In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ming Poetry 1368–1521: Era of Archaism

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • The Beginning of Ming Poetry: The Primitive Stage of Archaist Poetics and the Regional Poetry Schools
  • Taige ti 台阁体 (Secretariat Style)
  • Li Dongyang 李东阳 (1447–1516) and the Chaling 茶陵 School
  • The Four Talents of Wu (Wuzhong si caizi 吴中四才子)

Chinese Studies Ming Poetry 1368–1521: Era of Archaism
Tsung-Cheng Lin
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0206


Ming poetry not merely outnumbers the amount of Tang and Song poetry but also represents an important transition in Chinese poetics. Yuan Xingpei 袁行霈 divides Ming poetry into two major periods. The first period (1368–1521) was the age of archaism, during which the archaist poetic movement, led by Qian qizi 前七子 (the Earlier Seven Masters), became the predominant mode of literary thought. The second period (1522–1644) was the age of new poetic trends, which saw the interweaving of archaist and xingling性灵 (native sensibility) poetics and the poetic incorporation of literary devices and subject matter from popular literature such as drama and fiction. The first period can be further divided into three stages in accordance with the archaist movement. During the first stage (1368–1420), learning from pre-Yuan poetry was highly valued. Additionally, the poetry of this stage placed a special emphasis on the moral didactics advocated by Zhu Xi’s 朱熹 (b. 1130–d. 1200) Neo-Confucianism. The second stage spans the sixty years following the relocation of the imperial capital to Beijing in 1421. The taige ti 台阁体 (secretariat style) dominated the first half of this stage, while Li Dongyang 李东阳 (b. 1447–d. 1516) and the Chaling 茶陵school dominated the second half. During this stage, archaism was further promoted among official-literati circles. The third stage, the age of the Earlier Seven Masters, lasted from 1481 to 1521, during which archaism reached the summit of its development. During this time, archaism also prevailed in regional literati circles. Minzhong shizi 闽中十子 (The Ten Talents of Min), archaist poets from the Fujian area, were the most important advocates of Yan Yu’s 严羽 (fl. 1191–1241) poetics and exercised great influence over the Earlier Seven Masters’ literary movement. The first period was the pinnacle of archaist thought; however, this period was equally important for the development of xingling 性灵 literary thought. Wuzhong sicaizi 吳中四才子 (The Four Talents of Wu) were major advocates of xingling poetics during this period. Xingling poetics gradually increased in popularity among the regional literati circles that would ultimately lay the foundations for the full development of xingling thought in the second period of the Ming.

General Overviews

Traditional and modern literary criticism alike are biased in favor of Tang poetry. This has led to the common misconception that the Chinese poetic tradition reached its summit in the Tang, and that little poetry was written after the Tang and the Song Dynasties. Therefore, until recently, researchers have largely overlooked Ming poetics. It was not until the 1990s that Ming poetry began to draw scholarly attention. The most prominent scholar in the study of Ming poetry is Zhang Peiheng 章培恒 (b. 1934–d. 2011) of Fudan University. Under his leadership as chief editor, the Quan Mingshi 全明诗 (the Complete Compilation of Ming Poetry) was published (Zhang, et al. 1990). The Compilation provides the fundamental foundation for further studies of Ming poetry. The number of poems in the Compilation totals more than 400,000, outnumbering the 270,000 poems in the Quan Songshi 全宋诗 (the Complete Compilation of Song Poetry), and vastly exceeding the 48,000 poems in the Quan Tangshi 全唐诗 (the Complete Compilation of Tang Poetry). Since the Compilation was published, Ming poetry has attracted a substantial number of scholars. The Earlier Seven Masters are a major area of focus in the study of Ming poetry from 1368–1521. In English-language scholarship, Nienhauser 1986 provides a useful introduction to the poets and poetics of the Ming before 1521. In Chinese-language scholarship, Zheng 2015 is a groundbreaking and comprehensive study of the Earlier and Later Seven Masters, while Liao 1994 provides a detailed examination of the archaist movement. Additionally, the early stage of Ming poetry, archaist poetics of the Min (Fujian) region, taige ti (secretariat style), and Li Dongyang are major topics attracting scholarly attention. Zuo, et al. 2012 provides a detailed study of these topics in the first five chapters; Li 2012 sheds important light on the early stage of Ming poetry; Chen 2018 is a groundbreaking and thorough study of Min poetics; Chen 2007 provides new perspectives and detailed examination of archaist poetics; and Liao 2016 provides a thoughtful discussion on the entire history of Ming poetry. Jiang 2005 is particularly noteworthy, as it demonstrates his erudite knowledge of the field and provides a concise but most useful study for general readers and scholars.

