Chinese literature
Overview
Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archive
Archive
An archive is a collection of historical records, or the physical place they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization's lifetime, and are kept to show the function of an organization...

s to the mature fictional novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s that arose during the Ming Dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese. The introduction of widespread woodblock printing
Woodblock printing
Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later paper....

 during the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 (618–907) and the invention of movable type
Movable type
Movable type is the system of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document ....

 printing
Printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

 by Bi Sheng
Bi Sheng
Bì Shēng was the inventor of the first known movable type technology. Bi Sheng's system was made of Chinese porcelain and was invented between 1041 and 1048 in China.-Movable type printing:...

 (990–1051) during the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 (960–1279) rapidly spread written knowledge throughout China. In more modern times, the author Lu Xun
Lu Xun
Lu Xun or Lu Hsün , was the pen name of Zhou Shuren , one of the major Chinese writers of the 20th century. Considered by many to be the leading figure of modern Chinese literature, he wrote in baihua as well as classical Chinese...

 (1881–1936) is considered the founder of baihua
Vernacular Chinese
Written Vernacular Chinese refers to forms of written Chinese based on the vernacular language, in contrast to Classical Chinese, the written standard used from the Spring and Autumn Period to the early twentieth century...

literature in China.
There is a wealth of early Chinese literature dating from the Hundred Schools of Thought
Hundred Schools of Thought
The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophers and schools that flourished from 770 to 221 BC during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period , an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China...

 that occurred during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

 (770-256 BCE).
Encyclopedia
Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archive
Archive
An archive is a collection of historical records, or the physical place they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization's lifetime, and are kept to show the function of an organization...

s to the mature fictional novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s that arose during the Ming Dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese. The introduction of widespread woodblock printing
Woodblock printing
Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later paper....

 during the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 (618–907) and the invention of movable type
Movable type
Movable type is the system of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document ....

 printing
Printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

 by Bi Sheng
Bi Sheng
Bì Shēng was the inventor of the first known movable type technology. Bi Sheng's system was made of Chinese porcelain and was invented between 1041 and 1048 in China.-Movable type printing:...

 (990–1051) during the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 (960–1279) rapidly spread written knowledge throughout China. In more modern times, the author Lu Xun
Lu Xun
Lu Xun or Lu Hsün , was the pen name of Zhou Shuren , one of the major Chinese writers of the 20th century. Considered by many to be the leading figure of modern Chinese literature, he wrote in baihua as well as classical Chinese...

 (1881–1936) is considered the founder of baihua
Vernacular Chinese
Written Vernacular Chinese refers to forms of written Chinese based on the vernacular language, in contrast to Classical Chinese, the written standard used from the Spring and Autumn Period to the early twentieth century...

literature in China.

Classical texts

There is a wealth of early Chinese literature dating from the Hundred Schools of Thought
Hundred Schools of Thought
The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophers and schools that flourished from 770 to 221 BC during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period , an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China...

 that occurred during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

 (770-256 BCE). The most important of these include the Classics of Confucianism
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

, of Daoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

, of Mohism
Mohism
Mohism or Moism was a Chinese philosophy developed by the followers of Mozi , 470 BC–c.391 BC...

, of Legalism
Legalism (Chinese philosophy)
In Chinese history, Legalism was one of the main philosophic currents during the Warring States Period, although the term itself was invented in the Han Dynasty and thus does not refer to an organized 'school' of thought....

, as well as works of military science and Chinese history
History of China
Chinese civilization originated in various regional centers along both the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys in the Neolithic era, but the Yellow River is said to be the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest...

. Note that except for the books of poems and songs, most of this literature is philosophical and didactic; there is little in the way of fiction. However, these texts maintained their significance through both their ideas and their prose style.

The Confucian works in particular have been of key importance to Chinese culture and history, as a set of works known as the Four Books and Five Classics were, in the 12th century CE, chosen as the basis for the Imperial examination
Imperial examination
The Imperial examination was an examination system in Imperial China designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and was directly responsible for the creation of a class of...

 for any government post. These nine books therefore became the center of the educational system. They have been grouped into two categories: the Five Classics, allegedly commented and edited by Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

, and the Four Books. The Five Classics include:
  1. The I Ching
    I Ching
    The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

    , or Book of Changes , a divination
    Divination
    Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

     manual attributed to the mythical emperor Fu Xi and based on eight trigrams
    Bagua (concept)
    The bagua are eight diagrams used in Taoist cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts. Each consists of three lines, each line either "broken" or "unbroken," representing yin or yang, respectively...

    . The I Ching is still used by adherents of folk religion
    Folk religion
    Folk religion consists of ethnic or regional religious customs under the umbrella of an organized religion, but outside of official doctrine and practices...

    .
  2. The Classic of Poetry, a collection of poems, folk songs, festival and ceremonial songs, and religious hymns and eulogies.
  3. The Classic of Rites
    Classic of Rites
    The Classic of Rites , also known as the Book of Rites, Book of Customs, the Record of Rites, was one of the Chinese Five Classics of the Confucian canon. It described the social forms, governmental system, and ancient/ceremonial rites of the Zhou Dynasty...

    or Record of Rites
  4. The Classic of History
    Classic of History
    The Classic of History is a compilation of documentary records related to events in ancient history of China. It is also commonly known as the Shàngshū , or simply Shū...

    , a collection of documents and speeches allegedly written by rulers and officials of the early Zhou period
    Zhou Dynasty
    The Zhou Dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang Dynasty and preceded the Qin Dynasty. Although the Zhou Dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, the actual political and military control of China by the Ji family lasted only until 771 BC, a period known as...

     and before. It contains the best examples of early Chinese prose.
  5. The Spring and Autumn Annals
    Spring and Autumn Annals
    The Spring and Autumn Annals is the official chronicle of the State of Lu covering the period from 722 BCE to 481 BCE. It is the earliest surviving Chinese historical text to be arranged on annalistic principles. The text is extremely concise and, if all the commentaries are excluded, about 16,000...

    , a historical record of Confucius' native state, Lu
    Lu (state)
    The State of Lu, was a Zhou Dynasty ducal vassal state before and during the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history. Founded in the 10th century BC, its dukes used Ji as their family name. The first duke was Boqin |Qi]] and to the south by the powerful state of Chu...

    , from 722 to 479 BCE.


The Four Books include: the Analects of Confucius
Analects of Confucius
The Analects, or Lunyu , also known as the Analects of Confucius, are considered a record of the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his disciples, as well as the discussions they held....

, a book of pithy sayings attributed to Confucius and recorded by his disciples; Mencius
Mencius (book)
The Mencius , commonly called the Mengzi, is a collection of anecdotes and conversations of the Confucian thinker and philosopher Mencius. The work dates from the second half of the 4th century BC. It was ranked as a Confucian classic and its status was elevated in Song Dynasty...

, a collection of political dialogues; the Doctrine of the Mean
Doctrine of the Mean
The Doctrine of the Mean , is both a concept and one of the books of Confucian teachings. The composition of the text is attributed to Zisi the only grandson of Confucius, and it came from a chapter in the Classic of Rites...

, a book that teaches the path to Confucian virtue; and the Great Learning
Great Learning
The Great Learning was one of the "Four Books" in Confucianism. The Great Learning had come from a chapter in the Classic of Rites which formed one of the Five Classics. It consists of a short main text attributed to the teachings of Confucius and then ten commentary chapters accredited to one...

, a book about education, self-cultivation and the Dao
Tao
Dao or Tao is a Chinese word meaning 'way', 'path', 'route', or sometimes more loosely, 'doctrine' or 'principle'...

.

Other important philosophical works include the Mohist Mozi
Mozi
Mozi |Lat.]] as Micius, ca. 470 BC – ca. 391 BC), original name Mo Di , was a Chinese philosopher during the Hundred Schools of Thought period . Born in Tengzhou, Shandong Province, China, he founded the school of Mohism, and argued strongly against Confucianism and Daoism...

, which taught "inclusive love" as both an ethical and social principle, and Hanfeizi, one of the central Legalist texts.

Important Daoist
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 classics include the Dao De Jing, the Zhuangzi
Zhuangzi (book)
The Taoist book Zhuangzi was named after its purported author Zhuangzi, the philosopher. Since 742 CE, when Emperor Xuanzong of Tang mandated honorific titles for Taoist texts, it has also been known as the Nánhuá Zhēnjīng , literally meaning "True Classic of Southern Florescence," alluding to...

, and the Classic of the Perfect Emptiness. Later authors combined Daoism with Confucianism and Legalism, such as Liu An
Liu An
Líu Ān was a Chinese prince and advisor to his nephew, Emperor Wu of Han of the Han Dynasty in China and the legendary inventor of t'ai chi...

 (2nd century BCE), whose Huainanzi
Huainanzi
The Huáinánzǐ is a 2nd century BCE Chinese philosophical classic from the Han dynasty that blends Daoist, Confucianist, and Legalist concepts, including theories such as Yin-Yang and the Five Phases. It was written under the patronage of Liu An, Prince of Huainan, a legendarily prodigious author...

(The Philosophers of Huai-nan) also added to the fields of geography and topography
Topography
Topography is the study of Earth's surface shape and features or those ofplanets, moons, and asteroids...

.

Among the classics of military science, The Art of War
The Art of War
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise that is attributed to Sun Tzu , a high ranking military general and strategist during the late Spring and Autumn period...

by Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

 (6th century BCE) was perhaps the first to outline guidelines for effective international diplomacy
Diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

. It was also the first in a tradition of Chinese military treatises, such as the Wujing Zongyao
Wujing Zongyao
The Wujing Zongyao was a Chinese military compendium written in 1044 AD, during the Northern Song Dynasty. Its authors were the prominent scholars Zeng Gongliang , Ding Du , and Yang Weide , whose writing influenced many later Chinese military writers. The book covered a wide range of subjects,...

(Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques, 1044 CE) and the Huolongjing
Huolongjing
The Huolongjing is a 14th century military treatise that was compiled and edited by Jiao Yu and Liu Ji of the early Ming Dynasty in China...

(Fire Dragon Manual, 14th century CE).

Historical texts, dictionaries and encyclopedias

The Chinese kept consistent and accurate court records after the year 841 BCE, with the beginning of the Gonghe
Gonghe
The Gonghe Regency ruled China from 841 BC to 828 BC after King Li of Zhou was exiled by his nobles....

 regency of the Western Zhou Dynasty. The earliest known narrative history
Narrative history
Narrative history is the practice of writing history in a story-based form. It can be divided into two subgenres: the traditional narrative and the modern narrative....

 of China was the Zuo Zhuan
Zuo Zhuan
The Zuo Zhuan , sometimes translated as the Chronicle of Zuo or the Commentary of Zuo, is among the earliest Chinese works of narrative history and covers the period from 722 BCE to 468 BCE. It is one of the most important sources for understanding the history of the Spring and Autumn Period...

, which was compiled no later than 389 BCE, and attributed to the blind 5th century BCE historian Zuo Qiuming
Zuo Qiuming
Zǔo Qīumíng was a court writer of the State of Lu, and contemporary of Confucius during the Spring and Autumn period. The work Commentary of Zuo is traditionally attributed to him. He is also possibly a contributor to Guoyu. One tradition according to Shiji holds that he became blind ....

. The Classic of History
Classic of History
The Classic of History is a compilation of documentary records related to events in ancient history of China. It is also commonly known as the Shàngshū , or simply Shū...

is thought to have been compiled as far back as the 6th century BCE, and was certainly compiled by 4th century BCE, the latest date for the writing of the Guodian Chu Slips
Guodian Chu Slips
The Guodian Chu Slips were unearthed in 1993 in Tomb no. 1 of the Guodian tombs in Jingmen, Hubei. The archeological team suggested the tomb should be dated to the latter half of the Warring States period...

 unearthed in a Hubei
Hubei
' Hupeh) is a province in Central China. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring to its position north of Lake Dongting...

 tomb in 1993. The Classic of History
Classic of History
The Classic of History is a compilation of documentary records related to events in ancient history of China. It is also commonly known as the Shàngshū , or simply Shū...

included early information on geography
History of geography
The history of geography includes various histories of geography which have differed over time and between different cultural and political groups. In more recent developments, geography has become a distinct academic discipline. 'Geography' derives from the from Greek - geographia,, a literal...

 in the chapter of the Yu Gong
Yu the Great
Yu the Great , was a legendary ruler of Ancient China famed for his introduction of flood control, inaugurating dynastic rule in China by founding the Xia Dynasty, and for his upright moral character....

. The Bamboo Annals
Bamboo Annals
The Bamboo Annals is a chronicle of ancient China. It begins at the earliest legendary times and extends to the Warring States Period , particularly the history of the Wei state...

found in 281 AD in the tomb of the King of Wei, who was interred in 296 BCE, provide another example; however, unlike the Zuo Zhuan, the authenticity of the early date of the Bamboo Annals is in doubt. Another early text was the political strategy book of the Zhan Guo Ce
Zhan Guo Ce
The Zhan Guo Ce is a renowned ancient Chinese historical work and compilation of sporadic materials on the Warring States Period compiled between the 3rd to 1st centuries BCE...

