Xun Zi (Hsun Tzu ) , in addition to being the first writer of Chinese fu (prose-poems), made full use of the isolating character of the Chinese writing system to develop a regulated aesthetic of parallelism and antithesis. All these works became sources and models for later literature, both spoken and written.

Middle Antiquity

The major political development during the middle antiquity period was the conclusion of the feudal system of the Chou dynasty and the establishment of a stable, unified empire under the Han. In the area of philosophical thought, the effect of this development was the triumph of Confucianism; in literature, it was the independence of literature from philosophy, and a striving for formal aesthetics and emotional experience. Its first literary product was the Songs of the South, which was written as a prose-poem.

The prose-poem is a literary form that is recited rather than sung. Tied less to musical form than poetry, the prose-poem combined visual and aural elements in its attention to formal rules and euphony. As its development came in response to the preferences and patronage of the emperor, its earliest subjects were invariably praise and glorification of the splendor of the imperial palace, the capital, parks, and hunting grounds. Out of this arose a tradition of exhaustive description, often accompanied by the coining of new Chinese characters, which catered specifically to the ruler's consciousness of possessing the empire, the world, the universe, and everything in it. Works of this type, which were presented to the emperor, are called ta-fu (greater prose-poems).

As writers came to realize that a consciousness of totality must be connected with a sense of individuality to have value and meaning, they began to experience anxiety over individual existence. Thus, "the scholar born out of his time" became a basic theme of the hsiao-fu (lesser prose-poem). Chia I and Szu-ma Hsiang-ju in the second century B.C., and Chang Heng and Wang Tsan in the second century A.D., were the most important writers of prose-poems, a genre that would continue to develop right up until the end of the 19th century.

Excerpt from: Year Book 2000, ROC