The long period of the Bronze Age in China, which began around 2000 B.C., saw the growth and maturity of a civilization that would be sustained in its essential aspects for another 2,000 years. In the early stages of this development, the process of urbanization went hand in hand with the establishment of a social order. In China, as in other societies, the mechanism that generated social cohesion, and at a later stage statecraft, was ritualization. As most of the paraphernalia for early rituals were made in bronze and as rituals carried such an important social function, it is perhaps possible to read into the forms and decorations of these objects some of the central concerns of the societies (at least the upper sectors of the societies) that produced them.
There were probably a number of early centers of bronze technology, but the area along the Yellow River in present-day Henan Province emerged as the center of the most advanced and literate cultures of the time and became the seat of the political and military power of the Shang dynasty (ca. 1600–1050 B.C.), the earliest archaeologically recorded dynasty in Chinese history. The Shang dynasty was conquered by the people of Zhou, who came from farther up the Yellow River in the area of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province. In the first years of the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1046–256 B.C.), known as the Western Zhou (ca. 1046–771 B.C.), the ruling house of Zhou exercised a certain degree of “imperial” power over most of central China. With the move of the capital to Luoyang in 771 B.C., however, the power of the Zhou rulers declined and the country divided into a number of nearly autonomous feudal states with nominal allegiance to the emperor. The second phase of the Zhou dynasty, known as the Eastern Zhou (771–256 B.C.), is subdivided into two periods, the Spring and Autumn period (770–ca. 475 B.C.) and the Warring States period (ca. 475–221 B.C.). During the Warring States period, seven major states contended for supreme control of the country, ending with the unification of China under the Qin in 221 B.C.
Although there is uncertainty as to when metallurgy began in China, there is reason to believe that early bronzeworking developed autonomously, independent of outside influences. The era of the Shang and the Zhou dynasties is generally known as the Bronze Age of China, because bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, used to fashion weapons, parts of chariots, and ritual vessels, played an important role in the material culture of the time. Iron appeared in China toward the end of the period, during the Eastern Zhou dynasty.
The earliest Chinese bronzes were made by the method known as piece-mold casting—as opposed to the lost-wax method, which was used in all other Bronze Age cultures. In piece-mold casting, a model is made of the object to be cast, and a clay mold taken of the model. The mold is then cut in sections to release the model, and the sections are reassembled after firing to form the mold for casting. If the object to be cast is a vessel, a core has to be placed inside the mold to provide the vessel’s cavity. The piece-mold method was most likely the only one used in China until at least the end of the Shang dynasty. An advantage of this rather cumbersome way of casting bronze was that the decorative patterns could be carved or stamped directly on the inner surface of the mold before it was fired. This technique enabled the bronzeworker to achieve a high degree of sharpness and definition in even the most intricate designs.
One of the most distinctive and characteristic images decorating Shang-dynasty bronze vessels is the so-called taotie. The primary attribute of this frontal animal-like mask is a prominent pair of eyes, often protruding in high relief. Between the eyes is a nose, often with nostrils at the base. Taotie can also include jaws and fangs, horns, ears, and eyebrows. Many versions include a split animal-like body with legs and tail, each flank shown in profile on either side of the mask. While following a general form, the appearance and specific components of taotie masks varied by period and place of production. Other common motifs for Shang ritual bronze vessels were dragons, birds, bovine creatures, and a variety of geometric patterns. Currently, the significance of the taotie, as well as the other decorative motifs, in Shang society is unknown.
Jade, along with bronze, represents the highest achievement of Bronze Age material culture. In many respects, the Shang dynasty can be regarded as the culmination of 2,000 years of the art of jade carving. Shang craftsmen had full command of the artistic and technical language developed in the diverse late Neolithic cultures that had a jade-working tradition. On the other hand, some developments in Shang and Zhou jade carving can be regarded as evidence of decline. While Bronze Age jade workers no doubt had better tools—if only the advantage of metal ones—the great patience and skill of the earlier period seem to be lacking.