, compiled between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE, with partial amounts of the text
Mawangdui Silk Texts
The Mawangdui Silk Texts are texts of Chinese philosophical and medical works written on silk and found at Mawangdui in China in 1973. They include some of the earliest attested manuscripts of existing texts such as the I Ching, two copies of the Tao Te Ching, one similar copy of Strategies of the...

 found amongst the 2nd century BCE tomb site at Mawangdui. The oldest extant dictionary
Dictionary
A dictionary is a collection of words in one or more specific languages, often listed alphabetically, with usage information, definitions, etymologies, phonetics, pronunciations, and other information; or a book of words in one language with their equivalents in another, also known as a lexicon...

 in China is the Erya
Erya
The Erya is the oldest extant Chinese dictionary or Chinese encyclopedia. Bernhard Karlgren concluded that "the major part of its glosses must reasonably date from" the 3rd century BC....

, dated to the 3rd century BCE, anonymously written but with later commentary by the historian Guo Pu
Guo Pu
Guo Pu , courtesy name Jingchun , born in Yuncheng, Shanxi, was a Chinese writer.-Biography:Guo Pu was a Taoist mystic, geomancer, collector of strange tales, editor of old texts, and erudite commentator...

 (276–324). Other early dictionaries include the Fangyan
Fangyan
The Fāngyán , edited by Yang Xiong, was the first Chinese dictionary of dialectal terms. The full title is Yóuxuān shǐzhĕ juédài yǔ shì biéguó fāngyán "Local speeches of other countries in times immemorial explained by the Light-Carriage Messenger," which alludes to a Zhou Dynasty tradition of...

by Yang Xiong (53 BCE – 18 AD) and the Shuowen Jiezi
Shuowen Jiezi
The Shuōwén Jiězì was an early 2nd century CE Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty. Although not the first comprehensive Chinese character dictionary , it was still the first to analyze the structure of the characters and to give the rationale behind them , as well as the first to use the...

by Xu Shen
Xu Shen
Xǔ Shèn was a Chinese philologist of the Han Dynasty. He was the author of Shuowen Jiezi, the first Chinese dictionary with character analysis, as well as the first to organize the characters by shared components. It contains over 9,000 character entries under 540 radicals, explaining the origins...

 (58–147 AD). One of the largest was the Kangxi Dictionary
Kangxi dictionary
The Kangxi Dictionary was the standard Chinese dictionary during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Kangxi Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty ordered its compilation in 1710. The creator innovated greatly by reusing and confirming the new Zihui system of 596 radicals, since then known as 596 Kangxi...

compiled by 1716 under the auspices of the Kangxi Emperor
Kangxi Emperor
The Kangxi Emperor ; Manchu: elhe taifin hūwangdi ; Mongolian: Энх-Амгалан хаан, 4 May 1654 –20 December 1722) was the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the first to be born on Chinese soil south of the Pass and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper, from 1661 to 1722.Kangxi's...

 (r. 1661–1722); it provides definitions for over 47,000 characters.

Although court records and other independent records existed beforehand, the definitive work in early Chinese historical writing was the Shiji (史記/史记), written by the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 court historian Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

 (145 BCE-90 BCE). This groundbreaking text laid the foundation for Chinese historiography and the many official Chinese historical texts compiled for each dynasty thereafter. Sima Qian is often compared to the Greek Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 in scope and method, because he covered Chinese history from the mythical Xia Dynasty
Xia Dynasty
The Xia Dynasty is the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient historical chronicles such as Bamboo Annals, Classic of History and Records of the Grand Historian. The Xia Dynasty was established by the legendary Yu the Great after Shun, the last of the Five Emperors gave his throne to him...

 until the contemporary reign of Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han , , personal name Liu Che , was the seventh emperor of the Han Dynasty of China, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. Emperor Wu is best remembered for the vast territorial expansion that occurred under his reign, as well as the strong and centralized Confucian state he organized...

 while retaining an objective and non-biased standpoint. This was often difficult for the official dynastic historians, who used historical works to justify the reign of the current dynasty. He influenced the written works of many Chinese historians, including the works
Book of Han
The Book of Han, Hanshu or History of the Former Han Dynasty |Fan Ye]] . Various scholars have estimated that the earliest material covered in the book dates back to between 206 and 202 BCE...

 of Ban Gu
Ban Gu
Ban Gu , courtesy name Mengjian , was a 1st century Chinese historian and poet best known for his part in compiling the Book of Han. He also wrote in the main poetic genre of the Han era, a kind of poetry interspersed with prose called fu. Some are anthologized by Xiao Tong in his Selections of...

 and Ban Zhao
Ban Zhao
Bān Zhāo , courtesy name Huiban , was the first known female Chinese historian. She completed her brother Ban Gu's work as he was imprisoned and executed in the year 92 BCE. because of his association with the family of Empress Dowager Dou. It was said her works could have filled eight volumes...

 in the 1st and 2nd centuries, and even Sima Guang
Sima Guang
Sīmǎ Guāng was a Chinese historian, scholar, and high chancellor of the Song Dynasty, jinshi 1038.-Life, profession, and works:...

's 11th-century compilation of the Zizhi Tongjian
Zizhi Tongjian
The Zizhi Tongjian was a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084, under the form of a chronicles. In 1065 CE, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered the great historian Sima Guang to lead with other scholars such as his chief assistants Liu Shu, Liu Ban and Fan Zuyu, the...

(資治通鑒/资治通鉴), presented to Emperor Shenzong of Song
Emperor Shenzong of Song
Emperor Shenzong of Song was the sixth emperor of the Chinese Song Dynasty. His personal name was Zhao Xu...

 in 1084 AD. The overall scope of the historiographical tradition in China is termed the Twenty-Four Histories
Twenty-Four Histories
The Twenty-Four Histories is a collection of Chinese historical books covering a period from 3000 BC to the Ming Dynasty in the 17th century. The whole set contains 3213 volumes and about 40 million words...

, created for each successive Chinese dynasty up until the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 (1368–1644); China's last dynasty, the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 (1644–1911), is not included.

Large encyclopedias were also produced in China through the ages. The Yiwen Leiju
Yiwen Leiju
The Yiwen Leiju is a Chinese encyclopedia completed during the Tang Dynasty by the calligrapher Ouyang Xun.It was divided into 47 sections and many subsections. It covered all subjects and contains many quotations from older works, many long lost. It also cites its sources. It was completed by...

encyclopedia was completed by Ouyang Xun
Ouyang Xun
Ouyang Xun , courtesy name Xinben , was a Confucian scholar and calligrapher of the early Tang Dynasty. He was born in Hunan, Changsha, to a family of government officials; and died in modern Anhui province.-Achievements:...

 in 624 during the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

, with aid from scholars Linghu Defen
Linghu Defen
Linghu Defen , formally Duke Xian of Pengyang , was an official of the Chinese dynasties Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty...

 and Chen Shuda
Chen Shuda
Chen Shuda , courtesy name Zicong , formally initially Duke Miao of Jiang , later Duke Zhong of Jiang , was an imperial prince of the Chinese dynasty Chen Dynasty, who, after Chen's destruction, served as an official for the succeeding Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty, becoming a chancellor during the...

. During the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

, the compilation of the Four Great Books of Song
Four Great Books of Song
The Four Great Books of Song was compiled by Li Fang and others during the Song Dynasty . The term was coined after the last book was finished during the 11th century...

 (10th century – 11th century), begun by Li Fang
Li Fang
Li Fang , courtesy name Mingyuan , was a Chinese scholar, compiler and prime minister from the Song Dynasty known for his leading in the compilation for the three of the Four Great Books of Song. He was born in what is now Hengshui, Hebei and once served the Later Han and Later Zhou....

 and completed by Cefu Yuangui, represented a massive undertaking of written material covering a wide range of different subjects. This included the Extensive Records of the Taiping Era
Tàipíng guangjì
The Extensive Records of the Taiping Era is a collection of stories compiled under the editorship of Li Fang, first published in 978. The book is divided into 500 volumes and consists of about 3 million words...

(978), the Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era
Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era
The Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era is a massive encyclopedia compiled by a number of officers commissioned by the imperial court of the Song Dynasty with the lead editor being Li Fang from 977 to 983 during the era of Taiping Xingguo. It is divided into 1,000 volumes and 55 sections, which...

(983), the Finest Blossoms in the Garden of Literature
Finest Blossoms in the Garden of Literature
The Finest Blossoms in the Garden of Literature is an anthology of poetry, odes, songs and writings from the Liang Dynasty to the Five Dynasties era. The book was compiled by a team of officers headed by Li Fang under an imperial order from 982 to 986, during the Song Dynasty...

(986), and the Prime Tortoise of the Record Bureau
Prime Tortoise of the Record Bureau
The Prime Tortoise of the Record Bureau was the largest encyclopedia compiled during the Chinese Song Dynasty . It was the last of the Four Great Books of Song, the previous three encyclopedias published in the 10th century....

(1013). Although these Song Dynasty Chinese encyclopedias featured millions of written Chinese characters each, their aggregate size paled in comparison to the later Yongle Encyclopedia
Yongle Encyclopedia
The Yongle Encyclopedia was a Chinese compilation of information commissioned by the Chinese Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle in 1403 and completed by 1408...

(1408) of the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

, which contained a total of 50 million Chinese characters. Even this size was trumped by later Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 encyclopedias, such as the printed Gujin Tushu Jicheng
Gujin Túshu Jíchéng
The Gujin Tushu Jicheng , is a vast encyclopaedic work written in China during the reigns of Qing emperors Kangxi and Yongzheng, completed in 1725. The work was headed initially by scholar Chen Menglei , and later by Jiang Tingxi. It contained 800,000 pages and over 100 million Chinese characters...

(1726), which featured over 100 million written Chinese characters in over 800,000 pages, printed in 60 different copies using copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

-metal Chinese movable type
Movable type
Movable type is the system of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document ....

 printing. Other great encyclopedic writers include the polymath scientist Shen Kuo
Shen Kuo
Shen Kuo or Shen Gua , style name Cunzhong and pseudonym Mengqi Weng , was a polymathic Chinese scientist and statesman of the Song Dynasty...

 (1031–1095) and his Dream Pool Essays
Dream Pool Essays
The Dream Pool Essays was an extensive book written by the polymath Chinese scientist and statesman Shen Kuo by 1088 AD, during the Song Dynasty of China...

, the agronomist and inventor Wang Zhen
Wang Zhen (official)
Wang Zhen was an official of the Yuan Dynasty of China. He is credited with the invention of the first wooden movable type printing in the world, while his predecessor of the Song Dynasty , Bi Sheng , invented the world's first earthenware movable type printing...

 (fl.
Floruit
Floruit , abbreviated fl. , is a Latin verb meaning "flourished", denoting the period of time during which something was active...

 1290–1333) and his Nongshu, and the minor scholar-official Song Yingxing
Song Yingxing
Song Yingxing , born in Yichun of Jiangxi, was a Chinese scientist and encyclopedist who lived during the late Ming Dynasty . He was the author of an encyclopedia that covered a wide variety of technical subjects, including the use of gunpowder weapons...

 (1587–1666) and his Tiangong Kaiwu.

Classical poetry

Along with the earlier Shijing, or Classic of Poetry, one of the earliest and most influential poetic anthologies was the Chuci (楚辭,楚辞) (Songs of the South), made up primarily of poems ascribed to the semi-legendary Qu Yuan
Qu Yuan
Qu Yuan was a Chinese poet who lived during the Warring States Period in ancient China. He is famous for his contributions to the poetry collection known as the Chu-ci...

 (屈原) (c. 340-278 BCE) and his follower Song Yu
Song Yu
Song Yu was a well-known Chinese poet in the State of Chu. He is commonly said to have been a nephew of Qu Yuan, but no reliable biographical information is available...

 (宋玉) (4th century BCE). The songs in this collection are lyrical and romantic and represent a different tradition from the earlier Shijing. During the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 (206 BCE-CE 220), this form evolved into the fu (賦,赋) , a poem usually in rhymed verse except for introductory and concluding passages that are in prose, often in the form of questions and answers. The era of disunity that followed the Han period saw the rise of romantic nature poetry, which was heavily influenced by Taoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

. The Han Chinese astronomer, mathematician, and inventor Zhang Heng
Zhang Heng
Zhang Heng was a Chinese astronomer, mathematician, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar from Nanyang, Henan. He lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty of China. He was educated in the capital cities of Luoyang and Chang'an, and began his career as a...

 (78–139 CE) was also largely responsible for the early development of Shi
Shi (poetry)
Shi is the Chinese word for "poetry" or "poem", anciently associated with Chinese poetry. In modern times, shi can and has been used as an umbrella term to mean poetry in any form or language, whether or not Chinese; but, it may imply or be used to refer certain classical forms of poetry, for...

(詩,诗) poetry.

Classical poetry reached its zenith during the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 (CE 618–907), and thus this type of poetry is known as Tang poetry
Tang poetry
Tang poetry refers to poetry written in or around the time of and in the characteristic style of China's Tang dynasty, and/or follows a certain style, often considered as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry...

. The early Tang period was best known for its lushi
Lushi (poetry)
Lushi lüshi refers a specific form of Classical Chinese poetry verse form. One of the most important poetry forms of Classical Chinese poetry, the lushi was an eight-line regulated verse form with lines made up of five, six, or seven characters; thus:*Five-character eight-line regulated verse : a...

