The Verse of Chu

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Chu Ci also known as Songs of the South or Songs of Chu, is an anthology of Chinese poems by Qu Yuan and Song Yu from the Warring States period and subsequent imitators of their poetic style. Consisting of fifty-eight short poems and six long poems, Chu Ci is the second oldest collection of Chinese poems in record. History Chu Ci was named after a new form of poetry that sprouted and blossomed in the area of Chu during the Warring States period. As a new literary style, chu ci abandoned the classic four-character verses used in poems of Shi Jing and adopted verses with varying lengths. This gave it more rhythm and latitude in expression. Furthermore, chu ci should be recited using pronunciations of the dialect of Chu, unlike poems of Shi Jing, which were sung using dialects north of the Yellow River.The collection of poems by Qu Yuan and Song Yu included in Chu Ci, as well as works by other Chu poets, were already popular during the Western Han Dynasty. The Book of Han noted 106 Chu poets with 1,318 compositions. Many established Han poets also imitated the style of chu ci and produced their fair share of notable poems.Qu YuanAlthough Chu Ci is an anthology of poems by many poets, Qu Yuan was doubtless its central figure. A minister in the court of King Huai of Chu, Qu Yuan advocated forming an alliance with the other states against the dominance of Qin. However, his advice was not taken and he was ostracized by other officials in court. During his days of exile, Qu Yuan is thought to have written Li Sao, his magnum opus and the centerpiece of Chu Ci. The authorship, as in many a case of ancient literature, can be neither confirmed nor denied. Written in 373 verses containing 2490 characters, Li Sao is the earliest Chinese long poem and is acclaimed as the literary representative of Qu Yuan's high moral conduct and patriotism.

The Verse of Chu