If the precise function of ritual jades in the late Neolithic is indeterminate, such is not the case in the Bronze Age. Written records and archaeological evidence inform us that jades were used in sacrificial offerings to gods and ancestors, in burial rites, for recording treaties between states, and in formal ceremonies at the courts of kings.
Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
For culture in mainland China after 1949, see Culture of the People's Republic of China.
Chinese culture (simplified Chinese: 中华文化; traditional Chinese: 中華文化; pinyin: Zhōnghuá wénhuà) is one of the world's oldest cultures, originating thousands of years ago. The area in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between provinces, cities, and even towns as well. With China being one of the earliest ancient civilizations, Chinese culture is extremely diverse and varying, and it has a profound effect in the philosophy, virtue, etiquette and traditions of Asia to date.
Chinese culture is considered the dominant culture in East Asia historically. Chinese language, ceramics, architecture, music, dance, literature, martial arts, cuisine, visual arts, philosophy, business etiquette, religion, politics and history have a profound impact on the world, while its traditions and festivals are also celebrated, instilled and practiced by people around Asia.
From the Qin Dynasty to the late Qing Dynasty (221 BC-AD 1840), the Chinese government divided Chinese people into four classes: landlord, peasant, craftsmen, and merchant. Landlords and peasants constituted the two major classes, while merchant and craftsmen were collected into the two minor. Theoretically, except for the position of the Emperor, nothing was hereditary.
The Han Chinese are an East Asianethnic group and nation. They constitute approximately 92% of the population of China, 95% of Taiwan (Han Taiwanese), 76% of Singapore, 23% of Malaysia, and about 17% of the global population, making them the world's largest ethnic group, numbering over 1.3 billion people.
In modern China, there are 56 officially labelled ethnic groups in China. Throughout history, many groups have merged into neighboring ethnicities or disappeared. At the same time, many within the Han identity have maintained distinct linguistic and regional cultural traditions. The term Zhonghua Minzu (Chinese: 中华民族，中華民族) has been used to describe the notion of Chinese nationalism in general. Much of the traditional identity within the community has to do with distinguishing the family name.
Main article: List of regions of the People's Republic of China
During the 361 years of civil war after the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), there was a partial restoration of feudalism when wealthy and powerful families emerged with large amounts of land and huge numbers of semi-serfs. They dominated important civilian and military positions of the government, making the positions available to members of their own families and clans. After the Tang dynasty's yellow[clarification needed] emergence, the government extended the Imperial examination system as an attempt to eradicate this feudalism. Traditional Chinese Culture covers large geographical territories, where each region is usually divided into distinct sub-cultures. Each region is often represented by three ancestral items. For example, Guangdong is represented by chenpi, aged ginger and hay. Others include ancient cities like Lin'an (Hangzhou), which include tea leaf, bamboo shoottrunk, and hickory nut. Such distinctions give rise to the old Chinese proverb: "十里不同風, 百里不同俗/十里不同風 ,praxis vary within ten li, customs vary within a hundred li.""The 31 provincial-level divisions of the People's Republic of China grouped by its former administrative areas from 1949 to 1952, which are now known as traditional regions.
Society & Structure
Main article: Social structure of China
Since the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors period, some form of Chinese monarch has been the main ruler above all. Different periods of history have different names for the various positions within society. Conceptually each imperial or feudal period is similar, with the government and military officials ranking high in the hierarchy, and the rest of the population under regular Chinese law. From the late Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BCE) onwards, traditional Chinese society was organized into a hierarchic system of socio-economic classes known as the four occupations.
