The earliest extant anthology of poetry and prose in China
Chinese Name: 文选
English Name: Wen Xuan, Zhao Ming Wen Xuan, Anthology
Other Name: Selections of Refined Literature
Author: Xiao Tong 萧统
Originally Published: Between 526 and 531 AD( Liang dynasty 梁朝)
Genre: Literature, Poetry
Brief Introduction of Wen Xuan
Wen Xuan文选 is the earliest extant collection of poetry and prose in China. It contains more than 700 literary works of various genres written by more than 100 authors between the Qin Dynasty 秦朝 and the Liang Dynasty. It was written by Xiao Tong. Xiao Tong is Zhaoming prince, so Wen Xuan is also called Zhao Ming Wen Xuan 昭明文选.
There are 60 volumes of the Wen Xuan, which can be roughly divided into three categories: Fu 赋, Poetry and Essays杂文. Fu and Poems account for the largest proportion. The selection criteria of the Wen Xuan, mainly the famous works of poets and talents, covers the important works from the pre-Qin Dynasty 前秦 to the early Liang Dynasty 梁朝初期.
It reflects the outline of the development of various literary styles and preserving important materials for future generations to study the literary history of seven or eight hundred years.
It arranges 37 types of literary styles, such as Fu, Poetry and Sao 骚, while the ideological academic articles, such as Classics, History and Zi, are not included. It demarcated the boundary and category between “literature” and “non-literature” for the first time, and played a pioneering role in the independent development of literature.
The part of the poem in Wen Xuan is mainly to describe the tour, record the war, return poems to the other party or poems presented to others, miscellaneous poems and so on.
The content of the essays is broad and rich, including the theme of the hanging text, eulogy, inscription and so on.
Author of Wen Xuan
Wen Xuan was presided over and edited by Xiao Tong 萧统.
Xiao Tong (501-531) was a native of Wujin District 武进区, Changzhou City 常州市, Jiangsu Province 江西省. He was made crown prince in 502. He was generous in manner and very filial to his parents. He encouraged everyone to wear simple clothes rather than luxurious clothes. When he was crown prince, he was known for his benevolence and virtue, and was loved by both the court and the people. Xiao Tong was fond of literature and Buddhism. He recruited talents widely and worked very hard to write and organize the articles of his predecessors.
At that time, the East Palace boasted nearly 30,000 volumes of books, which was considered to be unprecedented since the Jin 晋代 and Song 宋代 dynasties. He presided over the compilation of Wen Xuan. It is the earliest extant collection of poems and prose in China. In 531, Xiao Tong accidentally fell into the water while swimming in a lake in the back garden. When he was rescued, his thigh was hurt, and he fell ill and died in April of the same year at the age of 31, buried in Anning Ling 安宁陵.
Excerpts From Wen Xuan
Evaluation of Wen Xuan
Wen Xuan should be recited aloud and repeated, in order to feel its majesty and profound charm in the heart.
Zeng Guofan 曾国藩
Admonish his son to read the Wen Xuan.
Du Fu 杜甫
The advantage of Li Bai’s poetry is in the study of the Wen Xuan.
Zhu Xi 朱熹