Meaning of CHINESE LITERATURE in English

the body of works written in Chinese, including lyric poetry, historical and didactic writing, drama, and various forms of fiction. Chinese literature is one of the major literary heritages of the world, with an uninterrupted history of more than 3,000 years, dating back at least to the 14th century BC. Its medium, the Chinese language, has retained its unmistakable identity in both its spoken and written aspects in spite of generally gradual changes in pronunciation, the existence of regional and local dialects, and several stages in the structural representation of the written graphs, or "characters." Even the partial or total conquests of China for considerable periods by non-Chinese ethnic groups from outside the Great Wall failed to disrupt this continuity, for the conquerors were forced to adopt the written Chinese language as their official medium of communication because they had none of their own. Since the Chinese graphs were inherently nonphonetic, they were at best unsatisfactory tools for the transcription of a non-Chinese language; and attempts at creating a new alphabetic-phonetic written language for empire building proved unsuccessful on three separate occasions. The result was that after a period of alien domination, the conquerors were culturally assimilated (except the Mongols, who retreated en masse to their original homeland after the collapse of the Yan [or Mongol] dynasty in 1368). Thus, there was no disruption in China's literary development. the body of works written in Chinese, including lyric poetry, historical and didactic writing, drama and various forms of fiction. It has the longest continuous history of any literature in the world (more than 3,000 years). A brief account of Chinese literature follows. For full treatment, see Chinese Literature. Marshall McLuhan's phrase "the medium is the message" has dramatic validity when applied to the Chinese language. Because of its reliance on pictograms, or characters, Chinese has remained relatively unchanged across an area of geography and a period of time that in the West saw the evolution of several hundred languages. Although the language as spoken did evolve regional dialects, the speakers nonetheless wrote the same characters. Because pronunciation of characters is monosyllabic, many characters sound the same but have different meanings. To reduce confusion in the spoken language, syllabic tones evolved. This tonal feature made the relationship between music and literature, particularly poetry and drama, extremely close from the beginning. Chinese poetry was originally sung to music, but when over long periods of time the scores were lost it was chanted rather than read. Most Chinese drama is operatic. The inherent succinctness of pictograms also influenced the characteristic compactness of Chinese poetry, which has been likened to the telegram. Chinese poets always stressed the lyrical heights of joy or depths of sorrow. In contrast to most other national literatures, no lengthy epics or long narrative poems exist. The visual appeal and architectural possibilities of the language led to two important, though somewhat negative, developments. First, mastery of the meaning and physical formation of about 1,000 pictograms is not enough to express oneself in more than a rudimentary fashion. Although the spoken language was vital and understood by millions, the vast majority of people outside cities remained illiterate. Second, a strong tendency to value form over content was institutionalized. From 1487 to 1901 all successful candidates in official civil-service examinations had to master a literary form that required a specified appearance. Ideas and feelings were somewhat at the mercy of this neat architectural scheme. The earliest inscriptions (1384 BC) of Chinese characters found on bones and shells are, by Western standards, miraculously similar in meaning and syntax to later usage. Many references to songs and music were found. Around the time of Confucius (500 BC) the Shih Ching, the first anthology of poetry, appeared including temple, court, and folk songs. The Shih Ching was one of the Five Classics, which included the I Ching, later popular among Western diviners. China's first poet known by name was Ch' Yan (c. 300 BC). "On Encountering Sorrow," considered his most important poem, combines politics and disappointed love with imaginary travels in heavenly realms. In Chinese mythology heaven and earth were originally mutually accessible to men and gods. Ch'ih Yu, a lesser god, tried to enlist human help in overthrowing Shang Ti, the chief god. After the rebellion was put down, a barrier was set up between heaven and earth that human beings could not cross. Great numbers, however, of minor gods and mythological animals (dragons, magic pigs, and monkeys) could cross the barrier and intercede for people. In literature, questing heroes are often accompanied by magical animals. Every village, bridge, family, and house had a patron with access to heaven. The theme of the benevolent go-between permeates Chinese literature. The first Chinese prose works were collections