Literature as part of the Chinese culture

The history of literary art in China

Chinese LiteratureChinese literature differs from western one in many aspects. Its history extends back nearly three thousand years. Almost everything that was written by the Chinese in ancient times is associated with philosophical treatises or military chronicles. Fiction was not particularly encouraged in ancient China, and was mainly expressed in various myths and legends of the gods, which were still primarily of ethical-philosophical nature.

In different periods of Chinese history books were under a ban, and only a small part of literary works that met the ruling ideology was authorized. For example, under Emperor Qin Shi Huang fiction and its development was strictly prohibited and disobedience was punished by death. His dislike of books came to the point causing a mass burning of books, initiated by his order in 213 BC.

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Chinese literature experienced great influence of Confucianism, whose basic tenet was a strict adherence to the laws of this religious and philosophical teachings and conservatism. This was reflected in Chinese literature, which was long developing only in traditional areas.

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The development of dramatic literature in China is closely related to the theater. While the official literature was under a strict control exercised by the state authorities, the common people developed their “popular” literature, featuring a variety of directions and originality of plots. All this was embodied on the stage, leading to the development of the Chinese Theater School, known today all over the world. It was due to the genesis of “Yuan drama” as a literary movement during the reign of the Mongol Dynasty of Yuan, that made the “shadow play show” widespread and subsequently founded the Beijing and Shanghai Opera House.