However, this system did not cover all social groups while the distinctions between all groups became blurred ever since the commercialization of Chinese culture in the Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE). Ancient Chinese education also has a long history; ever since the Sui Dynasty (581–618 CE) educated candidates prepared for the Imperial examinations which drafted exam graduates into government as scholar-bureaucrats.This led to the creation of a meritocracy, although success was available only to males who could afford test preparation. Imperial examinations required applicants to write essays and demonstrate mastery of the Confucian classics. Those who passed the highest level of the exam became elite scholar-officials known as jinshi, a highly esteemed socio-economic position. A major mythological structure developed around the topic of the mythology of the imperial exams. Trades and crafts were usually taught by a shifu. The female historian Ban Zhao wrote the Lessons for Women in the Han Dynasty and outlined the four virtues women must abide to, while scholars such as Zhu Xi and Cheng Yi would expand upon this. Chinese marriage and Taoist sexual practices are some of the rituals and customs found in society.
With the rise of European economic and military power beginning in the mid-19th century, non-Chinese systems of social and political organization gained adherents in China. Some of these would-be reformers totally rejected China's cultural legacy, while others sought to combine the strengths of Chinese and European cultures. In essence, the history of 20th-century China is one of experimentation with new systems of social, political, and economic organization that would allow for the reintegration of the nation in the wake of dynastic collapse.
Spirituality & Values
Main articles: Chinese spiritual world concepts, Chinese Buddhism, and Chinese mythology
Most spirituality are derived from Chinese Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The subject of which school was the most influential is always debated as many concepts such as Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism and many others have come about. Reincarnation and other rebirth concept is a reminder of the connection between real-life and the after-life. In Chinese business culture, the concept of guanxi, indicating the primacy of relations over rules, has been well documented. While many deities are part of the tradition, some of the most recognized holy figures include Guan Yin, the Jade Emperor and Buddha.
Chinese Buddhism has shaped Chinese culture in a wide variety of areas including art, politics, literature, philosophy, medicine, and material culture.The translation of a large body of Indian Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and the inclusion of these translations together with works composed in China into a printed canon had far-reaching implications for the dissemination of Buddhism throughout the Chinese cultural sphere, including Korea, Japan, Ryukyu Islands and Vietnam. Chinese Buddhism is also marked by the interaction between Indian religions, Chinese religion, and Taoism.
Main articles: Religion in China, Taoism, Chinese folk religion, and Fortune-telling § Eastern fortune telling
Chinese religion was originally oriented to worshipping the supreme god Shang Di during the Xia and Shang dynasties, with the king and diviners acting as priests and using oracle bones. The Zhou dynasty oriented it to worshipping the broader concept of heaven. A large part of Chinese culture is based on the notion that a spiritual world exists. Countless methods of divination have helped answer questions, even serving as an alternative to medicine. Folklores have helped fill the gap between things that cannot be explained. There is often a blurred line between myth, religion and unexplained phenomenon.Many of the stories have since evolved into traditional Chinese holidays. Other concepts have extended to the outside of mythology into spiritual symbols such as Door god and the Imperial guardian lions. Along with the belief of the holy, there is also the evil. Practices such as Taoist exorcism fighting mogwai and jiangshi with peachwood swords are just some of the concepts passed down from generations. A few Chinese fortune telling rituals are still in use today after thousands of years of refinement.
Taoism is a religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (道, literally "Way", also romanized as Dao). The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasizing rigid rituals and social order. Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasize wu wei (effortless action), "naturalness", simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: 慈 "compassion", 儉/俭 "frugality", and 谦 "humility". The roots of Taoism go back at least to the 4th century BCE. Early Taoism drew its cosmological notions from the School of Yinyang (Naturalists), and was deeply influenced by one of the oldest texts of Chinese culture, the Yijing, which expounds a philosophical system about how to keep human behavior in accordance with the alternating cycles of nature. The "Legalist" Shen Buhai may also have been a major influence, expounding a realpolitik of wu wei. The Tao Te Ching, a compact book containing teachings attributed to Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Lao Tzu), is widely considered the keystone work of the Taoist tradition, together with the later writings of Zhuangzi.
