VQ Times

Chinese literature stretches back into the furthest reaches of history. Fragments have been found on bone and tortoise shell fragments which date from the Shang dynasty (18-12 century B.C.E.). These fragments have been shown to be the direct ancestor of modem Chinese script on both vocabulary and syntax.

The earliest collection of poetry is the Shah Ching (Classic of Songs) which consists of temple, court and folk songs. The anthology was given a definitive form around the time of Confucius (551-479 B.C.E), but many of the three hundred and five songs pre date this considerably, ranging back as far as the start of the Chou dynasty (1111-225 B.C.E) and up to the time of compilation.

The Shih Ching is generally considered to be the third of the Wu Ching (Five Classics) of Confucian literature; the other four being: the I Ching (Classic of Changes) the famous book of divination and cosmology, the Shu Ching (Classic of History) a collection of official documents, the Li Ching (Record of Rites) a collection of rituals and accompanying tales, and the

Ch'un-ch'iu (Spring and Autumn) a chronological history of the feudal state of Lu from 722-481 B.C.E. The Shih Ching was elevated to the status of Classic in 136 B.C.E. Confucius had edited it.

The Shih Ching poems were originally sung to the accompaniment of music, and some of the temple songs would also have been accompanied by dancing. In all subsequent eras new trends in poetry tended to stem from the influence of music. Shih Ching poems, on the whole, are lyrical regardless of whether the subject is military hardship, seasonal festivities, landscapes, love or disappointment. Most of the poems consisted of lines five syllables long with a pause after the first two syllables. The poems also exhibit strong end rhymes.

Unlike early European literature there is no epic tradition in the Shih Ching (i.e. long narrative poems recounting the deeds of great heroes), but there are a few narrative poems that can be arranged to form cycles. One such cycle records major stages in the rise of the Chou kingdom from the supernatural birth of the founder to the conquest of the Shang kingdom. A history of almost a thousand years in four hundred lines.

Chinese poetry. All subsequent poetic forms have tended towards the lyrical rather than the narrative, and the musical rather than the rhetorical. It also initiated an incredible economy of language that has been the characteristic of Chinese literature ever since.

From about the fourth century B.C.E. another type of poetry began to develop from the traditions of music and dance in the Yangtze river basin, a region dominated by the principality of Ch'u, hence the generic name Ch'u tz'u (Songs of Chu). Although it contains end rhymes like the Shih Ching, the style has a different metre with longer, more irregular lines, often exhibiting a strong caesura in the middle, to the effect that they are better suited to chant than song. The origins of the tradition are obscure because the early examples were eclipsed by the genius of Chu Yuan, China's first known poet. Twenty five elegies are attributed to Chu Yuan. The longest and most important being Li sao (On Encountering Sorrow); an erotic ode that by means of analogy relates the poets disappointment with his royal master through a love allegory which describes the poets travels to distant regions and the realms of heaven in an attempt to divest himself of sorrow.

Finding that he could no influence the conduct of the Prince, Chu Yuan committed suicide by drowning himself in the Mi-lo river. His tragic death and the beauty of his elegies helped to perpetuate the genre for more than five centuries. ^

Glenn Gosling

Don't climb on the great chariot You will make yourself dusty Don't think about the world's sorrow You will make yourself wretched

A Poem From the Shih Ching.

Don't climb on the great chariot The dust will blind you Don't think about the world's sorrow Despair will swallow you

Don't climb on the great chariot The dust will choke you Don't think about the world's sorrow Care will bury you

WiNq ChuN

ing Chun must be one of the most popular styles of Kung Fu in the world. Just thumbing through any martial arts magazine you can find lots adverts with slogans like:

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