  • Chen Guanghong 陈广宏. Minshi chuantong de shengcheng: Mingdai Fujian diyu wenxue de yizhong lishi xingcha (闽诗传统的生成: 明代福建地域文学的一种历史省察). Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2018.

    A highly acclaimed study on the poetics of the Fujian region. It provides a thorough analysis of the rise of the Min poetic tradition and its literary features. It also provides historical surveys of regional demographics, international trade, and the printing industry in the Min region. This is the most significant study on the Min school in Chinese-language academia.

  • Chen Guoqiu 陈国球 (Chan Kwok Kou). Mingdai fugu pai tangshilun yanjiu (明代复古派唐诗论研究). Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2007.

    This is highly acclaimed research concerning Ming archaist poetics. It examines the development of archaist poetics and provides a detailed analysis on how Gao Bing’s anthologies of Tang poetry exercised a profound influence on the archaist anthologies of Tang poetry produced by the Seven Masters. It also examines how xingling poets responded to archaism by different literary views through their anthologies of Tang poetry.

  • Jiang Yin 蒋寅. Zhongguo gudai wenxue tonglun, Mingdai juan (中国古代文学通论·明代卷). Shenyang, China: Liaoning renmin chubanshe, 2005.

    This is an outstanding introductory work on Ming poetics for general and academic readers. It provides a concise overview with in-depth analysis of the cultural, political, and philosophical background of Ming poetry at different stages, as well as its different literary trends and poetic transitions. It also provides an important discussion on the different views of the periodization of Ming poetry.

  • Li Shenghua 李圣华. Chuming shige yanjiu (初明诗歌研究). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2012.

    This outstanding monograph is mainly concerned with regional schools of poetics during the early Ming. It provides a systematic and detailed analysis on the poets and poetry of the regional schools and draws on material from several important archives. It represents an important contribution to the study of poetic transitions between earlier and later archaist movements.

  • Liao Kebin 廖可斌. Mingdai wenxue fugu yundong yanjiu (明代文学复古运动研究). Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1994.

    A pioneering work on the archaist literary movements of the Ming Dynasty, showing depth and breadth in analysis. The author incorporates philosophical thought into his analysis of literary thought to examine the Earlier Seven Masters, the Later Seven Masters, and Chen Zilong 陈子龙 (1608–1647). The author takes the poetics of the Chaling 茶陵 school as the origin of archaism.

  • Liao Kebin 廖可斌. Mingdai wenxue sichao shi (明代文学思潮史). Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2016.

    This is an introductory study of Ming literary thought covering important topics in Ming poetics. It also examines important areas of research such as the historical background of Ming literary movements and trends, e.g., the first and second archaist movements as well as the Gongan and the Jingling schools.

  • Nienhauser, William H., Jr. The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature. 2d rev. ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

    The Indiana Companion is a pioneering and highly contributive companion to traditional Chinese literature. Part 1 is a general introduction to the major types of traditional Chinese literature including Buddhist literature, drama, fiction, literary criticism, poetry, popular literature, prose, rhetoric, Taoist literature, and women’s literature. Part 2 includes more than seven hundred entries. It provides a useful introduction to the important poets of the Ming before 1521.

  • Zhang Peiheng 章培恒, Li Ningnian 李宁年, Ping Huishan 平慧善, et al. Quan Mingshi (全明诗). Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1990.

    The first volume of the Quan Mingshi. Vol. 2, Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1993; and Vol. 3, Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1994. The Quan Mingshi provides the fundamental source for the study of Ming poetry. Three substantial volumes of the Quan Mingshi have been published. Since the 1990s, the publication of the Quan Mingshi has inspired a significant number of scholars to the field and Ming poetry has consequently become a major research field, in addition to Tang and Song poetry, in the past three decades.

  • Zheng Lihua 郑利华. Qian-Hou Qizi yanjiu (前后七子研究). Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2015.

    This large volume is probably the fullest treatment of the Earlier and Later Seven Masters, clarifying a number of essential points on Ming archaism. Topics include literary culture and change from the 1460s to the 1560s; the life, literary creation, and literary thought of the Earlier and Later Seven Masters; and their formation into discrete literary groups in different periods to launch their respective archaist literary movements.

  • Zuo Dongling 左东岭, et al. Zhongguo shige tongshi, Mingdai juan (中国诗歌通史·明代卷). Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2012.

    The first eleven chapters, about eight hundred pages, are an outstanding introduction to the history of Ming poetics. Each chapter examines a specific and important subject and its relevant areas. It pays special attention to regional schools of poetics, the study of which provides an important reference for further research on Ming poetry.

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