Talk:Classical Chinese

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Does anybody else think the language infobox from the article is dubious? Look at the first two points it makes: Spoken in: mainland China; Taiwan; Japan; Korea and Vietnam Total speakers: Not a spoken language (talk) 10:10, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

That's a little Delphic. Markalexander100 02:41, 6 Mar 2004 (UTC)
...Delphic? In response to the Korean bit? Anyway, salutations are certainly a small part of a letter, but the part I objected to is: "certainly not uneducated", which is, quite frankly, the understatement of the century. One needs a considerable amount of education to write wenyan properly. little Alex 09:02, Apr 23, 2004 (UTC)
Ah, fair point. ;) Markalexander100 16:47, 23 Apr 2004 (UTC)
There is an analogy with Latin, which can be read in a variety of different ways depending on whether the reader is from Britain, France, Spain, Italy, or Germany. None of these are the same as the actual way Latin was spoken in ancient Rome.
Actually there isn't. There are currently two standards for Latin pronounciations (church and classical) and neither is related to local vernacular pronounciation. Roadrunner 01:17, 7 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Oh, really? I thought that there were different ways of singing Latin at least -- in Germany, people said /ts/ for Latin "ci" and "ce", where England and France would use /s/; and in England people use the English vowels /ei i ai ou ju/ rather than /a: e: i: o: u:/. -- [[User:Ran|ran (talk)]] 17:50, Sep 7, 2004 (UTC)

I originally wrote "Some varieties that have extensive multiple readings for each Han character (notably Southern Min) require the reader to read wenyan with the literary reading." This was later changed to: "Other varieties of Chinese, such as Southern Min, have a special set of pronunciation used exclusively for Classical Chinese", which can mislead. In Southern Min the readings used for Classical Chinese are not exclusively for that purpose. The requirement is that the (so-called) literary character readings be used. There should not be any implication that these readings are only used for Classical Chinese, as they are found in everyday speech, as well. A-giau 03:57, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)


Southern Min (Minnan) phonology is a hybridisation of Chinese and aboriginal speeches of that region. Minnan pronunciations are very atypical of other Han languages. Even the people there look different with wavy thick black hair, typical of people of South-East Asia and the Philipines, being quite common.

And yes, there are more than 2500 years of sound changes separating any current human languages from the grand-parent languages of over 2500 years ago, not just with the Chinese languages. So I can't see what point his sort of statement is suppose to show.

JC 31 Aug 06

More than 2500 years of sound change separates Classical Chinese from any modern language or dialect, so when reading Classical Chinese in any modern variety of Chinese (especially Mandarin) or in Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese, many characters which originally had different pronunciations have become homonyms, making it impossible to orally communicate using Classical Chinese.

What is the connection between the long history and homonyms? Are we saying there has been a reduction in the number of distinct syllables since the time of Classical Chinese? Or that new (monsyllabic) words have been created since, that relied on the written character to discriminate meaning? The Zhao Yuanren example only indicates that Classical Chinese was -- or has since evolved into -- a written language. It seems not to indicate the number of homonyms has increased (though it might well have).
A-giau 04:22, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Yes, there has been a very drastic reduction in the number of distinct syllables since the time of Confucius, especially in Mandarin, and less so in Cantonese and Minnan, as a result of the 2500-year gap between Confucius and us. Of course other processes have also occurred (e.g. people go for brevity in writing Classical Chinese and rely on character to get themselves understood), but the general trend is a drastic reduction in syllables.
The characters in Zhao Yuanren's examples may all sound like "shi" in Beijing, but they don't in Guangzhou or Xiamen, and they certainly didn't for Confucius. That passage might actually be understandable to Confucius if read aloud (I'm not sure about this, but it's definitely plausible). -- [[User:Ran|ran (talk)]] 05:05, Oct 12, 2004 (UTC)

Difference between Classical and Literary[edit]

