Nineteen Old Poems

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Nineteen Old Poems (simplified Chinese: 古诗十九首; traditional Chinese: 古詩十九首; pinyin: Gǔshī Shíjiǔ Shǒu), also known as Ku-shih shih-chiu shih is an anthology of Chinese poems, consisting of nineteen poems which were probably originally collected during the Han Dynasty. These nineteen poems were very influential later poetry, in part because of their use of the five-character line (or, wuyen shi).[1] The dating of the original poems is uncertain,[2] though in their present form they can be traced back to about 520 CE, when these poems were included in the famous literary analogy Wen Xuan, a compilation of literature attributed to the Liang Crown Prince Xiao Tong. The Nineteen Old Poems have been supposed to date mainly from the second century CE.[3] The gushi, or old style, poetry developed as an important poetic form of Classical Chinese poetry, in subsequent eras. The authorship of the "Nineteen Old Poems" is anonymous, however there are indications as to the authorship in terms of class and educational status, such as the focus on "the carriages and fine clothing, the mansions and entertainments of the upper classes", together with the literary references to the Shijing.[4] One of the tendencies of these poems is towards a "tone of brooding melancholy."[5]

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Anonymous voices speaking to us from a shadowy past, they sound a note of sadness that is to dominate the poetry of the centuries that follow.

-- Burton Watson, describing the Nineteen Old Poems, as quoted in his book Chinese Lyricism.[6]

See also

External links


  1. Watson 18-19
  2. Watson, 19
  3. Watson, 19
  4. Watson, 19 and 31
  5. Watson, 30
  6. Watson, 32.


  • Birrell, Anne (1988). Popular Songs and Ballads of Han China. (London: Unwin Hyman). ISBN 0-04-440037-3
  • Watson, Burton (1971). CHINESE LYRICISM: Shih Poetry from the Second to the Twelfth Century. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-03464-4
  • Yip, Wai-lim (1997). Chinese Poetry: An Anthology of Major Modes and Genres . Durham and London: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-1946-2

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