律诗 (regulated verse
Regulated verse
Regulated verse, also known as Jintishi is a development within Classical Chinese poetry of the shi main formal type. Regulated verse is one of the most important of all Classical Chinese poetry types...

), an eight-line poem with five or seven words in each line; Zi (verse following strict rules of prosody); and jueju
Jueju
Jueju is a style of jintishi, or "Modern form poetry", that grew popular among Chinese poets in the Tang Dynasty , although traceable to earlier origins...

(绝句)(truncated verse), a four-line poem with five or seven words in each line. The two best-known poets of the period were Li Bai
Li Bai
Li Bai , also known in the West by various other transliterations, especially Li Po, was a major Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty poetry period. He has been regarded as one of the greatest poets in China's Tang period, which is often called China's "golden age" of poetry. Around a thousand existing...

 (701–762) and Du Fu
Du Fu
Du Fu was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty.Along with Li Bai , he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His greatest ambition was to serve his country as a successful civil servant, but he proved unable to make the necessary accommodations...

 (712–770). Li Bai
Li Bai
Li Bai , also known in the West by various other transliterations, especially Li Po, was a major Chinese poet of the Tang dynasty poetry period. He has been regarded as one of the greatest poets in China's Tang period, which is often called China's "golden age" of poetry. Around a thousand existing...

 was known for the romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 of his poetry; Du Fu
Du Fu
Du Fu was a prominent Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty.Along with Li Bai , he is frequently called the greatest of the Chinese poets. His greatest ambition was to serve his country as a successful civil servant, but he proved unable to make the necessary accommodations...

 was seen as a Confucian moralist with a strict sense of duty toward society. Later Tang poets developed greater realism
Literary realism
Literary realism most often refers to the trend, beginning with certain works of nineteenth-century French literature and extending to late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century authors in various countries, towards depictions of contemporary life and society "as they were." In the spirit of...

 and social criticism and refined the art of narration. Among the best-known of the later Tang poets was Bai Juyi (772–846), whose poems were a critical commentary on the society of his time. Li Yun  (789–831) was an eclectic poet, writing mainly "Palace poetry". The Quantangshi, or complete Tang Poems (全唐詩)
Quantangshi
The Quantangshi , and also translated as the Complete Tang Poems, is a collection of Tang poetry...

 was not fully compiled until 1705 CE, during the Qing Dynasty.

Subsequent writers of classical poetry lived under the shadow of their Tang predecessors, and although there were many poets in subsequent dynasties, none reached the level of this period. As the classical style of poetry became more stultified, a more flexible poetic medium, the ci
Ci (poetry)
Ci is a kind of lyric Classical Chinese poetry using a poetic meter based upon certain patterns of fixed-rhythm formal types. For speakers of English, the word "ci" is pronounced somewhat like "tsuh"...

(詞,词), arrived on the scene. The ci, a poetic form based on the tunes of popular songs, some of which were of Central Asian origin, was developed to its fullest by the poets of the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 (960–1279 CE). The Song era poet Su Shi
Su Shi
Su Shi , was a writer, poet, artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist, gastronome, and statesman of the Song Dynasty, and one of the major poets of the Song era. His courtesy name was Zizhan and his pseudonym was Dongpo Jushi , and he is often referred to as Su Dongpo...

 (1037–1101 CE) mastered the ci, shi, and fu forms of poetry, as well as prose
Prose
Prose is the most typical form of written language, applying ordinary grammatical structure and natural flow of speech rather than rhythmic structure...

, calligraphy
Calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

, and painting
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

.

As the ci gradually became more literary and artificial, Sanqu
Chinese Sanqu poetry
Chinese Sanqu poetry refers to a fixed-rhythm form of Classical Chinese poetry, or "literary song", specifically sanqu is a subtype of the qu formal type of poetry. Sanqu was a notable Chinese poetic form, possibly beginning in the Jin Dynasty ; but, especially associated with the Yuan , Ming ,...

, a more free form based on dramatic arias, developed. The use of sanqu songs in drama marked an important step in the development of vernacular literature.

Early prose

Early Chinese prose was deeply influenced by the great philosophical writings of the Hundred Schools of Thought
Hundred Schools of Thought
The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophers and schools that flourished from 770 to 221 BC during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period , an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China...

 (770-221 BCE). The works of Mo Zi (墨子), Mencius
Mencius
Mencius was a Chinese philosopher who was arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself.-Life:Mencius, also known by his birth name Meng Ke or Ko, was born in the State of Zou, now forming the territory of the county-level city of Zoucheng , Shandong province, only thirty kilometres ...

 (孟子) and Zhuang Zi (莊子) contain well-reasoned, carefully developed discourses that reveal much stronger organization and style than their predecessors. Mo Zi's polemic prose was built on solid and effective methodological reasoning. Mencius contributed elegant diction and, like Zhuang Zi, relied on comparisons, anecdotes, and allegories. By the 3rd century BCE, these writers had developed a simple, concise and economical prose style that served as a model of literary form for over 2,000 years. They were written in Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese
Classical Chinese or Literary Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese based on the grammar and vocabulary of ancient Chinese, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese...

,
an isolating language
Isolating language
An isolating language is a type of language with a low morpheme-per-word ratio — in the extreme case of an isolating language words are composed of a single morpheme...

 spoken during the Spring and Autumn Period.

Later prose

During the Tang period
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

, the ornate, artificial style of prose developed in previous periods was replace by a simple, direct, and forceful prose based on examples from the Hundred Schools (see above) and from the Han period
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

, the period in which the great historical works of Sima Tan
Sima Tan
Sima Tan was an early Chinese historian who worked under the Western Han. He studied astronomy with Tang Du, the I Ching under Yang He and Daoism under Master Huang. He held the position of Grand Historian between 140-110 BC. While Sima Tan had begun the Records of the Grand Historian , he died...

 and Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

 were published. This neoclassical style dominated prose writing for the next 800 years. It was exemplified in the work of Han Yu
Han Yu
Han Yu , born in Nanyang, Henan, China, was a precursor of Neo-Confucianism as well as an essayist and poet, during the Tang dynasty. The Indiana Companion calls him "comparable in stature to Dante, Shakespeare or Goethe" for his influence on the Chinese literary tradition . He stood for strong...

 韓愈 (768–824), a master essayist and strong advocate of a return to Confucian orthodoxy; Han Yu was later listed as one of the "Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song."

The Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 saw the rise in popularity of "travel record literature" (youji wenxue). Travel literature
Travel literature
Travel literature is travel writing of literary value. Travel literature typically records the experiences of an author touring a place for the pleasure of travel. An individual work is sometimes called a travelogue or itinerary. Travel literature may be cross-cultural or transnational in focus, or...

 combined both diary
Diary
A diary is a record with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. A personal diary may include a person's experiences, and/or thoughts or feelings, including comment on current events outside the writer's direct experience. Someone...

 and narrative
Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

 prose formats, it was practiced by such seasoned travelers as Fan Chengda
Fan Chengda
Fan Chengda , courtesy name Zhineng , was one of the best-known Chinese poets of the Song Dynasty , a government official, and an academic authority in geography , especially the southern provinces of China...

 (1126–1193) and Xu Xiake
Xu Xiake
Xu Xiake , born Xu Hongzu , courtesy name Zhenzhi , was a Chinese travel writer and geographer of the Ming Dynasty known best for his famous geographical treatise, and noted for his bravery and humility. He traveled throughout China for more than 30 years, documenting his travels extensively...

 (1587–1641) and can be seen in the example of Su Shi
Su Shi
Su Shi , was a writer, poet, artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist, gastronome, and statesman of the Song Dynasty, and one of the major poets of the Song era. His courtesy name was Zizhan and his pseudonym was Dongpo Jushi , and he is often referred to as Su Dongpo...

's Record of Stone Bell Mountain.

After the 14th century, vernacular
Vernacular
A vernacular is the native language or native dialect of a specific population, as opposed to a language of wider communication that is not native to the population, such as a national language or lingua franca.- Etymology :The term is not a recent one...

 fiction became popular, at least outside of court circles. Vernacular fiction covered a broader range of subject matter and was longer and more loosely structured than literary fiction. One of the masterpieces of Chinese vernacular fiction is the 18th-century domestic novel Dream of the Red Chamber
Dream of the Red Chamber
Dream of the Red Chamber , composed by Cao Xueqin, is one of China's Four Great Classical Novels. It was composed in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. It is considered to be a masterpiece of Chinese vernacular literature and is generally acknowledged to be a pinnacle of...

(紅樓夢).

Some contributors

  • Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang
    Tang Dynasty
    The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

     and Song
    Song Dynasty
    The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

    (唐宋八大家)
    • Han Yu
      Han Yu
      Han Yu , born in Nanyang, Henan, China, was a precursor of Neo-Confucianism as well as an essayist and poet, during the Tang dynasty. The Indiana Companion calls him "comparable in stature to Dante, Shakespeare or Goethe" for his influence on the Chinese literary tradition . He stood for strong...

       (韓愈,韩愈)
    • Liu Zongyuan
      Liu Zongyuan
      Liu Zongyuan , courtesy name Zihou , was a Chinese writer who lived in Chang'an during the Tang Dynasty. Liu was born in present-day Yongji, Shanxi, along with Han Yu, he was a founder of the Classical Prose Movement...

       (柳宗元)
    • Ouyang Xiu
      Ouyang Xiu
      Ouyang Xiu was a Chinese statesman, historian, essayist and poet of the Song Dynasty. He is also known by his courtesy name of Yongshu, and was also self nicknamed The Old Drunkard 醉翁, or Householder of the One of Six 六一居士 in his old age...

       (歐陽修,欧阳修)
    • Su Zhe (蘇轍,苏辙)
    • Su Shi
      Su Shi
      Su Shi , was a writer, poet, artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist, gastronome, and statesman of the Song Dynasty, and one of the major poets of the Song era. His courtesy name was Zizhan and his pseudonym was Dongpo Jushi , and he is often referred to as Su Dongpo...

       (蘇軾,苏轼)
    • Su Xun (蘇洵,苏洵)
    • Wang Anshi
      Wang Anshi
      Wang Anshi was a Chinese economist, statesman, chancellor and poet of the Song Dynasty who attempted controversial, major socioeconomic reforms...

       (王安石)
    • Zeng Gong
      Zeng Gong
      Zeng Gong , courtesy name Zigu , was a Chinese scholar and historian of the Song Dynasty in China. He was one of the supporters of the New Classical Prose Movement and is regarded as founder of one of the Eight Great Schools of Thought of the Tang and Song dynasties .Zeng Gong was born in Jianchang...

       (曾鞏,曾巩)
  • Two great scientific authors from the Song period:
    • Shen Kuo
      Shen Kuo
      Shen Kuo or Shen Gua , style name Cunzhong and pseudonym Mengqi Weng , was a polymathic Chinese scientist and statesman of the Song Dynasty...

       (沈括) (1031–1095)
    • Su Song
      Su Song
      Su Song was a renowned Chinese polymath who specialized himself as a statesman, astronomer, cartographer, horologist, pharmacologist, mineralogist, zoologist, botanist, mechanical and architectural engineer, poet, antiquarian, and ambassador of the Song Dynasty .Su Song was the engineer of a...

       (蘇頌,苏颂) (1020–1101)
  • Ming Dynasty
    Ming Dynasty
    The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

    • Song Lian
      Song Lian
      Song Lian , style name Jinglian , was a literary and political adviser to the Ming dynasty founder, and one of the principal figures in the Mongol Yuan Dynasty Jinhua school of Neo-Confucianism...

       (宋濂) (1310–1381)
    • Liu Ji (劉基,刘基) (1311–1375)
    • Jiao Yu
      Jiao Yu
      Jiao Yu was a Chinese military officer loyal to Zhu Yuanzhang , the founder of the Ming Dynasty . He was entrusted by Emperor Hongwu as a leading artillery officer for the rebel army that overthrew the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, and established the Ming Dynasty...

       (焦玉)
    • Gui Youguang
      Gui Youguang
      Gui Youguang., also known as Gui Zhenchuan, Xi Fu, Kai Fu, Xiang Jisheng, was a Chinese proser of Ming Dynasty. His prose creation was highly spoken of...

       (歸有光,归有光) (1506–1571)
    • Yuan Hongdao
      Yuan Hongdao
      Yuan Hongdao was Chinese poet of the Ming Dynasty, and one of the Three Yuan Brothers. His life spanned nearly the whole of the Wanli period in Chinese history. Yuan was from Gong'an in Hukuang. His family had been military officials for generations. Yuan showed an interest in literature from...

       (袁宏道) (1568–1610)
    • Xu Xiake
      Xu Xiake
      Xu Xiake , born Xu Hongzu , courtesy name Zhenzhi , was a Chinese travel writer and geographer of the Ming Dynasty known best for his famous geographical treatise, and noted for his bravery and humility. He traveled throughout China for more than 30 years, documenting his travels extensively...

       (徐霞客) (1586–1641)
    • Gao Qi
      Gao Qi
      Gao Qi , style name Ji Di 季迪, pseudonym Qinqiuzhi 青丘子 is generally acknowledged as the greatest poet of the Ming dynasty in China. He was born and raised in the shore of Wusong River, north of Puli Town near Suzhou...