Classical is not the same as Literary. I have attempted to correct this error in the article, but I think that we really should split Literary and Classical into two articles. What do you folks think? Jiawen 14:18, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for bringing this up.... I wasn't aware of the difference. There's also "Old Chinese". I believe the definition of "Classical Chinese" is therefore basically "Written Old Chinese" (or something along those lines)?
Yes, I think so.
I think all in all this article is describing 文言文 as a whole.
The problem is, the article is not just describing 文言文; it's also describing Classical Chinese, and it's mistakenly conflating them.
While it's true that Qin-Han Wenyan, Tang-Song Wenyan, and Ming-Qing Wenyan are all pretty different (especially some of that stuff from the Qing Dynasty), there's a continuity there broken only by the promulgation of Vernacular Chinese. It really is a lot like Latin... no one says that Cicero's Latin and Renaissance Latin are really quite the same... but nevertheless they're all Latin.
As you say, there are many eras of 文言文, and I think there are almost certainly regional variants, too. I'd love to have more information on these topics; unfortunately, I don't know enough to say. Regardless, we should keep the distinction between Classical and Literary clear.
On the other hand, it would be cool to have more info on the differences between older Zhou-era Classical Chinese, and later (e.g. Qing-era) Literary Chinese. :)
I just added a little bit (about 這), but I don't remember anything else right now. I wish my Classical Chinese textbook hadn't been stolen... :)
(btw Jiawen... just went to your website and I have to say: your Chinese is amazing! Now why aren't you on Chinese Wikipedia.... ;) )
Thanks for the compliments. I don't know if it's that good, though. I certainly don't think I could add much to discussions of 文言文, 古文, etc. I think I've made some small notes about transgender issues on the Chinese pages, though. Jiawen 18:06, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)
-- ran (talk) 15:29, Apr 21, 2005 (UTC)

I also want to add that the distinction between Classical and Old Chinses is needed. -- G.S.K.Lee 13:54, 13 May 2006 (UTC)

add kanji[edit]

Add the kanji for the Japanese terms mentioned. --jidanni 2006-04-15


Article says there is no copula in Classical Chinese. Is this really true? What is the function of 也 in classical Chinese then? For instance the phrase: "大也。" --JakeLM 23:29, 27 May 2007 (UTC)

In modern Mandarin, at least, 也 is just an adverb or conjunction (also/and/or), very different from a copula (which usually works as a verb "to be" or similar). Can't be sure about CCh, though. 02:10, 28 May 2007 (UTC)

In Classical, 也 was quite definitely a copula. I may edit the page to reflect this; four months is a long time for that falsehood to sit there. Jiawen 12:08, 3 September 2007 (UTC)
也 is not a copula. It is typically used along with 者, forming the structure A者B也, which means "A is B". It is similar to the Japanese AはBです. 也 alone is nothing like a copula. BettyJJ (talk) 12:36, 5 August 2009 (UTC)
Neither goes, 也 is usually described as a particle with quite a variety of uses beyond the A者B也 construction.--Neqitan (talk) 23:59, 11 June 2011 (UTC)

We at least need Boltz and Baxter as sources here.[edit]

Both A handbook of Old Chinese phonology by William Baxter and The origin and early development of the Chinese writing system by William Boltz would be great sources to add to this article for further improvements. -- WeijiBaikeBianji (talk) 16:35, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

classical chinese public domain dictionaries[edit]

classical chinese public domain dictionaries, over 100 years old

  • Frederick William Baller, China Inland Mission (1912). Lessons in elementary Wen-li. China Inland Mission. p. 128. Retrieved 2011-5-15.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

04:17, 24 May 2011 (UTC)

Merge from Guwen[edit]

The WP:PRIMARYTOPIC of 古文 or "guwen" in English and Chinese is Classical/Literary Chinese, the subject taught in Chinese schools as part of their Language Arts class and Gaokao prep. The other page started as a discussion about scripts and never got merged here. We should fix that, although we should mention the development of the term "guwen" in the history/etymology section here.

