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Han Yu 韩愈
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Han Yu ( 韩愈; pinyin: Hán Yù, 768—824), born in Nanyang, Henan, China, was a precursor of Neo-Confucianism as well as an essayist and poet, during the Tang dynasty. The Indiana Companion calls him "comparable in stature to Dante, Shakespeare or Goethe" for his influence on the Chinese literary tradition (p. 397). He stood for strong central authority in politics and orthodoxy in cultural matters.

An orphan, he went to Chang'an in 786, but needed four attempts to pass the jinshi exam, finally succeeding in 792. In the last few years of the 8th century, he began to form the literary circle which spread his influence so widely.

He gained his first central government position in 802, but was soon exiled; seemingly for failing to support the heir apparent's faction (other possible reasons are because of his criticism of the misbehaviour of the emperor's servants or his request for reduction of taxes during a famine). From 807 to 819 he held a series of posts first in Luoyang and then in Chang'an.

During these years, he was strong advocate of reimposing central control over the separatist provinces of the north-east. This period of service came to an end when he wrote his celebrated Memorial on Bone-relics of the Buddha. This protest against Buddhist influence on the country has been called "belligerently uncompromising and... disrespectful to the edge of personally insulting the emperor". Its only immediate effect was to prompt Han Yu's dismissal and exile to Chaozhou.

In poetry, Han Yu sought to follow the principle that the form of the work should match the content; thus a simple subject would be treated in a simple style, and vice versa.

In prose, he was a strong proponent of the Classical Prose Movement (古文运动), which advocated a clear and concise style of writing.

Nearly three centuries after his death, Han’s ideas had an important influence on Ouyang Xiu, an eleventh century Song Dynasty reformer.


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