       (高啟,高启)
    • Zhang Dai
      Zhang Dai
      Zhang Dai was a Ming Dynasty Chinese writer. He was a gentleman essayist who was a biographer of his own privileged aritocratic family, a historian of the Ming Dynasty, and a biographer of notable virtuous figures...

       (張岱,张岱)
    • Tu Long
      Tu Long
      Tu Long , was a playwright and essayist who lived during the Ming Dynasty. He was born in Yin county ....

       (屠隆)
    • Wen Zhenheng
      Wen Zhenheng
      Wen Zhenheng was a Ming dynasty scholar, painter, landscape garden designer, and great grandson of Wen Zhengming, a famous Ming dynasty painter....

       (文震亨)
  • Qing Dynasty
    Qing Dynasty
    The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

    • Fang Pao (方苞) (1668–1749)
    • Liu Dakui (劉大櫆,刘大魁) (1698–1779)
    • Yao Nai
      Yao Nai
      Yao Nai was a well-known scholar of the Qing Dynasty.Born in Tongcheng , Anhui province, Yao Nai achieved the degree of Jinshi in 1763, and was appointed to the Hanlin Academy . Later he worked as official of several central administrative departements...

       (姚鼐) (1731–1815)
    • Yuan Mei
      Yuan Mei
      Yuan Mei was a well-known poet, scholar, artist, and gastronome of the Qing Dynasty.Yuan Mei was born in Qiantang , Zhejiang province, to a cultured family who had never before attained high office. He achieved the degree of jinshi in 1739 at the young age of 23, was immediately appointed to the...

       (袁枚) (1716–1798)
    • Gong Zizhen (龔自珍,龚自珍) (1792–1841)
    • Wei Yuan
      Wei Yuan
      Wei Yuan , born Wei Yuanda , courtesy names Moshen and Hanshi , was a Chinese scholar from Shaoyang, Hunan. He moved to Yangzhou in 1831, where he remained for the rest of his life. Wei obtained the provincial degree in the Imperial examinations and subsequently worked in the secretariat of...

       (魏源) (1794–1857)

Selected classical novels and plays

  • The Four Great Classical Novels
    Four Great Classical Novels
    The Four Great Classical Novels, or the Four Major Classical Novels of Chinese literature, are the four novels commonly regarded by scholars to be the greatest and most influential of pre-modern Chinese fiction. Dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties, they are well known to most Chinese readers...

     (Si Da Ming Zhu 四大名著):
    • Dream of the Red Chamber
      Dream of the Red Chamber
      Dream of the Red Chamber , composed by Cao Xueqin, is one of China's Four Great Classical Novels. It was composed in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. It is considered to be a masterpiece of Chinese vernacular literature and is generally acknowledged to be a pinnacle of...

      (紅樓夢,红楼梦 A Dream of Red Mansions, The Story of the Stone and The Chronicles of the Stone, 石頭記, 石头记 Shítóu Jì), by Cao Xueqin
      Cao Xueqin
      Cao Xueqin was a Qing Dynasty Chinese writer, best known as the author of Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature...

       (曹雪芹)
    • Water Margin
      Water Margin
      Water Margin , also known as Outlaws of the Marsh, All Men Are Brothers, Men of the Marshes, or The Marshes of Mount Liang, is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.Attributed to Shi Nai'an and written in vernacular Chinese, the story, set in the Song Dynasty,...

      (水滸傳, 水浒传 All Men Are Brothers and Outlaws of the Marsh), by Shī Nài'ān
      Shi Naian
      Shi Nai'an , was a Chinese writer from Suzhou. He was attributed as the first compiler of the Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.Not much biographical information is known about him...

       (施耐庵)
    • Romance of the Three Kingdoms
      Romance of the Three Kingdoms
      Romance of the Three Kingdoms, written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century, is a Chinese historical novel based on the events in the turbulent years near the end of the Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history, starting in 169 and ending with the reunification of the land in...

      (三國演義,三国演义), by Luó Guànzhōng
      Luo Guanzhong
      Luo Ben , better known by his style name Luo Guanzhong , was a Chinese writer of the early Ming Dynasty period of Chinese history. He was also known as Huhai Sanren...

       (羅貫中,罗贯中)
    • Journey to the West
      Journey to the West
      Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. It was written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century. In English-speaking countries, the tale is also often known simply as Monkey. This was one title used for a popular, abridged translation by Arthur Waley...

      (西遊記,西游记 Monkey King
      Sun Wukong
      Sun Wukong , also known as the Monkey King is a main character in the classical Chinese epic novel Journey to the West . In the novel, he is a monkey born from a stone who acquires supernatural powers through Taoist practices...

       and Monkey), by Wú Chéng'ēn
      Wu Cheng'en
      Wu Cheng'en , courtesy name Ruzhong , pen name "Sheyang Hermit," was a Chinese novelist and poet of the Ming Dynasty, best known for being the attributed author of one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, Journey to the West.-Biography:Wu was born in Lianshui, in Jiangsu...

       (吳承恩,吴承恩). This is one of The Four Journeys
      The Four Journeys
      The Four Journeys consist of: Journey to the North, Journey to the South, Journey to the East, and Journey to the West.*The Journey to the North is on the apotheosis of True-Warrior as Mysterious-Heaven Supreme-Emperor .*The Journey to the South was composed by Yu...

      .

  • Other classic literature:
    • Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio
      Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio
      Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio or Liaozhai Zhiyi is a collection of nearly five hundred mostly supernatural tales written by Pu Songling in Classical Chinese during the early Qing Dynasty.Pu borrows from a folk tradition of oral storytelling to put to paper a series of captivating,...

      (聊齋誌異,聊斋志异), by Pú Sōnglíng
      Pu Songling
      Pu Songling was a Qing Dynasty Chinese writer, best known as the author of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio.-Biography:Pu was born into a poor landlord-merchant family from Zichuan...

       (蒲松齡,蒲松龄)
    • Jin Ping Mei
      Jin Ping Mei
      Jin Ping Mei, or The Plum in the Golden Vase is a Chinese naturalistic novel composed in the vernacular during the late Ming Dynasty. The author was Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng , "The Scoffing Scholar of Lanling", a clear pseudonym, and his identity is otherwise unknown...

      (金瓶梅, 蘭陵笑笑生,兰陵笑笑生 or The Plum in the Golden Vase), by Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng (兰陵笑笑生)
    • Fengshen Bang (封神榜, The Investiture of the Gods)
    • Xingshi Yinyuan Zhuan (醒世姻緣傳,醒世姻缘传 or The Story of a Marital Fate to Awaken the World)
    • The Scholars (Chinese novel) (儒林外史 Ru Lin Wai Shi), by Wú Jìngzǐ
      Wu Jingzi
      Wu Jingzi was a Chinese scholar and writer who was born in the city now known as Chuzhou, Anhui and who died in Yangzhou, Jiangsu.-Biography:...

       (吳敬梓)
    • Dijing Jingwulue
      Dijing Jingwulue
      The Dijing Jingwulue is a 17th century Chinese prose classic. The principal author was Liu Tong, an official with a Jinshi degree and member of the Jingling school in Chinese prose literature. His co-authors were Yu Yizheng and Zhou Sun , two scholars outside of official circles. The preface...

      (帝京景物略 or Survey of Scenery and Monuments in the Imperial Capital), by Liu Tong
      Liu Tong
      Liu Tong was a Chinese prose master and official from Macheng in Huanggang. He was a figure in the Ming Dynasty's Jingling school of Chinese prose literature in contrast to the Gongan school and the well known Yuan Hongdao and his brothers...

    • The Romance of the Eastern Zhou (東周列國志, 东周列国志 dōngzhōu lièguō zhì), by Feng Menglong
      Feng Menglong
      Feng Menglong was a Chinese vernacular writer and poet of the late Ming Dynasty. He was born in Changzhou, now Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China....

      (冯梦龙), edited by Cai Yuanfang (蔡元放)

  • Drama:
    • Romance of the West Chamber
      Romance of the West Chamber
      thumb|250px|A scene from a multi-colored woodblock printing album depicting scenes from the play,Romance of the West Chamber is one of the most famous Chinese dramatic works. It was written by the Yuan Dynasty playwright Wang Shifu 王實甫, and set during the Tang Dynasty...

      (西廂記,西厢记 Xīxiāngjì), by Wang Shifu
      Wang Shifu
      Wang Shifu was a successful Chinese dramatic playwright of the Yuan Dynasty.Born in Dadu, there is little known about him. There are 14 plays attributed to Wang and only three are extant. His Romance of the West Chamber is considered to be one of the most famous Chinese plays and is still popular...

       (王实甫)
    • The Injustice to Dou E
      The Injustice to Dou E
      The Injustice to Dou E , also known as Snow in Midsummer is a Chinese drama by Guan Hanqing during the Yuan Dynasty. This is one of Guan's most popular works, even in modern times....

      (竇娥冤,窦娥冤 Dou E Yuan), by Guan Hanqing
      Guan Hanqing
      Guan Hanqing , sobriquet "the Oldman of the Studio" , was a notable Chinese playwright and poet in the Yuan Dynasty.-Biography:...

       (關漢卿,关汉卿)
    • The Jade Hairpin (Yuzanji 玉簪記,玉簪记), by Gao Lian
      Gao Lian (dramatist)
      Gao Lian , was Chinese writer, dramatist and encyclopedist.Gao Lian was born in Qiantang . His style name was 'Shen Fu' and his pseudonym was 'Ruinan Dao Ren' . He is known to have written the plays Jiexiaoji and Yuzanji...

       (高濂)
    • Hui Lan Ji
      Circle of Chalk
      Circle of Chalk , by Li Xingdao , is a Yuan dynasty Chinese classical zaju verse play, in four acts with a prologue...

      (灰闌記,灰兰记), by Li Xingdao
      Li Xingdao
      Li Xingdao was a 14th century Chinese playwright. His works include Hui Lan Ji which was used as the basis for Bertolt Brecht's 1948 play Caucasian Chalk Circle....

       (李行道) became the basis for The Caucasian Chalk Circle
      The Caucasian Chalk Circle
      The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a play by the German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht. An example of Brecht's epic theatre, the play is a parable about a peasant girl who rescues a baby and becomes a better mother than its natural parents....

    • The Peony Pavilion
      The Peony Pavilion
      The Peony Pavilion is a play written by Tang Xianzu in the Ming Dynasty and first performed in 1598 at the Pavilion of Prince Teng. One of Tang's "Four Dreams", it has traditionally been performed as a Kunqu opera, but Chuan and Gan opera versions also exist...

      (Mudan Ting 牡丹亭), by Tang Xianzu
      Tang Xianzu
      Tang Xianzu , courtesy name Yireng , was a Chinese playwright of the Ming Dynasty.Tang was a native of Linchuan, Jiangxi and his career as an official consisted principally of low-level positions. He successfully participated in the Provincial examinations at the age of 21 and at the imperial...

       (湯顯祖,汤显祖)

Late Qing (1895–1911)

Scholars now tend to agree that modern Chinese literature did not erupt suddenly in the New Culture Movement
New Culture Movement
The New Culture Movement 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. Scholars like Chen Duxiu, Cai Yuanpei, Li Dazhao, Lu Xun, Zhou Zuoren, and Hu Shi, had...

 (1917–23). Instead, they trace its origins back at least to the late Qing period (1895–1911). The late Qing was a period of intellectual ferment sparked by a sense of national crisis. Intellectuals began to seek solutions to China's problems outside of its own tradition. They translated works of Western expository writing and literature, which enthralled readers with new ideas and opened up windows onto new exotic cultures. Most outstanding were the translations of Yan Fu
Yan Fu
Yan Fu was a Chinese scholar and translator, most famous for introducing western ideas, including Darwin's "natural selection," to China in the late 19th century.-Life:...

 (严复) (1864–1921) and Lin Shu
Lin Shu
Lin Shu , courtesy name Qinnan , was a Chinese man of letters, most famous for his introducing Western literature to a whole generation of Chinese readers, despite his ignorance of any foreign language...

 (林纾) (1852–1924). In this climate, a boom in the writing of fiction occurred, especially after the 1905 abolishment of the civil service examination when literati struggled to fill new social and cultural roles for themselves. Stylistically, this fiction shows signs of both the Chinese novelistic tradition and Western narrative modes. In subject matter, it is strikingly concerned with the contemporary: social problems, historical upheaval, changing ethical values, etc. In this sense, late Qing fiction is modern. Important novelists of the period include Wu Woyao (吴沃尧) (1866–1910), Li Boyuan (李伯元) (1867–1906), Liu E
Liu E
Liu E , courtesy name/"zì": "Tieyun" , was a Chinese scholar, entrepreneur, and writer.-Government and politics:...

 (刘鹗) (1857–1909), and Zeng Pu (曾朴) (1872–1935).

The late Qing also saw a "revolution in poetry" (诗界革命), which promoted experimentation with new forms and the incorporation of new registers of language. However, the poetry scene was still dominated by the adherents to the Tongguang School (named after the Tongzhi and Guangxu reigns of the Qing), whose leaders — Chen Yan (陈衍), Chen Sanli (陈三立), Zheng Xiaoxu
Zheng Xiaoxu
Zhèng Xiàoxū . Chinese statesman, diplomat and calligrapher.-Early life and diplomatic career:Although Zheng traced his ancestral roots to Minhou, a small town near Fuzhou, he was born in Suzhou, Jiangsu...

