Abad, Carina Marie
Cahiuat, Rowena Socorro Fatima
BS – PSCYHOLOGY II-3
Mrs. Luningning Galindez
The History of Chinese Literature
Writing in China dates back to the hieroglyphs that were used in the Shang Dynasty of 1700 – 1050 BC. Chinese literature is a vast subject that spans thousands of years. One of the interesting things about Chinese literature is that much of the serious literature was composed using a formal written language that is called Classical Chinese. The best literature of the Yuan Dynasty era and the four novels that are considered the greatest classics are important exceptions. However, even during the Qing Dynasty of two hundred years ago, most writers composed in a literary stream that extended back about 2,400 years. They studied very ancient writings in more or less the original written language. This large breadth of time with so many writers living in the various eras and countries makes Chinese literature complex. Chinese literary works include fiction, philosophical and religious works, poetry, and scientific writings. The dynastic eras frame the history of Chinese literature and are examined one by one. The grammar of the written Classical Language is different than the spoken languages of the past two thousand years. This written language was used by people of many different ethnic groups and countries during the Zhou, Qin and Han eras spanning 1050 BC to 220 AD. After the Han Dynasty, the written language evolved as the spoken languages changed, but most writers still based their compositions on Classical Chinese. However, this written language wasn’t the vernacular language even two thousand years ago. The empires and groups of kingdoms of all these eras were composed of people speaking many different native languages. If Europe had a literary history like China’s, it would be as if most European writers until the 20th century always tried to write in ancient Classical Greek that became a dead language more than two millennia ago.
Shang Dynasty (about 1700-1050 BC)
Development of Chinese Writing
The first dynasty for which there is historical record and archaeological evidence is the Shang Dynasty. It was a small empire in northern central China. No documents from that country survive, but there are archaeological finds of hieroglyphic writing on bronze wares and oracle bones. The hieroglyphic writing system later evolved into ideographic and partly-phonetic Chinese characters.
Zhou Dynasty (1045-255 BC)
Basic Philosophical and Religious Literature
The Zhou Dynasty was contemporaneous with the Shang Dynasty, and then they conquered the Shang Dynasty. Their dynasty lasted for about 800 years, but for most of the time, their original territory was broken up into dozens of competing kingdoms, and these finally coalesced into several big and warring kingdoms by the end of the Zhou era. The great literary works of philosophy and religion that became the basis for Chinese religious and social belief stem from what is called the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476) and the Warring States Period (475-221). Taoism, Confucian literature, and other prominent religious and philosophical schools all emerged during these two periods. The Chinese call this simultaneous emergence of religions and philosophies the “One Hundred Schools of Thought.” Perhaps so many philosophers could write simultaneously because they lived in small kingdoms that supported them. In Chinese history, the dominant rulers generally squelch or discourage philosophical expression that contradict their own, so when there were several small powers, different schools of thought could survive in the land at the same time. The major literary achievements of the Confucian Classics, early Taoist writings, and other important prose works originated in the late Spring and Autumn Period and the...