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China has one of the world,s richest and earliest literature development. Historians today had not been able to exactly pin-point which year chinese literature actually originated. The most conservative theory is that it began from 1100 BC during western Zhou period, when "Shijing (Classics of Poetry) first appeared. From then on, it began to develop into various branches and stems, and the rivers of chinese literature became very broad.
Various forms of chinese literature first appeared during Pre-Qin and Qin-Han period. Prose can be traced back to Oracle_Bones Divination Dictions; Poetry can be traced back to "Shijing" (Classics of Poetry), "Chuci "(Poetic Diction of Chu) and "Han Yuefu" (Han Rhapsody); Novels can be traced back to legendary stories, historical prose such as "Zuozhuan (Left Biography)", "Shiji" (Records of the Grand Historians) etc, as well as various fable stories of the 100 schools of thoughts during Spring/Autumn and Warring States period.
As chinese literature developed till age of fragmentation period, the chinese literary language began to undergo great changes: it began to change from the deep archaic language to a shallower middle chinese language. From age of fragmentation till middle of Tang dynasty, the "5 or 7 words classical-style poetry" reached the zenith of its development, which also followed a development of "5 or 7 words classical-style poetry"" . From the "3 Cao ", "Seven Sage " till Tao Yuan Ming , Xie Ling Yun , Yu Xin , 4 Excellence of Early Tang , Chen Zi Ang , to Wang Wei, Meng Hao Ran, Gao Shi, Cen Can , Li Bai , Du Fu , the lineage of chinese poetry became clear and complete.
After undergoing a peak in the development of chinese poetry during Tang, the chinese poets began to develop on another path. Through the efforts of Bai Juyi , Han Yu , Li He , Li Shang Yin and other late Tang poets, there began a new wave of development in chinese poetry till Song period: the development of "Lyrics of Song Dynasty or Song lyrics". Liu Yong , Su Shi , Zhou Bang Yan , Li Qing Zhao , Xin Qi Ji , Jiang Kui etc have all left their marks as Lyricists in the history of Lyrical poetry development.
By Yuan dynasty, the audience for the literature began to change from readers to ordinary viewers and audiences of the public. Chinese literature were not just written on paper, they also began to involve plays and singing, in the form of opera. The lower status of Confucian scholars during Yuan dynasty forced chinese literature to develop towards mass folks literature. This period of time had seen playwrights and writers such as Guan Han Qing , Wang Shi Fu , Ma Zhi Yuan , Gao Ming etc. Yuan literature were mostly represented by "Opera" and "Prose Melody ". Dadu was the capital of Yuan opera while Wen Zhou became the center of Southern opera.
By late Yuan dynasty, "Romance of 3 kingdoms", "Outlaws of the Marshes" were first written as vernacular novels. Their appearance symbolizes the coming of an era of long-passage novels. By Ming era, with the development of commerce and printing, chinese literature began to be commercialized and this ushered a new needs of audiences and the plots and theme of writing began to undergo a series of change.
Ming and Qing dynasty were the harvest period of long passage novels. The "Journey to the West " by Wu Cheng En, "Golden Vase Plum", "The Scholars" by Wu Jingzhi, "Dreams of Red Chamber " by Cao Xueqin were all example of novel works highlighting the pinacle of novel development. "Ghost Stories " by Pu Song Ling was one of the best chinese classical novel.
By the beginning of 20th century, with the advent of new literature movement in 1918 (May 4th event), vernacular literature (literature written in modern chinese language) began to appear.
All in all, with the changes of the dynasty, chinese literature underwent rise and fall. Han dynasty,s pinacle of development was in "Fu (Rhapsody)", Tang was in "Shi " (poem), Song was in "Ci " (lyric), Yuan was in "Qu " (melody/opera), Ming/Qing was in novel.