language. The characters stand for things or ideas and so, unlike groups of letters, they cannot and need never be sounded. Thus Chinese could be read by people in all parts of the country in spite of gradual changes in pronunciation, the emergence of regional and local dialects, and modification of the characters.

Chinese LiteratureChina has a very old and rich tradition in literature and the dramatic and visual arts. Early writings generally derived from philosophical or religious essays such as the works of Confucius (551-479 BC) and Lao-tzu (probably 4th century BC). These writings were often about how people should act and how the society and political system should be organized and operated. A strong tradition of historical writing also evolved. After the fall of a dynasty, for example, a grand history of the late dynasty was commissioned and written by in the next dynasty.

In addition to philosophical, religious, and historical writings, China also produced poetry, prose, lyric, ode, novels, legend, folktale, political essay, and dramatic writings of historical character or figure, war & military events from an early date (See more in Library & Archives). Poetry became well established as a literary form during the Tang Dynasty, from AD 618 to 907. One of China's greatest poets, Li Po, wrote during this period. This tradition of poetry, often dealing with the relationship of humans to their natural surroundings, has continued.

China has a very old and rich tradition in literature and the dramatic and visual arts. Early writings generally derived from philosophical or religious essays such as the works of Confucius (551-479 BC) and Lao-tzu (probably 4th century BC). These writings were often about how people should act and how the society and political system should be organized and operated. A strong tradition of historical writing also evolved. After the fall of a dynasty, for example, a grand history of the late dynasty was commissioned and written by in the next dynasty.

In addition to philosophical, religious, and historical writings, China also produced poetry, novels, and dramatic writings from an early date. Poetry became well established as a literary form during the T'ang Dynasty, from AD 618 to 907. One of China's greatest poets, Li Po, wrote during this period. This tradition of poetry, often dealing with the relationship of humans to their natural surroundings, has continued. Drama is another old and important literary form. Chinese drama usually combines vernacular language with music and song and thus has been popular with the common people.

Chinese LiteratureEarly Chinese novels often stressed character development and usually centered on an adventure or supernatural happening; Two well-known examples are the classic Ming version of 'Shui-hu chuan' (The Water Margin) and 'Si-you Ji' (West Adventure). Historical themes were also popular, as in the 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms', written in the late Yuan period. "Dream of the Red Chamber', probably is China's most famous novel. There were also love stories such as the extremely popular. Many of the early novels were written anonymously. Often these works were written in the vernacular, and many authors felt it was beneath their station to be associated with this type of writing.

China's literary tradition continues to the present, though much 20th-century writing has concentrated on efforts to reform or modernize China. Probably the most famous 20th-century writer is Lu Xun, a poet, essayist, and novelist whose work focused on the need to modernize through revolution. Under Communism, writers have been expected to uphold the values of the socialist state, though the degree of control over their output has varied. (See Chinese Literature; Confucius; Lao-tzu; Li Po; Lu Xun)

Read more Chinese culture info at See China-Global Chinese Culture

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