 (郑孝胥), and Shen Zengzhi (沈曾植) — promoted a Song style in the manner of Huang Tingjian. These poets would become the objects of scorn by New Culturalists like Hu Shi, who saw their work as overly allusive, artificial, and divorced from contemporary reality.

In drama, the late Qing saw the emergence of the new "civilized drama" (文明戏), a hybrid of Chinese operatic drama with Western-style spoken drama. Peking opera and "reformed Peking opera" were also popular at the time.

Republican Era (1911–1949)

The literary scene in the first few years after the collapse of the Qing in 1911 was dominated by popular love stories, some written in the classical language and some in the vernacular. This entertainment fiction would later be labeled "Mandarin Ducks and Butterfly" fiction by New Culturalists, who despised its lack of social engagement. Throughout much of the Republican era, Butterfly fiction would reach many more readers than its "progressive" counterpart.

In the course of the New Culture Movement
New Culture Movement
The New Culture Movement 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. Scholars like Chen Duxiu, Cai Yuanpei, Li Dazhao, Lu Xun, Zhou Zuoren, and Hu Shi, had...

 (1917–23), the vernacular language largely displaced the classical in all areas of literature and writing. Literary reformers Hu Shi (胡適) (1891–1962) and Chen Duxiu
Chen Duxiu
Chen Duxiu played many different roles in Chinese history. He was a leading figure in the anti-imperial Xinhai Revolution and the May Fourth Movement for Science and Democracy. Along with Li Dazhao, Chen was a co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. He was its first General Secretary....

 (陳獨秀) (1880–1942) declared the classical language "dead" and promoted the vibrant vernacular in its stead. Hu Shi once said, "A dead language can never produce a living literature." In terms of literary practice, Lu Xun
Lu Xun
Lu Xun or Lu Hsün , was the pen name of Zhou Shuren , one of the major Chinese writers of the 20th century. Considered by many to be the leading figure of modern Chinese literature, he wrote in baihua as well as classical Chinese...

 (1881–1936) is usually said to be the first major stylist in the new vernacular prose that Hu Shi and Chen Duxiu were promoting.

Though often said to be less successful than their counterparts in fiction writing, poets also experimented with the vernacular in new poetic forms, such as free verse and the sonnet. Given that there was no tradition of writing poetry in the vernacular, these experiments were more radical than those in fiction writing and also less easily accepted by the reading public. Modern poetry flourished especially in the 1930s, in the hands of poets like Zhu Xiang (朱湘), Dai Wangshu
Dai Wangshu
Dai Wangshu was a Chinese poet, essayist and translator active from the late 1920s to the end of the 1940s...

  (戴望舒), Li Jinfa (李金发), Wen Yiduo (闻一多), and Ge Xiao (葛萧). Other poets, even among the May Fourth
May Fourth Movement
The May Fourth Movement 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 Problem...

 radicals (e.g., Yu Dafu
Yu Dafu
Yu Dafu . Born in Fuyang, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, was a modern Chinese short story writer and poet.-Early years:...

), continued to write poetry in classical styles.

May Fourth radicalism, combined with changes in the education system, made possible the emergence of a large group of women writers. While there had been women writers in the late imperial period and the late Qing, they had been few in number. These writers generally tackled domestic issues, such as relations between the sexes, family, and friendship, but they were revolutionary in giving direct expression to female subjectivity. Ding Ling
Ding Ling
Dīng Líng was the pseudonym of Jiǎng Bīngzhī , also known as Bīn Zhǐ , a Chinese woman author from Linli in Hunan province. She was awarded the Soviet Union's Stalin second prize for Literature in 1951....

's (丁玲) story "Diary of Miss Sophie" (莎菲女士日记) exposes the thoughts and feelings of its female diarist in all their complexity.

The 1920s and 1930s saw the emergence of spoken drama. Most outstanding among playwrights of the day are Ouyuang Yuqian (欧阳予倩), Hong Shen (洪深), Tian Han
Tian Han
Tian Han , born in Changsha, Hunan, was a Chinese drama activist, playwright, a leader of revolutionary music and films, as well as a translator and poet. Tian contributed a great deal to the development of Chinese modern drama as well as Chinese opera...

 (田汉), and Cao Yu
Cao Yu
Cao Yu , born as Wan Jiabao , was a renowned Chinese playwright, often regarded as China's most important of the 20th century. His most well-known works are Thunderstorm , Sunrise and Peking Man...

 (曹禺). More popular than this Western-style drama, however, was Peking Opera, raised to new artistic heights by the likes of Mei Lanfang
Méi Lánfang
Mei Lanfang was one of the most famous Beijing opera artists in modern history, exclusively known for his qingyi roles, a type of dan role. Méi Lánfāng is his stage name, and in Chinese it is generally considered a feminine name. His real name was Méi Lán...

 (梅蘭芳).

In the late 1920s and 1930s, literary journals and societies espousing various artistic theories proliferated. Among the major writers of the period were Guo Moruo
Guo Moruo
Guo Moruo , courtesy name Dingtang , was a Chinese author, poet, historian, archaeologist, and government official from Sichuan, China.-Family history:Guo, originally named Guo Kaizhen, was born on November 10 or 16, in the small town of Shawan...

 (郭沫若) (1892–1978), a poet, historian, essayist, and critic; Mao Dun
Mao Dun
Mao Dun was the pen name of Shen Dehong , a 20th century Chinese novelist, cultural critic, and journalist. He was also the Minister of Culture of China from 1949 to 1965. He is currently renowned as one of the best realist novelists in the history of modern China...

 (茅盾) (1896–1981), the first of the novelists to emerge from the "League of Left-Wing Writers" and one whose work reflected the revolutionary struggle and disillusionment of the late 1920s; satirist and novelist Lao She
Lao She
Shu Qingchun , better known by his pen name Lao She was a notable Chinese writer. A novelist and dramatist, he was one of the most significant figures of 20th century Chinese literature, and is perhaps best known for his novel Rickshaw Boy and the play Teahouse . He was of Manchu ethnicity...

 (老舍) (1899–1966); and Ba Jin
Ba Jin
Li Yaotang , courtesy name Feigan , is considered to be one of the most important and widely-read Chinese writers of the 20th century. He wrote under the pen name of Ba Jin , Pa Chin, Li Fei-Kan, Li Pei-Kan, Pa Kin, allegedly taking his pseudonym from Russian anarchists Bakunin and Kropotkin...

 (巴金) (1904–2005), a novelist whose work was influenced by Ivan Turgenev
Ivan Turgenev
Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was a Russian novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His first major publication, a short story collection entitled A Sportsman's Sketches, is a milestone of Russian Realism, and his novel Fathers and Sons is regarded as one of the major works of 19th-century...

 and other Russian writers. In the 1930s Ba Jin produced a trilogy that depicted the struggle of modern youth against the ageold dominance of the Confucian family system. Comparison often is made between Jia
JIA
JIA or Jia may refer toJIA* Japan Institute of Architects* Jacksonville International Airport, medium-to-large airport in the city of Jacksonville, Florida.* Jetstream International Airlines, now known as PSA Airlines...

(Family), one of the novels in the trilogy, and Dream of the Red Chamber
Dream of the Red Chamber
Dream of the Red Chamber , composed by Cao Xueqin, is one of China's Four Great Classical Novels. It was composed in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. It is considered to be a masterpiece of Chinese vernacular literature and is generally acknowledged to be a pinnacle of...

(红楼梦). Many of these writers became important as administrators of artistic and literary policy after 1949. Most of those authors who were still alive during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

 (1966–76) were either purged or forced to submit to public humiliation.

The League of Left-Wing Writers founded in 1930 included Lu Xun
Lu Xun
Lu Xun or Lu Hsün , was the pen name of Zhou Shuren , one of the major Chinese writers of the 20th century. Considered by many to be the leading figure of modern Chinese literature, he wrote in baihua as well as classical Chinese...

 (魯迅) among its leadership. By 1932 it had adopted the Soviet doctrine of socialist realism
Socialist realism
Socialist realism is a style of realistic art which was developed in the Soviet Union and became a dominant style in other communist countries. Socialist realism is a teleologically-oriented style having its purpose the furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism...

; that is, the insistence that art must concentrate on contemporary events in a realistic way, exposing the ills of nonsocialist society and promoting a glorious future under communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

.

Other styles of literature were at odds with the highly-political literature being promoted by the League. The "New Sensationists" (新感觉派) – a group of writers based in Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 who were influenced, to varying degrees, by Western and Japanese modernism—wrote fiction that was more concerned with the unconscious and with aesthetics than with politics or social problems. Most important among these writers were Mu Shiying
Mu Shiying
Mu Shiying was a Chinese writer who is now best known for his modernist short stories. He was active in Shanghai in the 1930s where he contributed to journals like Les Contemporains , edited by Shi Zhecun.He was born in Cixi, Ningbo, Zhejiang and studied Chinese literature at Shanghai Guanghua...

 (穆时英), Liu Na'ou (刘呐鸥), and Shi Zhecun
Shi Zhecun
Shi Zhecun was a Chinese author and journal editor in Shanghai during the 1930s. He also wrote poetry and essays, but is now most known for his modernist short stories exploring the psychological conditions of Shanghai urbanites...

 (施蛰存). Other writers, including Shen Congwen
Shen Congwen
Shen Congwen was the pen name of a Miao Chinese writer from the May Fourth Movement. He was known for combining the vernacular style of writing with classical Chinese writing techniques, and his writing also reflects a strong influence from western literature. He was born as Shen Yuehuan on 1902...

 (沈从文) and Fei Ming (废名), balked at the utilitarian role for literature by writing lyrical, almost nostalgic, depictions of the countryside.

The Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 had established a base after the Long March
Long March
The Long March was a massive military retreat undertaken by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China, the forerunner of the People's Liberation Army, to evade the pursuit of the Kuomintang army. There was not one Long March, but a series of marches, as various Communist armies in the south...

 in Yan'an
Yan'an
Yan'an , is a prefecture-level city in the Shanbei region of Shaanxi province in China, administering several counties, including Zhidan County , which served as the Chinese communist capital before the city of Yan'an proper took that role....

. The literary ideals of the League were being simplified and enforced on writers and "cultural workers." In 1942, Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 gave a series of lectures called "Talks at the Yan'an Forum on Art and Literature" that clearly made literature subservient to politics via the Yan'an Rectification Movement. This document would become the national guideline for culture after the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

Maoist Era (1949–1976)

After coming to power in 1949, the Communists gradually nationalized the publishing industry, centralized the book distribution system, and brought writers under institutional control through the Writers Union. A system of strict censorship was implemented, with Mao's "Yan'an Talks" as the guiding force. Periodic literary campaigns targeted figures such as Hu Shi and Hu Feng
Hu Feng
Hu Feng was a Chinese writer and literary and art theorist. He comes from Qichun in the province of Hubei. In 1929 he went to study in Japan. In 1933, he was expelled from Japan and he joined the League of the Left-Wing Writers in China in Shanghai. He was friends with Lu Xun...

 (胡风) who did not toe the Party line on literature. Socialist realism became the uniform style. Conflict, however, soon developed between the government and the writers. The ability to satirize and expose the evils in contemporary society that had made writers useful to the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 before its accession to power was no longer welcomed. Even more unwelcome to the party was the persistence among writers of what was deplored as "petty bourgeois idealism," "humanitarianism
Humanitarianism
In its most general form, humanitarianism is an ethic of kindness, benevolence and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings. Humanitarianism has been an evolving concept historically but universality is a common element in its evolution...

", and an insistence on freedom to choose subject matter. This conflict came to a head in the Hundred Flowers Campaign
Hundred Flowers Campaign
The Hundred Flowers Campaign, also termed the Hundred Flowers Movement, refers mainly to a brief six weeks in the People's Republic of China in the early summer of 1957 during which the Communist Party of China encouraged a variety of views and solutions to national policy issues, launched...

 (1956–57). Mao Zedong encouraged writers to speak out against problems in the new society. Having learned the lessons of the anti-Hu Feng campaign, they were initially reluctant; soon, however, a flurry of newspaper articles, films, and literary works drew attention to such problems as bureaucratism and authoritarianism within the ranks of the party. Now aware of the level of discontent toward the new regime by intellectuals, Mao decided to reverse the Hundred Flowers liberalization, a crackdown now referred to as the Anti-Rightist Movement
Anti-Rightist Movement
The Anti-Rightist Movement of the People's Republic of China in the 1950s and early 1960s consisted of a series of campaigns to purge alleged "rightists" within the Communist Party of China and abroad...

 (反右运动). Many intellectuals were attacked. At the time of the Great Leap Forward, the government increased its insistence on the use of socialist realism and combined with it so-called revolutionary realism and revolutionary romanticism. Authors were permitted to write about contemporary China, as well as other times during China's modern period——as long as it was accomplished with the desired socialist revolutionary realism.

