History of Literature


Eastern Literature



South Asian Literature

Chinese Literature

Japanese Literature

Persian Literature

Arabic Literature

Chinese Literature


Chinese Literature


The Ten Suns of Heaven
The Eight Immortals
E. T. C. Werner "Myths and Legends of China"  (PART I, PART II)

Ch’ Yan

T’ao Ch’ien

Li Po
Du Fu
Po Ch-i
Li Y
Lo Kuan-chung
P’u Sung-ling
Ts’ao Chan
Lao She
Ts’ao Y
Lu Hsn



E. T. C. Werner "Myths and Legends of China"  (PART I, PART II)

Chinese literature, the body of works written in Chinese, including lyric poetry, historical and didactic writing, drama, and various forms of fiction.

Chinese literature is one of the major literary heritages of the world, with an uninterrupted history of more than 3,000 years, dating back at least to the 14th century bc. Its medium, the Chinese language, has retained its unmistakable identity in both its spoken and written aspects in spite of generally gradual changes in pronunciation, the existence of regional and local dialects, and several stages in the structural representation of the written graphs, or “characters.” Even the partial or total conquests of China for considerable periods by non-Chinese ethnic groups from outside the Great Wall failed to disrupt this continuity, for the conquerors were forced to adopt the written Chinese language as their official medium of communication because they had none of their own. Since the Chinese graphs were inherently nonphonetic, they were at best unsatisfactory tools for the transcription of a non-Chinese language; and attempts at creating a new alphabetic–phonetic written language for empire building proved unsuccessful on three separate occasions. The result was that after a period of alien domination, the conquerors were culturally assimilated (except the Mongols, who retreated en masse to their original homeland after the collapse of the Yan [or Mongol] dynasty in 1368). Thus, there was no disruption in China’s literary development.


General characteristics

Through cultural contacts, Chinese literature has profoundly influenced the literary traditions of other Asian countries, particularly Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Not only was the Chinese script adopted for the written language in these countries but some writers adopted the Chinese language as their chief literary medium.

The graphic nature of the written aspect of the Chinese language has produced a number of noteworthy effects upon Chinese literature and its diffusion: (1) Chinese literature, especially poetry, is recorded in handwriting or in print and purports to make an aesthetic appeal to the reader that is visual as well as aural. (2) This visual appeal of the graphs has in fact given rise to the elevated status of calligraphy in China, where it has been regarded for at least the last 16 centuries as a fine art comparable to painting. Scrolls of calligraphic renderings of poems and prose selections have continued to be hung alongside paintings in the homes of the common people as well as the elite, converting these literary gems into something to be enjoyed in everyday living. (3) On the negative side, such a writing system has been an impediment to education and the spread of literacy, thus reducing the number of readers of literature; for even a rudimentary level of reading and writing requires knowledge of more than 1,000 graphs, together with their pronunciation. (4) On the other hand, the Chinese written language, even with its obvious disadvantages, has been a potent factor in perpetuating the cultural unity of the growing millions of the Chinese people, including assimilated groups in far-flung peripheral areas. Different in function from recording words in an alphabetic–phonetic language, the graphs are not primarily indicators of sounds and can therefore be pronounced in variant ways to accommodate geographical diversities in speech and historical phonological changes without damage to the meaning of the written page. As a result, the major dialects in China never developed into separate written languages as did the Romance languages, and, although the reader of a Confucian Classic in southern China might not understand the everyday speech of someone from the far north, Chinese literature has continued to be the common asset of the whole Chinese people. By the same token, the graphs of China could be utilized by speakers of other languages as their literary mediums.

The pronunciation of the Chinese graphs has also influenced the development of Chinese literature. The fact that each graph had a monophonic pronunciation in a given context created a large number of homonyms, which led to misunderstanding and confusion when spoken or read aloud without the aid of the graphs. One corrective was the introduction of tones or pitches in pronunciation. As a result, metre in Chinese prosody is not concerned with the combination of syllabic stresses, as in English, but with those of syllabic tones, which produce a different but equally pleasing cadence. This tonal feature of the Chinese language has brought about an intimate relationship between poetry and music in China. All major types of Chinese poetry were originally sung to the accompaniment of music. Even after the musical scores were lost, the poems were, as they still are, more often chanted—in order to approximate singing—than merely read.

Chinese poetry, besides depending on end rhyme and tonal metre for its cadence, is characterized by its compactness and brevity. There are no epics of either folk or literary variety and hardly any narrative or descriptive poems that are long by the standards of world literature. Stressing the lyrical, as has often been pointed out, the Chinese poet refrains from being exhaustive, marking instead the heights of his ecstasies and inspiration or the depths of sorrow and sympathy. A short poem in Chinese sometimes resembles a cablegram, wherein verbal economy is highly desirable. Generally, pronouns and conjunctions are omitted, and one or two words often allude to highly complex thoughts or situations. This explains why many poems have been differently interpreted by learned commentators and competent translators.

The line of demarcation between prose and poetry is much less distinctly drawn in Chinese literature than in other national literatures. This is clearly reflected in three genres. The fu, for example, is on the borderline between poetry and prose, containing elements of both. It uses rhyme and metre and not infrequently also antithetic structure, but, despite occasional flights into the realm of the poetic, it retains the features of prose without being necessarily prosaic. This accounts for the variety of labels given to the fu in English by writers on Chinese literature—poetic prose, rhyme prose, prose poem, rhapsody, and prose poetry.

Another genre belonging to this category is p’ien-wen (“parallel prose”), characterized by antithetic construction and balanced tonal patterns without the use of rhyme; the term is suggestive of “a team of paired horses,” as is implied in the Chinese word p’ien. Despite the polyphonic effect thus produced, which approximates that of poetry, it has often been made the vehicle of proselike exposition and argumentation. Another genre, a peculiar mutation in this borderland, is the pa-ku wen-chang (“eight-legged essay”). Now generally regarded as unworthy of classification as literature, for centuries (from 1487 to 1901) it dominated the field of Chinese writing as the principal yardstick in grading candidates in the official civil-service examinations. It exploited antithetical construction and contrasting tonal patterns to the limit by requiring pairs of columns consisting of long paragraphs, one responding to the other, word for word, phrase for phrase, sentence for sentence.

Chinese prose writing has been diverted into two streams, separated at least for the last 1,000 years by a gap much wider than the one between folk songs and so-called literary poems. Classical, or literary, prose (ku-wen, or wen-yen) aims at the standards and styles set by ancient writers and their distinguished followers of subsequent ages, with the Confucian Classics and the early philosophers as supreme models. While the styles may vary with individual writers, the language is always far removed from their spoken tongues. Sanctioned by official requirement for the competitive examinations and dignified by traditional respect for the cultural accomplishments of past ages, this medium became the linguistic tool of practically all Chinese prose writers. Vernacular prose (pai-hua), in contrast, consists of writings in the living tongue, the everyday language of the authors. Traditionally considered inferior, the medium was piously avoided for creative writing until it was adopted by novelists and playwrights from the 13th century on.


Origins: c. 1400–221 bc

The oldest specimens of Chinese writing extant are inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells dating back to the last three centuries of the Shang dynasty (18th–12th centuries bc) and recording divinations performed at the royal capital. These inscriptions, like those engraved on ceremonial bronze vessels toward the end of the Shang period, are usually brief and factual and cannot be considered literature. Nonetheless, they are significant in that their sizable vocabulary (about 3,400 characters, of which nearly 2,000 have been reliably deciphered) has proved to be the direct ancestor of the modern Chinese script. Moreover, the syntactical structure of the language bears a striking resemblance to later usages. From the frequent occurrences in the bone inscriptions of such characters as “dance” and “music,” “drum” and “chimes” (of stone), “words” and “southern” (airs), it can safely be inferred that, by the Shang dynasty, songs were sung to the accompaniment of dance and music; but these songs are now lost.

Tien-yi Li
William H. Nienhauser, Jr.

Literary use of myths

Nuwa, Chinese creator goddess

Chinese mythology

The Ten Suns of Heaven
The Eight Immortals
E. T. C. Werner "Myths and Legends of China"  (PART I, PART II)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state. Like many mythologies, it has in the past been believed to be, at least in part, a factual recording of history.

Historians have conjectured that the Chinese mythology began in 12th century B.C. The myths and the legends were passed down in oral format for over a thousand years, before being written down in early books such as Shan Hai Jing. Other myths continued to be passed down through oral traditions such as theatre and song, before being recorded in the form of novels such * Hei'an Zhuan - Epic of Darkness Literally Epic of the Darkness, this is the only collection of legends in epic form preserved by a community of the Han nationality of China, namely, inhabitants of the Shennongjia mountain area in Hubei, containing accounts from the birth of Pangu till the historical era.

Imperial historical documents and philosophical canons such as Shangshu, Shiji, Liji, Lshi Chunqiu, and others.
Some myths survive in theatrical or literary formats, as plays or novels. Important mythological fiction which is seen as definitive records of these myths include:

Verse poetry of ancient states such as Lisao by Qu Yuan of the Chu state.
Fengshen Yanyi (封神演義), or Anointing of the Gods, which is mythological fiction dealing with the founding of the Zhou dynasty.

Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng'en and published in the 1590s, a fictionalised account of the pilgrimage of Xuanzang to India in order to obtain Buddhist religious texts, in which the pilgrims encounter a variety of ghosts, monsters, and demons as well as the Flaming Mountains.
Baishe Zhuan, a romantic tale set in Hangzhou involving a snake who attained human form and fell in love with a man.

(上帝), appears in literature probably earlier than 700 BC as Huangtian Dadi 皇天大帝 very occasionally as 皇天上帝, (the dating of these occurrences depends on the date of Oracle Bones and the
Shujing, aka "Book of Documents"). When Huangtian Dadi was used it refers to Jade Emperor or Yu Huang, and Tian 天 and Jade Emperor were synonymous in Chinese prayers.

Yu Di
(玉皇 or 玉帝 or Jade Emperor), appears in literature after the establishment of Taoism in China, but the position of Yu Huang dates back to beyond the times of Huangdi, Nuwa or Fuxi.

(天, or Heaven), appears in literature probably about 700 BC, or earlier (the dating of these occurrences depends on the date of the Shujing, aka "Book of Documents"). There are no "creation" oriented narratives for 'Heaven', although the role of a creator is a possible interperatation. The qualities of 'Heaven' and Shangdi appear to merge in later literature (and are worshipped as one entity ("皇天上帝") in, for example, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing). The extent of the distinction (if any) between them is debated. The sinologist Herrlee Creel proposes that an analysis of the Shang oracle bones shows Shangdi preceded 'tian' as a deity, and that Zhou Dynasty authors replaced the term Shangdi with tian to cement the claim of their influence.

(女媧), appears in literature no earlier than about 350 BC. Her companion was Fuxi (伏羲), the brother and husband of Nuwa. These two beings are sometimes worshipped as the ultimate ancestor of all humankind. They sometimes believe that Nuwa molded humans from clay for companionship. They are often represented as half-snake, half-human creatures. Nwa was also responsible for repairing the sky after Gong Gong damaged the pillar supporting the heavens (see below).

(盤古), written about 200 AD by the Daoist author Xu Zheng, was a later myth claiming to describe the first sentient being & creator.

Three August Ones and Five Emperors

Following on from the age of Nuwa and Fuxi (or cotemporaneous in some versions) was an age known as the Three August Ones and Five Emperors (三皇五帝). This involves a collection of legendary rulers who ruled between c. 2850 BC to 2205 BC, the time preceding the Xia dynasty.

The list of names comprising the Three August Ones and Five Emperors vary widely between sources (see Three August Ones and Five Emperors for other versions of the list). The version in the widest circulation (and most popularly known) is:

The Three August Ones (Huang):
Fuxi (伏羲) - The companion of Nuwa.
Shennong (神農) - Shennong, literally meaning "Divine Farmer", reputedly taught the ancients agriculture and medicine.
Huang Di (黃帝) - Huang Di, literally meaning, and commonly known as, the "Huang Emperor"(normally "黄" means "yellow", however it doesnt mean "yellow" here. See below for the full explaination of "皇帝"), is often regarded as the first sovereign of the Chinese nation.
(Source: Shangshu (尚書))

The Five Emperors (Di):
Shaohao (少昊) - Leader of the Dongyi or "Eastern Barbarians"; his pyramidal tomb is in present-day Shandong province. [clarification needed]
Zhuanxu (顓頊) - Grandson of the Huang Emperor
Emperor Ku (帝嚳) - Great grandson of the Huang Emperor; nephew of Zhuanxu.
Yao (堯) - The son of Ku. His elder brother succeeded Ku, but abdicated when he was found to be an ineffective ruler.
Shun (舜) - Yao, passing over his own son, made Shun his successor because of Shun's ability and morality.
These rulers were generally regarded as extremely moral and benevolent rulers, examples to be emulated by latter day kings and emperors. When Qin Shi Huang united China in 221 BC, he felt that his achievements had surpassed those of all the rulers who have gone before him. Hence, he combined the ancient titles of Huang (皇) and Di (帝) to create a new title, Huangdi (皇帝), usually translated as Emperor.


Great Flood

Shun passed his place as leader of the Huaxia tribe to Yu the Great (禹). According to legend, the Yellow River was prone to flooding, and erupted in a huge flood in the time of Yao. Yu's father, Gun, was put in charge of flood control by Yao, but failed to alleviate the problem after 9 years. He was executed by Shun, and Yu took his father's place, and led the people in building canals and levees. After thirteen years of toil, flooding problems were solved under Yu's command. Shun enfeoffed Yu in the place of Xia, in present-day Wan County in Henan. On his death, Shun passed the leadership to Yu. The main source for the story of Yu and the Great Flood comes from The Counsels of Yu the Great in the Classic of History (尚書大禹謨). Because of his achievement in resolving the Great Flood, Yu, alone among the mythological rulers, is usually called "Yu the Great" (大禹). Alternatively, he is called Emperor Yu (帝禹), like his predecessors.

Xia Dynasty
from the shang dynasty

Upon Yu's death, his position as leader was passed not to his deputy, but was inherited by his son Qi. Various sources differ as to the process by which Qi rose to this position. Most versions agree that during his lifetime, Yu had designated his deputy, Gaotao (皋陶), to be his successor. When Gaotao died before him, Yu then selected Gaotao's son, Bo Yi (伯益) as successor. One version then says that all the peoples who had submitted to Yu admired Qi more than Bo Yi, and Yu passed power to Qi instead. Another version holds that Bo Yi ceremoniously offered the position to Qi, who accepted, against convention, because he had the support of other leaders. A third version says that Qi killed Bo Yi and usurped his position as leader.

A 4th version, the currently most accepted version in China says, Yu named Bo Yi as successor, because Bo Yi had achieved fame through teaching the People to use fire to drive animals during hunts. Bo Yi had the popular support of the People and Yu could not go against it easily. But Yu gave Bo Yi the empty successor title, without giving Bo Yi more responsibilities. Instead Yu gave his own son all the responsibilities of managing the country. After a few years, Bo Yi lost popularity without additional achievements, and Yu's son Qi became more popular among the People. Then Yu named Qi as the successor. Bo Yi, however, did not lose willingly. Bo Yi challenged Qi for leadership, and a civil war ensued. Qi with great support of the People, managed to defeat Bo Yi's forces, and killed Bo Yi, and solidified his rule.

In any case, Qi's succession broke the previous convention of meritorious succession, and began what is traditionally regarded as the first dynasty in Chinese history. The dynasty is called "Xia" after Yu's centre of power.

