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Classical Chinese Prose

Classical Chinese prose was largely influenced by the grand philosophical writings in Chinese history during 770-221 BC, which were called Hundred Schools of Thought. The representative figures of the earliest classical Chinese prose were, Mo Zi, Mencius and Zhuang Zi. By the third century BCE, these senior writers of classical Chinese prose developed a concise style of prose, which has been a model of literary form for over 2,000 years till now.

Mo Zi's polemic prose was based on solid methodological reasoning. During the Han Dynasty, China was deeply influenced by Confucianism, while Mo Zi's Mohism was somewhat against Confucianism. However, although Mo Zi's famous work "Mo Zi" had missed some parts, it still played a significant role in the history of classical Chinese prose. Mencius was a master in classical Chinese prose history with the typical characteristics of his prose being elegant diction. Zhuang Zi's prose is especially based on comparisons, allegories and anecdotes, similar to Mencius' style.

In the Tang Dynasty, the previous style of classical Chinese prose rapidly developed and was replaced by a direct and forceful style. Accordingly, this neoclassical style dominated classical Chinese prose writing for the next 800 years. During the Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty, there were several typical and well-known writers who made crucial contributions to the development of classical Chinese prose, called the "Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song."

The Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song are Han Yu, Liu Zongyuan, Ouyang Xiu, Su Zhe, Su Shi, Su Xun, Wang Anshi and Zeng Gong. The most influential masters in the history of classical Chinese prose were Han Yu and Liu Zongyuan, who promoted the Classical Prose Movement. They focused classical Chinese prose more on clarity and precision rather than the rigid structure that inherited from the Hundred Schools of Thought. In Tang and Song Dynasty, classical Chinese prose paced into a golden age under the influence of The Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song lead by Han Yu and Liu Zongyuan.

There are an abundance of classical Chinese prose masterpieces that are still popular nowadays and many of them have been selected as teaching materials in Chinese schools. For instance, Shi Shuo (Teaching Views) written by Han Yu; Yong Zhou Ba Ji (Eight Records of Excursions in Yongzhou) by Liu Zongyuan; Zui Weng Ting Ji (Story of Old Drunkard Pavilion) by Ouyang Xiu; Liu Guo Lun (On the Six Fallen States) by Su Xun; First and Second Chibifu (The Red Cliffs) by Su Shi; You Bao Chan Shan Ji (A Trip to Baochan Mountain) by Wang Anshi are among those that are used.