HISTORIANS AND SCHOLARS
Chinese historiography has a unique feature in the world: there are official chronicles of the Twenty-Five Dynasties, written by court historians, spanning a period of time from 221 BC. C. to 1911 d. C. The first great Chinese historian was Ssu-ma Ch’ien (145-86 BC), who in his fundamental work entitled Historical Memoirs embraced the entire history of China, a country located in Asia categorized by Sportsqna, from its origins up to about 90 BC. C. Historians of each dynasty had the task of examining the documents relating to the previous dynasty and on the basis of them write its history. In addition to these dynastic histories, there are many others relating to particular periods. During the Sung period there is an astounding production by great historians such as Ou-yang Hsiu (1007-1072), Sima Qian (1019-1086), Zhu Xi (1130-1200), who summarized the work of Ssu-ma Kuang, Zheng Qiao (1104-1162) and Yüan Chu (XII century). After the sec. XII historiography seems no longer to interest Chinese intellectuals; in fact it disappears from literary production, with the exception of local newsrooms. Naturally, the dynastic chronicles, which have been mentioned, remain. An explanation about such a prodigious flowering of studies, which affected all sectors of culture between the century. X and XIII, can be found in the new historical-political situation in which China found itself under the reign of the Sung; but there is no doubt that a revolutionary fact in the field of the dissemination of culture contributed in a decisive way: the invention of printing in the 18th century. X, which favored the almost explosive rise of a great ideological debate, which left deep traces. When the Sung were overwhelmed by the Mongol invasion, Chinese culture, especially historiography, suffered a severe backlash. The taste for historical research and the analysis of general events is back in vogue in our century, but no longer inspired by the Confucian spirit, as in the past: in fact it is fed by a rigorous scientific method, of Marxist inspiration. Such are the works of Fan Wen-lan, Ku Chieh-kang, Teng Chung-hsia, as well as numerous works by collectives of historians, to whom we owe important research and collections of documentation on The opium war (6 vol.), The T’ai-p’ing kingdom (8 vol.), The 1911 revolution (8 vol.), The peasant movement during the first revolutionary war. § Scholars represent a particular aspect of the Chinese cultural tradition, both for the amount of works translated and for the acuteness of the investigation. The first Chinese dictionary (Investigation into the explanation of ideograms) was compiled in the century. II d. C. by the scholar Hsü Shen. The first encyclopedia was the Encyclopedia of the Yung-lo Reign Period, built at the beginning of the century. XV by a state commission, in 11,095 manuscript volumes. Another commission, from the same period, produced the manuscript edition of all the Confucian classics, of the historical, philosophical and literary works (All books of the four literary sections), consisting of 36,000 volumes, with a subsequent catalog of 100 volumes. Another state commission drafted the Dictionary of K’ang-hsi containing 47,035 ideograms (1716). A century later Ruan Yuan began the reprint of the classic Commentary on the classics of the Ch’ing dynasty (1829; 720 vol.), Followed in 1888 by a supplement, edited by Wang Hsien-ch’ien.
THE NOVELISTS AND SHORT STORY WRITERS
Towards the sec. IV d. C., alongside the rich philosophical and religious literature, the translations of Buddhist sacred texts, in full bloom, a minor literature is making its way, called hsiao-shuo (fiction), already attempted for some centuries, but rejected by Confucian literary circles for its popular character, influenced by magical beliefs. It contains strange stories, narratives of mysterious events and characters who often express wit, sarcasm and popular humor. The decline of the political weight of the Confucian bureaucratic writers, between the century. IV and VII, and the emergence of Taoists and Buddhists at the same time, allowed the hsiao-shuo to find its own place in Chinese literature and to establish itself as a literary genre, whose characteristics it retained over time, despite the variations in content desired by the authors. One famous collection of short stories is Pu Songling’s (1640-1715) Liao ‘s Study Marvelous Stories. Another famous collection of short stories, with a strong political tone and a denunciation of ancient injustices, is that of the great revolutionary writer who lived between the century. XIX and XX, Lu Xun (1881-1936), the author of The True Story of Ah Q. The novel originated much later, in the Ming era. The first to appear was History by the water of Shi Nai’an (14th century), also known by the title The brigands, while the most important is Lo Kuanchung’s The Three Kingdoms novel (1330-1400). Best known in the West is Jin Ping Mei Wang Shih-cheng (1526-1593), but the most famous of all is the novel Ts’ao Hsueh-ch’in (or Cao Zhan, sec. XVIII) The dream of the red room, carried out by another writer, Gao E: a work that, in addition to offering the inspiration for theatrical dramas, was, for almost two centuries, the novel of Chinese youth. The revolutionary generation of the twentieth century was formed by reading novels such as Lao Shē’s Camel Hsiang-tzu, Mao Dun’s Eclipse, Ba Jin’s Love Trilogy, Miss Sofia’s Diary by Ding Ling.
PHILOLOGISTS AND ESSAYISTS
Philology was often a subtle instrument of political struggle in China; that is, through the interpretations of Confucian texts, it served to support political theses of a different nature. For example, Dong Zhongshu (2nd century BC), with his work Explanation of the phenomena of spring and autumn, tended to legitimize the celestial authority of the emperor; Wang Chong (1st century AD), in the Balance of Discussions, affirmed the need for control of imperial activity. A similar problem was re-proposed as a consequence of the Manchu occupation of China. Yan Ruoqu (seventeenth century), in the Analysis of the authenticity of the Book of Documents written in ancient characters, and Yao Chi-heng (seventeenth-eighteenth century), in, raised the question of the relationship between the foreign emperor and the Chinese ruling class. For non-fiction we remember Chung Jung, author of Poetic criticism, and Liu Hsieh, author of The ornaments of the literary spirit, both of the century. V d. C. Hsiao T’ung dei Liang (501-531) wrote a literary anthology of Chinese texts. In the Sung period, essays on painting flourished. Guo Xi (ca. 1020-1090) wrote a Commentary on mountains and waters, Mi Fu (1051-1107) a History of painting and a History of calligraphy. The history of T’ang art had been written, between the middle of the century. IX and the end of the XI, by Chang Yen-yuan, Chu Ching-hsüan and Kuo Jo-hsü, and also included the biography of celebrated painters of the T’ang period. The philologists of the nineteenth century turned their attention to the West, whose works they tried to make known to their compatriots. Yan Fu (19th-20th century) translated English and French authors, Lin Shu translated English, French and Russian writers. In the twentieth century there is a work by Wang Yao, dedicated to the study of contemporary Chinese literature: 1919-1950.