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Chinese Literature

Assigned Readings

General Introduction to Chinese Literary Tradition

  • Oracle bone inscription
    • The inscriptions represent divinations performed for the kings of the Shang dynasty (1766?-1027?BC), the earliest confirmed dynasty.
  • The formative stages took place during the 6th to the 4th century BC, at the time of the Zhou (Chou) dynasty (1027?-256 BC).
  • Confucius(孔子)
  • Mencius(孟子)
  • Zhuangzi(庄子)
  • Laozi(老子)
  • Poetry
    • Shi Jing(Book of Songs): an anthology of ancient poems written in four-word verses and composed mostly between the 10th and the 7th centuries BC.
    • Li Sao: Qu Yuan a long, autobiographical poem full of historical allusions, allegories, and similes, lyrically expressed and concerned with the intimate revelation of a poetic soul tormented because it has failed in its search for a beautiful ideal.
    • Yue Fu: are Chinese poems composed in a folk song style. The term literally means "music bureau", a reference to the government organisation originally charged with collecting or writing the lyrics.
  • Prose
    • Yi Jing ( Book of Changes), a divination text;
    • Shu Jing (Shu Ching, Book of History), a collection of ancient state documents;
    • Li Ji (Li Chi, Book of Rites), a collection of ritual and governmental codes;
    • Chunqiu (Spring and Autumn Annals), a history of the state of Lu from 722 to 481BC. From the 6th to the 3rd century BC, the first great works of Chinese philosophy.
    • Mozi(墨子)
    • Xunzi(荀子)
    • Han Fei(韩非子)
    • Shi Ji(Records of the Historian)-Sima Qian:
    a monumental work dealing with all Chinese history up to the Han dynasty, provided the pattern for a long series of dynastic histories compiled over a period of about 2000 years.
  • Poetry
    • Ziye(子夜时歌)
      • Ballad of Mulan(木兰辞)
      love poems celebrating the adventure of a woman soldier disguised as a man
    • Tao Qian(陶潜)
    • He excelled in writing of the joys of nature and the solitary life. His Peach Blossom Fountain(桃花源记) became the classic expression of the poet's search for a utopia.
      • Greatest poetry in Tang dynasty
        • Wang Wei(王维)
        • depicted the serenity of nature's beauty; it has been said that poetry is in his pictures and pictures are in his poems.
        • Li Bai(李白)
        • His poetry sang of love and friendship; of the delights of wine; and of the strange, majestic, and awe-inspiring aspects of nature.
        • Du Fu(杜甫)
        • His work is realism, recorded faithfully and intimately his worldly attachments, his family affections, and an infinite love for humanity, as well as the injustices of the age.
        • Bai Juyi(白居易)
        He viewed poetry as a vehicle for criticism and satire.
        • Ci in Song dynasty
        • ci may have lines of varying length, the number of lines, as well as their length, is fixed according to a definite rhyming and tonal pattern.
        • Su Dongpo(苏东坡)
        • The best-known ci poet of China, liberated the ci from the rigid forms that music had imposed on it and introduced more virile subjects.
        • Li Qingzhao
        • She accede the tradition of writing musical ci ,and is renowned for ci concerning her widowhood.
  • Prose
    • Han Yu(韩愈)
    • He advocated a return to simple and straightforward writing in the classical style.
    • The first group of tales written in the vernacular tradition appeared in the Tang period.
    • In an attempt to spread their religion, Buddhist preachers wrote stories for the common people in colloquial language and evolved a form of narrative known as bianwen, sometimes translated as "popularization,“ which marked the beginning of popular fiction in China.
    • Storytelling became a popular form of entertainment in Song dynasty.
    • Hua Ben(话本)and storyteller:
      The stories told by the professional entertainers, each of whom specialized in a certain type, not only were written down but also were printed in storybooks, called huaben, which later inspired the longer novels of China.
    • The terse classical style prose
      • Ou Yangxiu
        He is distinguished for his essays on Confucian philosophy, politics, and history, and is better known for his breathtaking descriptions of the landscapes of China.
  • The modern period began in the 13th century and continues in the present.
    • Yuan drama:It is a creation of northern China, relies on no rthern dialect in dialogue and song. It has four parts, often an additional short act that serves as a prelude and sometimes as an interlude is added.
      • In the 14th century the art of vernacular fiction reached a new height in China.
        • Sanguozhi Yanyi(三国演义)
        • Shuihu Zhuan (水浒传)
        • Xiyou Ji(西游记)
        • Honglou meng (红楼梦)
      • Many important collections of short stories appeared in the 17th century, consisting of compilations handed down from an earlier period or of works by contemporary writers.
        • Jingu Qiguan(今古奇观): The most popular anthology, consists of 40 stories.
  • As the modern age progressed, literary orthodoxy was no longer capable of producing more than stereotypes In the beginning of the 20th century, the writers had to seek new inspiration.
    • Hu Shi(胡适)
      He started a literary revolution known as the Chinese Renaissance in an attempt to urge the written use of colloquial language and to heighten its status as a means of scholarly expression.
  • During the first half of the 20th century Chinese writers used literature as a mirror to reflect the seamy side of life, as a weapon to combat the evils of society, and as a form of propaganda to spread the message of class struggle.
    • Lu Xun(鲁迅)
      helped advance the socialist revolution by using trenchant essays and stories to attack traditional society.
  • During the years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), writers and artists were expected to serve the needs of the people, and bourgeois Western influence was zealously attacked.

