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China Beginning of Lyric Poetry

While rhyming poetry mostly had its early beginnings in Ancient Greece the sole idea of lyrical poetry had its roots in the ancient empirical nation of China. Lyrical poetry is defined in its most basic form as poetry that is compounded with feelings and flittering verses of emotion. This form of poetry does not necessarily need to rhyme and yet it is termed as lyrical poetry because it used to be set to be accompanied by a lyre or it could be finely tuned to be sung along with a lyre.  The ancient beginnings of lyric poetry are placed on the Bible Timeline Chart at 1500 BC.

The earliest forms of Chinese poetry are  called lyrical poetry and there can be a bit of confusion on the standings of its structure. Some poems that do not rhyme in their ancient Chinese form are considered as lyrical poetry while those that do or at least carry a similarity with modern poem structures are not considered poems by lyrical experts.

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Chinese Poetry

The earliest recorded collection of Chinese poetry dates back to the Classic of Poetry which is known as the Shijing in China. Many attribute the collection to be a collective endeavor of the Chinese philosopher Confucius who lived approximately between 551 BC and 479 BC however this is still debatable.

Many experts and researchers have taken into agreement that the Classic of Poetry dates beyond Confucius and place the beginning of lyric poetry at around 600 BC or even earlier which sets in tone the beginning of Chinese and Japanese history in the timeline. The symbol of Shi is now generally the symbol generalized for poetry and the Shiji carries the most basic and ancient of the form of a four-character meter structure now popularized in Chinese lyric poetry.

While the idea that a lot of the work was done by Confucius might be a bit of a stretch, it is agreed he may have had some work in the compilation, it is agreed that a lot of the content is actually a compilation of work dating at least four centuries since its publication.

Following the Classic of Poetry is the famous Chu Ci (Ci being pronounced as tsuh). Along with the Shi Jing, the Chu Ci is the most famous collection of ancient Chinese verse and is generally termed as the high peak of the earliest form of lyric poetry in the region. The Chu Ci is also referred to as the Songs of the South and most of the content of the collection of verses are concentrated on the events surrounding the warring Chinese factions of the southern region. This was later referred to in a different text as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. While the Chu Ci holds less influence in modern poetry than the Shi Jing it actually has a lot of direct implication on the development of Chinese lyric poetry that has led to the argument that, in essence, the Chu Ci is far more influential than the aforementioned Shi Jing..

Afterwards, lyric poetry  branched out. During the Han Dynasty, there developed a different form of poetry known as Fu and this was mostly attributed to Han Poetry which is a later development of lyric poetry. The most famous compilation is known as the Nineteen Old Poems (Ku Shih Shih-Chiu Shih in its ancient Chinese structure). This collection of poems was extremely prominent in later on lyrical poems. This is mostly brought about since they featured a five character structure contrary to the four character structure of the aforementioned Shi Jing poems. The differences here lapped over with the development of the Jian’an Poetry and the Six Dynasty Poetry of latter day empirical China.

Overall the development of early lyric poetry is clearly shown to have developed very early on in China dating six centuries BC down to the very years of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. The elements in these lyric poems have later gone on to develop modern Chinese poetry, both those that rhyme and those that do not, and have gone on to develop folk-style lyrical structures that can be seen even in the west and in medieval poetry that developed almost a millennium later. To date the Shi Jing, Chu Ci and Nineteen Old Poems are the greatest collection in the world of ancient lyric poetry and are the strongest remnants of ancient Chinese literature that go side by side with the teachings and compilations of Confucius and the latter scrolls of Chinese Buddhism that date from the early 1st AD to the latter development of the last Chinese dynasty.