Nanjing: Preservation of Literary Heritage from 4th to 6th Century

Throughout the Western Jin Dynasty (266 AD –316 CE), incessant wars raged in Northern China. In 317CE, following the dynasty’s end, Emperor Yuandi of the Jin dynasty led all the Han people, ministers and ordinary folk alike, to move southward from the previous capital (present day Luoyang) to settle the capital in Jiankang (now Nanjing) where they established the Eastern Jin Dynasty. This mass migration of the nobility, the first one in the Central Plains that went south, is known as yiguan nandu 衣冠南渡, the “southward passage of the gowned and hatted.” Thereafter the Eastern Jin, Song, Qi, Liang and Chen Dynasties all settled their capitals in Jiankang where given new proximity the civilizations of the Yellow River and Yangtze River were able to begin exchanging and blending ideas, cultures and technology. Thus, Chinese civilization was successfully preserved and developed in its new home south of the Yangtze River.

Nanjing: Preservation of Literary Heritage from 4th to 6th Century Nanjing: Preservation of Literary Heritage from 4th to 6th Century Nanjing: Preservation of Literary Heritage from 4th to 6th Century
5th Century: China's First Literary Education Institution

In the fifteenth year of the Yuanjia period of Song Dynasty Emperor Wendi’s reign(438CE), an academy was established in Nanjing on imperial edict to cultivate four disciplines, one of which was literature. This was China's first literary education and research institution and its founding marked literature’s start as an independent discipline of learning.

4th Century: Landscape Literature

The Eastern Jin Dynasty saw significant shifts in the Chinese poetry scene occur, such as landscape becoming the central subject and the poets of this new shanshui style collecting in Nanjing. With Xie Lingyun and Xie Tiao as its pathfinders, the Landscape Poetry School formed, its members dedicating themselves to elevating the Chinese poetic form to new heights, of which the Tang Dynasty is often considered the acme.

Poetry Style

Poetry Style compiled by Southern Dynasty poet Zhong Rong is China's earliest monograph on poetic theory and criticism. It is considered the “fount of poetic criticism” in China and was highly influential in the development of poetry in China and East Asia.

The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons

The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons compiled by Liu Xie of the Southern dynasty was the first monograph on literary theory and criticism in Chinese history.

Thousand Characters Classic

The Thousand Character Classic was commissioned by the Liang Dynasty Emperor Wu as an educational resource for practising calligraphy and poetry. Compiled by Zhou Xingsi, it is the earliest example in Chinese history of a work specifically designed for purpose of educating children and comprises one of the collection now known as San Bai Qian 三百千 (lit. Three, Hundred, Thousand) along with the Three Character Classic and the Hundred Family Names.

Zhao Ming Selected Works

The Selected Works of Zhao Ming compiled by Xiao Tong is the earliest existing collection of Han poems and was required reading for the ancient Chinese imperial examinations.

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