The Xia Dynasty is considered at least semi-mythological. The Records of the Grand Historian and the Bamboo Annals record the names of 17 kings of the Xia Dynasty. However, there is no conclusive archaeological evidence of its capital or its existence as a state of any significant size. Archaeological evidence do not point towards a significant urban civilisation until the Shang Dynasty.

Shang Dynasty

Jie, the last king of the Xia Dynasty, is said to be a bloodthirsty despot. Tang of Shang, a tribal leader, revolted against Xia rule and eventually overthrew Jie and established the Shang Dynasty, based in Anyang. In Book 5 of Mozi, Mozi described the end of Xia dynasty and the new Shang dynasty. During the reign of King Jie of Xia, there was a great climactic change. The paths of the sun and moon were different, the seasons were confused and the five grains were dried up. Ghouls were crying in the country and cranes shrieked for ten nights. Heaven ordered Shang Tang to receive the heavenly commission from Xia dynasty. The Xia dynasty have failed morally and Heaven has determined her end. Therefore, Shang Tang was commanded to destroy Xia with the promise of Heaven's help. In the dark, Heaven destroyed the fortress' pool. Shang Tang then gained victory easily.

The Shang Dynasty ruled from ca. 1766 BC to ca. 1050 BC. It came to an end when the last despotic ruler, Zhou of Shang, was overthrown by the new Zhou Dynasty. The end of the Shang Dynasty and the establishment of the Zhou is the subject of the influential mythological fiction, Investitute of the Gods (封神演義). Book 5 of Mozi also described the shift. During the reign of Shang Zhou, Heaven could not endure his morality and his neglect of timely sacrifices. It rained mud for ten days and nights, the nine cauldrons (presumably used in either astronomy or to measure earth movements) shifted positions, pontianaks appeared and ghosts cried at night. There were women who became men, the heaven rained flesh and thorny brambles covered the national highways. A red bird brought a message "Heaven decrees King Wen of Zhou to punish Yin and possess its empire". The Yellow River formed charts and the earth brought forth mythical horses. When King Wu became king, three gods appeared to him in a dream, telling him that they have drowned Shang Zhou in wine and that King Wu was to attack him. On the way back from victory, the heavens gave him the emblem of a yellow bird.

Unlike the preceding Xia Dynasty, there is clear archaeological evidence of a government centre at Yinxu in Anyang, and of an urban civilization in the Shang Dynasty. However, the chronology of the first three dynasties remains an area of active research and controversy.

Creation and the Pantheon

The Jade Emperor is charged with running of the three realms: heaven, hell and that of the living. The Jade Emperor adjudicates and metes out rewards and remedies to actions of saints, the living and the deceased according to a merit system loosely called the Jade Principles Golden Script (玉律金篇, see external links). When judgments proposed were objected to, usually by other saints, the administration would occasionally resort to the counsels of the advisory elders.



The Chinese dragon is one of the most important mythical creatures in Chinese mythology. The Chinese dragon is considered to be the most powerful and divine creature and is believed to be the controller of all waters. The dragon symbolised great power and was very supportive of heroes and gods. One of the most famous dragons in Chinese mythology is Yinglong "Responding Dragon", said to be the god of rain. Many people in different places pray to Yinglong in order to receive rain. In Chinese mythology, dragons are believed to be able to create clouds with their breath. Chinese people sometimes use the term "Descendants of the Dragon" as a sign of their ethnic identity.

For the most part, Chinese myths involve moral issues which inform people of their culture and values.

Religion and mythology

There has been extensive interaction between Chinese mythology and the major belief systems of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

On the one hand, elements of pre-Han dynasty mythologies such as those in Shan Hai Jing were adapted into these belief systems as they developed (in the case of Taoism), or were assimilated into Chinese culture (in the case of Buddhism). On the other hand, elements from the teachings and beliefs of these systems became incorporated into Chinese mythology. For example, the Taoist belief of a spiritual paradise became incorporated into mythology, as the place where immortals and deities dwell.



Early Chinese literature does not present, as the literatures of certain other world cultures do, great epics embodying mythological lore. What information exists is sketchy and fragmentary and provides no clear evidence that an organic mythology ever existed; if it did, all traces have been lost. Attempts by scholars, Eastern and Western alike, to reconstruct the mythology of antiquity have consequently not advanced beyond probable theses. Shang dynasty material is limited. Chou dynasty (c. 1111–255 bc) sources are more plentiful, but even these must at times be supplemented by writings of the Han period (206 bc–ad 220), which, however, must be read with great caution. This is the case because Han scholars reworked the ancient texts to such an extent that no one is quite sure, aside from evident forgeries, how much was deliberately reinterpreted and how much was changed in good faith in an attempt to clarify ambiguities or reconcile contradictions.

The early state of Chinese mythology was also molded by the religious situation that prevailed in China at least since the Chou conquest (12th century bc), when religious observance connected with the cult of the dominant deities was proclaimed a royal prerogative. Because of his temporal position, the king alone was considered qualified to offer sacrifice and to pray to these deities. Shang-ti (“Supreme Ruler”), for example, one of the prime dispensers of change and fate, was inaccessible to persons of lower rank. The princes, the aristocracy, and the commoners were thus compelled, in descending order, to worship lesser gods and ancestors. Though this situation was greatly modified about the time of Confucius in the early part of the 5th century bc, institutional inertia and a trend toward rationalism precluded the revival of a mythological world. Confucius prayed to Heaven (T’ien) and was concerned about the great sacrifices, but he and his school had little use for genuine myths.

Nevertheless, during the latter centuries of the Chou, Chinese mythology began to undergo a profound transformation. The old gods, to a great extent already forgotten, were gradually supplanted by a multitude of new ones, some of whom were imported from India with Buddhism or gained popular acceptance as Taoism spread throughout the empire. In the process, many early myths were totally reinterpreted to the extent that some deities and mythological figures were rationalized into abstract concepts and others were euhemerized into historical figures. Above all, a hierarchical order, resembling in many ways the institutional order of the empire, was imposed upon the world of the supernatural. Many of the archaic myths were lost; others survived only as fragments, and, in effect, an entirely new mythological world was created.

These new gods generally had clearly defined functions and definite personal characteristics and became prominent in literature and the other arts. The myth of the battles between Huang-ti (“The Yellow Emperor”) and Ch’ih Yu (“The Wormy Transgressor”), for example, became a part of Taoist lore and eventually provided models for chapters of two works of vernacular fiction, Shui-hu chuan (The Water Margin, also translated as All Men Are Brothers) and Hsi-yu chi (1592; Journey to the West, also partially translated as Monkey). Other mythological figures such as K’ua-fu and the Hsi-wang-mu subsequently provided motifs for numerous poems and stories.

Historical personages were also commonly taken into the pantheon, for Chinese popular imagination has been quick to endow the biography of a beloved hero with legendary and eventually mythological traits. Ch’ Yan, the ill-fated minister of the state of Ch’u (771–221 bc), is the most notable example. Mythmaking consequently became a constant, living process in China. It was also true that historical heroes and would-be heroes arranged their biographies in a way that lent themselves to mythologizing.

Hellmut Wilhelm
William H. Nienhauser, Jr.



Chinese philosopher
Pinyin romanization Kongfuzi, or Kongzi, Wade-Giles K’ung-fu-tzu, or K’ung-tzu, original name Kongqiu, literary name Zhongni

born 551, Qufu, state of Lu [now in Shandong province, China]
died 479 bce, Lu

China’s most famous teacher, philosopher, and political theorist, whose ideas have influenced the civilization of East Asia.

Confucius’s life, in contrast to his tremendous importance, seems starkly undramatic, or, as a Chinese expression has it, it seems “plain and real.” The plainness and reality of Confucius’s life, however, underlines that his humanity was not revealed truth but an expression of self-cultivation, of the ability of human effort to shape its own destiny. The faith in the possibility of ordinary human beings to become awe-inspiring sages and worthies is deeply rooted in the Confucian heritage, and the insistence that human beings are teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour is typically Confucian.

Although the facts about Confucius’s life are scanty, they do establish a precise time frame and historical context. Confucius was born in the 22nd year of the reign of Duke Xiang of Lu (551 bce). The traditional claim that he was born on the 27th day of the eighth lunar month has been questioned by historians, but September 28 is still widely observed in East Asia as Confucius’s birthday. It is an official holiday, “Teachers’ Day,” in Taiwan.

Confucius was born in Qufu in the small feudal state of Lu in what is now Shandong province, which was noted for its preservation of the traditions of ritual and music of the Zhou civilization. His family name was Kong and his personal name Qiu, but he is referred to as either Kongzi or Kongfuzi (Master Kong) throughout Chinese history. The adjectival “Confucian,” derived from the Latinized Confucius, is not a meaningful term in Chinese, nor is the term Confucianism, which was coined in Europe as recently as the 18th century.

Confucius’s ancestors were probably members of the aristocracy who had become virtual poverty-stricken commoners by the time of his birth. His father died when Confucius was only three years old. Instructed first by his mother, Confucius then distinguished himself as an indefatigable learner in his teens. He recalled toward the end of his life that at age 15 his heart was set upon learning. A historical account notes that, even though he was already known as an informed young scholar, he felt it appropriate to inquire about everything while visiting the Grand Temple.

Confucius had served in minor government posts managing stables and keeping books for granaries before he married a woman of similar background when he was 19. It is not known who Confucius’s teachers were, but he made a conscientious effort to find the right masters to teach him, among other things, ritual and music. His mastery of the six arts—ritual, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and arithmetic—and his familiarity with the classical traditions, notably poetry and history, enabled him to start a brilliant teaching career in his 30s.

Confucius is known as the first teacher in China who wanted to make education broadly available and who was instrumental in establishing the art of teaching as a vocation, indeed as a way of life. Before Confucius, aristocratic families had hired tutors to educate their sons in specific arts, and government officials had instructed their subordinates in the necessary techniques, but he was the first person to devote his whole life to learning and teaching for the purpose of transforming and improving society. He believed that all human beings could benefit from self-cultivation. He inaugurated a humanities program for potential leaders, opened the doors of education to all, and defined learning not merely as the acquisition of knowledge but also as character building.

For Confucius the primary function of education was to provide the proper way of training exemplary persons (junzi), a process that involved constant self-improvement and continuous social interaction. Although he emphatically noted that learning was “for the sake of the self” (the end of which was self-knowledge and self-realization), he found public service integral to true education. Confucius confronted learned hermits who challenged the validity of his desire to serve the world; he resisted the temptation to “herd with birds and animals,” to live apart from the human community, and opted to try to transform the world from within. For decades Confucius tried to be actively involved in politics, wishing to put his humanist ideas into practice through governmental channels.

In his late 40s and early 50s Confucius served first as a magistrate, then as an assistant minister of public works, and eventually as minister of justice in the state of Lu. It is likely that he accompanied King Lu as his chief minister on one of the diplomatic missions. Confucius’s political career was, however, short-lived. His loyalty to the king alienated him from the power holders of the time, the large Ji families, and his moral rectitude did not sit well with the king’s inner circle, who enraptured the king with sensuous delight. At 56, when he realized that his superiors were uninterested in his policies, Confucius left the country in an attempt to find another feudal state to which he could render his service. Despite his political frustration he was accompanied by an expanding circle of students during this self-imposed exile of almost 12 years. His reputation as a man of vision and mission spread. A guardian of a border post once characterized him as the “wooden tongue for a bell” of the age, sounding heaven’s prophetic note to awaken the people (Analects, 3:24). Indeed, Confucius was perceived as the heroic conscience who knew realistically that he might not succeed but, fired by a righteous passion, continuously did the best he could. At the age of 67 he returned home to teach and to preserve his cherished classical traditions by writing and editing. He died in 479 bce, at the age of 73. According to the Records of the Historian, 72 of his students mastered the “six arts,” and those who claimed to be his followers numbered 3,000.

Roger T. Ames



The first anthology of Chinese poetry, known as the Shih Ching (“Classic of Poetry”) and consisting of temple, court, and folk songs, was given definitive form somewhere around the time of Confucius (551–479 bc). But its 305 songs are believed to range in date from the beginning of the Chou dynasty to the time of their compiling.

The Shih Ching is generally accounted the third of the Five Classics (Wu Ching) of Confucian literature, the other four of which are: the I Ching (“Classic of Changes”), a book of divination and cosmology; the Shu Ching (“Classic of History”), a collection of official documents; the Li chi (“Record of Rites”), a book of rituals with accompanying anecdotes; and the Ch’un-ch’iu (“Spring and Autumn”) annals, a chronological history of the feudal state of Lu, where Confucius was born, consisting of topical entries of major events from 722 to 481 bc. The Five Classics have been held in high esteem by Chinese scholars since the 2nd century bc. (For a discussion of the I Ching and Shu Ching).

The poems of the Shih Ching were originally sung to the accompaniment of music; and some of them, especially temple songs, were accompanied also by dancing. (In all subsequent periods of Chinese literary history, new trends in poetry were profoundly influenced by music.) Most of the poems of the Shih Ching have a preponderantly lyrical strain whether the subject is hardship in military service or seasonal festivities, agricultural chores or rural scenes, love or sports, aspirations or disappointments of the common folk and of the declining aristocracy. Apparently, the language of the poems was relatively close to the daily speech of the common people, and even repeated attempts at refinement during the long process of transmission have not spoiled their freshness and spontaneity. In spite of this, however, when the songs are read aloud and not sung to music their prevailing four-syllable lines conduce to monotony, hardly redeemed by the occasional interspersion of shorter or longer lines.

If there ever was an epic tradition in ancient China comparable to that of early India or the West, only dim traces of it persist in the written records. The Shih Ching has a few narrative poems celebrating heroic deeds of the royal ancestors, but these are rearranged in cycles and only faintly approximate the national epics of other peoples. One cycle, for example, records the major stages in the rise of the Chou kingdom, from the supernatural birth of its remote founder to its conquest of the Shang kingdom. These episodes, which, according to traditional history, cover a period of more than 1,000 years, are dealt with in only about 400 lines. Other cycles, which celebrate later military exploits of the royal Chou armies, are even briefer.

The Shih Ching exerted a profound influence on Chinese poetry that, generally speaking, has stressed the lyrical rather than the narrative element; a dependence more on end rhymes for musical effect than on other rhetorical devices; regular lines, consisting of a standard number of syllables; and the utilization of intonation that is inherent in the language for rhythm, instead of the alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables as is the norm in Western poetry. The high regard in which this anthology has been held in China results both from its antiquity and from the legend that Confucius himself edited it. It was elevated in 136 bc to the position of a major classic in the Confucian canon.

Meanwhile, another type of poetry, also originating in music and dance, had developed in the south, in the basin of the Yangtze River, an area dominated by the principality of Ch’u—hence the generic appellation Ch’u tz’u, or “songs of Ch’u.” These southern songs, though adorned with end rhymes like the songs of the Shih Ching, follow a different metrical pattern: the lines are usually longer and more irregular and are commonly (though not always) marked by a strong caesura in the middle. Their effect is thus rather plaintive, and they lend themselves to chanting instead of singing. The beginning of this tradition is obscure because most of the early samples were eclipsed by the brilliant 4th/3rd-century-bc compositions of the towering genius Ch’ Yan, China’s first known poet.

Among some 25 elegies that are attributed to Ch’ Yan, the most important and longest is Li sao (“On Encountering Sorrow”), which has been described as a politico-erotic ode, relating by means of a love allegory the poet’s disappointment with his royal master and describing his imaginary travels in distant regions and the realms of heaven, in an attempt to rid himself of his sorrow. Ch’ Yan committed suicide by drowning in the Mi-lo River; and his tragic death, no less than his beautiful elegies, helped to perpetuate the new literary genre. In contrast to the poems of the Shih Ching, which had few successful imitators, the genre created by Ch’ Yan was cultivated for more than five centuries, and it also experienced later revivals.


