Chinese Traditional Poetry

clip image002 thumb11 Chinese Traditional PoetryChinese poetry is the most highly regarded literary genre in China. Traditionally, the broad sense of poetry includes shi, ci, qu, and also a kind of prose poem fu, all of which are in rhymed forms.

Among them, shi, the poetry in a narrow sense is the earliest appeared form which cries for the feelings expressions by ancient working people. In its development two phases are involved in history – the early poetry and the classical poetry, classified by the rules and forms of rhymes.

The most representatives of early poetry are the extant anthologies the Shi Jing and Chu Ci, dating to the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, respectively. Shi Jing (“Classic of Poetry”) was the first major surviving collection of Chinese poems, collecting both aristocratic poems (Odes) and more rustic poetry, and mostly composed of four-character lines. A more lyrical and romantic anthology, Chu Ci (“Songs of Chclip image004 thumb9 Chinese Traditional Poetryu”), ascribed to Qu Yuan, are composed of lines of irregular lengths, a form prevalent in the state of Chu.

A classical poetry and another poetic genre fu developed form the Han Dynasty onwards to the Six Dynasties. fu originated of Shi Jing was a particular type intervenient in between poem and prose. Another process similar to the origins clip image006 thumb8 Chinese Traditional Poetryof Shi Jing produced the yue fu (“Music Bureau”) poems, primarily composed of lines of five-character or seven-character. By the early Tang Dynasty, rules of strict rhymes governed the poetry structure. Of the two dominant types, lu shi and jue ju, the most eminent writers were often held to be Li Bai and Du Fu.

Towards the end of the Tang dynasty, the ci lyric became more popular. Ci was literally new lyric made up to fit to pre-existing music tune, so that each ci was named by each of “[Tune Name]“. Although the music tunes were often lost, the lyrics had passed down until nowadays. This form usually had more characters and more flexible structure than classical poetry. As often associated with the Song Dynasty, ci, also named Song ci reached its zenith at that time, with numerous renowned writers such as Li Houzhu and Su Shi.

While the ci gradually became more literary and artificial after Song times, Chinese Sanqu poetry, a freer form, based on new popular songs, developed in Yuan Dynasty.

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