Philosophy & Legalism
Main articles: Chinese philosophy, Confucianism, and Legalism (Chinese philosophy)
Confucianism, also known as Ruism, was always being the official philosophy throughout most of Imperial China's history, and mastery of Confucian texts was the primary criterion for entry into the imperial bureaucracy. A number of more authoritarian strains of thought have also been influential, such as Legalism.There was often conflict between the philosophies, e.g. the Song DynastyNeo-Confucians believed Legalism departed from the original spirit of Confucianism. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today. In recent years, a number of New Confucians (not to be confused with Neo-Confucianism) have advocated that democratic ideals and human rights are quite compatible with traditional Confucian "Asian values".
Confucianism is described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a way of life. Confucianism developed from what was later called the Hundred Schools of Thought from the teachings of the Chinese philosopherConfucius (551–479 BCE), who considered himself a retransmitter of the values of the Zhou dynasty golden age of several centuries before. In the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), Confucian approaches edged out the "proto-Taoist" Huang-Lao, as the official ideology while the emperors mixed both with the realist techniques of Legalism.
Hundred Schools of Thought
Main articles: Hundred Schools of Thought, Mohism, The Art of War, and School of Naturalists
The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophies and schools that flourished from the 6th century to 221 BC, during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period of ancient China.An era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China, it was fraught with chaos and bloody battles, but it was also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy because a broad range of thoughts and ideas were developed and discussed freely. This phenomenon has been called the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought (百家爭鳴/百家争鸣; bǎijiā zhēngmíng; pai-chia cheng-ming; "hundred schools contend"). The thoughts and ideas discussed and refined during this period have profoundly influenced lifestyles and social consciousness up to the present day in East Asian countries and the East Asian diaspora around the world. The intellectual society of this era was characterized by itinerant scholars, who were often employed by various state rulers as advisers on the methods of government, war, and diplomacy.This period ended with the rise of the imperial Qin Dynasty and the subsequent purge of dissent.A traditional source for this period is the Shiji, or Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian. The autobiographical section of the Shiji, the "Taishigong Zixu" (太史公自序), refers to the schools of thought described below.
Mohism was an ancient Chinese philosophy of logic, rational thought and science developed by the academicscholars who studied under the ancient Chinese philosopher Mozi (c. 470 BC–c. 391 BC) and embodied in an eponymous book: the Mozi.Another group is the School of the Military (兵家; Bingjia) that studied warfare and strategy; Sunzi and Sun Bin were influential leaders.The School of Naturalists was a Warring States era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements; Zou Yan is considered the founder of this school. His theory attempted to explain the universe in terms of basic forces in nature: the complementary agents of yin (dark, cold, female, negative) and yang (light, hot, male, positive) and the Five Elements or Five Phases (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth).
Main articles: Chinese language and History of Mandarin
The ancient written standard was Classical Chinese. It was used for thousands of years, but was mostly used by scholars and intellectuals which forms the "top" class of the society called "shi da fu (士大夫）". It is difficult but possible for ordinary people to promote his class by passing written exams. Calligraphy later became commercialized, and works by famous artists became prized possessions. Chinese literature has a long past; the earliest classic work in Chinese, the I Ching or "Book of Changes" dates to around 1000 BC. A flourishing of philosophy during the Warring States period produced such noteworthy works as Confucius's Analects and Laozi's Tao Te Ching. (See also: the Chinese classics.) Dynastic histories were often written, beginning with Sima Qian's seminal Records of the Grand Historian, which was written from 109 BC to 91 BC.The Tang Dynasty witnessed a poetic flowering, while the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature were written during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Printmaking in the form of movable type was developed during the Song Dynasty. Academies of scholars sponsored by the empire were formed to comment on the classics in both printed and handwritten form. Royalty frequently participated in these discussions as well.
