19 Facts About Classical Chinese


Classical Chinese, known as Literary Chinese, is the language of the classic literature from the end of the Spring and Autumn period through to the end of the Han dynasty, a written form of Old Chinese .

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Classical Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese that evolved from the classical language, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese.

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Literary Classical Chinese was used for almost all formal writing in China until the early 20th century, and, during various periods, in Japan, Ryukyu, Korea and Vietnam.

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Literary Classical Chinese is known as in Japanese, in Korean and or Han van in Vietnamese.

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Classical Chinese refers to the written language of the classical period of Chinese literature, from the end of the Spring and Autumn period to the end of the Han dynasty, while Literary Chinese is the form of written Chinese used from the end of the Han dynasty to the early 20th century, when it was replaced by vernacular written Chinese.

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Classical Chinese characters are not alphabetic and only rarely reflect sound changes.

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The tentative reconstruction of Old Classical Chinese is an endeavor only a few centuries old.

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However, some modern Classical Chinese varieties have certain phonological characteristics that are closer to the older pronunciations than others, as shown by the preservation of certain rhyme structures.

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Classical Chinese is distinguished from written vernacular Chinese in its style, which appears extremely concise and compact to modern Chinese speakers, and to some extent in the use of different lexical items .

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In terms of conciseness and compactness, Classical Chinese rarely uses words composed of two Chinese characters; nearly all words are of one syllable only.

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Classical Chinese has more pronouns compared to the modern vernacular.

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In particular, whereas Mandarin has one general character to refer to the first-person pronoun, Literary Classical Chinese has several, many of which are used as part of honorific language .

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In syntax, Classical Chinese is always ready to drop subjects and objects when a reference to them is understood .

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The Oxford Handbook of Classical Chinese Literature argues that this adoption came mainly from diplomatic and cultural ties with China, while conquest, colonisation, and migration played smaller roles.

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Classical Chinese was used to write the Hunmin Jeongeum proclamation in which the modern Korean alphabet was promulgated and the essay by Hu Shih in which he argued against using Classical Chinese and in favor of written vernacular Chinese.

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Today, pure Classical Chinese is occasionally used in formal or ceremonial occasions.

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Personal letters, on the other hand, are mostly written in vernacular, but with some Classical Chinese phrases, depending on the subject matter, the writer's level of education, etc.

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Classical Chinese is taught primarily by presenting a classical Chinese work and including a vernacular gloss that explains the meaning of phrases.

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Tests on classical Chinese usually ask the student to express the meaning of a paragraph in vernacular Chinese.

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