Ch’ Yan

Qu Yuan, Wade-Giles romanization Ch’ Yan (b. c. 339, Quyi [now Zigui, Hubei province], China—d. 278 bc, Hunan), one of the greatest poets of ancient China and the earliest known by name. His highly original and imaginative verse had an enormous influence over early Chinese poetry.

Qu Yuan was born a member of the ruling house of Chu, a large state in the central valley of the Yangtze River. While still in his 20s he was appointed a trusted, favoured counselor of his kinsman Huaiwang, the ruler of Chu. Qu Yuan advocated the unpopular policy of resistance to Qin, the most powerful of the Warring States, causing his rival courtiers to intrigue successfully against him. Estranged from the throne through the malice of his rivals, Qu Yuan was banished to the south of the Yangtze River by Huaiwang’s successor, Qingxiangwang.

In despair over his banishment, Qu Yuan wandered about southern Chu, writing poetry and observing the shamanistic folk rites and legends that greatly influenced his works. He eventually drowned himself in despair in the Miluo River, a tributary of the Yangtze. The famous Dragon Boat Festival, held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar year, originated as a search for the poet’s body.

The works of Qu Yuan have survived in an early anthology, the Chuci (“Elegies of Chu”; Eng. trans. The Songs of the South, 1959), much of which must be attributed to later poets writing about the legendary life of Qu Yuan. The anthology begins with the long melancholic poem Lisao (“On Encountering Sorrow”), Qu Yuan’s most famous work, which initiated a tradition of romanticism in Chinese literature.


Prior to the rise of the philosophers in the 6th century bc, brief prose writings were reported to be numerous; but of these only two collections have been transmitted: the Shu, or Shu Ching (“Classic of History”), consisting of diverse kinds of primitive state papers, such as declarations, portions of charges to feudal lords, and orations; and the I, or I Ching (“Classic of Changes”), a fortune-telling manual. Both grew by accretion and, according to a very doubtful tradition, were edited by Confucius himself. Neither can be considered literature, but both have exerted influence on Chinese writers for more than 2,000 years as a result of their inclusion in the Confucian canon.

The earliest writings that can be assigned to individual “authorship,” in the loose sense of the term, are the Lao-tzu, or Tao-te Ching (“Classic of the Way of Power”), which is attributed to Lao-tzu, who is credited with being the founder of Taoism and who might have been an older contemporary of Confucius; and the Lun y (“Conversations”), or Analects (selected miscellaneous passages), of Confucius. Neither of the philosophers wrote extensively, and their teachings were recorded by their followers. Thus, the Lao-tzu consists of brief summaries of Lao-tzu’s sayings, many of which are in rhyme and others in polished prose to facilitate memorization. Likewise, the Analects is composed of collections of the sage’s sayings, mostly as answers to questions or as a result of discussions because writing implements and materials were expensive and scarce. The circumstances of the conversations, however, were usually omitted; and as a consequence the master’s words often sound cryptic and disjointed, despite the profundity of the wisdom.

By about 400 bc, writing materials had improved, and a change in prose style resulted. The records of the discourses became longer, the narrative portions more detailed; jokes, stories, anecdotes, and parables, interspersed in the conversations, were included. Thus, the Mencius, or Meng-tzu, the teachings of Mencius, not only is three times longer than the Analects of Confucius but also is topically and more coherently arranged. The same characteristic may be noticed in the authentic chapters of the Chuang-tzu, attributed to the Taoist sage Chuang-tzu, who “in paradoxical language, in bold words, and with subtle profundity, gave free play to his imagination and thought. . . . Although his writings are inimitable and unique, they seem circuitous and innocuous. Although his utterances are irregular and formless, they are unconventional and readable . . .” (from the epilogue of the Chuang-tzu).

The first example of the well-developed essay, however, is found neither in the Mencius nor in the Chuang-tzu but in the Mo-tzu, attributed to Mo Ti, or Mo-tzu, a predecessor of Mencius and Chuang-tzu, whose singular attainments in logic made him a forceful preacher. His recorded sermons are characterized by simplicity of style, clarity of exposition, depth of conviction, and directness of appeal.

The prose style continued to be developed by such outstanding philosopher-essayists as Hsn-tzu and his pupil, the Legalist Han-fei-tzu. The peak of this development, however, was not reached until the appearance of the first expertly arranged full-length book, L-shih Ch’un-ch’iu (“The Spring and Autumn [Annals] of Mr. L”), completed in 240 bc under the general direction of L Pu-wei. The work, 60 essays in 26 sections, summarizes the teachings of the several schools of philosophy as well as the folklore of the various regions of China.


Laozi, (Chinese: “Master Lao,” or “Old Master”), original name (Wade-Giles) Li Er, deified as Lao Jun, Tai Shang Lao-Jun, or Tai Shang Xuanyuan Huangdi, also called Lao Dun, or Lao Dan (flourished 6th century bce, China), the first philosopher of Chinese Daoism and alleged author of the Daodejing, a primary Daoist writing. Modern scholars discount the possibility that the Daodejing was written by only one person but readily acknowledge the influence of Daoism on the development of Buddhism. Laozi is venerated as a philosopher by Confucians and as a saint or god in popular religion and was worshipped as an imperial ancestor during the Tang dynasty (618–907). (See also Daoism.)

The life of Laozi
Despite his historical importance, Laozi remains an obscure figure. The principal source of information about his life is a biography in the Shiji (“Records of the Historian”) by Sima Qian. This historian, who wrote in about 100 bce, had little solid information concerning the philosopher. He says that Laozi was a native of Quren, a village in the district of Hu in the state of Chu, which corresponds to the modern Luyi in the eastern part of Henan province. His family name was Li, his proper name Er, his appellation Dan. He was appointed to the office of shi at the royal court of the Zhou dynasty (c. 1046–256 bce). Shi today means “historian,” but in ancient China the shi were scholars specializing in matters such as astrology and divination and were in charge of sacred books.

After noting the civil status of Laozi, the historian proceeds to relate a celebrated but questionable meeting of the old Daoist with the younger Confucius (551–479 bce). The story has been much discussed by the scholars; it is mentioned elsewhere, but the sources are so inconsistent and contradictory that the meeting seems a mere legend. During the supposed interview, Laozi blamed Confucius for his pride and ambition, and Confucius was so impressed with Laozi that he compared him to a dragon that rises to the sky, riding on the winds and clouds.

No less legendary is a voyage of Laozi to the west. Realizing that the Zhou dynasty was on the decline, the philosopher departed and came to the Xiangu pass, which was the entrance to the state of Qin. Yinxi, the legendary guardian of the pass (guanling), begged him to write a book for him. Thereupon, Laozi wrote a book in two sections of 5,000 characters, in which he set down his ideas about the Dao (literally “Way”) and the de (its “virtue”): the Daodejing. Then he left, and “nobody knows what has become of him,” says Sima Qian.

After the account of the journey of Laozi and of the redaction of the book, Sima Qian alludes to other persons with whom Laozi was sometimes identified. One was Lao Laizi, a Daoist contemporary of Confucius; another was a great astrologer named Dan. Sima Qian adds, “Maybe Laozi has lived one hundred and fifty years, some say more than two hundred years.” Since the ancient Chinese believed that superior men could live very long, it is natural that the Daoists credited their master with an uncommon longevity, but this is perhaps a rather late tradition because Zhuangzi, the Daoist sage of the 4th century bce, still speaks of the death of Laozi without emphasizing an unusual longevity.

To explain why the life of Laozi is so shrouded in obscurity, Sima Qian says that he was a gentleman recluse whose doctrine consisted in nonaction, the cultivation of a state of inner calm, and purity of mind. Indeed, throughout the whole history of China, there have always been recluses who shunned worldly life. The author (or authors) of the Daodejing was probably a person of this kind who left no trace of his life.

The question of whether there was a historical Laozi has been raised by many scholars, but it is rather an idle one. The Daodejing, as we have it, cannot be the work of a single author; some of its sayings may date from the time of Confucius; others are certainly later; and a version of the text has been recovered in an archaeological find at Guodian that dates to before 300 bce. Owing to these facts, some scholars have assigned the authorship of the Daodejing to the astrologer Dan; while others, giving credit to a genealogy of the descendants of the philosopher, which is related in the biography by Sima Qian, try to place the life of Lao Dan at the end of the 4th century bce. But this genealogy can hardly be considered as historical. It proves only that at the time of Sima Qian a certain Li family (see above) pretended to be descended from the Daoist sage; it does not give a basis for ascertaining the existence of the latter. The name Laozi seems to represent a certain type of sage rather than an individual.

Hagiographical legends
Beyond the biography in the Shiji and sporadic mentions in other old books, several hagiographies were written from the 2nd century ce onward. These are interesting for the history of the formation of religious Daoism. During the Eastern, or Later, Han dynasty (25–220 ce), Laozi had already become a mythical figure who was worshipped by the people and occasionally by an emperor. Later, in religious circles, he became the Lord Lao (Lao Jun), revealer of sacred texts and saviour of mankind. There were several stories about his birth, one of which was influenced by the legend of the miraculous birth of Buddha. Laozi’s mother is said to have borne him 72 years in her womb and he to have entered the world through her left flank. One legend gives an explanation of his family name, Li: the baby came to light at the foot of a plum tree (li) and decided that li (“plum”) should be his surname. Two legends were particularly important in the creed of the Daoists. According to the first, the Lao Jun was believed to have adopted different personalities throughout history and to have come down to the earth several times to instruct the rulers in the Daoist doctrine. The second legend developed from the story of Laozi’s journey to the west. In this account the Buddha was thought to be none other than Laozi himself. During the 3rd century ce an apocryphal book was fabricated on this theme with a view to combating Buddhist propaganda. This book, the Laozi huhuajing (“Laozi’s Conversion of the Barbarians”), in which Buddhism was presented as an inferior kind of Daoism, was often condemned by the Chinese imperial authorities.

Laozi has never ceased to be generally respected in all circles in China. To the Confucians he was a venerated philosopher; to the people he was a saint or a god; and to the Daoists he was an emanation of the Dao and one of their greatest divinities.

Max Kaltenmark




Zhuangzi, (Chinese: “Master Zhuang”)Wade-Giles romanization Chuang-tzu, original name Zhuang Zhou (b. c. 369, Meng [now Shangqiu, Henan province], China—d. 286 bce), the most significant of China’s early interpreters of Daoism, whose work (Zhuangzi) is considered one of the definitive texts of Daoism and is thought to be more comprehensive than the Daodejing, which is attributed to Laozi, the first philosopher of Daoism. Zhuangzi’s teachings also exerted a great influence on the development of Chinese Buddhism and had considerable effect on Chinese landscape painting and poetry.

In spite of his importance, details of Zhuangzi’s life, apart from the many anecdotes about him in the Zhuangzi itself, are unknown. The “Grand Historian” of the Han dynasty, Sima Qian (died c. 87 bce), incorporated in his biographical sketch of Zhuangzi only the most meagre information. It indicates that Zhuangzi was a native of the state of Meng, that his personal name was Zhou, and that he was a minor official at Qiyuan in his home state. He lived during the reign of Prince Wei of Chu (died 327 bce) and was therefore a contemporary of Mencius, an eminent Confucian scholar known as China’s “Second Sage.” According to Sima Qian, Zhuangzi’s teachings were drawn primarily from the sayings of Laozi, but his perspective was much broader. He used his literary and philosophical skills to refute the Confucians and Mohists (followers of Mozi, who advocated “concern for everyone”).

Zhuangzi is best known through the book that bears his name, the Zhuangzi, also known as Nanhua zhenjing (“The Pure Classic of Nanhua”). At about the turn of the 4th century ce, Guo Xiang, the first and perhaps the best commentator on the Zhuangzi, established the work as a primary source for Daoist thought. It is composed of 33 chapters, and evidence suggests that there may have been as many as 53 chapters in copies of the book circulated in the 4th century. It is generally agreed that the first seven chapters, the “inner books,” are for the most part from the hand of Zhuangzi himself, whereas the “outer books” (chapters 8–22) and the miscellany (chapters 23–33) are largely the product of his later followers. A vivid description of Zhuangzi’s character comes from the anecdotes about him in the book’s later chapters.

Zhuangzi appears in these passages as an unpredictable and eccentric sage who seems careless about personal comforts or public esteem. His clothing is shoddy and patched, and his shoes have to be tied to his feet with string in order to keep them from falling apart. Nevertheless, he does not consider himself to be miserable, only poor. When his good friend Hui Shi comes to console him upon the death of his wife, he finds the sage sitting on a mat, singing and beating on a basin. Hui Shi reprimands him, pointing out that such behaviour is improper at the death of someone who has lived and grown old with him and has borne him children.

When she died, how could I help being affected? But as I think the matter over, I realize that originally she had no life; and not only no life, she had no form; not only no form, she had no vital energy (qi). In the limbo of existence and non-existence, there was transformation and the vital energy emerged. The vital energy was transformed to be form, form was transformed to become life, and now birth has transformed to become death. This is like the rotation of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, and winter. Now she lies asleep in the great house (the cosmos). For me to go about weeping and wailing would be to show my ignorance of destiny. Therefore I desist.

When Zhuangzi himself was at the point of death, his disciples began to talk about an elaborate burial for him. Zhuangzi immediately stopped the discussion by declaring that he did not need the paraphernalia of a great funeral, that nature would be his inner and outer coffin, the sun and the moon his jade rings, and the stars and the planets his jewelry. All creation would make offerings and escort him. He needed no more. Somewhat taken aback, his disciples declared that they were afraid that the crows and the buzzards might eat him. To this Zhuangzi replied,

Above the ground it’s the crows and the kites who will eat me; below the ground it’s the worms and the ants. What prejudice is this, that you wish to take from the one to give to the other?

Zhuangzi’s eccentricities stem directly from his understanding of the processional nature of human experience. Insight for Zhuangzi comes with the realization that everything in life is both dynamic and continuous—what he calls dao.

Zhuangzi taught that what can be known or said of the Dao is not the Dao. It has neither initial beginning nor final end, nor limitations or demarcations. Life is the ongoing transformation of the Dao, in which there is no better or worse, no good or evil. Things should be allowed to follow their own course, and men should not value one situation over another. A truly virtuous man is free from the bondage of circumstance, personal attachments, tradition, and the need to reform his world. Zhuangzi declined an offer to be prime minister of the state of Chu because he did not want the entanglements of a court career.

The complete relativity of his perspective is forcefully expressed in one of the better-known passages of the Zhuangzi:

Once I, Zhuang Zhou, dreamed that I was a butterfly and was happy as a butterfly. I was conscious that I was quite pleased with myself, but I did not know that I was Zhou. Suddenly I awoke, and there I was, visibly Zhou. I do not know whether it was Zhou dreaming that he was a butterfly or the butterfly dreaming that it was Zhou. Between Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction. This is called the transformation of things.

The relativity of all experience is in constant tension in the Zhuangzi with the unity of all things. When asked where the Dao was, Zhuangzi replied that it was everywhere. When pushed to be more specific, he declared that it was in ants and, still lower, in weeds and potsherds; furthermore, it was also in excrement and urine. This forceful statement of the omnipresence of the Dao had its parallels in later Chinese Buddhism, in which a similar figure of speech was used to describe the ever-present Buddha (Buddhist scholars, especially those of the Chan [Zen] school, also drew heavily on Zhuangzi’s works). Zhuangzi was par excellence the philosopher of the unattached man who is at one with the Dao.