Despite the draconian measures instituted by Mao's regime to instill literary uniformity, novels of great quality were produced. Examples of this new socialist literature include The Builder ( Chuanye Shi 创业史) by Liu Qing 柳青, The Song of Youth (Qing Chun Zhi Ge 青春之歌) by Yang Mo
Yang Mo
Yang Mo was a Chinese writer who was most well known for her writing of the book Song of Youth in 1958, which was adapted into a film in 1959.-Bibliography:Song of Youth Tenant...

 杨沫, Tracks in the Snowy Forest (Lin Hai Xue Yuan 林海雪原 ) by Qu Bo (novelist)
Qu Bo (novelist)
Qu Bo 曲波 was a novelist in the People’s Republic of China. His name was also translated as Chu Po. Qu 曲, the family name, has meanings of curve, melody and tune. Bo 波 stands for ripples and waves...

 曲波, Keep the Red Flag Flying (Hong Qi Pu 红旗谱) by Liang Bin 梁斌, The Red Sun ( Hong Ri 红日) by Wu Qiang 吴强, and Red Crag ( Hong Yan 红岩) by Luo Guangbin 罗广斌 and Yang Yiyan (杨益言).

During the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, the repression and intimidation led by Mao's fourth wife, Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing was the pseudonym that was used by Chinese leader Mao Zedong's last wife and major Communist Party of China power figure. She went by the stage name Lan Ping during her acting career, and was known by various other names during her life...

, succeeded in drying up all cultural activity except a few "model" operas and heroic novels, such as those by Hao Ran
Hao Ran
Hao Ran was the penname of Liang Jinguang,a modern Chinese writer.He was the only author who published novels during the Cultural Revolution era. His work Sunny Days was praised by Jiang Qing. In 1977, he joined the Revolutionary Committee of Beijing. His autobiograghy was published in 2000....

 (浩然). Although it has since been learned that some writers continued to produce in secret, during that period no significant literary work was published.

Post-Mao (1976–present)

The arrest of Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing
Jiang Qing was the pseudonym that was used by Chinese leader Mao Zedong's last wife and major Communist Party of China power figure. She went by the stage name Lan Ping during her acting career, and was known by various other names during her life...

 and the other members of the Gang of Four
Gang of Four
The Gang of Four was the name given to a political faction composed of four Chinese Communist Party officials. They came to prominence during the Cultural Revolution and were subsequently charged with a series of treasonous crimes...

 in 1976, and especially the reforms initiated at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh National Party Congress Central Committee
11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
The 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China was in session from 1977 to 1982. It held seven plenary sessions in the 5-year period.It elected the 11th Politburo of the Communist Party of China in 1977.-Members:*Hua Guofeng...

 in December 1978, led writers to take up their pens again. Much of the literature in what would be called the "new era" (新时期) discussed the serious abuses of power that had taken place at both the national and the local levels during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

. The writers decried the waste of time and talent during that decade and bemoaned abuses that had held China back. At the same time, the writers expressed eagerness to make a contribution to building Chinese society. This literature, often called "the literature of the wounded," contained disquieting views of the party and the political system. Intensely patriotic, these authors wrote cynically of the political leadership that gave rise to the extreme chaos and disorder of the Cultural Revolution. Some of them extended the blame to the entire generation of leaders and to the political system itself. The political authorities were faced with a serious problem: how could they encourage writers to criticize and discredit the abuses of the Cultural Revolution without allowing that criticism to go beyond what they considered tolerable limits?

During this period, a large number of novels and short stories were published. Literary magazines from before the Cultural Revolution were revived, and new ones were established to satisfy the appetite of the reading public. There was a special interest in foreign works. Linguists were commissioned to translate recently published foreign literature, often without carefully considering its interest for the Chinese reader. Literary magazines specializing in translations of foreign short stories became very popular, especially among the young.

These dramatic changes brought objections from some leaders in the government, literary and art circles who feared it was happening too fast. The first reaction came in 1980 with calls to combat "bourgeois liberalism," a campaign that was repeated in 1981. These two difficult periods were followed by the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign
Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign
The Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign was a Chinese political campaign spanning from October 1983 to December 1983, started by political factions in the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party that feared the spreading of Western liberal ideas among the Chinese populace, a product of the then...

 in late 1983.

At the same time, writers remained more free to write in unconventional styles and to treat sensitive subject matter. A spirit of literary experimentation flourished in the second half of the 1980s. Fiction writers such as Wang Meng
Wang Meng
Wang Meng , courtesy name Jinglüe , formally Marquess Wu of Qinghe , served as prime minister to the Former Qin emperor Fu Jiān in the fourth century...

 (王蒙), Zhang Xinxin
Zhang Xinxin
Zhang Xinxin , is a Chinese writer.-Works:* On the Same Horizon a novel* The Dreams of Our Generation a novellaZhang Xinxin , is a Chinese writer.-Works:* On the Same Horizon a novel...

 (张辛欣), and Zong Pu
Zong Pu
Zong Pu , born Feng Zhongpu , is a Chinese writer and scholar. She won the Mao Dun Literature Prize for her 2001 novel, Note of Hiding in the East.Zong graduated from Tsinghua University in 1951...

 (宗璞) and dramatists such as Gao Xingjian
Gao Xingjian
Gao Xingjian is a Chinese-born novelist, playwright, critic, and painter. An émigré to France since 1987, Gao was granted French citizenship in 1997...

 (高行健) experimented with modernist language and narrative modes. Another group of writers—collectively said to constitute the Roots (寻根) movement—including Han Shaogong
Han Shaogong
Han Shaogong is a Chinese novelist and fictionist.Han was born in Hunan, China. While relying on traditional Chinese culture, in particular Chinese mythology, folklore, Taoism and Buddhism as source of inspiration, he also borrows freely from Western literary techniques...

 (韩少功), Mo Yan
Mo Yan
Mo Yan is a modern Chinese author, described as "one of the most famous, oft-banned and widely pirated of all Chinese writers". He is known in the West for two of his novels which were the basis of the film Red Sorghum. He has been referred to as the Chinese answer to Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller...

, and A Cheng (阿城) sought to reconnect literature and culture to Chinese traditions
Culture of China
Chinese culture is one of the world's oldest and most complex. The area in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces...

, from which a century of modernization and cultural and political iconoclasm
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

 had severed them. Other writers (e.g., Yu Hua (余华), Ge Fei
Ge Fei (author)
Ge Fei , pen-name for Liu Yong , is a notable contemporary Chinese author whose works were prominent during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ge Fei was considered one of the preeminent experimental writers during that period, and he is currently a professor of literature at Tsinghua...

 (格非), Su Tong
Su Tong
Su Tong is the pen name of a Chinese writer born in Suzhou who is now based in Nanjing. His real name is Tong Zhonggui .He entered into the Department of Chinese of Beijing Normal University in 1980 and started to publish novels in 1983. He is now the vice president of Jiangsu Writers Association...

 (苏童) experimented in a more avant-garde (先锋) mode of writing that was daring in form and language and showed a complete loss of faith in ideals of any sort.

In the wake of the Tiananmen massacre of 1989
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, also known as the June Fourth Incident in Chinese , were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the People's Republic of China beginning on 15 April 1989...

 and with the intensification of market reforms, literature and culture turned increasingly commercial and escapist. Wang Shuo
Wang Shuo
Wang Shuo is a Chinese author, director, actor, and cultural icon. He has written over 20 novels, television series and movies. His work has been translated into Japanese, French, English, Italian, and many other languages...

 (王朔), the so-called "hooligan" (痞子) writer, is the most obvious manifestation of this commercial shift, though his fiction is not without serious intent. Some writers, such as Yan Lianke
Yan Lianke
Yan Lianke is a Chinese writer of novels and short stories based in Beijing. His work is highly satirical, which has resulted in some of his most renowned works being banned....

 阎连科, continue to take seriously the role of literature in exposing social problems; his novel Dreams of Ding Village (丁庄梦) deals with the plight of HIV
HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus is a lentivirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome , a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive...

-AIDS
AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

 victims.

As in the May Fourth Movement, women writers flourish in present-day China. Many of them, such as Chen Ran
Chen Ran
Chen Ran is a Chinese avant-garde writer. Most of her works appeared in the 1990s and often deal with Chinese feminism.-Biography:Chen Ran was born in Beijing in April, 1962. Her parents divorced when she was in high school and she since then lived with her mother...

 (陈然), Wei Hui
Wei Hui
Zhou Weihui is a Chinese writer, living and working in Shanghai and New York. Her novel Shanghai Baby was banned in the People's Republic of China as "decadent". Her latest novel Marrying Buddha was censored, modified and published in China under a modified title...

 (卫慧), Wang Anyi
Wang Anyi
Wang Anyi is a Chinese writer, and currently the chairwoman of Writers' Association of Shanghai. The daughter of a famous writer and member of the Communist Party, Ru Zhijuan, and a father who was denounced as a Rightist when she was three years old, Wang Anyi writes that she "was born and raised...

 (王安忆), and Hong Ying
Hong Ying
Hong Ying was born in Chongqing on September 21, 1962, towards the end of the Great Leap Forward. She began to write at eighteen, leaving home shortly afterwards to spend the next ten years moving around China, exploring her voice as a writer via poems and short stories.After brief periods of...

 (虹影), explore female subjectivity in a radically changing society. Neo-realism (e.g., Liu Heng
Liu Heng
Liu Heng is generally seen as a realist writer. He became a professional writer in the 1970s after having worked as a peasant farmer, a factory worker and a soldier, classes which have served as fodder for his stories and, not coincidentally, classes which Mao Zedong promoted as the audience for...

 (刘恒), Chi Li
Chi Li
Chi Li , born in Xiantao, Hubei Province of China, is a contemporary female Chinese writer. She graduated from department of Chinese literature at Wuhan University in 1986....

 (池莉), Fang Fang
Fang Fang
Fang Fang is a Chinese writer who won the Lu Xun Literary Prize in 2010. She was born in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. She went to Wuhan University in 1978 to study Chinese....

 (方方), He Dun (何顿), and Zhu Wen
Zhu Wen (director)
Zhu Wen is a Chinese short story writer turned director.-Early life and writing:Zhu Wen was born in 1967 in Quanzhou City, Fujian Province. He attended Southeast University in Nanjing, and graduated with a degree in electric power...

 (朱文) is another important current in post-Tian'anmen fiction.

China's state-run General Administration of Press and Publication (新闻出版总署) screens all Chinese literature intended to be sold on the open market. The GAPP has the legal authority to screen, censor, and ban any print, electronic, or Internet publication in China. Because all publishers in China are required to be licensed by the GAPP, that agency also has the power to deny people the right to publish, and completely shut down any publisher who fails to follow its dictates. As a result, the ratio of official to pirated books is said to be 2:3. According to a report in ZonaEuropa, there are more than 4,000 underground publishing factories around China. The Chinese government continues to hold public book burnings on unapproved yet popular "spiritual pollution" literature, though critics claim this spotlight on individual titles only helps fuel booksales. Many new-generation Chinese authors who were the recipients of such government attention have been re-published in English and success in the western literary markets, namely Zhou Weihui's Shanghai Baby
Shanghai Baby
Shanghai Baby is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Chinese author Wei Hui. It was originally published in China in 1999. The English translation was published in 2001.-Plot introduction:...

, Anchee Min
Anchee Min
Anchee Min is a Chinese-American painter, photographer, musician, and author who lives in San Francisco and Shanghai...

's controversial memoir Red Azalea
Red Azalea
Red Azalea is the memoir of Chinese American writer Anchee Min . It was written during the first eight years she spent in the United States, from 1984 to 1992, and tells the story of her life in China.-Story:...

, Time Magazine banned-book covergirl Chun Sue's Beijing Doll, and Mian Mian
Mian Mian
Mian Mian is a Chinese writer. She writes on China's once-taboo topics and she is a promoter of Shanghai's local music. Her publications have earned her the reputation as China's literary wild child, and some are banned in China....

's Candy. Online bestseller Ghost Blows Out the Light
Ghost Blows Out the Light
Ghost Blows Out the Light , also referred to as Candle in the Tomb, is a fantasy novel written by Zhang Muye about two grave robbers seeking hidden treasure, and first published online in March 2006...

had to be rewritten to remove references to the supernatural before it could be released in print.

After the liberal 1980s, the 1990s saw a strong commercialization of literature due to an opening of the book market. According to Martin Woesler
Martin Woesler
|Martin Woesler is a German sinologist, cultural scientist and translator of Chinese literature. He is Professor of Intercultural Communication with the University of Applied Languages, Munich, Germany....

 trends were 'cult literature' with Guo Jingming
Guo Jingming
Guo Jingming is a Chinese author. His books are popular among young people in China, and he was the second best-selling writer in China in 2005. Guo has published 5 books so far. Also he is now the editor of the magazine 'I5LAND'.-Works:Guo's first book, Huan Cheng Guo Jingming (born June 6,...

 (郭敬明), 悲伤逆流成河 Cry me a sad river, vagabond literature with Xu Zechen (徐则臣), 跑步穿过中关村 Peking double quick, Liu Zhenyun (刘震云), 我叫刘跃 The pickpockets, underground literature Mian Mian
Mian Mian
Mian Mian is a Chinese writer. She writes on China's once-taboo topics and she is a promoter of Shanghai's local music. Her publications have earned her the reputation as China's literary wild child, and some are banned in China....