of the thoughts of philosophers, the Analects of Confucius, the Lao-Tzu, or Tao-te Ching, and the Mencius. In 240 BC the first well-ordered full-length book appeared, L-shih Ch'un Ch'iu by L Pu-wei, a collection of 60 essays summarizing several philosophies and collecting folklore of various regions. In 225 BC the Yeh Fu, or Music Bureau, was officially established to collect and preserve lyrics and musical scores of court and temple ceremonies, as well as folksongs and ballads. These were used as inspiration by writers. The institution was reactivated at various times down through the centuries. From AD 220 Chinese culture strove to assimilate foreign elements from India and various invading northern tribes at the same time as it preserved its valued traditions. Frequent political disunity added to the drive to establish a literary orthodoxy. This tendency led to literary antiquarianism and a split between official literature and folklore. The best writers of these centuries made efforts to use the common spoken language, but a vital balance was reached and maintained from 600 to 960, the golden age of Chinese literature. So many forms and styles were current during this time that writers enjoyed a greater measure of freedom. Tu Fu, China's greatest poet, writing about the year 775, combined keen observation of political and social forces with strong moral stature and consummate mastery of all verse forms. Following centuries witnessed the ascendance of literary factions squabbling over rules. Most of the work that was produced was exquisite imitation of past models. During the Manchu invasion and rule (1644-1911/12), literary craftsmanship remained excellent but real creativity was rare. The best novel of the time and the first Chinese novel with a tragic ending was Ts'ao Chan's Dream of the Red Chamber, considered by some to be among the world's finest novels. After the Opium War (1842) much talent and effort went into translating Western literature. After the establishment of republican China, Hu Shih, who had studied in the United States, proposed a new national literature written in the living language of the people. Subsequent political events, however, particularly the Communist revolution, resulted in the imposition of strict political controls over literary creation in China. Additional reading General works Karl Lo, A Guide to the Ssu pu ts'ung k'an: Being an Index to Authors, Titles, and Subjects (1965); Hu Shih, Pai-hua wen-hseh shih ("History of Vernacular Literature," 1929); Wu-Chi Liu, An Introduction to Chinese Literature (1966, reprinted 1967); Yuanjun Feng, An Outline History of Classical Chinese Literature, trans. by Xianyi Yang and Gladys Yang (1983); Burton Watson, Early Chinese Literature (1962); Patrick Hanan, The Chinese Vernacular Story (1981); C.T. Hsia, The Classic Chinese Novel: A Critical Introduction (1968, reissued 1980); Colin Mackerras (ed.), Chinese Theater: From Its Origins to the Present Day (1983), a collection of essays on various eras and genres of traditional drama, its performance, and its audience; William H. Nienhauser, Jr. (ed.), Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature (1985), containing essays and entries with extensive bibliographies on all aspects of traditional Chinese literature; translations by Arthur Waley and Burton Watson, too numerous to be listed; Wu-Chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo (eds.), Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry (1975, reprinted 1977), the most extensive collection of translations; Y.W. Ma and Joseph S.M. Lau (eds.), Traditional Chinese Stories: Themes and Variations (1978), the standard collection of translations; Eugen Feifel (ed. and trans.), Geschichte der chinesischen Literatur: Mit Bercksichtigung ihres geistesgeschichtlichen Hintergrundes, 3rd ed. (1967); Georges Margoulis, volution de la prose artistique chinoise (1929), Histoire de la littrature chinoise: prose (1949), and Histoire de la littrature chinoise: posie (1951); Derk Bodde, "Myths of Ancient China," in Samuel Noah Kramer (ed.), Mythologies of the Ancient World, pp. 367-408 (1961), a good critical introduction but limited to five classical myths; and Wolfgang Mnke, Die klassische chinesische Mythologie (1976). Modern Chinese literature All the works mentioned in this section of the article are available in English translation and can be located in Donald A. Gibbs and Yun-Chen Li, A Bibliography of Studies and Translations of Modern Chinese Literature, 1918-1942 (1975); and Winston L.Y. Yang and Nathan K. Mao (eds.), Modern Chinese Fiction: A Guide to Its Study and Appreciation: Essays and Bibliographies (1981). The most useful historical works are Tse-Tsung Chou, The May Fourth Movement: Intellectual Revolution in Modern China (1960, reissued 1967); C.T. Hsia, A History of Modern Chinese Fiction, 2nd ed. (1971); D.W. Fokkema, Literary Doctrine in China and Soviet Influence, 1956-1960 (1965); and Merle Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China (1967, reissued 1971). Synopses of representative works are given in Joseph Schyns, 1500 Modern Chinese Novels & Plays (1948, reissued 