Chinese Essay

Hundred schools of thought rose during the

spring and autumn period and the warring states period. At that time the dominion of a slave society began to wane and the newly arising landed classes struggled for their own benefit. Political views varied and representatives of each sect respectively advocated the points of their position. In this time when the poetic form could not fulfill its mission to convey active thoughts, essays of different schools arose to prominence and the result became known as 'Bai Jia Zheng Ming' - 'A hundred schools of thought'.

Despite their philosophical value, these essays were also of a high literary quality and had a profound influence on later literary output. Representative of these was a set of books entitled 'Four Books and Five Classics'. This was used as the basis of education during the long history of ancient China. The Four Books in question include Da Xue(The Great Learning), Lun Yu (The Analects of Confucius), Zhong Yong (The Doctrine of the Mean), and Meng Zi (The Words of Mencius); and Five Classics were the Yi Jing (The Book of Changes), Shi Jing(The Book of Songs or The Classic of Odes), Li Ji (The Book of Rites), Shu Jing (The Book of History), and Chun Qiu (The Spring and Autumn Annals).

From the point of view of development, the hundred schools of essays went through three periods: that of quotation style, of dialogue style and finally of monograph style. As for content, the rational thoughts expressed largely dwelt upon society and life, both in manner and form. So far as language was concerned, they mostly paid attention to the pursuit of the aesthetic sense with figurative speech and allegory. The Analects of Confucius and Lao Zi are terse and philosophical, Mengzi and Zhuangzi are vivid and smart, and Xun Zi and Han Feizi are argumentative and logical. Many of verses have become mottos and proverbs still in use today and many of them like Confucius and Lao Zi became the masters of Confucianism and Taoism

During the Tang and Song Dynasties there was a plentiful and wonderful output of essays. It was in the tang dynasty that essays sparkled. Han Yu and Liu Zongyuan in the Mid and Late Tang period called for the revival of the Ancient Prose Movement. Writers of the song dynasty maintained the spirit of the movement and indicted fine works as models for later generations. Han Yu, Liu Zongyuan together with another six prose writers were named as 'The Eight Masters of Essays' of the Tang dynasty and song dynasty.

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