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Classical Prose
Learn Chinese - Chinese Literature

The proponents of the Hundred Schools of Thought in the Warring States Period and Spring and Autumn periods made important contributions to Chinese prose style. The writings of Mo Zi (墨子) (Mo Di, 470-390 B.C.), Mencius (孟子) (Meng Zi; 372-289 B.C.), and Zhuang Zi (庄子) (369-286 B.C.) contain well-reasoned, carefully developed discourses and show a marked improvement in organization and style over what went before.

Mo Zi is known for extensively and effectively using methodological reasoning in his polemic prose. Mencius contributed elegant diction and, along with Zhuang Zi, is known for his extensive use of comparisons, anecdotes, and allegories. By the third century B.C., these writers had developed a simple, concise prose noted for its economy of words, which served as a model of literary form for over 2,000 years.

Later prose
The Tang period also saw a rejection of the ornate, artificial style of prose developed in the previous period and the emergence of a simple, direct, and forceful prose based on Han and pre-Han writing. The primary proponent of this neoclassical style of prose, which heavily influenced prose writing for the next 800 years, was Han Yu 韩愈 (768-824), a master essayist and strong advocate of a return to Confucian orthodoxy. The literary category of 'travel record literature' that became popular during the Song Dynasty employed the use of prose (as well as diary and narrative format), and included such seasoned veterans of travel experience as Fan Chengda (1126-1193) and Xu Xiake (1587-1641). A great literary example of this would also be Su Shi's Record of Stone Bell Mountain from the 11th century.

Vernacular fiction became popular after the fourteenth century, although it was never esteemed in court circles. Covering a broader range of subject matter and longer and less highly structured than literary fiction, vernacular fiction includes a number of masterpieces. The greatest is the 18h century domestic novel Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦).


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