 (棉棉), 声名狼籍 Panda Sex, 'longing for something' literature, divided in historicizing literature with Yu Dan
Yu Dan
Yu Dan is an associate professor at China's Beijing Normal University. She is also assistant to the Dean, Faculty of Arts & Media, as well as Head, Department of Film & Television Media. She receives a master degree in ancient Chinese literature and a doctoral degree in film & TV studies from...

 于丹, 《论语》心得 Confucius in your heart, Yi Zhongtian
Yi Zhongtian
Yi Zhongtian is a Chinese writer, historian, scholar and television personality.-Biography:Yi spent his childhood in Changsha, Hunan, and spent his adolescent years in Wuhan, Hubei. In 1965, after graduating from high school, Yi was sent to Xinjiang as a member of the Xinjiang Production and...

 (易中天) and in Tibetan literature with Alai
Alai
Alai or Alay may refer to:* Alai , Tamil movie* Alay Mountains* Alay Valley* Alai , a character from Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series* Alai , an ethnic Tibetan Chinese author, author of Red Poppies...

, literature of the mega cities, women's literature with Bi Shumin (毕淑敏), 女儿拳 Women’s boxing, 女心理师 The female psychologist, master narratives by narrators like Mo Yan
Mo Yan
Mo Yan is a modern Chinese author, described as "one of the most famous, oft-banned and widely pirated of all Chinese writers". He is known in the West for two of his novels which were the basis of the film Red Sorghum. He has been referred to as the Chinese answer to Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller...

 莫言 with 生死疲勞 Life and Death are Wearing me out.

However Chinese literature at the beginning of the 21st century shows signs of overcoming the commercialization of literature of the 1980s and 1990s. An example is Han Han
Han Han
Han Han is a Chinese professional rally driver, best-selling author, singer, creator of Party and China's most popular blogger—indeed, possibly the most popular blogger in the world. He has published five novels to date, and is represented by the Hong Kong based . He is also involved in music...

's (韩寒) novel 他的国 His land (2009), which was written in a social critical surrealistic style against the uncritical mainstream, but ranked 1st in 2009 Chinese bestseller list.

In the new millennium, online literature in China plays a much more important role than in the United States or in the rest of the world. Almost any book is available online, novels finding millions of readers, being available at 2 Yuan in average, a tenth of the average prize of a printed book. Online literature stars are, amongst others, again Han Han
Han Han
Han Han is a Chinese professional rally driver, best-selling author, singer, creator of Party and China's most popular blogger—indeed, possibly the most popular blogger in the world. He has published five novels to date, and is represented by the Hong Kong based . He is also involved in music...

 and Guo Jingming.

Chinese language literature also flourishes in the diaspora—in South East Asia, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. China is the largest publisher of books, magazines and newspapers in the world. In book publishing alone, some 128,800 new titles of books were published in 2005, according to the General Administration of Press and Publication. There are more than 600 literary journals across the country. Living and writing in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 but continuing to write primarily in Chinese, Gao Xingjian
Gao Xingjian
Gao Xingjian is a Chinese-born novelist, playwright, critic, and painter. An émigré to France since 1987, Gao was granted French citizenship in 1997...

 became the first Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 in 2000.

Book market

China buys many foreign book rights; nearly 16 million copies of the sixth book of the Harry Potter
Harry Potter
Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels written by the British author J. K. Rowling. The books chronicle the adventures of the adolescent wizard Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...

 series were sold in Chinese translation. As China Book Review reported, the rights to 9,328 foreign titles – including many children's books – went to China in 2007. China was nominated as a Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Bookfair in 2009. http://www.boersenblatt.net/143684/http://www.buchmesse.de/en/networking/search_find/book_markets/asia/china/00095/index.html

The book market in China traditionally orders books during bookfairs, because the country lacks a national book ordering system. In 2006, 6.8 million titles were sold, not including an unknown number of banned titles, bootleg copies and underground publishing factories. Seven percent of all publishers are located in Shanghai. Because the industry lacks a national distribution system, many titles from publishers in the provinces can only be found there.

The central publishing houses belonging to ministries or (other) government institutions have their main seat at Beijing (40 percent of all publishers). Most regional publishing houses are situated in the capitals of the provinces. Universities also have associated presses. Private publishing is tolerated. 220,000 books were published in 2005. Among 579 publishers – almost five times more than thirty years ago – 225 are supervised by ministries, commissions or the army; 348 are controlled by agencies; and six are even more independent. On the other hand 100,000 private bookstores bring in the half of the income of the book industry.

According to The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, the cultural life of the 1.3 billion people who live and work in this economic superpower remains a closed book to many in the west – their bestselling authors unfamiliar, their most exciting writers untranslated. However, in 2005, the Chinese government started a sponsoring program for translations of government-approved Chinese works, which has already resulted in more than 200 books being translated from Chinese into another language.

Shanda Literature Ltd.
Shanda
Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited is a Chinese operator of online games and book publisher, based in Shanghai, established in December 1999 by Chen Tianqiao and Chen Danian. In 2005 it claimed to have 460 million registered accounts and an average of 1.2 million players at any given time....

 is an online publishing company that claims to publish 8,000 Chinese literary works daily.

Early female writers

Cai, or literary talent, is an attribute describing profound lyricism, deep intellectuality and analytic skill. Although it was acknowledged that both women and men possessed cai, the phrase nuren wucai bian shi de 女人無才便是德(for women, lack of literary talent is a virtue summarizes the dominant sentiment that the literary field was traditionally a domain for men. Despite this belief, works authored by women play an integral part throughout Chinese history. There were a number of women writers prior to the 20th century who were respected by the intelligentsia of their era, even if much of their work was considered less important than men's work in general. Female writers helped to bring forth themes such as romance, marriage, gender roles and the politics surrounding women.

The first women recorded in biography and bibliography were poets. The aesthetic nature of poetry was highly regarded, while fiction was viewed as an avenue taken because of a failed career or commercial venture. A marked increase in female literacy took place during the Late Imperial Era. One of the more notable poets of this time was Mao Xiuhui, a 16th century poet that used the plight of her husband's failed attempt at gaining a position as civil servant to write a poem that draws parallels between the male and female as they suffer hardships in the political and domestic arenas respectively. Other notable female poets in Chinese history were Gao Zhixian, Xue Tao
Xue Tao
Xue Tao , courtesy name Hongdu , together with Yu Xuanji and Li Ye was one of the three best-known female Chinese poets from the Tang Dynasty, though there were many others.-Life:...

, and Li Qingzhao
Li Qingzhao
Li Qingzhao was a Chinese writer and poet of the Song Dynasty, regarded by many as the premier female poet in the Chinese language.-Biography:She was born Li Qingzhao (Traditional Chinese: 李清照; Simplified Chinese: 李清照, pinyin: Lǐ Qīngzhào; Wade-Giles: Li Ch'ing-chao, pseudonym Yi'an Jushi (易安居士...


20th century writers and feminism

The beginning of the century marked a period of growing unrest for women as the feminist movement took hold. Women of this period were faced with the dilemma of protesting oppressive ideals stemming from Confucian ideology or remaining true to their family and maintaining peace and order. Literary discourse at the time was highly influenced by this social movement. Women writers of the time authored works reflecting the feminist sentiment and the issues that came with revolution. Zhang Ailing, Lu Yin
Lü Yin
Lü Yin , formally Count Su of Xuchang , was an official of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty, serving as a chancellor during the reign of Emperor Suzong...

, Shi Pingmei and Ding Ling
Ding Ling
Dīng Líng was the pseudonym of Jiǎng Bīngzhī , also known as Bīn Zhǐ , a Chinese woman author from Linli in Hunan province. She was awarded the Soviet Union's Stalin second prize for Literature in 1951....

, were four of the most influential feminist writers of the time. In the 1920s and 1930s, Freudian psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 gained favor with Chinese feminists looking to study gender relationships, thus becoming a topic of many feminist writers throughout the early and mid portions of the 20th century.

When Mao came to power in 1949, he addressed the issue of women's rights and tried to establish women's equality through the "iron girls" of national development ideal. Through this philosophy, long-standing practices such as foot binding
Foot binding
Foot binding was the custom of binding the feet of young girls painfully tight to prevent further growth. The practice probably originated among court dancers in the early Song dynasty, but spread to upper class families and eventually became common among all classes. The tiny narrow feet were...

, prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

 and trafficking of women were abolished. Women were given the opportunity to own land, divorce, and join the military and other employment fields. The establishment of this ideology, however, did not liberate women; instead, it undermined the feminine voice by forcing women to take a male-oriented stance on public and domestic policy. Literature authored during this time reflects the restrictive and masculine perspective of women writers during this period. This "Mulan
Mulan
Mulan is a 1998 American animated film directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, with story by Robert D. San Souci and screenplay by Rita Hsiao, Philip LaZebnik, Chris Sanders, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, and Raymond Singer. It was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney...

ian" style of writing submerged true feminine identity, rendering the female perspective neglected and hidden in the male dominated political and aesthetic arenas. There were some exceptions to this rule, such as Yuan Qiongqiong
Yuan Qiongqiong
Yuan Ch'iung-ch'iung is a Taiwanese writer. Yuan wrote poetry, fiction, essays, screenplays and television scripts during the Boudoir literature period for women...

, who wrote about women’s issues and how much women could accomplish without men.

Some modern Chinese writers

  • Wang Tao (王韜) (1828–1897)
  • Yan Fu
    Yan Fu
    Yan Fu was a Chinese scholar and translator, most famous for introducing western ideas, including Darwin's "natural selection," to China in the late 19th century.-Life:...

     (嚴復) (1853–1924)
  • Liu E
    Liu E
    Liu E , courtesy name/"zì": "Tieyun" , was a Chinese scholar, entrepreneur, and writer.-Government and politics:...

     (劉鶚) (1857–1909)
  • Liang Qichao
    Liang Qichao
    Liang Qichao |Styled]] Zhuoru, ; Pseudonym: Rengong) was a Chinese scholar, journalist, philosopher and reformist during the Qing Dynasty , who inspired Chinese scholars with his writings and reform movements...

     (梁啟超) (1873–1929)
  • Wang Guowei
    Wang Guowei
    Wang Guowei , courtesy name Jing'an or Baiyu , was a Chinese scholar, writer and poet...

     (王國維) (1877–1927)
  • Hu Shi (胡適) (1891–1962)
  • Su Manshu
    Su Manshu
    Su Manshu was a Chinese writer, poet, painter, revolutionist, and a translator. He was born as Xuanying in 1884 in Yokohama, Japan. He later adopted Su Manshu as a Buddhist name. His father was a Cantonese merchant, and his mother was his father's Japanese maid...

     (蘇曼殊) (1894–1918)
  • Lu Xun
    Lu Xun
    Lu Xun or Lu Hsün , was the pen name of Zhou Shuren , one of the major Chinese writers of the 20th century. Considered by many to be the leading figure of modern Chinese literature, he wrote in baihua as well as classical Chinese...

     (魯迅) (1881–1936)
  • Liang Shiqiu (梁實秋) (1903–1987)
  • Xu Dishan
    Xu Dishan
    Xu Dishan is a Chinese author, translator and folklorist. He is best known for his chinese novels that focuses on the people of the southern provinces of China and Southeast Asia....

     (許地山) (1893–1941)
  • Ye Shengtao
    Ye Shengtao
    Ye Shengtao was a prominent author, educator and publisher. He was one of the founders of the Association for Literary Studies , the first literature association during the May Fourth Movement in China....

     (葉聖陶) (1894–1988)
  • Lin Yutang
    Lin Yutang
    Lin Yutang was a Chinese writer and inventor. His informal but polished style in both Chinese and English made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, and his compilations and translations of classic Chinese texts into English were bestsellers in the West.-Youth:Lin was born in...

     (林語堂) (1895–1976)
  • Mao Dun
    Mao Dun
    Mao Dun was the pen name of Shen Dehong , a 20th century Chinese novelist, cultural critic, and journalist. He was also the Minister of Culture of China from 1949 to 1965. He is currently renowned as one of the best realist novelists in the history of modern China...

     (茅盾) (1896–1981)
  • Xu Zhimo
    Xu Zhimo
    Xu Zhimo was an early 20th century Chinese poet. He was given the name of Zhangxu and the courtesy name of Yousen . He later changed his courtesy name to Zhimo ....

     (徐志摩) (1896–1936)
  • Yu Dafu
    Yu Dafu
    Yu Dafu . Born in Fuyang, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, was a modern Chinese short story writer and poet.-Early years:...

     (郁達夫) (1896–1945)
  • Wang Tongzhao (王統照) (1897–1957)
  • Guo Moruo
    Guo Moruo
    Guo Moruo , courtesy name Dingtang , was a Chinese author, poet, historian, archaeologist, and government official from Sichuan, China.-Family history:Guo, originally named Guo Kaizhen, was born on November 10 or 16, in the small town of Shawan...

     (郭沫若) (1892–1978)
  • Lao She
    Lao She
    Shu Qingchun , better known by his pen name Lao She was a notable Chinese writer. A novelist and dramatist, he was one of the most significant figures of 20th century Chinese literature, and is perhaps best known for his novel Rickshaw Boy and the play Teahouse . He was of Manchu ethnicity...

