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Characteristics of Chinese Poetry and Literature


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#1 General_Zhaoyun

General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 11:49 AM

I'm been somewhat interested in the chinese poetry (known as "Shi Ge 诗歌"). Although I'm no expert on chinese literature, I would like to briefly briefly discuss its development history and various forms.

Going back to the history of chinese literature, chinese poetry was one of the earliest literature form developed. The Book of Poetry (Shijing 诗经) was said to be edited by Confucius and was one of the earliest poetry book appeared in chinese history. During ancient times, there was also a literary form known as "prose" (chinese: "Sanwen Ti 散文体") written mostly by philosophers. Today's Modern Prose has its origin from ancient times. By warring states period, what was popular was the "Chu Songs/Lyrics" (known in chinese as "Chu Ci 楚辞"), which is a type of poetry originating from the state of Chu. The best known poet for Chu Ci was Qu Yuan 屈原, who composed the famous poetry book "Li Sao 离骚 ".

By Han dynasty period, a form of poetry appeared known as "fu 赋". You might know the famous "fu" poet such as Sima Xiangru. During age of fragmentation period, poetry was largely influenced by buddhism and daoism.

By Tang dynasty, the chinese poetry reached the zenith of its development. Tang dynasty was the golden age of chinese poetry. There were many famous poets during this time such as Li Bai, Du Fu etc. It became very trendy to compose poems during this time. The Tang poetry existed in many different styles such as "7 Characters (七言绝句)", "5 characters" form or "Ge Lu Shi (格律诗)". By Song period, what's more popular were chinese poetry in the form of lyrics/songs known as "ci 词". Usually, these poetic lyrics were sung by geisha and poet such as Su Shi.

The Ming and Qing were probably more famous for their classical novels such as Romance of 3 kingdoms, Water Margins, Red Chamber Dream and Journey to the West.

After the collapse of imperial dynasty, China found itself on a modernization path. The may-fourth event in 1917 was development of modern chinese literature in vernacular style (baihua 白话). During this time, we've seen many great poets and writers such as Lu Xun, Zhang Ai ling, Ba Jin, Xu Zhimo etc. Modern chinese literature existed in various styles such as Prose (散文), Novels (小说), Modern Poetry (现代诗歌), Mixed Writing (杂文) etc.

During the cultural revolution, there was a great suppression in the chinese literature. By 1980- 1990, the period was known as "Pain Recovery" period. Modern chinese literature began to express more about the destruction of the cultural revolution. By 1990s, with the advent of the internet, modern chinese literature began to appear even on the internet. During the 1990s and 2000s, chinese literature in PRC was dominated by the theme of 'sex', such that in many chinese novels, there must at least be some elements of sex in them. Chinese literature began more commercialised, in which "pop literature" appeared. Suffice to say, this had led to degradation of the quality of literature in PRC as compared to May 5th event.

IMO, Taiwan's modern chinese literature (esp. novels) are generally speaking better-written than that in PRC, which today suffered as a result of the domination of sex theme during the 2000s (seems to be a negative effect of commercialisation). Nevertheless, PRC's poetry and prose continue to evolve and develop today.

Edited by General_Zhaoyun, 08 December 2005 - 08:33 PM.

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"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang

#2 General_Zhaoyun

General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 08:30 PM

In modern chinese poetry, it can be quite hard to analyse or interpret due to some characteristics:

1. They are subjective expression of feelings

2. They used lots of metaphor to illustrate a scene or the feelings

3. They let you imagine lots of other things.

Very rarely are poetry used for narration of a happening, but are more like beautiful expressions of feelings.

Here is a very simple modern poetry, yet 'hard' to understand:

我与诗 /俞平伯

我在楼下写诗
写完了
不是我的;
读了一遍,三四遍后
我也不见了

Translation:

Me and the poetry / Yu Pinbo


I am writing poetry downstairs
Complete my writing
It is not mine;
After reading one time, three four times,
I am also gone


Analysis:

Very simple poetry? But the meaning is profound. Good poetry are those that will let you 'question' why? The punctuation ";" indicates a turning point. Why after writing the poetry, it is 不是我的 ? The reason why after writing the poetry is no longer "mine" is due to the fact that it is up to readers to interpret the poetry, thus the "poetry" belongs to the reader and is no longer "mine".

After reading one or three four times, 我也不见了 (I am also one) ...why? Because the writer becomes the reader himself , and is no longer the same feelings as when he was writing it.

Edited by General_Zhaoyun, 08 December 2005 - 08:41 PM.

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"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang

#3 General_Zhaoyun

General_Zhaoyun

    Grand Valiant General of Imperial Han Army

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Posted 08 December 2005 - 08:57 PM

Let me try another modern poetry and analyse it:

垂灭的星 / 杨唤

轻轻的, 我想轻轻的
用一把银色的裁纸刀
割断那象蓝色的河流的静脉
让那忧郁和哀愁
愤怒的泛滥起来

对着一个垂灭的星
我忘了爬在脸上的泪

Translation:

The destroyed star /Yang Huan

Lightly, I am thinking lightly
To use a silver pen-knife
To cut the membranes that looks like the blue river flow
Let sorrow and worries
Angrily boil up together

Facing a destroyed star
I forget the tears that are crawling on my face


Analysis:
What kind of scene does this reminds you of ? Actually, the poetry was trying to express the subjective feelings of committing suicide. But why 轻轻的 (lightly)? This is because the writer is probably scared or even reluctant to commit suicide, only a thought probably. Then he repeated 想轻轻 to confirm that he is still rational. "裁纸刀" (pen-knife) represents a knife used to open a letter's envelop. So perhaps, he is reading a letter.

"蓝色的河流的静脉" ..why is the membrane like blue color? It's because blue is the pen's ink color. This almost feels like committing suicide. Then there is a peak in his feeling "让那忧郁和哀愁 愤怒的泛滥起来".. worries, sorrow were a sharp comparison of feelings compared to 轻轻 (lightly).

对着一个垂灭的星
星 (Star) is used as a metaphor representing your life. Thus if you life is almost dying.. why kind of feelings do you have? The writer mentions 我忘了爬在脸上的泪 (he forgot about the tears that are "crawling" on his face). Why "crawling"? Does that give you a feeling of itchness? With such itchness, he can even forget or not notice...then it means the writter is very sorrowful.

Edited by General_Zhaoyun, 08 December 2005 - 08:59 PM.

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"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang




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