New Culture Movement
  • The New Culture Movement (新文化运动) of the mid 1910s and 1920s sprang from the disillusionment with traditional Chinese culture following the failure of the Chinese Republic founded in 1912 to address China’s problems.
    • The ideas of New Culture Movement are:
      1. Vernacular literature
      2. An end to the patriarchal family in favor of individual freedom and women's liberation An acceptance of China’s place as a nation among nations, rather than the assertion of superiority of Confucian culture
      3. The re-examination of Confucian texts and ancient classics using modern textual and critical methods, known as the Doubting Antiquity School
        Democratic and egalitarian values
      4. An orientation to the future rather than the past
  • Liang Qi Chao(梁启超 1873-1929)
    • He was born in a small village in Xinhui (新会), Guangdong(广东) Province。
    • He was both a traditional Confucian scholar and a reformist.
    • He contributed to the reform in late Qing by
      • writing various articles interpreting non-Chinese
      • ideas of history and government, with the intent of stimulating Chinese citizens' minds to build a new China.
      • His idea was:
China should protect the ancient teachings of Confucianism, but also learn from the successes of Western political life and not just Western technology; he was worrying about all the politicial matters, so he would still try his best to reform the society by the effort of writings.
      • He advocated reform in both the genres of poem and novel.
  • Representive of New Culture Movement:
    • Chen Duxiu(陈独秀),
    • Cai Yuanpei(蔡元培),
    • Li Dazhao(李大钊),
    • Lu Xun(鲁迅)
    • Hu Shi(胡适)
    • etc.
They had classical educations but began to lead a revolt against Confucian culture.
They called for the creation of a new Chinese culture based on global and western standards, especially democracy(民主) and science(科学).