     (老舍) (1897–1966)
  • Zhu Ziqing
    Zhu Ziqing
    Zhu Ziqing was a renowned Chinese poet and essayist. Zhu studied at Peking University, and during the May Fourth Movement became one of several pioneers of modernism in China during the 1920s. Zhu was a prolific writer of both prose and poetry, but is best known for essays like "Retreating...

     (朱自清) (1898–1948)
  • Tian Han
    Tian Han
    Tian Han , born in Changsha, Hunan, was a Chinese drama activist, playwright, a leader of revolutionary music and films, as well as a translator and poet. Tian contributed a great deal to the development of Chinese modern drama as well as Chinese opera...

     (田漢) (1898–1968)
  • Feng Zikai
    Feng Zikai
    Feng Zikai was a Chinese painter and cartoonist - he graduated from the famous Hangzhou High School .-Background:Originating from the Tongxiang Prefecture of Zhejiang Province, Feng Zikai was a contemporary painter, writer, and teacher of music. In his early years, he was taught by the...

     (豐子愷) (1898–1975)
  • Wen Yiduo
    Wen Yiduo
    Wen Yiduo , born Wén Jiāhuá , courtesy names Yǒusān , Youshan , was a Chinese poet and scholar.-Biography:Wen was born in Xishui County, Hubei. After receiving a traditional education he went on to continue studying at the Tsinghua University. In 1922, he traveled to the United States to study fine...

     (聞一多) (1899–1946)
  • Bing Xin
    Bing Xin
    Bingxin was one of the most prolific and esteemed Chinese writers of the 20th Century. Many of her works were written for young readers...

     (冰心) (1900–1999)
  • Ba Jin
    Ba Jin
    Li Yaotang , courtesy name Feigan , is considered to be one of the most important and widely-read Chinese writers of the 20th century. He wrote under the pen name of Ba Jin , Pa Chin, Li Fei-Kan, Li Pei-Kan, Pa Kin, allegedly taking his pseudonym from Russian anarchists Bakunin and Kropotkin...

     (巴金) (1904–2005)
  • Shen Congwen
    Shen Congwen
    Shen Congwen was the pen name of a Miao Chinese writer from the May Fourth Movement. He was known for combining the vernacular style of writing with classical Chinese writing techniques, and his writing also reflects a strong influence from western literature. He was born as Shen Yuehuan on 1902...

     (沈從文) (1902–1988)
  • Cao Yu
    Cao Yu
    Cao Yu , born as Wan Jiabao , was a renowned Chinese playwright, often regarded as China's most important of the 20th century. His most well-known works are Thunderstorm , Sunrise and Peking Man...

     (曹禺) (1905–1996)
  • Qian Zhongshu
    Qian Zhongshu
    Qian Zhongshu was a Chinese literary scholar and writer, known for his wit and erudition.He is best known for his satiric novel Fortress Besieged . His works of non-fiction are characterised by their large amount of quotations in both Chinese and Western languages...

     (錢鍾書) (1910–1988)
  • He Qifang
    He Qifang
    He Qifang was a Chinese poet, essayist, literary critic and redologist. He was born in Wanxian, Sichuan Province, which is now Wanzhou District, Chongqing Municipality. He studied Philosophy at Peking University. Later in his life, he served as the director of the Institute of Literature at the...

     (何其芳) (1912–1977)
  • Lin Haiyin
    Lin Haiyin
    Lin Haiyin was a Taiwanese writer of Han Chinese ethnicity. She is best remembered for her 1960 memoir 城南舊事 , a novelistic tribute to her childhood reminiscences of Beijing.Born in Osaka, Japan, where her father worked as a merchant, Lin's parents moved first to...

     (林海音) (1918–2001)
  • Eileen Chang
    Eileen Chang
    Eileen Chang was a Chinese writer. Her most famous works include Lust, Caution and Love in a Fallen City....

     (張愛玲) (1920–1995)
  • Qu Bo (novelist)
    Qu Bo (novelist)
    Qu Bo 曲波 was a novelist in the People’s Republic of China. His name was also translated as Chu Po. Qu 曲, the family name, has meanings of curve, melody and tune. Bo 波 stands for ripples and waves...

     (曲波) (1922–2002)
  • Wang Xiaobo
    Wang Xiaobo
    Wang Xiaobo is a renowned contemporary Chinese novelist and essayist who gained wide posthumous recognition.-Biography:...

     (王小波) (1952–1997)
  • Wang Zengqi
    Wang Zengqi
    Wang Zengqi is a contemporary Chinese writer. He is famous for his short stories and essays. He is regarded as the successor of Beijing School Writers. He is also considered the last Chinese literary intelligentsia.-Biography:...

     (汪曾祺) (1920–1997)
  • Bai Xianyong (白先勇) (1937—)
  • Bei Dao
    Bei Dao
    Bei Dao is the pseudonym of Chinese poet Zhao Zhenkai . He was born in Beijing, his pseudonym was chosen because he came from the north and because of his preference for solitude...

     (北島) (1949—)
  • Cong Weixi
    Cong Weixi
    Cong Weixi , is a noted contemporary Chinese author and founder of the "daqiang wenxue" movement that reflected and brooded on the experiences of those in imprisoned the laogai, or reeducation through labor, system...

     (從維熙) (1933—)
  • Jinyong
    Jinyong
    Louis Cha, GBM, OBE , better known by his pen name Jin Yong, is a modern Chinese-language novelist. Having co-founded the Hong Kong daily Ming Pao in 1959, he was the paper's first editor-in-chief....

     (金庸), The pen name of living Chinese author Louis Cha, has sold over 100 million copies.(1924—)
  • Mo Yan
    Mo Yan
    Mo Yan is a modern Chinese author, described as "one of the most famous, oft-banned and widely pirated of all Chinese writers". He is known in the West for two of his novels which were the basis of the film Red Sorghum. He has been referred to as the Chinese answer to Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller...

     (莫言) (1955—)
  • Su Tong
    Su Tong
    Su Tong is the pen name of a Chinese writer born in Suzhou who is now based in Nanjing. His real name is Tong Zhonggui .He entered into the Department of Chinese of Beijing Normal University in 1980 and started to publish novels in 1983. He is now the vice president of Jiangsu Writers Association...

     (蘇童) (1963—)
  • Ma Jian
    Ma Jian (writer)
    Ma Jian is a Chinese writer.Ma was born in Qingdao on August 18, 1953. In 1986, he moved to Hong Kong after a clampdown in which some of his works were banned. In 1997 he left for Germany, followed by a move to England in 1999...

     (馬建) (1953—)
  • Tie Ning
    Tie Ning
    Tie Ning is a Chinese author born in 1957 in Peking, China, with her ancestral hometown in Hebei Province. Her works include short stories, "Ah, Xiangxue"《哦,香雪》, "The Red Shirt Without Buttons"《沒有紐扣的紅襯衫》, "June's Big Topic"《六月的話題》, "Wheat Straw Stack"《麥秸垛》, "Cotton Stack"《棉花垛》, "The Village Road...

     (鐵凝) (1957—)
  • Gao Xingjian
    Gao Xingjian
    Gao Xingjian is a Chinese-born novelist, playwright, critic, and painter. An émigré to France since 1987, Gao was granted French citizenship in 1997...

     (高行健), winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
    Nobel Prize in Literature
    Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

     2000 (1940—)
  • Yang Mu (楊牧) (1940–)
  • Zhang Xianliang
    Zhang xianliang
    Zhang Xianliang is a Chinese author and poet famous for writing several novels, including: Mimosa, Grass Soup, Half of Man is Woman, and Getting Used tyo Dying, originally published just after the events delicately footnoted in the English translation as 'the Tiananmen Incident'. Zhang has suffered...

     (張賢亮) (1936—)
  • Chiung Yao
    Chiung Yao
    Chiung Yao is the penname of a popular Taiwan romance novelist. Many of her works have been made and remade into movies and TV series. Films based on her books have been made in the Republic of China since the 1970s, and were very popular during their time...

     (琼瑶) (1938—)
  • Chen Zhongshi
    Chen Zhongshi
    Chen Zhongshi is a Chinese author born in June 1942 in Xi'an. He started writing prose in 1965,and finished his representative novel White Deer Plain in 1993. In 1979, he became a member of Chinese Writers Association. He was once the vice chairman of the Chinese Writers Association. White Deer...

     (陳忠實) (1942—)

Others

Chinese writers writing in English:
  • Ha Jin
    Ha Jin
    Jīn Xuěfēi is a contemporary Chinese-American writer and novelist using the pen name Ha Jin . Ha comes from his favorite city, Harbin.-Early life:...

     (金雪飞) (1956—)
  • Lien Chao  (1950—)


Chinese writers writing in French:
  • Chen Jitong
    Chen Jitong
    Chen Jitong . Chinese diplomat, general and scholar during the late Qing dynasty. Chen was born in Houguan, in present day Fuzhou. In 1869 he started to study the French language at the school attached to the Fuzhou shipyard. In 1876, he was selected to accompany Shen Baozhen to Europe and he wrote...

     (陳季同) (1852—1907)
  • François Cheng
    François Cheng
    François Cheng is a French academician, writer, poet and calligrapher...

     (程抱一) (1929—)
  • Dai Sijie
    Dai Sijie
    Dai Sijie is a French author and filmmaker of Chinese ancestry.-Biography:Dai Sijie was born in China in 1954. Because he came from an educated middle-class family, the Maoist government sent him to a reeducation camp in rural Sichuan from 1971 to 1974, during the Cultural Revolution. After his...

     (戴思杰) (1954—)
  • Shan Sa
    Shan Sa
    Shan Sa is the pseudonym of Yan Ni , a French author and painter. The Girl Who Played Go was the first of her novels to be published outside of France, and won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens . Her second novel to appear in English translation was Empress...

     (山飒) (1972—)


Chinese writer writing in Indonesian:
  • Kho Ping Hoo
    Kho Ping Hoo
    Kho Ping Hoo or Asmaraman Sukowati Kho Ping Hoo is an Indonesian author of Chinese ethnicity. He is well-known in Indonesia for his martial art fiction set in the background of China or Java. During his 30 years career, at least 120 stories has been published...

     (1926–1994)

See also

  • Classical Chinese poetry
    Classical Chinese poetry
    thumb|right|300px|Attributed to [[Han Gan]], Huiyebai , about 750CE .Classical Chinese poetry is that type of poetry that is the traditional Chinese poetry written in Classical Chinese. It is typified by certain traditional forms, or modes, and certain traditional genres...

  • Censorship in the People's Republic of China
    Censorship in the People's Republic of China
    Censorship in the People's Republic of China is implemented or mandated by the PRC's ruling party, the Communist Party of China . The special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have their own legal systems and are largely self-governing, so these censorship policies do not apply...

  • Chinese dictionary
    Chinese dictionary
    Chinese dictionaries date back over two millennia to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, which is a significantly longer lexicographical history than any other language. There are hundreds of dictionaries for Chinese, and this article will introduce some of the most important...

  • Chinese encyclopedias
  • Chinese classic texts
    Chinese classic texts
    Chinese classic texts, or Chinese canonical texts, today often refer to the pre-Qin Chinese texts, especially the Neo-Confucian titles of Four Books and Five Classics , a selection of short books and chapters from the voluminous collection called the Thirteen Classics. All of these pre-Qin texts...

  • List of Chinese authors
  • List of Hong Kong poets
  • Huainanzi
    Huainanzi
    The Huáinánzǐ is a 2nd century BCE Chinese philosophical classic from the Han dynasty that blends Daoist, Confucianist, and Legalist concepts, including theories such as Yin-Yang and the Five Phases. It was written under the patronage of Liu An, Prince of Huainan, a legendarily prodigious author...

  • Chinese language
    Chinese language
    The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

  • Chinese mythology
    Chinese mythology
    Chinese mythology 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...

  • Chinese culture
  • Literature of Hong Kong
    Literature of Hong Kong
    Hong Kong literature is 20th century and subsequent writings from or about Hong Kong or by writers from Hong Kong, primarily in the poetry, performance, and fiction media...

  • Tea Classics
    Tea Classics
    Tea as a beverage was first consumed in China no later than the fifth century BCE. The earliest extant mention of tea in literature is in the Shih Ching or Book of Songs, written circa 550 BCE, although the ideogram used in these texts can also designate a variety of plants, such as sowthistle...

  • Dream Pool Essays
    Dream Pool Essays
    The Dream Pool Essays was an extensive book written by the polymath Chinese scientist and statesman Shen Kuo by 1088 AD, during the Song Dynasty of China...

  • Society and culture of the Han Dynasty
    Society and culture of the Han Dynasty
    The Han Dynasty was a period of ancient China divided by the Western Han and Eastern Han periods, when the capital cities were located at Chang'an and Luoyang, respectively. It was founded by Emperor Gaozu of Han and briefly interrupted by the regime of Wang Mang The Han Dynasty (206 BCE –...

  • Chen prophecy
    Chen prophecy
    Chen is the Chinese term for 'prophecy'. It is also written chan, in the Wade-Giles transliteration as "ch'an" : "the ch'an, couched in enigmatic language, predicted luck and disaster, they constituted real oracle-books." These prophecies could derive from a dream, be brought from overseas, be...


External links

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