1970); and Meishi Tsai, Contemporary Chinese Novels and Short Stories, 1949-1974: An Annotated Bibliography (1979). Poetry is treated in Kai-Yu Hsu (ed. and trans.), Twentieth Century Chinese Poetry: An Anthology (1963, reissued 1970); and Angela C.Y. Jung Palandri (ed. and trans.), Modern Verse from Taiwan (1972). The best anthologies of translated literature are Joseph S.M. Lau, C.T. Hsia, and Leo Ou-Fan Lee (eds.), Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas, 1919-1949 (1981); Joseph S.M. Lau (ed.), The Unbroken Chain: An Anthology of Taiwan Fiction Since 1926 (1983); Kai-Yu Hsu (ed.), Literature of the People's Republic of China (1979); Perry Link (ed.), Roses and Thorns: The Second Blooming of the Hundred Flowers in Chinese Fiction, 1979-1980 (1984); and Edward M. Gunn (ed.), Twentieth-Century Chinese Drama: An Anthology (1983). William H. Nienhauser, Jr. Howard C. Goldblatt History Modern Chinese literature May Fourth period Following the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty and the establishment of the Republic in 1912, many young intellectuals turned their attention to the overhauling of literary traditions, beginning with the language itself. In January 1917 an article by Hu Shih, a student of philosophy at Columbia University, entitled "Wen-hseh kai-liang ch'u-i" ("Tentative Proposal for Literary Reform") was published in the Peking magazine Hsin ch'ing-nien (New Youth). In it Hu called for a new national literature written not in the classical language but in the vernacular, the living "national language" (kuo-y). Ch'en Tu-hsiu, the editor of Hsin ch'ing-nien, supported Hu's views in his own article "Wen-hseh ko-ming lun" ("On Literary Revolution"), which emboldened Hu to hone his arguments further in a second article (1918), entitled "Chien-she te wen-hseh ko-ming" ("Constructive Literary Revolution"), in which he spelled out his formula for a "literary renaissance." The literary reform movement that began with these and other "calls to arms" was a part of the larger May Fourth Movement for cultural and sociopolitical reform, whose name commemorates a 1919 student protest against the intellectual performance of the Chinese delegates to the Paris Peace Conference formally terminating World War I. At the outset, the literary reformers met with impassioned but mostly futile opposition from classical literati such as the renowned translator Lin Shu, who would largely give up the battle within a few years. The first fruits of this movement were seen in 1918 and 1919 with the appearance in Hsin ch'ing-nien of such stories as "K'uang-jen jih-chi" ("The Diary of a Madman"), a Gogol-inspired piece about a "madman" who suspects that he alone is sane and the rest of the world is mad, and "Yao" ("Medicine"), both by Chou Shu-jen. Known by the pseudonym Lu Hsn, Chou had studied in Japan and, with his younger brother, the noted essayist Chou Tso-jen, had become a leader of the literary revolution soon after returning to China. Lu Hsn's acerbic, somewhat westernized, and often satirical attacks on China's feudalistic traditions established him as China's foremost critic and writer. His "Ah Q cheng-chuan" (1921; "The True Story of Ah Q"), a damning critique of early 20th-century conservatism in China, is the representative work of the May Fourth period and has become an international classic. These early writings provided the impetus for a number of youthful intellectuals to pool their resources and promote shared ideals by forming literary associations. The Wen-hseh yen-chiu hui ("Literary Research Association"), generally referred to as the "realist" or "art-for-life's-sake" school, assumed the editorship of the established literary magazine Hsiao-shuo yeh-pao (Short Story Monthly), in which most major fiction writers published their works throughout the 1920s, until the magazine's headquarters was destroyed by Japanese bombs in 1932. The socially reflective, critical-realist writing that characterized this group held sway in China well into the 1940s, when it was gradually eclipsed by more didactic, propagandistic literature. Members of the smaller Ch'uang-tsao she ("Creation Society"), on the other hand, were followers of the "Romantic" tradition who eschewed any expressions of social responsibility by writers, referring to their work as "art for art's sake." In 1924, however, the society's leading figure, Kuo Mo-jo, converted to Marxism, and the Creation Society evolved into China's first Marxist literary society. Much of the energy of members of both associations was expended in translating literature of other cultures, which largely replaced traditional Chinese literature as the foundation upon which the new writing was built. This was particularly true in drama and poetry, in which figures such as Henrik Ibsen and Rabindranath Tagore, respectively, were as well known to Chinese readers as indigenous playwrights and poets. In drama, the Nan-kuo she ("South China Society"), founded by the former Creationist T'ien Han, produced and performed several short plays that were a mixture of critical realism and melodrama, while poets of the Hsin-yeh she ("Crescent Moon Society") such as the British-educated Hs Chih-mo and the American-educated Wen I-to were creating new forms based on Western models, introducing the beauty of music and colour into their extremely popular lyrical verse. 