James Hamilton Ware, Jr.





Mozi, Wade-Giles romanization Mo-tzu, also spelled Motze, Motse, or Micius, original name Mo Di (b. 470?, China—d. 391? bce, China), Chinese philosopher whose fundamental doctrine of undifferentiated love (jianai) challenged Confucianism for several centuries and became the basis of a socioreligious movement known as Mohism.

Born a few years after Confucius’s death, Mozi was raised in a period when the feudal hierarchy instituted at the beginning of the Zhou dynasty (12th or 11th century bce to 256 bce) was swiftly disintegrating and China was divided into small, constantly warring feudal states. He thus confronted the problem that faced all thinkers in 5th-century-bce China: how to bring political and social order out of chaos.

According to tradition, Mozi was originally a follower of the teachings of Confucius, until he became convinced that Confucianism laid too much emphasis on a burdensome code of rituals and too little on religious teaching, at which time Mozi decided to go his own way. Confucius, from all accounts, was aristocratic by temperament and orientation and dreamed of a return of the calm and peaceful days of pomp and splendour at the beginning of the Zhou dynasty. Mozi, on the other hand, was drawn to the common people and looked much farther back to a life of primitive simplicity and straightforwardness in human relations.

Mozi’s life, however, resembled that of Confucius in many important respects. He was widely read and well versed in the tradition of the Chinese Classics. Except for a brief period when he held public office, Mozi spent most of his life traveling from one feudal state to another in the hope of meeting a prince who would allow him to put his teachings into practice. In the absence of such a prince, he had to be content with maintaining a school and recommending his disciples for administrative positions. He commanded respect partly because he lived a very simple life and was a teacher who took his own teachings seriously. He not only condemned offensive war but also led his followers to distant states to prevent the outbreak of wars by reinforcing the defending state.

The Mozi, the principal work left by Mozi and his followers, contains the essence of his political, ethical, and religious teachings. The gist of it is found in the three sets of chapters of its second section, which give an overview of the 10 major tenets: “exaltation of the virtuous,” “identification with the superior,” “undifferentiated love,” “condemnation of offensive war,” “economy of expenditures,” “simplicity in funerals,” “will of heaven,” “on ghosts,” “denunciation of music as a wasteful activity,” and “antifatalism.” Since Mohism split into three schools after Mozi’s death, the three sets of chapters may well represent the three sets of texts preserved by the three schools. The other sections of the Mozi might be listed as follows: (1) summaries and abstracts of Mozi’s teachings, (2) discussions on logic and physical sciences, (3) records of Mozi’s doings and sayings, and (4) a manual of military defense.

As a thinker, Mozi was distinctive in his insistence on methodology. He insisted that standards of judgment be established, and his criteria may be summarized as the threefold test and the fourfold standard. The threefold test reminded thinkers that the basis, verifiability, and applicability of any proposition must be analyzed; the fourfold standard reminded thinkers that one should always assess the benefits any proposition could bring to the country and the people. Benefits were defined as enrichment of the poor, increase of the population, removal of danger, and regulation of disorder. To Mozi the tests and standards were indispensable. Generalizing further, Mozi declared that, before anything could be said to be good, it was necessary first to demonstrate what it was good for.

The cornerstone of Mozi’s system was undifferentiated love. If the world is in chaos, he said, it is owing to human selfishness and partiality, and the prescribed cure—in striking parallel with Christianity—is that “partiality should be replaced by universality,” for, “when everyone regards the states and cities of others as he regards his own, no one will attack the others’ state or seize the others’ cities.” The same principle was to be applied to the welfare of the family and of the individual. The peace of the world and the happiness of humanity lie in the practice of undifferentiated love. Many objections—its impracticability, its neglect of the special claims of one’s parents—were raised against this new doctrine, but Mozi demonstrated that the principle of undifferentiated love had in it both utilitarian justification and divine sanction. He spoke of “undifferentiated love and mutual profit” in one breath, and he was convinced that this principle was both the way of man and the way of heaven (tian).

Mozi’s stand on religion makes him exceptional among Chinese philosophers. His call to the people was for them to return to the faith of their fathers. He might be said to be a revivalist, a champion of religious orthodoxy with a personal god. To Mozi, there is heaven, heaven has a will, and this will of heaven is to be obeyed by human beings and accepted as the unifying standard of human thought and action: “What is the will of heaven that is to be obeyed? It is to love all the people in the world without distinction.” Heaven not only “desires righteousness and abominates unrighteousness” but also metes out reward and punishment accordingly. The system of Mozi, with its gospel of undifferentiated love and the ascetic discipline as exemplified by his own life, soon after the master’s death, was embodied in an organized church with a succession of Elder Masters and a considerable body of devotees. The religion prospered for several generations before completely disappearing.

The teachings of Mozi, however, continued to be held in high respect for several centuries. Down to the beginning of the 2nd century bce, writers referred to Confucianism and Mohism in one breath as the two leading schools of thought. But from that time, Mohism suddenly disappeared from the intellectual scene. Critics have generally agreed in admiring the high-minded character of Mozi himself but considered his teachings overdemanding and contrary to human nature. It was not until the encounter with Western learning in the 19th century that Mozi was rediscovered and his teachings reappraised.

Yi Pao Mei


Ch’in and Han dynasties: 221 bc–ad 220


Following the unification of the empire by the Ch’in dynasty (221–206 bc) and the continuation of the unified empire under the Han, literary activities took new directions. At the Imperial and feudal courts, the fu genre, a combination of rhyme and prose, began to flourish. Long and elaborate descriptive poetic compositions, the fu were in form a continuation of the Ch’u elegies, now made to serve a different purpose—the amusement of the new aristocracy and the glorification of the empire—by dwelling on such topics as the low table and the folding screen or on descriptions of the capital cities. But even the best fu writing, by such masters of the art as Mei Sheng and Ssu-ma Hsiang-ju, bordered on the frivolous and bombastic. Another major fu writer, Yang Hsiung, in the prime of his career remorsefully realized that the genre was a minor craft not worthy of a true poet. Nonetheless, the fu was almost universally accepted as the norm of creative writing, and nearly 1,000 pieces were produced.

A more important contribution to literature by the Han government was the reactivation in 125 bc of the Yeh Fu, or Music Bureau, which had been established at least a century earlier to collect songs and their musical scores. Besides temple and court compositions of ceremonial verse, this office succeeded in preserving a number of songs sung or chanted by the ordinary people, including songs from the border areas, which reveal alien influences. This category—called yeh-fu, for the Music Bureau—includes not only touching lyrics but also charming ballads.

One such ballad, “The Orphan,” tells of an orphan’s hardships and disappointments; the form of the poem—lines of irregular length, varying from three to six syllables (or graphs)—represents the singer’s attempt to simulate the choking voice of the sufferers. Lo-fu hsing (“The Song of Lo-fu”; also called Mo-shang sang, “Roadside Mulberry Tree”), recounts how a pretty young lady declined a carriage ride offered her by a government commissioner. The most outstanding folk ballad of this period is K’ung-ch’eh tung-nan fei (“Southeast the Peacock Flies”). The longest poem of early Chinese literature (353 lines), it relates the tragedy of a young married couple who had committed suicide as the result of the cruelty of the husband’s mother. The ballad was probably first sung shortly after ad 200 and grew by accretion and refinement in oral transmission until it was recorded in final form for the first time in about 550. Yeh-fu songs, most of which are made up mainly of five-syllable lines, became the fountainhead of a new type of poetry, ku-shih (“ancient-style poems”); contemporary Han dynasty poets at first merely refined the originals of the folk songs without claiming credit and later imitated their fresh and lively metre.


Prose literature was further developed during the Ch’in and Han dynasties. In addition to a prolific output of philosophers and political thinkers—a brilliant representative of whom is Liu An, prince of Huai-nan, whose work is called Huai-nan-tzu (c. 140 bc; “The Master of Huai-nan”)—an important and monumental category of Han dynasty literature consists of historical works. Outstanding among these is the Shih-chi (c. 85 bc; “Historical Records,” Eng. trans., The Records of the Grand Historian of China, 2 vol.) by Ssu-ma Ch’ien. A masterpiece that took 18 years to produce, it deals with major events and personalities of about 2,000 years (down to the author’s time), comprising 130 chapters and totaling more than 520,000 words. The Shih-chi was not only the first general history of its kind attempted in China, it also set a pattern in organization for dynastic histories of subsequent ages. An artist as well as a historian, Ssu-ma Ch’ien succeeded in making events and personalities of the past into living realities for his readers; his biographies subsequently became models for authors of both fiction and history. Ssu-ma’s great successor, the poet-historian-soldier Pan Ku, author of the Han shu (“Han Documents”), a history of the Former Han dynasty containing more than 800,000 words, performed a similar tour de force but did not equal Ssu-ma Ch’ien in either scope or style.

Pan Ku’s prose style, though not necessarily archaic, was more consciously literary—a result of the ever-widening gap between the spoken and written aspects of the language. This anomaly was more evident in China than elsewhere, and it was to have far-reaching effects on the evolution of Chinese literary tradition. In an attempt to resolve the difficulties of communication among speakers of many dialects in the empire, a standard literary language, wen-yen, was promoted from the Han dynasty on. Perpetuated for more than 2,000 years, the literary language failed to keep pace with changes in the spoken tongue, and eventually it became almost unintelligible to the illiterate masses.


The Six Dynasties and Sui dynasty: ad 220–618

After the fall of the Han dynasty, there was a long period of political division (ad 220–589), with barely four decades of precarious unification (ad 280–316/17). Despite the social and political confusion and military losses, however, the cultural scene was by no means dismal. Several influences on the development of literature are noteworthy. First, Buddhism, introduced earlier, had brought with it religious chants and Indian music, which helped to attune Chinese ears to the finer distinctions of tonal qualities in their own language. Second, aggressive northern tribes, who invaded and dominated the northern half of the country from 316, were being culturally absorbed and converted. Third, the political division of the empire between the South and the North (as a result of the domination of non-Chinese in the north) led to an increase in cultural differences and to a subsequent rivalry to uphold what was regarded as cultural orthodoxy, frequently resulting in literary antiquarianism.


Folk songs flourished in both regions. In the South, popular love songs, originating in the coastal areas, which now came increasingly under Chinese political and cultural domination, attracted the attention of poets and critics. The songs of the North were more militant. Reflecting this spirit most fully is the Mu-lan shih (“Ballad of Mu Lan”), which sings of a girl who disguised herself as a warrior and won glory on the battlefield.

Soon the number of writers of “literary” poetry greatly increased. Among them, two poets deserve special mention. Ts’ao Chih (3rd century), noted for his ethereal lyricism, gave definite artistic form to the poetry of the five-syllable line, already popularized in folk song. T’ao Ch’ien (4th–5th centuries), also known as T’ao Yan-ming, is one of China’s major poets and was the greatest of this period. A recluse, he retired from a post in the bureaucracy of the Chin dynasty at the age of 33 to farm, contemplate nature, and write poetry. His verse, written in a plain style, was echoed by many poets who came after him. Using several verse forms with seemingly effortless ease—including the fu, for Kuei-ch’-lai tz’u (“Homeward Bound”)—he was representative of the trend of the age to explore various genres for lyrical expression. One of his best loved poems is the following ku-shih, translated by Arthur Waley; it is one of 12 he wrote at different times after he had been drinking.

I built my hut in a zone of human habitation,
Yet near me there sounds no noise of horse or coach.
Would you know how this is possible?
A heart that is distant creates a wilderness round it.
I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge,
Then gaze long at the distant hills.
The mountain air is fresh at the dusk of day;
The flying birds two by two return.
In these things there lies a deep meaning;
Yet when we would express it, words suddenly fail us.

T’ao Ch’ien

Tao Qian, Wade-Giles romanization T’ao Ch’ien, also called Tao Yuanming, courtesy name (zi) Yuanliang (b. 365, Xunyang [now Jiujiang, Jiangxi province], China—d. 427, Xunyang), one of China’s greatest poets and a noted recluse.

Born into an impoverished aristocratic family, Tao Qian took a minor official post while in his 20s in order to support his aged parents. After about 10 years at that post and a brief term as county magistrate, he resigned from official life, repelled by its excessive formality and widespread corruption. With his wife and children he retired to a farming village south of the Yangtze River. Despite the hardships of a farmer’s life and frequent food shortages, Tao was contented, writing poetry, cultivating the chrysanthemums that became inseparably associated with his poetry, and drinking wine, also a common subject of his verse.

Because the taste of Tao’s contemporaries was for an elaborate and artificial style, his simple and straightforward poetry was not fully appreciated until the Tang dynasty (618–907). A master of the five-word line, Tao has been described as the first great poet of tianyuan (“fields and gardens”), landscape poetry inspired by pastoral scenes (as opposed to the then-fashionable shanshui [“mountains and rivers”] poetry). Essentially a Daoist in his philosophical outlook on life and death, he also freely adopted the elements of Confucianism and Buddhism that most appealed to him.


As orthodox Confucianism gradually yielded to Taoism and later to Buddhism, nearly all of the major writers began to cultivate an uninhibited individuality. Lu Chi, 3rd-century poet and critic, in particular emphasized the importance of originality in creative writing and discredited the long-established practice of imitating the great masters of the past. Still, his celebrated essay on literature (Wen fu), in which he enunciated this principle, was written as a fu, showing after all that he was a child of his own age. The 3rd/4th-century Taoist philosopher Ko Hung insisted that technique is no less essential to a writer than moral integrity. The revolt of the age against conventionality was revealed in the new vogue of ch’ing-t’an (“pure conversation”), intellectual discussions on lofty and nonmundane matters, recorded in a 5th-century collection of anecdotes entitled Shih-shuo hsin-y (“A New Account of Tales of the World”) by Liu Yi-ch’ing. Though prose writers as a whole continued to be most concerned with lyrical expression and rhetorical devices for artistic effect, there were notable deviations from the prevailing usage in the polyphonic p’ien-wen (“parallel prose”). In this form, parallel construction of pairs of sentences and counterbalancing of tonal patterns were the chief requirements. P’ien-wen was used especially in works concerned with philosophical disputes and in religious controversies; but it was also used in the first book-length work of literary criticism, Wen-hsin tiao-lung (“The Literary Mind and the Carving of the Dragon”), by the 6th-century writer Liu Hsieh.

Among prose masters of the 6th century, two northerners deserve special mention: Yang Hsien-chih, author of Lo-yang Chia-lan chi (“Record of Buddhist Temples in Lo-yang”), and Li Tao-yan, author of Shui Ching chu (“Commentary on the Water Classic”). Although both of these works seem to have been planned to serve a practical, utilitarian purpose, they are magnificent records of contemporary developments and charming storehouses of accumulated folklore, written with great spontaneity and artistry. This age also witnessed the first impact of Buddhist literature in Chinese translation, which had been growing in size and variety since the 2nd century.


T’ang and Five Dynasties: 618–960

During the T’ang dynasty (618–907), Chinese literature reached its golden age.


In poetry, the greatest glory of the period, all the verse forms of the past were freely adopted and refined, and new forms were crystallized. One new form was perfected early in the dynasty and given the definitive name l-shih (“regulated verse”). A poem of this kind consists of eight lines of five or seven syllables—each line set down in accordance with strict tonal patterns—calling for parallel structure in the middle, or second and third, couplets.

