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Guwen Guanzhi 古文观止 – Top 100 Books in China

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A selection of the finest prose of ancient China


Chinese Name: 古文观止

English Name: Guwen Guanzhi

Author: Wu Chucai 吴楚材 and Wu Diaohou吴调侯

Originally Published: In1695 (Qing Dynasty 清朝)

Genre: Literature, Proses

Guwen Guanzhi 古文观止
Guwen Guanzhi 古文观止

Brief Introduction of Guwen Guanzhi

Guwen Guanzhi 古文观止 is an anthology of ancient prose compiled by Wu Chucai and Wu Tiaohou in the Qing Dynasty 清朝, which is called the best collection of ancient Chinese prose. The book was a literary reader for schools during the Reign of Kang Xi 康熙时期. It was originally a textbook for students, and was formally printed in 1695.

A total of 222 essays from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty 东周 to the Ming Dynasty 明朝 are included in the Guwen Guanzhi. The book is divided into 12 volumes, mainly prose, mixed with parallel prose and verse. The authors selected excellent ancient prose, and in the selection of annotations they gathered all over the famous annotations and plus their own opinions.

The articles from Guwen Guanzhi are short and concise in language, which are easy to be read, and give consideration to both ideological and artistic features. The book contains the author’s notes between the lines and comments at the end of the article, for beginners to understand the article has certain help.

Guwen Guanzhi 古文观止(李白和堂弟们饮酒赋诗)
Li Bai and his brothers spent spring nights partying, drinking and composing poems 李白和众兄弟在春夜聚会、饮酒赋诗

The book is sorted according to dynasties and authors. In the Pre-Qin 先秦, “Zuo Zhuan” 左传 was the most popular. In the Han Dynasty 汉朝, “Shi Ji” 史记 was the most popular. In the Tang and Song dynasties 唐朝和宋朝, articles of Han Yu 韩愈, Liu Zongyuan 柳宗元, Ouyang Xiu 欧阳修 and Su Shi 苏轼 were the most popular.

Guwen Guanzhi 古文观止(岳阳楼)
The scenery of Yue Yang Tower described by Fan Zhongyan 范仲淹描绘的岳阳楼风光

There is an obvious emphasis on the selection of prose, emphasizing the Pre-Qin, Han, Tang and Song dynasties 宋朝, but not the Jin 金朝, Six 六朝 and Ming 明朝 dynasties, which not only reflects the subjective consciousness of the author, but also conforms to the general situation of the prose before the Qing Dynasty.

Guwen Guanzhi 古文观止(兰亭集序书法)
The famous works of Guwen Guanzhi——Orchid Pavilion Gathering 古文观止的名篇——兰亭集序

Author of Guwen Guanzhi

The book was compiled by Wu Chucai and his nephew Wu Tiaohou.

Wu Chucai and Wu Tiaohou 吴楚材和吴调侯
Wu Chucai and Wu Tiaohou 吴楚材和吴调侯


Wu Chucai (1655 ~ 1719) was born in Shao Xing 绍兴, Zhe Jiang Province 浙江省. He was diligent and studious since childhood. At the age of 24, Wu Chucai 吴楚材 defected to the family of his uncle Wu Xingzuo 吴兴祚, and was highly respected. In addition to writing cases, he also worked as an assistant to the son of his uncle. Wu Xingzuo commented that Wu Chucai was “friendly in nature, dutiful to his elders, devoted to mechanics, especially fond of reading the history of classics, and had unique views on the history of Classics”.

Wu Chucai also took the imperial examinations for several times, but failed many times. Later, with his nephew Marquis Wu Diaohou wrote this book. In addition, he also wrote “Gang Jian Yi Zhi Lu”纲鉴易知录.

Wu Tiaohou was a native of Shao Xing 绍兴, Zhe Jiang Province 浙江省. He was full of classics, but in the official career was not satisfied and buried folk. He had been a teacher of traditional private school for a long time, and was famous for co-editing the Guwen Guanzhi with his uncle Wu Chucai.

Excerpts From Guwen Guanzhi


At the first beat, the morale of the soldiers was high. At the second beat, the morale of the soldiers was low. At the third beat, the morale of the soldiers was gone.


So no matter the status of high and low, no matter how old, where truth exists, there are teachers.


Water birds fly and stop on the water, and beautiful fish swim in the water.

Evaluation of Guwen Guanzhi

The literary influence of “The Anthology of Zhao Ming” and “Guwen Guanzh” should not be underestimated.

Lu Xun 鲁迅

Guwen Guanzhi of essays is short and significant, with detailed but uncomplicated annotations and precise pronunciation that make it a better literary reader.

Wu Xingzuo 吴兴祚

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