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Rhyme in Chinese poetry


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#1 Spantman

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 06:30 PM

I know that chinese poetry, at least some genres of ancient poetry, have to follow some kind of metrical rules. But now I am wondering, does chinese poets use rhymes like in western poetry or they have completly different kind of techniques?
If there is any way of rhyming, I would be very curious to aknowledge how it works. Does it only concern the syllables, or maybe words have to rhyme with the same tone?
I also know that ancient language is very different from modern chinese so I guess that even if a Tang dynasty poem had rhymes, now we would not hear it.
I would be glad if someone could please elighten me about this.

#2 大泽升龙

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 10:57 PM

I know that chinese poetry, at least some genres of ancient poetry, have to follow some kind of metrical rules. But now I am wondering, does chinese poets use rhymes like in western poetry or they have completly different kind of techniques?

Similar. Since every single Chinese phoneme make a sense, most Chinese words can be composed with a single syllable. When it comes to classic Chinese poems, the rhyming can be very regular and formulated.

If there is any way of rhyming, I would be very curious to aknowledge how it works. Does it only concern the syllables, or maybe words have to rhyme with the same tone?

Good guess! Classic Chinese poems rhyme with both syllables and tones.

I also know that ancient language is very different from modern chinese so I guess that even if a Tang dynasty poem had rhymes, now we would not hear it.
I would be glad if someone could please elighten me about this.

Bingo! You have touched the very core of current Chinese phonological study here. Yes, ancient Chinese sounded very different from what we hear today. Lot of rhymes don't work well with modern Chinese, especially the drastically changing dialect - modern Mandarin. However, the ancient phonology was also encoded in the rhymes of ancient poems in this sense. One of the major contribution to the reconstruction of ancient Chinese phonology is from the rhyme study of ancient poems.

Edited by 大泽升龙, 28 January 2008 - 10:40 AM.


#3 yhjow

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 11:45 PM

I know that chinese poetry, at least some genres of ancient poetry, have to follow some kind of metrical rules. But now I am wondering, does chinese poets use rhymes like in western poetry or they have completly different kind of techniques?
If there is any way of rhyming, I would be very curious to aknowledge how it works. Does it only concern the syllables, or maybe words have to rhyme with the same tone?
I also know that ancient language is very different from modern chinese so I guess that even if a Tang dynasty poem had rhymes, now we would not hear it.
I would be glad if someone could please elighten me about this.


This is General Zhaoyun in my backup account. Just to answer your question:

Chinese poetry did have "rhyming technique" (known as "ya yun 押韵"). The bulk of this rhyming technique was developed during Tang dynasty period.

Another characteristics of chinese poetry developed was the "(level/oblique) toning technique" (known as "Ping Ze 平仄").

We already had such a discussion on the rhyming and toning technique of chinese poetry. For more info about rhyming and toning of chinese poetry, see
http://www.chinahist...showtopic=10264

#4 fireball

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 02:14 AM

Bingo! You have touched the very core of current Chinese phonological study here. Yes, ancient Chinese sounded very different from what we hear today. Lot of rhymes don't work well with modern Chinese, especially the drastically changing dialect - modern Mandarin. However, the ancient phology was also encoded in the rhymes of ancient poems in thi s sense. One of the major contribution to the reconstruction of ancient Chinese phonology is from the rhyme study of ancient poems.


That is why some of the southern Chinese dialects that have kept some of the older pronunciations would work better in reading the old Chinese poems than the modern Mandarin pronunciations. The ones that would work well are: Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien, and Wenzhou dialect. They kept more of the ancient pronunciations and had less influences by the modern pronunciations.

#5 Spantman

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 05:58 AM

Thanks everyone!
to General Zhaoyun: That post is really interesting, even if a bit beyond my level. Anyway, thank you very much.

#6 bayonet

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 09:26 PM

That is why some of the southern Chinese dialects that have kept some of the older pronunciations would work better in reading the old Chinese poems than the modern Mandarin pronunciations. The ones that would work well are: Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien, and Wenzhou dialect. They kept more of the ancient pronunciations and had less influences by the modern pronunciations


I think this is too rush to conclude. The modern mandarin differing from ancient pronunciations is no doubt. However, it was not drastically changed by manoeuvre. It is more a natural evolvement. It is true that mandarin does not work well with some ancient poems. But it still works with a large number of ancient poems. The rhyme, the tone do pretty well to meet the standards of those antique poems in mandarin. Some poems read more beautiful in "Chu" dailect, but seriously no one would think "Chu" was the official language in ancient times.

As was born in Shanghai and a native "wu" dialect speaker, what an interesting thing I ve found is that in Hangzhou, people speak very differently to other "wu" people. Metaphorically, this is like an island surrended by a strange ocean.
Hangzhou, the capital of Southern Song dynasty, was crowded with the northern aristocracy who had fled away from the war tore Kaifeng, the capital of the former Song dynasty. Gentries brought their accent which the locals refered as "Guan Hua"(official language). People in Hangzhou were heavily influenced by this official language since then. This is the main reason they speak so distinctively from people of the surrendering places. Through talks with many Hangzhouers, I found trails of " Guan Hua", which is very similar to modern mandarin.

This suggests at least during song dynasty, the offical language was not too varied from modern mandarin.

#7 xat

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Posted 26 December 2009 - 10:07 PM

Chinese ancient poetry metrical rules is very complex . China ancient poetry was divided into several kinds: 1st, ancient-style poetry. The ancient-style poetry did not speak the antithesis, the ryhme is free. The representative work is "Shijing". 2nd, modern style poetry. The modern style poetry is one kind of classical Chinese poetry rules body poem which Tang Dynasty forms, it is divided into two kinds, the number of words, the sentence number, level and oblique tones and so on had the strict stipulation with the rhyme.
  ①One kind is “jueju poem”, a poem has four sentences , each five characters named five-character jues, seven-syllable abbreviation seven line ju.
  ②One kind said that “Lushi”, a poem has eight sentences , each five characters is called 五律, seven-syllable abbreviation seven-character lyu, over eight is called 长律 (or long verse with seven characters per line).

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