Another verse form much in vogue was the cheh-ch (“truncated verse”). An outgrowth and a shortened version of the l-shih, it omitted either the first four lines, the last four lines, the first two and the last two lines, or the middle four lines. Thus, the tonal quality of the l-shih was retained, whereas antithetic structure was made optional. These poems of four lines, each consisting of five or seven words (syllables or characters), had to depend for their artistry on suggestiveness and economy comparable to the robāʾīyāt (“quatrains”) of Omar Khayyam and the Japanese haiku.

The fine distinctions of tonal variations in the spoken language had reached their height during this period, with eight tones; and rules and regulations concerning the sequence of lighter and heavier tones had been formulated. But since the observance of strict rules of prosody was not mandatory in the ku-shih (“ancient style”) form still in use, it was possible for an individual poet to enjoy conformity or freedom as he saw fit.

Of the more than 2,200 T’ang poets whose works—totaling more than 48,900 pieces—have been preserved, only a few can be mentioned. Wang Wei, a musician and the traditional father of monochrome landscape painting, was also a great poet. Influenced by Buddhism, he wrote exquisite meditative verse of man’s relation to nature that exemplified his own dictum that poetry should have the beauty of painting and vice versa. Li Po, one of the two major poets of the T’ang dynasty, a lover of detachment and freedom, deliberately avoided the l-shih and chose the less formal verse forms to sing of friendship or wine. An example is the poem “To Tan-Ch’iu,” translated by Arthur Waley.

My friend is lodging high in the Eastern Range,
Dearly loving the beauty of valleys and hills.
At green Spring he lies in the empty woods,
And is still asleep when the sun shines on high.
A pine-tree wind dusts his sleeves and coat;
A pebbly stream cleans his heart and ears.
I envy you, who far from strife and talk
Are high-propped on a pillow of blue cloud.

Generally considered the greatest poet of China was Tu Fu, a keen observer of the political and social scene who criticized injustice wherever he found it and who clearly understood the nature of the great upheaval following the rebellion of dissatisfied generals in 755, which was a turning point in the fortunes of the T’ang. As an artist, Tu Fu excelled in all verse forms, transcending all rules and regulations in prosody while conforming to and exploiting them. His power and passion can perhaps be suggested by a single line (translated by Robert Payne): “Blue is the smoke of war, white the bones of men.”

One of the admirers of Tu Fu as a poet-historian was Po Ch-i who, like his great predecessor, was deeply concerned with the social problems of his age. Po Ch-i sought to learn from ordinary folk not only naturalness of language but also their feelings and reactions, especially at the height of his career when he wrote what he called the Hsin yeh-fu shih (“New Yeh-fu Poems”).

At the end of the T’ang and during the Five Dynasties, another new verse form developed. Composed normally of lines of irregular length and written as lyrics to musical tunes, this form came to be known as tz’u, in contrast with shih, which includes all the verse forms mentioned above. Since the lines in a tz’u might vary from one to nine or even 11 syllables, they were comparable to the natural rhythm of speech and therefore easily understood when sung.

First sung by ordinary folk, they were popularized by professional women singers and, during the T’ang, attracted the attention of poets. It was not, however, until the transitional period of the Five Dynasties (907–960), a time of division and strife, that tz’u became the major vehicle of lyrical expression. Of tz’u poets in this period, the greatest was Li Y, last monarch of the Southern T’ang, who was seized in 976 as the new Sung dynasty consolidated its power. Li Y’s tz’u poetry is saturated with a tragic nostalgia for better days in the South; it is suffused with sadness—a new depth of feeling notably absent from earlier tz’u, which had been sung at parties and banquets. The following is typical, translated by Jerome Ch’en and Michael Bullock:

Lin hua hsieh liao ch’un hung
T’ai ch’ung ch’ung
Wu nai chao lai han y wan lai feng
Yen chih lei
Hsiang liu tsui
Chi shih ch’ung
Tzu shih jen sheng ch’ang hen shui ch’ang tung

The red of the spring orchard has faded.
Far too soon!
The blame is often laid
on the chilling rain at dawn
and the wind at dusk.
The rouged tears
That intoxicate and hold in thrall—
When will they fall again?
As a river drifts toward the east
So painful life passes to its bitter end.

Li Po


Li Bai, also spelled Li Bo, Wade-Giles romanization Li Pai or Li Po, courtesy name (zi) Taibai, literary name (hao) Qinglian Jushi (b. 701, Jiangyou, Sichuan province, China—d. 762, Dangtu, Anhui province), Chinese poet who rivaled Du Fu for the title of China’s greatest poet.

Li Bai liked to regard himself as belonging to the imperial family, but he actually belonged to a less exalted family of the same surname. At age 24 he left home for a period of wandering, after which he married and lived with his wife’s family in Anlu (now in Hubei province). He had already begun to write poetry, some of which he showed to various officials in the vain hope of becoming employed as a secretary. After another nomadic period, in 742 he arrived at Chang’an, the Tang dynasty capital, no doubt hoping to be given a post at court. No official post was forthcoming, but he was accepted into a group of distinguished court poets. In the autumn of 744 he began his wanderings again.

In 756 Li Bai became unofficial poet laureate to the military expedition of Prince Lin, the emperor’s 16th son. The prince was soon accused of intending to establish an independent kingdom and was executed; Li Bai was arrested and imprisoned at Jiujiang. In the summer of 758 he was banished to Yelang; before he arrived there, he benefited from a general amnesty. He returned to eastern China, where he died in a relative’s house, though popular legend says that he drowned when, sitting drunk in a boat, he tried to seize the moon’s reflection in the water.

Li Bai was a romantic in his view of life and in his verse. One of the most famous wine drinkers in China’s long tradition of imbibers, Li Bai frequently celebrated the joy of drinking. He also wrote of friendship, solitude, the passage of time, and the joys of nature with brilliance and great freshness of imagination.



Du Fu

Du Fu, Wade-Giles romanization Tu Fu, also called Du Gongbu or Du Shaoling, courtesy name (zi) Zimei (b. 712, Gongxian, Henan province, China—d. 770, on a riverboat between Danzhou [now Changsha] and Yueyang, Hunan province), Chinese poet, considered by many literary critics to be the greatest of all time.

Born into a scholarly family, Du Fu received a traditional Confucian education but failed in the imperial examinations of 735. As a result, he spent much of his youth traveling. During his travels he won renown as a poet and met other poets of the period, including the great Li Bai. After a brief flirtation with Daoism while traveling with Li Bai, Du Fu returned to the capital and to the conventional Confucianism of his youth. He never again met Li Bai, despite his strong admiration for his older, freewheeling contemporary.

During the 740s Du Fu was a well-regarded member of a group of high officials, even though he was without money and official position himself and failed a second time in an imperial examination. He married, probably in 741. Between 751 and 755 he tried to attract imperial attention by submitting a succession of literary products that were couched in a language of ornamental flattery, a device that eventually resulted in a nominal position at court. In 755 during An Lushan’s rebellion, Du Fu experienced extreme personal hardships. He escaped, however, and in 757 joined the exiled court, being given the position of censor. His memoranda to the emperor do not appear to have been particularly welcome; he was eventually relieved of his post and endured another period of poverty and hunger. Wandering about until the mid-760s, he briefly served a local warlord, a position that enabled him to acquire some land and to become a gentleman farmer, but in 768 he again started traveling aimlessly toward the south. Popular legend attributes his death (on a riverboat on the Xiang River) to overindulgence in food and wine after a 10-day fast.

Du Fu’s early poetry celebrated the beauty of the natural world and bemoaned the passage of time. He soon began to write bitingly of war—as in “Bingqu xing” (“The Ballad of the Army Carts” ), a poem about conscription—and with hidden satire—as in “Liren xing” (“The Beautiful Woman” ), which speaks of the conspicuous luxury of the court. As he matured, and especially during the tumultuous period of 755 to 759, his verse began to sound a note of profound compassion for humanity caught in the grip of senseless war.

Du Fu’s paramount position in the history of Chinese literature rests on his superb classicism. He was highly erudite, and his intimate acquaintance with the literary tradition of the past was equaled only by his complete ease in handling the rules of prosody. His dense, compressed language makes use of all the connotative overtones of a phrase and of all the intonational potentials of the individual word, qualities that no translation can ever reveal. He was an expert in all poetic genres current in his day, but his mastery was at its height in the lshi, or “regulated verse,” which he refined to a point of glowing intensity.



Po Ch-i

Bai Juyi, also spelled Bo Juyi, Wade-Giles romanization Pai Ch-i or Po Ch-i, courtesy name (zi) Letian, literary name (hao) Xiangshan Jushi (b. 772, Xinzheng, Henan province, China—d. 846, Luoyang, Henan province), Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty (618–907) who used his elegantly simple verse to protest the social evils of his day, including corruption and militarism.

Bai Juyi began composing poetry at age five. Because of his father’s death in 794 and straitened family circumstances, Bai did not take the official examinations for the bureaucracy until the late age of 28. He passed them and also did extremely well at another examination he took two years later. As a result, he was given a minor post at the palace library, as was another successful examination candidate and poet, Yuan Zhen. They shared views on the need for both literary and political reform, and their lifelong friendship became perhaps the most famous in Chinese history. In 807 Bai became a member of the prestigious Hanlin Academy in Chang’an, the capital, and he rose steadily in official life, except for his banishment in 814 to a minor post at Jiujiang, which arose from the slander of rival courtiers. He assumed the important posts of governor of Zhongzhou (818), Hangzhou (822), and, later, Suzhou. In 829 he became mayor of Luoyang, the eastern capital, but he retired from that post in 842 because of illness.

Bai was the informal leader of a group of poets who rejected the courtly style of the time and emphasized the didactic function of literature, believing that every literary work should contain a fitting moral and a well-defined social purpose. He considered his most important contributions to be his satirical and allegorical ballads and his “new yuefu,” which usually took the form of free verse based on old folk ballads. The most prolific of the Tang poets, Bai aimed for simplicity in his writing, and—like Du Fu, a great Tang poet of the preceding generation whom Bai greatly admired—he was deeply concerned with the social problems of the time; he deplored the dissolute and decadent lifestyles of corrupt officials and sympathized with the sufferings of the poor. Many of Bai’s poems are quoted in the Japanese classic The Tale of Genji.



Li Y

Li Yu, Wade-Giles romanization Li Y, also known as Li Houzhu, courtesy name (zi) Chongguang (b. 937, Jinling [now Nanjing, Jiangsu province], China—d. August 15(?), 978, Bianjing [now Kaifeng], Henan province), Chinese poet and the last ruler of the Southern Tang dynasty (937–975).

Li Yu succeeded his poet father, Li Jing, as ruler in 961. His country was invaded in 974 by Taizu, founder of the Song dynasty (960–1279). When Li Yu’s capital, Jinling, fell the next year, he surrendered and was taken to the Song capital, Bianjing. There he was given a nominal title, but his life was one of misery. After Taizu died in 976, his brother and successor, Taizong, had Li Yu poisoned.

Li Yu was a master of the ci song form. More than 30 of his lyrics have survived. His earlier poems reflect the gay and luxurious life at his court, though some are tinged with romantic melancholy. His middle poems are those written from the time of his wife’s death (964) to his captivity (975). He achieved his greatness, however, in his later poems in which he expressed his grief and despair at the loss of his kingdom. The direct and powerful emotional appeal of these later works has won them lasting popularity. In addition to being a poet, Li Yu was also a painter, calligrapher, collector, and musician.

Folk literature

Besides the early tz’u, the end of the T’ang saw the evolution of another new folk form: pien-wen (“popularizations,” not to be confused with p’ien-wen, or parallel prose), utilizing both prose and verse to retell episodes from the Buddha’s life and, later, non-Buddhist stories from Chinese history and folklore.


In prose writing a major reform was led by Han Y against the peculiarly artificial prose style of p’ien-wen, which, cultivated for almost 1,000 years, had become so burdened with restrictive rules as to make forthright expression virtually impossible. Han Y boldly advocated the use of Chou philosophers and early Han writers as models for prose writing. This seemingly conservative reform had, in fact, a liberalizing effect; for the sentence unit in prose writing was now given perfect freedom to seek its own length and structural pattern as logic and content might dictate, instead of slavishly conforming to the rules of p’ien-wen. This new freedom enabled Liu Tsung-yan, Han Y’s chief associate in the literary reform, to write charming travel and landscape pieces. It also accelerated the development of a new genre in prose: well-made tales of love and romance, of heroic feats and adventures, of the mysterious and supernatural, and of imaginary incidents and fictionalized history. Among the 9th-century writers of such prose romances were Han Y’s pupil Shen Ya-chih and Po Hsing-chien, younger brother of the poet Po Ch-i. These prose romances, generally short, were written in the classical prose style for the amusement of the literati and did not reach the masses until some of the popular ones were adapted by playwrights in later ages.

Sung dynasty: 960–1279

The Sung dynasty was marked by cultural advancement and military weakness. During this period, literary output was spectacularly increased, thanks mainly to the improvement of printing (invented in the 8th century) and to the establishment of public schools throughout the empire (from 1044). Nearly all the literary genres in verse and prose were continued; and some trends, begun in T’ang times, were accelerated.


In prose, the reform initiated by Han Y in the name of ancient, more straightforward style (ku-wen) was reemphasized by such 11th-century writers as Ou-yang Hsiu and Su Tung-p’o. Both men held high rank in the civil service and were great painters as well as leading poets. Nevertheless, their contribution to prose writing in ku-wen style was as important as their poetry. The ku-wen movement was further supported by men whose primary interest was not belles lettres, such as Ssu-ma Kuang, the statesman-historian, and Chu Hsi, the scholar-philosopher and principal formulator of Neo-Confucianism.

In prose fiction there were two distinct trends. Short tales in ku-wen were written in ever greater bulk but failed to maintain the level achieved in the T’ang dynasty. The subject matter became more fragmentary and anecdotal and the style duller. In sharp contrast to the ku-wen school, which was still a literary language despite the movement toward naturalness of expression, there arose a school of storytelling in the vernacular. Almost purely oral in origin, these tales reflected the style of the storyteller who entertained audiences gathered in marketplaces, fairgrounds, or temple yards. In the 12th century they became fairly lengthy, connected stories, especially those dealing with fictionalized history. This elevation of the everyday speech of the common people as a medium of story writing of the hua-pen (“vernacular story”) type was to open up new vistas in prose fiction in later periods.


Poetry of the conventional type (shih) was cultivated by numerous rival schools, each claiming many illustrious members. On the whole, the rival literary movements were significant as steps toward greater naturalness in syntax, and a few outstanding writers approximated the spoken vernacular language. Among the many shih poets of the Sung dynasty, Lu Yu, who flourished in the 12th century, was a towering figure. A traveler and patriot, he wrote throughout his long career no fewer than 20,000 poems, of which more than 9,000 have been preserved.

But it was in their utilization of the newer verse form, tz’u, that Sung poets achieved their greatest distinction, making tz’u the major genre of the dynasty. As noted above, the tz’u form had been popularized at first orally by women singers; and the first generation of tz’u writers had been inspired and guided by them in sentiment, theme, and diction; their lyrics were thus redolent with the fragrance of these women. Later in the 12th century, as men (and one great woman) of letters began to take over, the tz’u form reached the heights of great art. Ou-yang Hsiu and Li Ch’ing-chao, the latter generally considered the greatest woman poet of China, may be considered representatives of this trend. Li Ch’ing-chao’s poems, paralleling her life, are intensely personal. They at first dealt with the joys of love, but gradually their tone darkened to one of despair, caused first by frequent and lengthy separations from her husband, who was in government service, and then by his untimely death.