  •  Chen Duxiu(陈独秀 1879-1942)
    • His ancestral home was in Anqing (安庆), Anhui province(安徽省)。
    • He was an educator, philosopher, and politician.
    • He was a leading figure in the
      • anti-imperial  the May Fourth
      • Movement for Science and Democracy;
    • He was a co-founder of the
      • Chinese Communist Party in 1921.
    • He was the founder in 1915 of
      • New Youth, a Shang-hai-based journal dedicated to the creation of a vigorous new culture in China.
  • Cai Yuanpei(蔡元培 1868-1940):
    • He was born in Shaoxing(绍兴), Zhejiang(浙江) province.
    • He was a Chinese educator and the chancellor of the Peking University.
    • He insisted on “New literature ” and against the old feudal thinking.
  • Li Dazhao(李大钊 1889-1927 )
    • He was born in Laoting (乐亭), Hebei(河北) province to a peasant family.
    • He was a Chinese intellectual who
      • co-founded the Communist Party of China with Chen Duxiu in 1921.
    • He was among the first of the
      • Chinese intellectuals who supported the Bolshevik government in the Soviet Union.
    • He also wrote in Chen's New Youth to insist
      • the new literature and new ideas(democracy and science)and his works had a major influence on other Chinese as well.
    • He was one of Mao's earliest and most prominent influences.
  • Mao Zedong(毛泽东) in his youth. PICTURE
  • Lu Xun(鲁迅 1881-1936):
    • He was born in Shaoxing(绍兴), Zhejiang(浙江) province.
    • Lu xun was the pen name of Zhou Shuren(周树人).
    • He was considered by many to  be
           the founder of modern Chinese
    • He wrote in baihua (白话-the vernacular)
            as well as classical Chinese.
    • He was a short story writer, editor,
           translator, critic, essayist and poet.
    • In the 1930s he became the titular head
           of  the Chinese League of Left-Wing
           Writers(左翼作家) in Shanghai.
  • Hu Shi(胡适 1891-1962) :
    • He was born in Anhui(安徽) province.
    • He is widely recognized today as a key contributor to Chinese liberalism and language reform in his advocacy for the use of vernacular Chinese.
    • He became one of the leading and influential intellectuals during the New Culture Movement.
    • His collection Experiments(1920) was one of the first collections of vernacular poetry.
May 4th literature
  • The May 4 movement of 1919:
    • It was an anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement growing out of student demonstrations in Beijing on May 4, 1919 protesting the Chinese government‘s weak response to the Treaty of Versailles, especially the Shandong(山东) Problem. These demonstrations sparked national protests and marked the upsurge of Chinese nationalism, a shift towards political mobilization and away from cultural activities, and a move towards populist base rather than intellectual elites.
    • The broader use of the term "May Fourth Movement" often refers to the period during 1915-1921 more usually called the New Culture Movement.
  • The literature of the time:
    • Many writers who later became famous publishing their first works around this time: such as
      • Mao Dun(茅盾),
      • Lao She(老舍),
      • Lu Xun(鲁迅),
      • Yu Dafu(郁达夫),
      • Xu Zhimo(徐志摩),
      • Bing Xin(冰心)
      • Bajin(巴金)
      • etc.
    • A substantial literary establishment -- publishing houses, journals, literary societies, and of course universities -- provided a foundation for an active literary and intellectual scene over the course of the decades of the 1910s, 20s, and 30s.
    • The New Youth journal was a leading forum for debating why China was weak, and the finger pointed at Confucian culture.
    • One major starting point was the introduction of Vernacular Chinese (白话).
  • Xu Zhimo(徐志摩 1897-1931)
    • He was born in Haining(海宁), Zhejiang(浙江) province.
    • In 1915, he married Zhang Youyi(张幼仪).
    • He study at King's College, Cambridge in England in 1920.
    • 1922 he went back to China and became a leader of the modern poetry movement.
    • In 1923, he founded the Crescent Moon Society.
    • He died in a plane crash on November 19, 1931 in Jinan, Shandong while flying from Nanjing to Beijing.
    • His literary ideology was mostly pro-western, and pro-vernacular.
    • He was one of the first Chinese writers to successfully naturalize Western romantic forms into modern Chinese poetry.
    • He left behind four collections of verse and several volumes of translations from various languages.
    • His best-known poem, ‘Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again‘(再别康桥).
Xu Zhimo(徐志摩) Lin Huiyin(林徽因) Tagore,Rabindranath;  Liang Sicheng (梁思成)

Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again

Very quietly I take my leave,

As quietly as I came here;

Quietly I wave goodbye

To the rosy clouds in the western sky.

The golden willows by the riverside

Are young bridges in the setting sun;

Their reflections on the shimmering waves

Always linger in the depth of my heart.

    The floating heart growing in the sludge

Sways leisurely under the water,
      In the gentle waves of Cambridge,

I would be a water plant.

      That pool under the shade of elm trees

Holds not water but the rainbow from the sky;

Shattered to pieces among the duck weeds

Is the sediment of a rainbow-like dream.

To seek a dream? Just to pole a boat upstream

To where the green grass is more verdant;

Or to have the boat fully loaded with starlight

And sing aloud in the splendour of starlight.

But I cannot sing aloud:

Quietness is my farewell music;

Even summer in sects keep silence for me;

Silent is Cambridge tonight!

Very quietly I take my leave,

As quietly as I came here;

Gently I flick my sleeves,

Not even a wisp of cloud will I bring away.

  •  Ba Jin(巴金 1904-2005)
    • He was born in Chengdu(成都), Sichuan(四川) province.
    • He is considered to be one of the most important and widely-read Chinese writers of the 20th century.
    • In 1920, he began to wrote a number of vers libre.
    • Represent works:
      • The Love Trilogy Fog (1931),
      • Rain (1933) and Lightning (1935);
      • Torrents Trilogy  Family(1931),
      • Spring(1938),
      • Autumn(1940);
  • Yu dafu(郁达夫 1896-1945)
    • He was borned in Hangzhou(杭州), Zhejiang(浙江)province.
    • He was a modern Chinese short story writer and poet.
    • He and other intellectuals founded Chuangzao she (创造社"Creation Society"), which promoted vernacular and modern literature in 1921.
    • Represent works:
      • Chenlun “沉沦Sinking”(1921);
      • Riji jiuzhong “日记九种Nine Diaries” (1927)
      • Guoqu “过去The Past” (1927) ;
      • Chuben "出奔Flight" (1935)