In the alternative, (1) the current article at Guwen should be moved to Guwen (disambiguation), (2) it should be reformatted into a dab page pointing at the appropriate articles, (3) the namespace Guwen should be turned into a redirect here, and (4) a hatnote dab should be added here pointing to Guwen (disambiguation). — LlywelynII 07:58, 15 January 2014 (UTC)

Guwen is certainly highly ambiguous, with meanings including
I don't think Classical/Literary Chinese is primary in English sources, as some of the others are more common. I'd favour recasting Guwen as a disambiguation page, with any unique content merged to the appropriate page. I don't think any of it would go here, though. Kanguole 15:44, 15 January 2014 (UTC)

Materials and sources on Literary Chinese and relationship with the vernacular[edit]

Use the secondary sources as references, put any relevant book which is out of copyright into further reading. I folded this up so it wouldn't clutter the talk page.

Materials and sources on Literary Chinese and vernacular
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Wenyan/wenchang is literary/classical Chinese, Baihua is written vernacular/colloquial chinese (mandarin/guanhua grammar and pronunciation), documentary Chinese is an intermediate between the two that was in use during the Qing dynasty.

PD documents on Documentary Chinese (registers of written chinese ranging from wenyan to wenyan/baihua mix to baihua)[edit]

Notes on the Chinese documentary style

Index of the Characters in Dr. Hirth's "Text Book of Documentary Chinese," Arranged by Their Radicals: With a List Giving Their Tones

Hsin-kuan wên-chien-lu: text book of documentary Chinese, with a vocabulary for the special use of the Chinese customs service


Syllabary of Chinese sounds

Wên-chien tzŭ-erh chi: a series of papers selected as specimens of documentary Chinese

Wên-chien Tzŭ-erh Chi, a Series of Papers Selected as Specimens of Documentary Chinese, Designed to Assist Students of the Language as Written by the Officials of China: Key tho the Tzū Erh chi : documentary series, Volume 2

Documents and sources on Literary Chinese (Wenyan)[edit]

Gu-wen (gu means old or ancient, wen means writing)

Élémens de la grammaire chinoise, ou, Principes généraux du kou-wen ou style antique: et du kouan-hoa c'est-à-dire, de la langue commune généralement usitée dans l'Empire chinois

Protestant missionary lessons on wenyan (which they called wen-li)

A guide to Wenli styles and Chinese ideals: essays, edicts, proclamations, memorials, letters, documents, inscriptions, commercial papers, Chinese text with English translation and notes

Anti wenyan advocates (pro baihua)



Qiu Tingliang

The Development of Malaysia's Colloquial Chinese Literature (1919-1941)

Pro wenyan advocates

Sacred Edicts

The sacred edict: containing sixteen maxims of the emperor Kang-Hi, amplified by his son, the emperor Yoong-Ching : together with a paraphrase on the whole, by a mandarin

The sacred edict: containing sixteen maxims of the emperor Kang-Hi, amplified by his son, the emperor Yoong-Ching : together with a paraphrase on the whole, by a mandarin

The sacred edict, 16 maxims of the emperor Kang-he, amplified by the emperor Yoong-ching; with a paraphrase by a mandarin [Wang-Yew-Po].

The sacred edict: containing sixteen maxims of the emperor Kang-Hi, amplified by his son, the emperor Yoong-Ching : together with a paraphrase on the whole, by a mandarin

The Sacred Edict Containing Sixteen Maxims of the Emperor Kang: He Amplified by His Son the Emperor Yoong Ching

The Sacred Edict

A vocabulary of the colloquial rendering of the Sacred edict

A Grammar of Colloquial Chinese: As Exhibited in the Shanghai Dialect By Joseph Edkins

Sacred edict translation


Notes on Chinese literature: with introductory remarks on the progressive advancement of the art; and a list of translations from the Chinese into various European languages

Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio by Su Pongling

Dialectal literary readings of characters Vs colloquial readings of characters. The literary readings are used when reciting wenyan writing, colloquial is used for vernacular writing.