Other masters of the tz’u were Su Tung-p’o and Hsin Ch’i-chi, the latter a soldier turned recluse. It was Hsin Ch’i-chi who imbued the writing of tz’u with new characteristics by rising above rules without breaking them, surpassing in this respect his contemporaries as well as those who came after him.

Yan dynasty: 1206–1368

Fleeing from the Chin (Juchen) Tatars, who captured their capital in 1127, the Sung officials and courtiers retreated southward. For almost a century and a half, China was again divided. And in spite of political reunification by Kublai Khan, founder of the Yan, or Mongol, dynasty (beginning in 1206 in the North and comprising the whole of China by 1280), the cultural split persisted. In the South, where China’s historic traditions found asylum, racial and cultural homogeneity persisted. In fact, the centre of Chinese philosophy and traditional literature never again returned north of the Yangtze Delta. But in the North new developments arose, which led to wholly new departures. First, the migration and fusion of the various ethnic groups gave birth to a common spoken language with fewer tones, which later was to become the basis of a national language; second, with the southward shift of the centre of traditional culture, the prestige of the old literature began to decline in the North, especially in the eyes of the conquerors. Thus, in contrast to the South, North China under the Yan dynasty provided a unique milieu for unconventional literary activities.


In this period, dramatic literature came into a belated full flowering. The skits and vaudeville acts, the puppet shows and shadow plays of previous ages had laid the foundation for a full-fledged drama; but the availability of Indian and Iranian models during the Yan dynasty may have been a more immediate cause for its accelerated growth. Many Chinese men of letters refused to cooperate with the alien government, seeking refuge in painting and writing. As the new literary type developed—the drama of four or five acts, complete with prologue and epilogue and including songs and dialogue in language fairly close to the daily speech of the people—many men of letters turned to playwriting. Between 1234 and 1368, more than 1,700 musical plays were written and staged, and 105 dramatists were recorded; moreover, there is an undetermined number of anonymous playwrights whose unsigned works have been preserved but discovered only in the 20th century. This remarkable burst of literary innovation, however, failed to win the respect of the orthodox critics and official historians. No mention of it was made in the copious dynastic history, Yan shih; and casual references in the collected works of contemporary writers were few. Many plays were allowed to fall into oblivion. It was not until 1615 that a bibliophile undertook to reprint, as a collection, 100 of the 200 plays he had seen. Even after ardent searches by 20th-century librarians and specialists, the number of extant Yan dramas has been increased to only 167, hardly 10 percent of the number produced. Moreover, since the musical scores have been lost, the plays cannot be produced on the stage in the original manner.

Among the Yan dramatists, the following deserve special mention. Kuan Han-ch’ing, the author of some 60 plays, was the first to achieve distinction. His Tou-o yan (“Injustice Suffered by Tou-o”) deals with the deprivations and injustices suffered by the heroine, Tou-o, which begin when she is widowed shortly after her marriage to a poor scholar and culminate in her execution for a crime she has not committed. Wang Shih-fu, Kuan’s contemporary, wrote Hsi-hsiang chi (Romance of the Western Chamber), based on a popular T’ang prose romance about the amorous exploits of the poet Yan Chen, renamed Chang Chun-jui in the play. Besides its literary merits and its influence on later drama, it is notable for its length, two or three times that of the average Yan play. Ma Chih-yan, another contemporary, wrote 14 plays, of which the most celebrated is Han-kung ch’iu (“Sorrow of the Han Court”). It deals with the tragedy of a Han dynasty court lady, Wang Chao-chn, who, through the intrigue of a vicious portrait painter, was picked by mistake to be sent away to Central Asia as a chieftain’s consort. Like the Romance of the Western Chamber, this play has been translated into western European languages.

This new literary genre acquired certain distinct characteristics: (1) All extant compositions may be described as operas; (2) each play normally consists of four acts following a prologue; (3) the language of both the dialogue (for the most part in prose) and the arias—which alternate throughout the play—are fairly close to the daily speech of ordinary people; (4) all of the arias are in rhymed verse, and only one end rhyme is used throughout an act; (5) all of the arias in an act are sung by only one actor; (6) nearly all of the plays have a happy ending; (7) the characters in most of the plays are people of the middle and underprivileged classes—poor scholars, bankrupt merchants, Buddhist nuns, peasants, thieves, kidnappers, abductors, and women entertainers—antedating a similar trend in European drama by nearly four centuries.

At least 12 of the playwrights thus far identified were Sinicized members of originally non-Chinese ethnic groups—Mongols, Juchens, Uighurs, and other Central Asians.


Another literary innovation, preceding but later interacting with the rise of the drama, was a new verse form known as san-ch’ (“nondramatic songs”), a liberalization of the tz’u, which utilized the spoken language of the people as fully as possible. Although line length and tonal pattern were still governed by a given tune, extra words could be inserted to make the lyrics livelier and to clarify the relationship between phrases and clauses of the poem. The major dramatists were all masters of this genre.


Vernacular fiction

Similarly, fiction writers who wrote in a semivernacular style began to emerge, continuing the tradition of storytellers of the past or composing lengthy works of fiction written almost entirely in the vernacular. All of the early pieces of this type of book-length fiction were poorly printed and anonymously or pseudonymously published. Although many early works were attributed to such authors as Lo Kuan-chung, there is little reliable evidence of his authorship in any extant work. These novels exist in numerous, vastly different versions that can best be described as the products of long evolutionary cycles involving several authors and editors. The best known of the works attributed to Lo are San-kuo chih yen-i (Romance of the Three Kingdoms), Shui-hu chuan (The Water Margin), and P’ing-yao chuan (“The Subjugation of the Evil Phantoms”). The best of the three from a literary standpoint is the Shui-hu chuan, which gives full imaginative treatment to a long accretion of stories and anecdotes woven around a number of enlightened bandits—armed social and political dissenters.

Lo Kuan-chung

Luo Guanzhong, Wade-Giles romanization Lo Kuan-chung, original name Luo Ben, also called Luo Guan and Luo Daobun, courtesy name (zi) Guanzhong (b. c. 1330, Taiyuan?, Shanxi province, China—d. c. 1400, Hangzhou?, Zhejiang province), Chinese writer who traditionally has been credited as the author of the classic Chinese novels Sanguozhi yanyi (Three Kingdoms) and Shuihuzhuan (Water Margin, or All Men Are Brothers).

Almost nothing is known about the life of Luo. His authorship of Sanguozhi yanyi and Shuihuzhuan (the latter possibly written jointly with Shi Naian), however, is now largely disputed. The first work is a historical narrative, while the second is a semi-historical picaresque novel about a band of outlaws, written in the colloquial style. Both works enjoy continued popularity among Chinese readers.

Ming dynasty: 1368–1644

The Yan dynasty was succeeded by the Ming dynasty, under which cultural influences from the South—expressed in movements toward cultural orthodoxy—again became important. Nearly all the major poets and prose writers in traditional literature were southerners, who enthusiastically launched and supported antiquarian movements based on a return to models of various ages of the past. With the restoration of competitive literary examinations, which had been virtually discontinued under the Mongols, the highly schematic pa-ku wen-chang (“eight-legged essay”) was adopted as the chief yardstick in measuring a candidate’s literary attainments. Despite occasional protests, it continued to engage the attention of aspirants to official literary honours from 1487 to 1901.

Classical literature

Although Ming poets wrote both shih and tz’u and their output was prodigious, poetry on the whole was imitative rather than freshly creative. Tirelessly, the poets produced verses imitating past masters, with few individually outstanding attainments.

Prose writers in the classical style were also advocates of antiquarianism and conscious imitators of the great masters of past ages. Rival schools were formed, but few writers were able to rise above the ruts of conventionalism. The Ch’in-Han school tried to underrate the achievements of Han Y and Liu Tsung-yan, along with the Sung essayists, and proudly declared that post-Han prose was not worth reading. The T’ang-Sung school, on the other hand, accused its opponents of limited vision and reemphasized Han Y’s dictum that literature should be the vehicle of Tao, equated with the way of life taught by orthodox Confucianism. These continuous squabbles ultimately led nowhere, and the literary products were only exquisite imitations of their respective models.

The first voice of protest against antiquarianism was not heard until the end of the 16th century; it came from the Kung-an school, named for the birthplace of three brothers, of whom the middle one was the best known. Yan Hung-tao challenged all of the prevailing literary trends, advocating that literature should change with each age and that any attempt at erasing the special stamp of an era could result only in slavish imitation. Declaring that he could not smile and weep with the multitude, he singled out “substantiality” and “honesty with oneself” as the chief prerequisites of a good writer.

This same spirit of revolt was shared by Chung Hsing and T’an Yan-ch’un, of a later school, who were so unconventional that they explored the possibilities of writing intelligibly without observing Chinese grammatical usages. Although their influence was not long lasting, these two schools set the first examples of a new subgenre in prose—the familiar essay.

Vernacular literature

It was in vernacular literature that the writers of this period made a real contribution. In drama, a tradition started in the Sung dynasty and maintained in southern China during the period of Mongol domination was revitalized. This southern drama, also musical and known as ch’uan-ch’i (“tales of marvels”), had certain special traits: (1) a ch’uan-ch’i play contains from 30 to 40 changes of scene; (2) the change of end rhymes in the arias is free and frequent; (3) the singing is done by many actors instead of by the hero or heroine alone; (4) many plots, instead of being extracted from history or folklore, are taken from contemporary life.

Since there were no rules regulating the structure of the ch’uan-ch’i, playlets approaching the one-act variety were also written. This southern theatre movement, at first largely carried on by anonymous amateurs, won support gradually from the literati until finally, in the 16th century, a new and influential school was formed under the leadership of the poet-singer Liang Ch’en-y and his friend the great actor Wei Liang-fu. The K’un school, initiating a style of soft singing and subtle music, was to dominate the theatre to the end of the 18th century.

Aside from drama and ta-ch’ (a suite of melodies sung in narration of stories), which in the South were noticeably modified in spirit and structure, becoming more ornate and bookish—it was prose fiction that made the greatest progress in the 16th century. Two important novels took shape at that time. Wu Ch’eng-en’s Hsi-yu chi is a fictionalized account of the pilgrimage of the Chinese monk Hsan-tsang to India in the 7th century. The subject matter was not new; it had been used in early hua-pen, or “vernacular story,” books and Yan drama; but it had never been presented at length in such a lively and rapid-moving narration. Of all of the 81 episodes of trial and tribulation experienced by the pilgrim, no two are alike. Among the large number of monsters introduced, each has unique individuality. Like the Shui-hu chuan, it reveals the influence of the style of the oral storytellers, for each chapter ends with the sentence “in case you are interested in what is to follow, please listen to the next installment, which will reveal it.” Unlike the Shui-hu chuan, which was written in a kind of semivernacular, the language used was the vernacular of the living tongue. For the author the choice must have been a deliberate but difficult one, for he had the novel first published anonymously to avoid disapproval. Besides eliciting numerous commentaries and “continuations” in China, it has two English translations.

The title of the second novel (the author of which is unknown), Chin P’ing Mei, is composed of graphs from the names of three female characters. Written in an extremely charming vernacular prose style, the novel is a well-knit, long narrative of the awful debaucheries of the villain Ch’ing Hsi-men. The details of the different facets of life in 16th-century China are so faithfully portrayed that it can be read almost as a documentary social history of that age. The sexual perversions of the characters are so elaborately depicted that several Western translators have rendered a number of indelicate passages in Latin. The novel has been banned in China more than once, and all copies of the first edition of 1610 were destroyed.

Jinpingmei, (Chinese: “Gold Plum Vase”)Wade-Giles romanization Chin-p’ing-mei, the first realistic social novel to appear in China. It is the work of an unknown author of the Ming dynasty, and its earliest extant version is dated 1617. Two English versions were published in 1939 under the titles The Golden Lotus and Chin P’ing Mei: The Adventurous History of Hsi Men and His Six Wives; the first two volumes of a later translation, The Plum in the Golden Vase, were published in 1993 and 2001.

Jinpingmei describes in naturalistic detail the life of the family of a well-to-do businessman, Ximen Qing, who has acquired his wealth largely through dishonest means and who devotes himself to the pursuit of carnal pleasure and heavy drinking. To these ends he acquires six wives and numerous maidservants. Ximen and his fifth wife, Pan Jinlian (Golden Lotus), whom he has acquired by poisoning her first husband, nearly succeed in corrupting the entire household. The first wife, however, remains virtuous and in the end bears a son who becomes a Buddhist monk to atone for his father’s sins. The debauchery of Ximen is related in vivid detail, leading many readers to dismiss the novel as pornography. Others, however, regard the erotic passages as central to the author’s moral purpose of exposing the vanity of pleasure. Despite unofficial censorship because of its eroticism, Jinpingmei became one of China’s most popular novels.

Ch’ing dynasty: 1644–1911/12

The conquest of China by the Manchus, a Mongol people from the region north of China who set up the Ch’ing dynasty in 1644, did not disrupt the continuation of major trends in traditional literature. (During the literary inquisition of the 18th century, however, many books suspected of anti-Manchu sentiments were destroyed; and numerous literati were imprisoned, exiled, or executed.) Antiquarianism dominated literature as before, and excellent poetry and prose in imitation of ancient and medieval masters continued to be written, many works rivaling the originals in archaic beauty and cadence. Although the literary craftsmanship was superb, genuine creativity was rare.

Poetry and prose nonfiction

In the field of tz’u writing, the 17th-century Manchu poet Nara Singde (Sinicized name, Na-lan Hsing-te) was outstanding; but even he lapsed into conscious imitation of Southern T’ang models except when inspired by the vastness of open space and the beauties of nature. In nonfictional prose, Chin Jen-jui continued the familiar essay form.

Prose fiction

P’u Sung-ling continued the prose romance tradition by writing in ku-wen (“classical language”) a series of 431 charming stories of the uncanny and the supernatural entitled Liao-chai chih-i (1766; “Strange Stories from the Liao-chai Studio”; Eng. trans., Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio). This collection, completed in 1679, was reminiscent of the early literary tale tradition, for it contained several T’ang stories retold with embellishments and minor changes to delineate the characters more realistically and to make the plots more probable. Such traditional supernatural beings as fox spirits, assuming in these stories temporary human form in the guise of pretty women, became for the first time in Chinese fiction humanized and likable. Despite the seeming success of these tales, the author soon became aware of the limitations of the ku-wen style for fiction writing and proceeded to produce a vernacular novel of some 1,000,000 words, the Hsing-shihyin-yan chuan (“A Marriage to Awaken the World”). This long story of a shrew and her henpecked husband was told without any suggestion of a solution to the problems of unhappy marriages. Unsure of the reaction of his colleagues to his use of the vernacular as a literary medium, P’u Sung-ling had this longest Chinese novel of the old school published under a pseudonym.

Wu Ching-tzu satirized the 18th-century literati in a realistic masterpiece, Ju-lin wai-shih (c. 1750; “Unofficial History of the Literati”; Eng. trans., The Scholars), 55 chapters loosely strung together in the manner of a picaresque romance. Unlike P’u Sung-ling, whom he far surpassed in both narration and characterization, he adopted the vernacular as his sole medium for fiction writing.

Better known and more widely read was Ts’ao Chan’s Hung-lou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber), a novel of a love triangle and the fall of a great family, also written in the vernacular and the first outstanding piece of Chinese fiction with a tragic ending. Because its lengthy descriptions of poetry contests, which interrupt the narrative, may seem tiresome, especially to non-Chinese readers, they have been largely deleted in Western translations. Nevertheless, some Western critics have considered it one of the world’s finest novels.