1927-37 Political events of the mid-1920s, in which Nationalist, Communist, and warlord forces clashed frequently, initiated a shift to the left in Chinese letters, culminating in 1930 in the founding of the Tso-i tso-chia lien-meng ("League of Leftist Writers"), whose membership included most influential writers. Lu Hsn, the prime organizer and titular head throughout the league's half-decade of activities, had stopped writing fiction in late 1925 and, after moving from Peking to Shanghai in 1927, directed most of his creative energies to translating Russian literature and writing the bitingly satirical random essays (tsa-wen) that became his trademark. Among the many active prewar novelists, the most successful were Mao Tun, Lao She, and Pa Chin. Mao Tun, a founder of the Literary Research Association, was the prototypical Realist. The subjects of his socially mimetic tableaux included pre-May Fourth urban intellectual circles, bankrupt rural villages, and, in perhaps his best known work, Tzu-yeh (1933; Midnight), metropolitan Shanghai in all its financial and social chaos during the post-Depression era. Lao She, modern China's foremost humorist, whose early novels were written while he was teaching Chinese in London, was deeply influenced by traditional Chinese storytellers and the novels of Charles Dickens. His works are known for their episodic structure, racy northern dialect, vivid characterizations, and abundant humour. Yet it was left to him to write modern China's classic novel, the moving tale of the gradual degeneration of a seemingly incorruptible denizen of China's "lower depths"-Lo-t'o hsiang-tzu (1936; "Camel Hsiang-tzu," published in English in a bowdlerized translation as Rickshaw Boy, 1945). Pa Chin, a prominent Anarchist, was the most popular novelist of the period. A prolific writer, he is known primarily for his autobiographical novel Chia (1931; The Family), which traces the lives and varied fortunes of the three sons of a wealthy, powerful family. The book is a revealing portrait of China's oppressive patriarchal society, as well as of the awakening of China's youth to the urgent need for social revolution. The 1930s also witnessed the meteoric rise of a group of novelists from Northeast China (Manchuria) who were driven south by the Japanese annexation of their homeland in 1932. The sometimes rousing, sometimes nostalgic novels of Hsiao Chn and Hsiao Hung and the powerful short stories of Tuan-mu Hung-liang became rallying cries for anti-Japanese youth as signs of impending war mounted. Poetry of the 1930s underwent a similar politicization, as more and more students returned from overseas to place their pens in the service of the "people's resistance against feudalism and imperialism." The lyrical verse of the early Crescent Moon poets was replaced by a more socially conscious poetry by the likes of Ai Ch'ing, T'ien Chien, and Tsang K'o-chia that appealed to the readers' patriotic fervour. Others, particularly those who had at first gravitated toward the Crescent Moon Society, began striking out in various directions: notable works of these authors include the contemplative sonnets of Feng Chih, the urbane songs of Peking by Pien Chih-lin, and the romantic verses of Ho Ch'i-fang. Less popular, but more daring, were Tai Wang-shu and Li Chin-fa, poets of the Hsien-tai ("Contemporary Age") group, who wrote very sophisticated, if frequently baffling, poetry in the manner of the French Symbolists. While fiction reigned supreme in the 1930s, as the art of the short story was mastered by growing numbers of May Fourth writers, and novels were coming into their own, the most spectacular advances were made in drama, owing largely to the efforts of a single playwright. Although realistic social drama written in the vernacular had made its appearance in China long before the 1930s, primarily as translations or adaptations of Western works, it did not gain a foothold on the popular stage until the arrival of Ts'ao Y, whose first play, Lei-y (1934; Thunderstorm), a tale of fatalism, retribution, and incestual relations among members of a rich industrialist's family, met with phenomenal success. It was followed over the next several years by other critically and popularly acclaimed plays, including Jih-ch'u (1936; Sunrise) and Yan-yeh (1937; Wilderness), all of which examined pressing social issues and universal human frailties with gripping tension and innovative dramaturgy. Political realities in future decades would force a steady decline in dramatic art, so that Ts'ao Y's half-dozen major productions still stand as the high-water mark of modern Chinese theatre. Yet, even though movies, television, and other popular entertainments would weaken the resiliency of this literary form, it would still serve the nation as an effective propaganda medium, particularly during the war of resistance.

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