( Below is an assignment sample: )
To: David E Belton
To many Westerners, Chinese literature remains an unexcavated field in the vast Chinese culture. As a matter of fact, it is a treasure of considerable number of brilliant and profound works in each dynasty, because in such a long history of China, sapient people have created magnificent events and works and surely they would record down. Dating back to 3500 years ago, it weaves various genres and forms including poetry, essays, fictions and dramas mainly; each facet having reflecting the then social climate and achieved a high spirit of art. Chinese literature has its own value of taste, its own reigning cultural tradition and its own critic system of theory.
Chronologically, it can be divided into four periods: classical literature, contemporary literature and modern literature.
Classical literature in the earliest period covers works from three thousands years ago to the late Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), and never had intervals while enduring the changes of dynasty. Certainly it was written in ancient prose which is different from the present language and need you to analyze to understand. Since it nearly developed always under the reign of centralized and unified government, it is imbued with the slavery and mainly feudal thoughts and culture. It was intoxicated in a very enveloped environment - hardly had conjunctions with the religions as well as the foreign literatures.
Contemporary literature refers to the works from late Qing Dynasty to the May Fourth Movement in 1919 (a patriotic movement against imperialism and feudalism). As the decadent reign could not refresh the minds of people, the literary forms had only to follow the old ones; till the Opium War in 1840, they underwent the impact of western thoughts as the foreigners poured in China and built up their colonies. Novels and poetry and other works began to appear in the theme of patriotism and the revelation of social darkness.
Spanning the period from 1919 to the foundation of modern China in 1949, modern literature showed its vigor, although Chinese history processed with the checkered and complicated. It then was distinctive because: it altered the literary language, forms, contents, and skills and evolved to be an independent and open art to the whole society. It attached great attention to the people's life and future with strong political tendency. Influenced by the tide of the world literature, it provided the wide and amiable communications between writers and readers.
Present day literature indicates the one after the buildup of modern China till now. During this time, though there has been a logjam in the Cultural Revolution for nearly 10 years, it presents the favorable turn and a great number of writers with responsibility deepen the literary forms and contents. Now the literature is much prosperous.
As the Chinese nation is composed of Han people and the 55 other ethnic groups, the literature is also a complex of ones. Ethnic groups also made ineffaceable contributions to this field.