P’u Sung-ling

Pu Songling, Wade-Giles romanization P’u Sung-ling, courtesy name (zi) Liuxian, or Jianchen (b. June 5, 1640, Zichuan [now Zibo], Shandong province, China—d. February 25, 1715, Zichuan), Chinese fiction writer whose Liaozhai zhiyi (1766; “Strange Stories from Liaozhai’s Studio”; Eng. trans. Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio) resuscitated the classical genre of short stories.

Pu’s impressive collection of 431 tales of the unusual and supernatural was largely completed by 1679, though he added stories to the manuscript as late as 1707. The work departed from the prevailing literary fashion that was dominated by more realistic huaben stories written in the colloquial language. Pu instead wrote his stories in the classical idiom, freely adopting forms and themes from the old chuanqi (“marvel tales”) of the Tang and Song dynasties.

Although Pu lived and died as an obscure provincial schoolteacher, his work gained fame when it was first printed some 50 years after his death, inspiring many imitations and creating a new vogue for classical stories. He is credited with having adapted several of his tales into “drum songs,” a popular dramatic form of the time. The colloquial novel Xingshi yinyuanzhuan (c. 1644–61; “A Marriage to Awaken the World”; Eng. trans. The Bonds of Matrimony), which realistically portrays an unhappy contemporary marriage, was attributed to him by some scholars.



Ts’ao Chan

Cao Zhan, Wade-Giles romanization Ts’ao Chan, literary name (hao) Xueqin, also called Cao Xueqin (b. 1715?, Jiangning [now Nanjing], Jiangsu province, China—d. February 12, 1763, Beijing), author of Hongloumeng (Dream of the Red Chamber), generally considered China’s greatest novel. A partly autobiographical work, it is written in the vernacular and describes in lingering detail the decline of the powerful Jia family and the ill-fated love between Baoyu and his cousin Lin Daiyu.

Cao was the grandson of Cao Yin, one of the most eminent and wealthy men of his time. In 1727, however, his family, which held the hereditary office of commissioner of imperial textiles in Jiangning, suffered the first of a series of setbacks and moved to Beijing. By 1742 Cao’s contemporaries were reporting him to be living in reduced circumstances and engaged on a work that could hardly be anything other than the Dream. The author finished at least 80 chapters of the novel before his death. The work was said to be completed by Gao E (1738?–1815?).


Dream of the Red Chamber

Dream of the Red Chamber
, Pinyin romanization Hongloumeng, Wade-Giles romanization Hung-lou-meng, novel written by Cao Zhan in the 18th century; it is generally considered to be the greatest of all Chinese novels.

The work, published in English as Dream of the Red Chamber (1929), first appeared in manuscript form in Beijing during Cao Zhan’s lifetime. In 1791, almost 30 years after his death, the novel was published in a complete version of 120 chapters prepared by Cheng Weiyuan and Gao E. Uncertainty remains about the final 40 chapters of the book; they may have been forged by Gao, substantially written by Cao Zhan and simply discovered and put into final form by Cheng and Gao, or perhaps composed by an unknown author. The Story of the Stone (1973–86) is a complete five-volume English translation.

The novel is a blend of realism and romance, psychological motivation and fate, daily life and supernatural occurrences. A series of episodes rather than a strongly plotted work, it details the decline of the Jia family, composed of two main branches, with a proliferation of kinsmen and servants. There are 30 main characters and more than 400 minor ones. The major focus, however, is on young Baoyu, the gifted but obstinate heir of the clan. Spoiled by his mother and grandmother, he is continually reprimanded by his strict Confucian father, who especially abhors Baoyu’s intimacy with his numerous female cousins and maidservants. Most notable among these relations are the melancholy Daiyu (Black Jade), Baoyu’s ill-fated love, and the vivacious Baochai (Precious Clasp), his eventual wife. The work and the character of Baoyu in particular are generally thought to be semiautobiographical creations of Cao Zhan. His portrait of the extended family reflects a faithful image of upper-class life in the early Qing dynasty (1644–1911/12), while the variety of individual character portraits reveals a psychological depth not previously approached in Chinese literature.



Dream of the Red Chamber

The Four Great Classical Novels

The Four Great Classical Novels, or the Four Major Classical Novels (Chinese: 四大名著; pinyin: s d mng zh) of Chinese literature, are the four novels commonly counted by scholars to be the greatest and most influential of classical Chinese fiction. Well known to most Chinese readers of the 21st century, they are not to be confused with the Four Books of Confucianism.

The works are considered to be the pinnacle of China's achievement in classical novels, influencing the creation of many stories, theater, movies, games, and other entertainment throughout East Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

In chronological order, they are:

1. Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Chinese: 三國演義; pinyin: sān gu yǎn y) (14th century) (more recently translated as, simply, Three Kingdoms)

2. Water Margin (Chinese: 水滸傳; pinyin: shuǐ hǔ zhun) (also known as Outlaws of the Marsh) (14th century)

3. Journey to the West (Chinese: 西遊記; pinyin: xī yu j) (16th century) (also known as Monkey)

4. Dream of the Red Chamber (Chinese: 紅樓夢; pinyin: hng lu mng) (also known as The Story of the Stone, (Chinese: 石頭記; pinyin: sh tu j) (18th century)


In drama, the Ming tradition of ch’uan-ch’i was worthily continued by several leading poets of the conventional school, though as a whole their dramatic writings failed to appeal to the masses. Toward the end of the 18th century, folk dramas of numerous localities began to gain popularity, converging finally at the theatres of Peking and giving rise to what came to be designated as Peking drama—a composite product that has continued to delight large audiences in China.

19th-century translations of Western literature

By the early 19th century, China could no longer ward off the West and, after the first Opium War (1839–42), China’s port cities were forcibly opened to increased foreign contacts. In due course, many Western works on diverse subjects were translated into Chinese. The quality of some of these was so outstanding that they deserve a place in the history of Chinese literature. One distinguished translator was Yen Fu, who had studied in Great Britain and whose renderings of Western philosophical works into classical Chinese were acclaimed as worthy of comparison, in literary merit, with the Chou philosophers. Another great translator was Lin Shu, who, knowing no foreign language himself but depending on oral interpreters, made available to Chinese readers more than 170 Western novels, translated into the literary style of Ssu-ma Ch’ien.

19th-century native prose and poetry

Meanwhile, writers of native fiction, especially in central and southern China, began to be seriously influenced by Western models. Using the vernacular and mostly following the picaresque romance structure of the Ju-lin wai-shih, they wrote fiction usually intended for serial publication and satirizing Chinese society and culture. One of these writers was Liu E, whose Lao Ts’an yu-chi (1904–07; The Travels of Lao Ts’an), a fictional account of contemporary life, pointed to the problems confronting the tottering Ch’ing dynasty.

Poetry, long stagnant, at last began to free itself from the shackles of traditionalism. The most prominent poet, Huang Tsun-hsien, inspired by folk songs and foreign travel, tried to write poetry in the spoken language and experimented with new themes, new diction, and new rhythm. His young friend Liang Ch’i-ch’ao not only fervently supported Huang and his associates in what they called “the revolution in Chinese poetry” but also ventured forth in new directions in prose. Liang’s periodical publications, especially, exerted an extensive influence on the Chinese people in the early years of the 20th century. Fusing all the unique and attractive features of the various schools of prose writing of the past into a new compound, Liang achieved a vibrant and widely imitated style of his own, distinguished by several characteristics: flexibility in sentence structure so that new terms, transliterations of foreign words and phrases, and even colloquial expressions could be accommodated; a natural liveliness; a touch of infectious emotionalism, which the majority of his readers enjoyed. Although he was too cautious to use the vernacular, except in fiction and plays, he did attempt to approximate the living speech of the people, as Huang Tsun-hsien had done in poetry.

As part of a westernization movement, the competitive literary examination system, which had been directly responsible for excessive conservatism and conventionality in thought as well as in literature, was abolished in 1905.

Tien-yi Li
William H. Nienhauser, Jr.


Modern Chinese literature

May Fourth period

Following the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty and the establishment of the Republic in 1912, many young intellectuals turned their attention to the overhauling of literary traditions, beginning with the language itself. In January 1917 an article by Hu Shih, a student of philosophy at Columbia University, entitled “Wen-hseh kai-liang ch’u-i” (“Tentative Proposal for Literary Reform”) was published in the Peking magazine Hsin ch’ing-nien (New Youth). In it Hu called for a new national literature written not in the classical language but in the vernacular, the living “national language” (kuo-y). Ch’en Tu-hsiu, the editor of Hsin ch’ing-nien, supported Hu’s views in his own article “Wen-hseh ko-ming lun” (“On Literary Revolution”), which emboldened Hu to hone his arguments further in a second article (1918), entitled “Chien-she te wen-hseh ko-ming” (“Constructive Literary Revolution”), in which he spelled out his formula for a “literary renaissance.” The literary reform movement that began with these and other “calls to arms” was a part of the larger May Fourth Movement for cultural and sociopolitical reform, whose name commemorates a 1919 student protest against the intellectual performance of the Chinese delegates to the Paris Peace Conference formally terminating World War I. At the outset, the literary reformers met with impassioned but mostly futile opposition from classical literati such as the renowned translator Lin Shu, who would largely give up the battle within a few years.

The first fruits of this movement were seen in 1918 and 1919 with the appearance in Hsin ch’ing-nien of such stories as “K’uang-jen jih-chi” (“The Diary of a Madman”), a Gogol-inspired piece about a “madman” who suspects that he alone is sane and the rest of the world is mad, and “Yao” (“Medicine”), both by Chou Shu-jen. Known by the pseudonym Lu Hsn, Chou had studied in Japan and, with his younger brother, the noted essayist Chou Tso-jen, had become a leader of the literary revolution soon after returning to China. Lu Hsn’s acerbic, somewhat westernized, and often satirical attacks on China’s feudalistic traditions established him as China’s foremost critic and writer. His “Ah Q cheng-chuan” (1921; “The True Story of Ah Q”), a damning critique of early 20th-century conservatism in China, is the representative work of the May Fourth period and has become an international classic.

These early writings provided the impetus for a number of youthful intellectuals to pool their resources and promote shared ideals by forming literary associations. The Wen-hseh yen-chiu hui (“Literary Research Association”), generally referred to as the “realist” or “art-for-life’s-sake” school, assumed the editorship of the established literary magazine Hsiao-shuo yeh-pao (Short Story Monthly), in which most major fiction writers published their works throughout the 1920s, until the magazine’s headquarters was destroyed by Japanese bombs in 1932. The socially reflective, critical-realist writing that characterized this group held sway in China well into the 1940s, when it was gradually eclipsed by more didactic, propagandistic literature. Members of the smaller Ch’uang-tsao she (“Creation Society”), on the other hand, were followers of the “Romantic” tradition who eschewed any expressions of social responsibility by writers, referring to their work as “art for art’s sake.” In 1924, however, the society’s leading figure, Kuo Mo-jo, converted to Marxism, and the Creation Society evolved into China’s first Marxist literary society. Much of the energy of members of both associations was expended in translating literature of other cultures, which largely replaced traditional Chinese literature as the foundation upon which the new writing was built. This was particularly true in drama and poetry, in which figures such as Henrik Ibsen and Rabindranath Tagore, respectively, were as well known to Chinese readers as indigenous playwrights and poets. In drama, the Nan-kuo she (“South China Society”), founded by the former Creationist T’ien Han, produced and performed several short plays that were a mixture of critical realism and melodrama, while poets of the Hsin-yeh she (“Crescent Moon Society”) such as the British-educated Hs Chih-mo and the American-educated Wen I-to were creating new forms based on Western models, introducing the beauty of music and colour into their extremely popular lyrical verse.


Political events of the mid-1920s, in which Nationalist, Communist, and warlord forces clashed frequently, initiated a shift to the left in Chinese letters, culminating in 1930 in the founding of the Tso-i tso-chia lien-meng (“League of Leftist Writers”), whose membership included most influential writers. Lu Hsn, the prime organizer and titular head throughout the league’s half-decade of activities, had stopped writing fiction in late 1925 and, after moving from Peking to Shanghai in 1927, directed most of his creative energies to translating Russian literature and writing the bitingly satirical random essays (tsa-wen) that became his trademark. Among the many active prewar novelists, the most successful were Mao Tun, Lao She, and Pa Chin.

Mao Tun, a founder of the Literary Research Association, was the prototypical Realist. The subjects of his socially mimetic tableaux included pre-May Fourth urban intellectual circles, bankrupt rural villages, and, in perhaps his best known work, Tzu-yeh (1933; Midnight), metropolitan Shanghai in all its financial and social chaos during the post-Depression era.

Lao She, modern China’s foremost humorist, whose early novels were written while he was teaching Chinese in London, was deeply influenced by traditional Chinese storytellers and the novels of Charles Dickens. His works are known for their episodic structure, racy northern dialect, vivid characterizations, and abundant humour. Yet it was left to him to write modern China’s classic novel, the moving tale of the gradual degeneration of a seemingly incorruptible denizen of China’s “lower depths”—Lo-t’o hsiang-tzu (1936; “Camel Hsiang-tzu,” published in English in a bowdlerized translation as Rickshaw Boy, 1945).

Pa Chin, a prominent Anarchist, was the most popular novelist of the period. A prolific writer, he is known primarily for his autobiographical novel Chia (1931; The Family), which traces the lives and varied fortunes of the three sons of a wealthy, powerful family. The book is a revealing portrait of China’s oppressive patriarchal society, as well as of the awakening of China’s youth to the urgent need for social revolution.

The 1930s also witnessed the meteoric rise of a group of novelists from Northeast China (Manchuria) who were driven south by the Japanese annexation of their homeland in 1932. The sometimes rousing, sometimes nostalgic novels of Hsiao Chn and Hsiao Hung and the powerful short stories of Tuan-mu Hung-liang became rallying cries for anti-Japanese youth as signs of impending war mounted.

Poetry of the 1930s underwent a similar politicization, as more and more students returned from overseas to place their pens in the service of the “people’s resistance against feudalism and imperialism.” The lyrical verse of the early Crescent Moon poets was replaced by a more socially conscious poetry by the likes of Ai Ch’ing, T’ien Chien, and Tsang K’o-chia that appealed to the readers’ patriotic fervour. Others, particularly those who had at first gravitated toward the Crescent Moon Society, began striking out in various directions: notable works of these authors include the contemplative sonnets of Feng Chih, the urbane songs of Peking by Pien Chih-lin, and the romantic verses of Ho Ch’i-fang. Less popular, but more daring, were Tai Wang-shu and Li Chin-fa, poets of the Hsien-tai (“Contemporary Age”) group, who wrote very sophisticated, if frequently baffling, poetry in the manner of the French Symbolists.

While fiction reigned supreme in the 1930s, as the art of the short story was mastered by growing numbers of May Fourth writers, and novels were coming into their own, the most spectacular advances were made in drama, owing largely to the efforts of a single playwright. Although realistic social drama written in the vernacular had made its appearance in China long before the 1930s, primarily as translations or adaptations of Western works, it did not gain a foothold on the popular stage until the arrival of Ts’ao Y, whose first play, Lei-y (1934; Thunderstorm), a tale of fatalism, retribution, and incestual relations among members of a rich industrialist’s family, met with phenomenal success. It was followed over the next several years by other critically and popularly acclaimed plays, including Jih-ch’u (1936; Sunrise) and Yan-yeh (1937; Wilderness), all of which examined pressing social issues and universal human frailties with gripping tension and innovative dramaturgy. Political realities in future decades would force a steady decline in dramatic art, so that Ts’ao Y’s half-dozen major productions still stand as the high-water mark of modern Chinese theatre. Yet, even though movies, television, and other popular entertainments would weaken the resiliency of this literary form, it would still serve the nation as an effective propaganda medium, particularly during the war of resistance.