Chinese philosophers, writers and poets were highly respected and played key roles in preserving and promoting the culture of the empire. Some classical scholars, however, were noted for their daring depictions of the lives of the common people, often to the displeasure of authorities.At the start of the 20th century, most of the population were still illiterate, and the many mutually-unintelligible languages spoken (Mandarin, Wu, Yue (Cantonese), Min Nan (Ban-lam-gu), Jin, Xiang, Hakka, Gan, Hui, Ping etc.) in different regions prevented communication with people from other areas. Nevertheless, the written language keeps the communication open and passing the official orders and documentations throughout the entire region of China. Reformers set out to establish a national language, settling on the Beijing-based Mandarin as the spoken form. After the May 4th Movement, Classical Chinese was quickly replaced by written vernacular Chinese, modeled after the vocabulary and grammar of the standard spoken language.
Main article: Chinese calligraphy
Chinese calligraphy is a form of aesthetically pleasing writing (calligraphy), or, the artistic expression of human language in a tangible form. This type of expression has been widely practiced in China and has been generally highly esteemed in the Chinese cultural sphere (including, historically, for example, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam). There are some general standardizations of the various styles of calligraphy in this tradition. Chinese calligraphy and ink and wash painting are closely related: they are accomplished using similar tools and techniques, and have a long history of shared artistry. Distinguishing features of Chinese painting and calligraphy include an emphasis on motion charged with dynamic life. According to Stanley-Baker, "Calligraphy is sheer life experienced through energy in motion that is registered as traces on silk or paper, with time and rhythm in shifting space its main ingredients." Calligraphy has also led to the development of many forms of art in China, including seal carving, ornate paperweights, and inkstones.
In China, calligraphy is referred to as Shūfǎ (書法/书法), literally: "the way/method/law of writing";Shodō (書道/书道) in Japan (literally: "the way/principle of writing"); and Seoye (서예; 書藝) in Korea (literally: "the skill/criterion of writing").Chinese calligraphy is normally regarded as one of the "arts" (Chinese 藝術/艺术 pinyin: yìshù) in the countries where it is practised. Chinese calligraphy focuses not only on methods of writing but also on cultivating one's character (人品) and taught as a pursuit (－書法; pinyin: shūfǎ, "the rules of writing Han characters").
Main article: Chinese literature
The Zhou dynasty is often regarded as the touchstone of Chinese cultural development. Concepts covered within the Chinese classic texts present a wide range of subjects including poetry, astrology, astronomy, calendar, constellations and many others. Some of the most important early texts include the I Ching and the Shujing within the Four Books and Five Classics. Many Chinese concepts such as Yin and Yang, Qi, Four Pillars of Destiny in relation to heaven and earth were theorized in the pre-imperial periods. By the end of the Qing dynasty, Chinese culture would embark on a new era with written vernacular Chinese for the common citizens. Hu Shih and Lu Xun would be pioneers in modern literature. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the study of Chinese modern literature has gradually been increased over time. Modern-era literature has formed an aspect in the process of forming modern interpretations of nationhood and creation of a sense of national spirit.
Poetry in Tang Dynasty
Main article: Tang poetry
Tang poetry refers to poetry written in or around the time of or in the characteristic style of China's Tang dynasty, (June 18, 618 - June 4, 907, including the 690-705 reign of Wu Zetian) and/or follows a certain style, often considered as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry. The Quantangshi includes over 48,900 poems written by over 2,200 authors. During the Tang dynasty, poetry continued to be an important part of social life at all levels of society. Scholars were required to master poetry for the civil service exams, but the art was theoretically available to everyone. This led to a large record of poetry and poets, a partial record of which survives today. Two of the most famous poets of the period were Li Bai and Du Fu. Tang poetry has had an ongoing influence on world literature and modern and quasi-modern poetry.The Quantangshi ("Complete Tang Poems") anthology compiled in the early eighteenth century includes over 48,900 poems written by over 2,200 authors. The Quantangwen (全唐文, "Complete Tang Prose"), despite its name, contains more than 1,500 fu and is another widely consulted source for Tang poetry. Despite their names, these sources are not comprehensive, and the manuscripts discovered at Dunhuang in the twentieth century included many shi and some fu, as well as variant readings of poems that were also included in the later anthologies. There are also collections of individual poets' work, which generally can be dated earlier than the Qing anthologies, although few earlier than the eleventh century. Only about a hundred Tang poets have such collected editions extant.Another important source is anthologies of poetry compiled during the Tang dynasty, although only thirteen such anthologies survive in full or in part.Many records of poetry, as well as other writings, were lost when the Tang capital of Changan was damaged by war in the eighth and ninth centuries, so that while more than 50,000 Tang poems survive (more than any earlier period in Chinese history), this still likely represents only a small portion of the poetry that was actually produced during the period. Many seventh-century poets are reported by the 721 imperial library catalog as having left behind massive volumes of poetry, of which only a tiny portion survives, and there are notable gaps in the poetic œuvres of even Li Bo and Du Fu, the two most celebrated Tang poets.
