The earliest evidence of the Chinese script was found on tortoise shells and animal bones. They provide information on the development of the Chinese script.
The most famous of early writings to Westerners would be the thoughts of Confucius (551-479 B.C.). Among the compiled works are the Spring and Autumn Annals; the Classic of Changes, a manual of divination compiled before the 11th century B.C.; the Classic of Rites and Classic of History.
Apart from the classic philosophical works of Confucianism and Taoism, there also exists to this day the " monument to the bound language" called Classic of Poetry. There were all 300 songs compiled in it. Qu Yuan, China's first great poet, wrote The Lament, a full-length lyrical poem.
Chinese culture developed further during the feudal society. Each dynasty had its own characteristics in terms of literary methods.
Han rhymed prose (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.) is divided into two categories by their subjects: One is lyric and the other mostly describes the magnificent imperial buildings and the lives of the emperors.
The Tang Dynasty (618-907) was the beginning of the golden age for Chinese poetry. No other period in history has enjoyed such a great number of poets and works of poetry on such scale and of such quality. Quantangshi, the large and complete collection of Tang poetry, contains nearly 50,000 poems by 2,200 poets. Representative poets include Li Bai, Du Fu and Bai Juyi.
In the 13th century Genghis Khan conquered the Song Empire (960-1279) and established the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), resulting in a blend of the northern nomadic style of storytelling and singing with the Han people's poetry and lyrics. Thus the free-song and vari-drama flourished. Guan Hanqing, the great vari-drama writer of Yuan, wrote 63 plays. His Wrongs of Dou E is a masterpiece.
During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911) creative fiction was developed. Four novel masterpieces are: the Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Nai'an, Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en and A Dream of Red Mansions by Cao Xueqin.
Since May Fourth Movement of 1919, which amongst other things was aimed at reforming language, prose literature has increasingly been regarded as a means for social change. One of the most outstanding figures in new literature was Lu Xun, a poet, essayist, and novelist who believed China needed to modernize through revolution. Representative works between 1920s and the 1930s include Lu Xun's novel The True Story of Ah Q, Mao Dun's novel Midnight and Guo Moruo's poem the Goddesses.
The founding of New China in 1949 marked the start of contemporary Chinese literature. Many writers plunged into the thick of life and produced a great number of literary works. These works reflect and eulogize the Chinese people's courage and sacrifice in the revolutionary struggle, and their selflessness in the socialist construction and reforms. Excellent works include: Wei Wei's The Red Ribbon of the Earth, Lu Yao's The Ordinary World, Huo Da's Funeral of Moslems, and the winners of the Mao Dun Literature Award, namely, Wang huo's War and People, Chen Zhongshi's White Deer Plains, Liu Sifen's Willow Trees by the White Door and Liu Yumin's Disturbances in Autumn.Photo Gallery of Chinese Literature