Part1, Why Tang Poems? For video Great Chinese classic poem illustrated 古诗朗诵和讲解
The Tang poetry is the gemstone on the crown of classic chinese literature, a renaissance after hundreds years of wars and land split after Han dynasty.
There could be 3 main reasons that make Tang poetry shining.
The chinese language is with 4 tones, also with overwhelming percentage of vowel than that of consonant. A poem with careful refinement on words and word sequence, reading it could sound very pleasantly when tones go up and down with rhyme, like a pop song. It is the Tang poets fully developed the rules of poem writing mainly based on tones and rhyme. For Tang people, the pleasure of reading poem is just like singing a pop song, with the convenience of no need for musical band nor musician. Before, poems were not stand alone, they were just the lyrics of songs. As of today, everybody is capable of composing or playing a song , thus pop songs replace the role of classic chinese poem very naturally.
Secondly, during the war time(三国 魏晋南北朝, 220 AC -589 AC), the period between Han and Tang dynasty, the tradition of singing songs(poems) was greatly changed. Before the war time, the Book of Songs(诗经) in Zhou dynasty and Musical Department Songs(乐府诗) in Han dynasty are all songs with music (Though the musical part was lost when dynasty changes , but some lyrics remain till today, treated as poetry). It is quite obviously that the Northern Songs and Southern Songs showed quite different characteristics in war time as the Musical Department splitted when China splitted into countries. The Northern Songs continued the tradition since Book of Songs, it covered many kinds of topic like love, war, nature, rural life and legend, while the Southern Songs focused on love affairs. The hundreds years of war also created a lot of hermits, who were gentlefolks in essence. These people wrote a lot of real poems, with their name attached, in other words, the first generation of Chinese poets born. These poets tried to adapt their poems/lyrics to a no musical accompaniment situation, in a rural life without musical band, made their poems/lyrics sound pleasantly only by reciting it rather by accompaniment. The changes of poem writing in war time especially in North and South dynasty could be treated as the starting point for Tang Poetry: writing poems rather than lyrics, focusing on the tones, rhyme and sentence patterns to make reciting poems easy and pleasant. Most importantly, writing poems with their signature.
At last, starting from Sui dynasty, China entered a new era : a normal person could enter the government once he passed the Imperial Exam. Before Sui, only the gentlefolks were qualified to have access to political power by their blood. Tang dynasty continued the Imperial Exam, which encouraged a vast of population who never have the rights to climb up the social ladder, or contribute to the country in a big way. Writing poem is one of the key skill requested by the Imperial Exam. Thus , a vast population of political ambitious poets formed. Writing poems became a crowd creative efforts since then.
What is more, the vast , multi-culture, expanding, splendid Tang empire provided rich ingredients for Tang poetry, so did the civil war(安史之乱) and declining of Tang. The genius of Tang tried out almost any topics, any combination of the tones , sentence patterns and mix-matches .With the crowd efforts, it is very clear today the best parts of Tang poetry are not only the content, which covered all aspects of Tang people’s life with true feelings, but also the creativity on the structure of the poems, on the wordings, the study and excellent use of the tones and rhyme. All the above made Tang poems became the pop songs to Tang people, that practised, recited, appreciated and refined by every Tang people.
Since Tang, the poems are not exclusive to the gentlefolks any more.
After Tang, the Chinese never came back to the height of Tang on poem writing.
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