Ci in Song Dynasty
Main article: Ci (poetry)
Ci (辭/辞) are a poetic form, a type of lyric poetry, done in the tradition of Classical Chinese poetry. Ci use a set of poetic meters derived from a base set of certain patterns, in fixed-rhythm, fixed-tone, and variable line-length formal types, or model examples: the rhythmic and tonal pattern of the ci are based upon certain, definitive musical song tunes. They are also known as Changduanju (長短句/长短句, "lines of irregular lengths") and Shiyu (詩餘/诗馀, "that which is beside poetry").Typically the number of characters in each line and the arrangement of tones were determined by one of around 800 set patterns, each associated with a particular title, called cípái 詞牌/词牌. Originally they were written to be sung to a tune of that title, with set rhythm, rhyme, and tempo. The Song Dynasty was also a period of great scientific literature, and saw the creation of works such as Su Song's Xin Yixiang Fayao and Shen Kuo's Dream Pool Essays. There were also enormous works of historiography and large encyclopedias, such as Sima Guang's Zizhi Tongjian of 1084 or the Four Great Books of Song fully compiled and edited by the 11th century. Notable Confucianists, Taoists and scholars of all classes have made significant contributions to and from documenting history to authoring saintly concepts that seem hundred of years ahead of time. Although the oldest surviving textual examples of surviving ci are from 8th century CE Dunhuang manuscripts, beginning in the poetry of the Liang Dynasty, the ci followed the tradition of the Shi Jing and the yuefu: they were lyrics which developed from anonymous popular songs into a sophisticated literary genre; although in the case of the ci form some of its fixed-rhythm patterns have an origin in Central Asia. The form was further developed in the Tang Dynasty. Although the contributions of Li Bo (also known as Li Po, 701 – 762) are fraught with historical doubt, certainly the Tang poet Wen Tingyun (812-870) was a great master of the ci, writing it in its distinct and mature form. One of the more notable practitioners and developers of this form was Li Yu of the Southern Tang Dynasty during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. However, the ci form of Classical Chinese poetry is especially associated with the poetry of the Song Dynasty, during which it was indeed a popular poetic form. A revival of the ci poetry form occurred during the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty which was characterized by an exploration of the emotions connected with romantic love together with its valorization, often in a context of a brief poetic story narrative within a ci poem or a linked group of ci poems in an application of the chuanqi form of short story tales to poetry.