Lao She

Lao She, pseudonym of Shu Sheyu, original name Shu Qingchun (b. February 3, 1899, Beijing, China—d. August 24, 1966, Beijing), Chinese author of humorous, satiric novels and short stories and, after the onset of the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), of patriotic and propagandistic plays and novels.

A member of the Manchu ethnic minority, Shu Sheyu served as principal of an elementary school at age 17 and soon worked his way up to district supervisor. In 1924 he went to England, teaching Mandarin Chinese to support himself and collaborating for five years on a translation of the great Ming-dynasty novel Jinpingmei. Reading the novels of Charles Dickens to improve his English, Shu Sheyu was inspired to write his own first novel, Lao Zhang di zhexue (“Philosophy of Lao Zhang”), which was serialized in the journal Xiaoshuo yuebao (“Short-Story Magazine”) in 1926. He completed two more novels, in which he developed the theme that the strong, hardworking individual could reverse the tide of stagnation and corruption plaguing China. When Lao She returned to China in 1931, he found that he had achieved some fame as a comic novelist, and so he continued to create his humorous, action-packed works.

In Niu Tianci zhuan (1934; “The Life of Niu Tianci”), Lao She changed his individualist theme to one stressing the importance of the total social environment and the futility of the individual’s struggle against such an environment. His new theme found its clearest expression in his masterpiece, Luotuo Xiangzi (1936; “Xiangzi the Camel”; Eng. trans. Rickshaw or Camel Xiangzi), the tragic story of the trials of a rickshaw puller in Beijing. An unauthorized and bowdlerized English translation, titled Rickshaw Boy (1945), with a happy ending quite foreign to the original story, became a best seller in the United States.

During the Sino-Japanese War, Lao She headed the All-China Anti-Japanese Writers Federation, encouraging writers to produce patriotic and propagandistic literature. His own works were inferior and propagandistic. His best work of this period was his novel Sishi tong tang (1944–50; “Four Generations Under One Roof”).

In 1946–47 Lao She traveled to the United States on a cultural grant, lecturing and overseeing the translation of several of his novels, including The Yellow Storm (1951), which was never published in Chinese, and his last novel, The Drum Singers (1952; its Chinese version, Gu shu yi ren, was not published until 1980). Upon his return to China he was active in various cultural movements and literary committees and continued to write his propagandistic plays, among them the popular Longxugou (1951; Dragon Beard Ditch) and Chaguan (1957; Teahouse), which displayed his fine linguistic talents in its reproduction of the Beijing dialect.

Lao She fell victim to persecution at the outset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, and it is widely believed that he died as a result of a beating by Red Guards.



Ts’ao Y

Cao Yu, Wade-Giles romanization Ts’ao Y, pseudonym of Wan Jiabao (b. September 24, 1910, Tianjin, China—d. December 13, 1996, Beijing), Chinese playwright who was a pioneer in huaju (“word drama”), a genre influenced by Western theatre rather than traditional Chinese drama (which is usually sung).

Wan Jiabao was educated at Nankai University in Tianjin and Qinghua University in Beijing, where he studied contemporary Chinese literature and Western drama. He taught in Baoding and Tianjin and at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Nanjing. In 1934 his first play, the four-act tragedy Leiyu (Thunderstorm; later adapted for film [1938] and as a dance-drama [1981]), was published. When it was performed in 1935 it instantly won Cao Yu fame as a huaju writer. His next works were Richu (1936; Sunrise; adapted as an opera [1982] and for film [1938 and 1985]) and Yuanye (1937; rev. ed. 1982; “The Wilderness”; adapted for film [1981]), a story of love and revenge that clearly reflects the influence of American playwright Eugene O’Neill. Most Chinese critics declared Yuanye a failure on its first appearance, but the revised play received critical acclaim in the 1980s.

After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Cao Yu moved with the drama school to Chongqing and later to Jiang’an, where he wrote Tuibian (1940; “Metamorphosis”), a patriotic work in which he expressed the hope that China would throw off the constraints of the old ways and embrace the new. He followed it with Beijingren (1940; rev. ed. 1947; “Beijing Man”; Eng. trans. Peking Man), thought by many to be one of the masterpieces of modern Chinese drama; it is powerful in both characterization and its use of symbolism. Cao Yu was appointed the director of the Beijing People’s Art Theatre in the early 1950s and was elected the chairman of the Chinese Dramatists’ Association in the early 1980s. He wrote some dramas in support of the Chinese Communist Party, but most were considered failures.

The war years: 1937–45

During the Sino-Japanese War, most writers fled to the interior, where they contributed to the war effort by writing patriotic literature under the banner of the Chung-hua ch’an-kuo wen-i chieh k’ang-ti hsieh-hui (“All-China Anti-Japanese Federation of Writers and Artists”), founded in 1938 and directed by Lao She. All genres were represented, including reportage (pao-kao wen-hseh), an enormously influential type of writing that was a natural outgrowth of the federation’s call for writers to go to the countryside and the front lines. Literary magazines were filled with short, easily produced and adaptable plays, topical patriotic verse, and war-zone dispatches. Among the major writers who continued to produce work of high quality during this period were Pa Chin, Ts’ao Y, Mao Tun, and Ting Ling. The latter’s fictional explorations of the female psyche and the social condition of women had caught the public’s imagination in the 1920s, and in the late 1930s she established herself as the major literary figure in the Communist stronghold of Yen-an.

The growing dissatisfaction of intellectuals with the Nationalist government in Chungking surfaced dramatically during the civil war that raged throughout China following Japan’s surrender, ending with the Nationalists’ retreat to Taiwan and the establishment, in October 1949, of the People’s Republic of China. Most writers, feeling intense pride and welcoming the challenge, chose to remain on the mainland and serve the new government.

1949 to the present

Literature on the China mainland since 1949 has largely been a reflection of political campaigns and ideological battles. This state of affairs can be traced to Mao Tse-tung’s 1942 “Tsai Yen-an wen-i tso-t’an-hui shang te chiang-hua” (“Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art”), in which he articulated his position that literature, which existed to serve politics, was to be popularized while the people’s level of literary appreciation was gradually being elevated. Mao’s call for a truly proletarian literature—written by and for workers, peasants, and soldiers—gave rise to a series of rectification campaigns that further defined and consolidated party control over literary activities. In 1949, the First National Congress of Writers and Artists was convened, and the All-China Federation of Literature and Art Circles was founded, with Kuo Mo-jo elected as its first chairman.

Mao’s literary ideals had first been realized in the 1940s by Chao Shu-li, whose early stories, such as “Li Yu-ts’ai pan-hua” (“The Rhymes of Li Yu-ts’ai”), were models of proletarian literature, both in form and in content. As the civil war neared its conclusion, novels of land reform, such as Ting Ling’s prizewinning T’ai-yang chao tsai Sang-kan-ho shang (1949; The Sun Shines over the Sangkan River) and Pao-feng tsou-y (1949; The Hurricane) by Chou Li-po, became quite popular. Few of the established May Fourth writers continued to produce fiction after 1949, for their experience as social critics did not prepare them for Socialist Realism, a method of composition, borrowed from the Soviet Union, according to which society is described as it should be, not necessarily as it is. Many of the older poets, however, were successful during the early postliberation years, writing poetry in praise of land reform, modernization, and Chinese heroes of the Korean War. Playwrights were also active, introducing more proletarian themes into their works, some of which incorporated music. By this time, Lao She had begun writing plays, such as Lung-hs kou (1951; Dragon Beard Ditch), which earned him the prestigious title of People’s Artist. Another very popular play, Pai-mao n (1953; White-Haired Girl) by Ho Ching-chih, was taken from a contemporary folk legend.

During the mid-1950s, an experiment in liberalization—the Hundred Flowers Campaign—was abruptly terminated as criticism of the party went beyond all expectations; it was followed by an anti-rightist movement that purged the cultural ranks of most preliberation writers and artists. The literary nadir, however, was not reached until the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), when the only literature available were a few carefully screened works by Lu Hsn, a handful of model revolutionary Peking operas, and the revolutionary-romantic novels of Hao Jan. After the death of Mao and the fall of the Gang of Four, literature made a comeback and most surviving writers were rehabilitated, although the progress was as rocky as the political scene Chinese literature continued to reflect.

The accusatory “scar literature,” a sort of national catharsis that immediately followed the 10-year “holocaust,” gave way to more professional and more daring writing, as exemplified in the stories of Wang Meng, with their stylistic experiments in stream of consciousness; the symbolic “obscure” poetry of Pei Tao and others; the relatively bold dramas, both for the stage and for the screen, of several playwrights; and the innovative investigative reportage of Liu Pin-yen. In addition to translated literature from the West, literature from Taiwan also began to reach mainland writers and readers as literary restrictions continued to fall gradually.

Lu Hsn

Lu Xun, Wade-Giles romanization Lu Hsn, pen name (biming) of Zhou Shuren (b. September 25, 1881, Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, China—d. October 19, 1936, Shanghai), Chinese writer, commonly considered the greatest in 20th-century Chinese literature, who was also an important critic known for his sharp and unique essays on the historical traditions and modern conditions of China.

Born to a family that was traditional, wealthy, and esteemed (his grandfather had been a government official in Beijing), Zhou Shuren had a happy childhood. In 1893, however, his grandfather was sentenced to prison for examination fraud, and his father became bedridden. The family’s reputation declined, and they were treated with disdain by their community and relatives. This experience is thought to have had a great influence on his writing, which was marked by sensitivity and pessimism.

Zhou Shuren left his hometown in 1899 and attended a mining school in Nanjing; there he developed an interest in Darwin’s theory of evolution, which became an important influence in his work. Chinese intellectuals of the time understood Darwin’s theory to encourage the struggle for social reform, to privilege the new and fresh over the old and traditional. In 1902 he traveled to Japan to study Japanese and medical science, and while there he became a supporter of the Chinese revolutionaries who gathered there. In 1903 he began to write articles for radical magazines edited by Chinese students in Japan. In 1905 he entered an arranged marriage against his will. In 1909 he published, with his younger brother Zhou Zuoren, a two-volume translation of 19th-century European stories, in the hope that it would inspire readers to revolution, but the project failed to attract interest. Disillusioned, Lu Xun returned to China later that year.

Literary career
After working for several years as a teacher in his hometown and then as a low-level government official in Beijing, Lu Xun returned to writing and became associated with the nascent Chinese literary movement in 1918. That year, at the urging of friends, he published his now-famous short story “Kuangren riji” (“Diary of a Madman”). Modeled on the Russian realist Nikolay Gogol’s tale of the same title, the story is a condemnation of traditional Confucian culture, which the madman narrator sees as a “man-eating” society. The first published Western-style story written wholly in vernacular Chinese, it was a tour de force that attracted immediate attention and helped gain acceptance for the short-story form as an effective literary vehicle. Another representative work is the novelette A-Q zhengzhuan (1921; The True Story of Ah Q). A mixture of humour and pathos, it is a repudiation of the old order; it added “Ah Q-ism” to the modern Chinese language as a term characterizing the Chinese penchant for rationalizing defeat as a “spiritual victory.” These stories, which were collected in Nahan (1923; Call to Arms), established Lu Xun’s reputation as the leading Chinese writer. Three years later the collection Panghuang (1926; Wandering) was published. His various symbolic prose poems, which were published in the collection Yecao (1927; Wild Grass), as well as his reminiscences and retold classical tales, all reveal a modern sensibility informed by sardonic humour and biting satire.

In the 1920s Lu Xun worked at various universities in Beijing as a part-time professor of Chinese script and literature. His academic study Zhongguo xiaoshuo shilue (1923–24; A Brief History of Chinese Fiction) and companion compilations of classical fiction remain standard works. His translations, especially those of Russian works, are also considered significant.

Despite his success, Lu Xun continued to struggle with his increasingly pessimistic view of Chinese society, which was aggravated by conflicts in his personal and professional life. In addition to marital troubles and mounting pressures from the government, his disagreements with Zhou Zuoren (who had also become one of the leading intellectuals in Beijing) led to a rift between the two brothers in 1926. Such depressing conditions led Lu Xun to formulate the idea that one could resist social darkness only when he was pessimistic about the society. His famous phrase “resistance of despair” is commonly considered a core concept of his thought.

Shanghai years
Forced by these political and personal circumstances to flee Beijing in 1926, Lu Xun traveled to Xiamen and Guangzhou, finally settling in Shanghai in 1927. There he began to live with Xu Guangping, his former student; they had a son in 1929. Lu Xun stopped writing fiction and devoted himself to writing satiric critical essays (zawen), which he used as a form of political protest. In 1930 he became the nominal leader of the League of Left-Wing Writers. During the following decade he began to see the Chinese communists as the only salvation for his country. Although he himself refused to join the Chinese Communist Party, he considered himself a tongluren (fellow traveler), recruiting many writers and countrymen to the communist cause through his Chinese translations of Marxist literary theories, as well as through his own political writing.

During the last several years of Lu Xun’s life, the government prohibited the publication of most of his work, so he published the majority of his new articles under various pseudonyms. He criticized the Shanghai communist literary circles for their embrace of propaganda, and he was politically attacked by many of their members. In 1934 he described his political position as hengzhan (“horizontal stand”), meaning he was struggling simultaneously against both the right and the left, against both cultural conservatism and mechanical evolution. Hengzhan, the most important idea in Lu Xun’s later thought, indicates the complex and tragic predicament of an intellectual in modern society.

The Chinese communist movement adopted Lu Xun posthumously as the exemplar of Socialist Realism. Many of his fiction and prose works have been incorporated into school textbooks. In 1951 the Lu Xun Museum opened in Shanghai; it contains letters, manuscripts, photographs, and other memorabilia. English translations of Lu Xun’s works include Silent China: Selected Writings of Lu Xun (1973), Lu Hsun: Complete Poems (1988), and Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (1990).

Wang Xiaoming

Taiwanese literature after 1949

The first decade of literary activities in Taiwan after 1949 was characterized by stereotypical anti-Communist fiction and drippingly sentimental essays and poetry, producing little memorable literature other than novels such as Yang-ko (1954; The Rice-Sprout Song) by Chang Ai-ling, a story of peasant life under Communist rule, and Hsan-feng (1959; The Whirlwind), Chiang Kuei’s novel of power struggles in Shantung. In the 1960s, however, a group of Taiwan University students ushered in the modernist era by publishing their own craftsmanlike stories, which were heavily indebted to such Western masters as Franz Kafka, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. Many of these writers, such as Pai Hsien-yung, author of Yu-yan ching-meng (1982; Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream), remained active and influential in the mid-1980s. Vernacular poetry in Taiwan developed around several societies in which modernist, even surrealist, verse was in vogue. These poets, while not widely accepted by the reading public, strongly influenced the more accessible poets who followed. The late 1960s witnessed the rise of regional (hsiang-t’u) writing, in which the Taiwanese countryside served as the setting for fiction and poetry that effectively captured the dramatic social and psychological effects of transition from a rural to an urban-based society. Huang Ch’un-ming’s Ni-szu i-chih lao-mao (1980; The Drowning of an Old Cat) is representative of this nativist school, which in later years gave way to a more nationalistic literature that reflected Taiwan’s current political situation. Mainland literature occasionally appears in Taiwanese periodicals, while firsthand experiences and observations by mainland migrs and overseas Chinese, such as the collection of stories Yin hsien-chang (1976; The Execution of Mayor Yin) by Ch’en Jo-hsi, are given broad exposure.

Howard C. Goldblatt


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