Qu in Yuan Dynasty
Main article: Qu (poetry)
The Qu form of poetry is a type of Classical Chinese poetry form, consisting of words written in one of a number of certain, set tone patterns, based upon the tunes of various songs. Thus Qu poems are lyrics with lines of varying longer and shorter lengths, set according to the certain and specific, fixed patterns of rhyme and tone of conventional musical pieces upon which they are based and after which these matched variations in lyrics (or individual Qu poems) generally take their name. The fixed-tone type of verse such as the Qu and the ci together with the shi and fu forms of poetry comprise the three main forms of Classical Chinese poetry. In Chinese literature, the Qu (Chinese: 曲; pinyin: qǔ; Wade–Giles: chü) form of poetry from the Yuan Dynasty may be called Yuanqu (元曲 P: Yuánqǔ, W: Yüan-chü). Qu may be derived from Chinese opera, such as the Zaju (雜劇/杂剧), in which case these Qu may be referred to as sanqu (散曲). The San in Sanqu refers to the detached status of the Qu lyrics of this verse form: in other words, rather than being embedded as part of an opera performance the lyrics stand separately on their own. Since the Qu became popular during the late Southern Song Dynasty, and reached a special height of popularity in the poetry of the Yuan Dynasty, therefore it is often called Yuanqu (元曲), specifying the type of Qu found in Chinese opera typical of the Yuan Dynasty era. Both Sanqu and Ci are lyrics written to fit a different melodies, but Sanqu differs from Ci in that it is more colloquial, and is allowed to contain Chenzi (襯字/衬字 "filler words" which are additional words to make a more complete meaning). Sanqu can be further divided into Xiaoling (小令) and Santao (散套), with the latter containing more than one melody.
The Novels in Ming Dynasty & Qing Dynasty
Main article: Four Great Classical Novels
The Four Great Classical or Classic Novels of Chinese literature[a] are the four novels commonly regarded by Chinese literary criticism to be the greatest and most influential of pre-modern Chinese fiction. Dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties, they are well-known to most Chinese either directly or through their many adaptations to Chinese opera and other popular culture media.They are among the world's longest and oldest novels and are considered to be the pinnacle of China's achievement in classic novels, influencing the creation of many stories, plays, movies, games, and other forms of entertainment throughout countries in East Asia, including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
Chinese fiction, rooted in narrative classics such as Shishuo Xinyu, Sou Shen Ji, Wenyuan Yinghua, Da Tang Xiyu Ji, Youyang Zazu, Taiping Guangji, and official histories, developed into the novel as early as the Song Dynasty. The novel as an extended prose narrative which realistically creates a believable world of its own evolved in China and in Europe from the 14th to 18th centuries, though a little earlier in China. Chinese audiences were more interested in history and were more historically minded. They appreciated relative optimism, moral humanism, and relative emphasis on collective behavior and the welfare of the society.
The rise of a money economy and urbanization beginning in the Song era led to a professionalization of entertainment which was further encouraged by the spread of printing, the rise of literacy, and education. In both China and Western Europe, the novel gradually became more autobiographical and serious in exploration of social, moral, and philosophical problems. Chinese fiction of the late Ming dynasty and early Qing dynasty was varied, self-conscious, and experimental. In China, however, there was no counterpart to the 19th-century European explosion of novels. The novels of the Ming and early Qing dynasties represented a pinnacle of classic Chinese fiction.The scholar and literary critic Andrew H. Plaks argues that Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, Journey to the West, and The Golden Lotus collectively constituted a technical breakthrough reflecting new cultural values and intellectual concerns. Their educated editors, authors, and commentators used the narrative conventions developed from earlier story-tellers, such as the episodic structure, interspersed songs and folk sayings, or speaking directly to the reader, but they fashioned self-consciously ironic narratives whose seeming familiarity camouflaged a Neo-Confucian moral critique of late Ming decadence. Plaks explores the textual history of the novels (all published after their author's deaths, usually anonymously) and how the ironic and satiric devices of these novels paved the way for the great novels of the 18th century.Plaks further shows these Ming novels share formal characteristics.
Fashion & Clothing
Main articles: Chinese clothing, Hanfu, and Qipao
China's fashion history covers hundreds of years with some of the most colorful and diverse arrangements. Different social classes in different eras boast different fashion trends, the color yellow was usually reserved for the emperor during China's Imperial era.
From the beginning of its history, Han clothing (especially in elite circles) was inseparable from silk, supposedly discovered by the Yellow Emperor's consort, Leizu. The dynasty to follow the Shang, the Western Zhou Dynasty, established a strict hierarchical society that used clothing as a status meridian, and inevitably, the height of one’s rank influenced the ornateness of a costume. Such markers included the length of a skirt, the wideness of a sleeve and the degree of ornamentation. In addition to these class-oriented developments, Han Chinese clothing became looser, with the introduction of wide sleeves and jade decorations hung from the sash which served to keep the yi closed. The yi was essentially wrapped over, in a style known as jiaoling youren, or wrapping the right side over before the left, because of the initially greater challenge to the right-handed wearer (people of Zhongyuan discouraged left-handedness like many other historical cultures, considering it unnatural, barbarian, uncivilized, and unfortunate). The Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC – 1000 BC), developed the rudiments of Hanfu; it consisted of a yi, a narrow-cuffed, knee-length tunic tied with a sash, and a narrow, ankle-length skirt, called chang, worn with a bixi, a length of fabric that reached the knees. Vivid primary colors and green were used, due to the degree of technology at the time. Some research claim that historical records in Tang, Song and Ming dynasties also used this term "Hanfu" to refer the traditional dress of Han people, yet scholarly research indicates that the modern definition of "Hanfu" was created on Baidu Baike and other Chinese websites by internet users, and the various styles of clothing during the Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties were referred to by their own names during their respective time periods.According to Zhang Xian (張跣), a professor of China Youth University of Political Studies, the modern definition of "Hanfu" is a problematic concept publicized by advocates of Hanfu movement. These advocates are mostly students, who created a non-academic, non-official standard of Hanfu that refers to the historical dress of the Han Chinese before the Qing dynasty and published it on Baidu Baike.
During the Qing Dynasty, China's last imperial dynasty, a dramatic shift of clothing occurred, examples of which include the cheongsam (or qipao in Mandarin). The clothing of the era before the Qing Dynasty is referred to as Hanfu or traditional Han Chinese clothing. Many symbols such as phoenix have been used for decorative as well as economic purposes. Among them were the Banners (qí), mostly Manchu, who as a group were called Banner People (旗人pinyin: qí rén). Manchu women typically wore a one-piece dress that retrospectively came to be known as the qípáo (旗袍, Manchu: sijigiyan or banner gown). The generic term for both the male and the female forms of Manchu dress, essentially similar garments, was chángpáo (長袍/长袍). The qipao fitted loosely and hung straight down the body, or flared slightly in an A-line. Under the dynastic laws after 1636, all Han Chinese in the banner system were forced to adopt the Manchu male hairstyle of wearing a queue as did all Manchu men and dress in Manchu qipao. However, the order for ordinary non-Banner Han civilians to wear Manchu clothing was lifted and only Han who served as officials were required to wear Manchu clothing, with the rest of the civilian Han population dressing however they wanted. Qipao covered most of the woman's body, revealing only the head, hands, and the tips of the toes. The baggy nature of the clothing also served to conceal the figure of the wearer regardless of age. With time, though, the qipao were tailored to become more form fitting and revealing. The modern version, which is now recognized popularly in China as the "standard" qipao, was first developed in Shanghai in the 1920s, partly under the influence of Beijing styles. People eagerly sought a more modernized style of dress and transformed the old qipao to suit their tastes. Slender and form fitting with a high cut, it had great differences from the traditional qipao. It was high-class courtesans and celebrities in the city that would make these redesigned tight fitting qipao popular at that time. In Shanghai it was first known as zansae or "long dress" (長衫—Mandarin Chinese: chángshān; Shanghainese: zansae; Cantonese: chèuhngsāam), and it is this name that survives in English as the "cheongsam". Most Han civilian men eventually voluntarily adopted Manchu clothing while Han women continued wearing Han clothing. Until 1911, the changpao was required clothing for Chinese men of a certain class, but Han Chinese women continued to wear loose jacket and trousers, with an overskirt for formal occasions. The qipao was a new fashion item for Han Chinese women when they started wearing it around 1925.The original qipao was wide and loose. As hosiery in turn declined in later decades, cheongsams nowadays have come to be most commonly worn with bare legs.While this development fixated the cheongsam as a one-piece dress, by contrast, the related Vietnamese áo dài retained trousers.