Literary and colloquial readings of Chinese characters

Literary reading is 文=Wen. Colloquial reading is 白=Bai.文白异读






Mainland minnan

Taiwanese minnan

Both minnan




Wu and Chu


Lessons in Elementary Wenli



Classical Chinese grammar[edit]

Élémens de la grammaire chinoise, ou, Principes généraux du kou-wen ou style antique: et du kouan-hoa c'est-à-dire, de la langue commune généralement usitée dans l'Empire chinois By Abel Rémusat (both Classical and colloquial Chinese)

Chinesische Grammatik: Mit Ausschluss des niederen Stiles und der heutigen Umgangssprache by Georg von der Gabelentz

Anfangsgründe der chinesischen Grammatik: Mit Übungsstücken By Georg von der Gabelentz

Gabelentz's Chinese Grammatik was described as the most comprehenstive and finest work on Classical Chinese grammarin a western language, and still usable to this day.


PD Baihua (mandarin)[edit]

Mandarin Primer By Frederick William Baller

A Primer in the Mandarin Dialect: Containing Lessons and Vocabularies, and ... By China Inland Mission

Mandarin Primer: Prepared for the Use of Junior Members of the China Inland ... By Frederick William Baller

An Idiom a Lesson: A Short Course in Elementary Chinese By Frederick William Baller (contains Zhuyin Fuhao transcription, called "National Script Symbols" by Baller)

A Course of Mandarin Lessons, Based on Idiom By Calvin Wilson Mateer

A Primer in the Mandarin Dialect: Containing Lessons and Vocabularies, and ... By China Inland Mission

Yü-yen Tzŭ-erh Chi, a Progressive Course designed to assist the student of colloquial Chinese, as spoken in the capital and the Metropolitan Department: with key, syllabary, and writing exercises, Volume 1

Yü-yen Tzŭ-erh Chi, a Progressive Course designed to assist the student of solloquial Chinese, as spoken in the capital and the Metropolitan Department: with key, syllabary, and writing exercises. Key to the Tzŭ Erh Chi : colloquial series, Volume 2

Wên-chien Tzŭ-erh Chi: A Series of Papers Selected as Specimens of Documentary Chinese--Key to the Tsŭ Erh Chi, Volume 1

Pronunciation By Thomas Francis Wade, Sir Walter Caine Hillier (colloquial series)

The radicals By Thomas Francis Wade, Sir Walter Caine Hillier, Walter Hillier (Sir.)

The Hsin Ching Lu, or, Book of Experiments; being the first of a Series of Contributions to the Study of Chinese: By Francis Thomas Wade

The radicals


Mandarin primer

Mandarin dictionary

Chinese made easy


羅馬字初學 primer of mandarin romanization

An Analytical Chinese-English Dictionary

A Mandarin-Romanized dictionary of Chinese: including new terms and phrases, now current By Donald MacGillivray

The standard system of Mandarin romanization, Volume 2 By Educational Association of China, F E. Meigs

Colloquial Chinese (northern) By A. Neville J. Whymant

A Dictionary of Colloquial Idioms in the Mandarin Dialect By Herbert Allen Giles

Idiomatic Dialogues in the Peking Colloquial for the Use of Students By Frederic Henry Balfour

A Grammar of the Chinese Colloquial Language Commonly Called the Mandarin ... By Joseph Edkins

Beijing vs Nanjing mandarin


History of guanhua

Difference between Beijing and Nanjing pronunciation

A character study in Mandarin colloquial, alphabetically arranged By Chauncey Goodrich

The Chinese Speaker; Or Extracts from Works Written in the Mandarin Language, as Spoken at Peking. Compiled by ... R. Thom. Chinese & English By Robert THOM (Orientalist.)

Mandarin reference Bible, Volume 1

Robert Morrison's Xin Yi Zhao Shu

Includes Chinese character transcriptions of English words

Learn new testament Greek in Chinese

Analysis and description of wenyan and baihua[edit]

The New American Cyclopaedia: A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge, Volume 5

Modern Written Chinese in Development Ping Chen Language in Society , Vol. 22, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 505-537 Published by: Cambridge University Press Article Stable URL:

Modernization of baihua

Neighbour-Nets Portray the Chinese Dialect Continuum and the Linguistic Legacy of China's Demic History Mahé Ben Hamed Proceedings: Biological Sciences , Vol. 272, No. 1567 (May 22, 2005), pp. 1015-1022 Published by: The Royal Society Article Stable URL:

Registers of Wenyan used by missionaries to translate the bible[edit]

high, middle, and low

PD documents

32, 61, 62, 63, 64, 85, 105, 211, 251

Vetus et Novum Testamentum: in Chinese. The Pentateuch

Vetus et Novum Testamentum: ¬The Hagiographa : in Chinese, Volume 2

Vetus et Novum Testamentum: ¬The Prophetic Books : in Chinese, Volume 3

Vetus et Novum Testamentum: ¬The Historical Books : in Chinese, Volume 4


Three character classic

Mandarin and wenyan textbooks by the Presbyterian mission

The educational directory for China: an account of the various schools and colleges connected with Protestant missions

English and Chinese readers, from primer to fifth reader: especially reprinted with full translations in Chinese

Urh-chih-tsze-teen-se-yin-pe-keaou; Being a Parallel Drawn Between the 2 Intended Chinese Dictionaries (etc.) ... Together with Morrison's Horae Sinicae, a New Ed.. Text of Primer San-Tsi-King


radicals and rimes

Chinese Characters By Léon Wieger

Introduction to the study of the Chinese characters, Volume 1 By Joseph Edkins

An account of the structure of Chinese characters under 300 primary forms: after the Shwoh-wan, 100 A.D., and the phonetic Shwoh-wan, 1833 By John Chalmers

non mandarin dialect dictionaries and material[edit]

Ying yüeh tzu tien By John Chalmers

An English and Cantonese Pocket-dictionary: For the Use of Those who Wish to Learn the Spoken Language of Canton Province By John Chalmers

Chinese Literature[edit]

Hui literature


Elements of Chinese grammar in the Character and colloquial

Notices on Chinese grammar

An English and Chinese Dictionary: Comp. from General Miscellaneous Important Terms, Business Letters, Bills, Documents, and the Tariff of Imports and Outports of China, and Bills of Ladings by Wong Su King

An English and Chinese dictionary By Ki Chiu Kwong

Vetus et Novum Testamentum: ¬The Pentateuch : in Chinese, Volume 1

Rudiments, Volume 1 By Léon Wieger

漢語英譯辭典 By John Harington Gubbins

Seal script

Huang Qing jingjie: 左傳杜解補正. 音論. 易音, 詩本音. 日知錄. 四書釋地. 四書釋地續. 四書釋地又續. 四書釋地三續. 孟子生卒年月日攷. 潛邱劄記. 禹貢錐指. 學禮質疑. 學春秋隨筆. 毛詩稽古編. 仲氏易. 春秋毛氏傳. 春秋簡書刊誤. 春秋屬辭比事記. 經問. 經問補. 論語稽求篇. 四書賸言. 四書賸言補. 詩說. 詩說附錄. 湛園札記. 經義雜記. 解舂集. 尚書地理今釋. 易說. 禮說. 春秋說. 白田草堂存稿. 周禮疑義舉要. 深衣考誤. 春秋地理考實. 羣經補義. 鄉黨圖考. 儀禮章句. 觀象授時. 經史問答. 質疑. 注疏考證. 周官祿田考. 尚書小疏. 儀禮小疏. 春秋左傳小疏. 果堂集. 周易述. 古文尚書考. 春秋左傳補注. 九經古義. 春秋正辭. 鐘山札記. 龍城札記. 尚書集註音疏. 周禮軍賦說. 十駕齋養新錄. 十駕齋養新餘錄. 潛研堂文集. 四書考異. 尚書釋天. 讀書脞錄. 讀書脞錄續編. 弁服釋例. 釋繪. 爾雅正義. 宗法小記. 儀禮喪服足徵記. 釋宮小記. 考工創物小記.磬折古義. 溝洫疆理小記. 禹貢三江考. 水地小記. 解字小記. 聲律小記. 九穀考. 釋草小記. 釋蟲小記. 禮箋. 毛鄭詩考正. 詩經補注. 考工記圖. 東原集. 古文尚書撰異. 毛詩故訓傳. 詩經小學. 周禮漢讀考. 儀禮漢讀考. 說文解字注. 六書音均表. 經韻樓集. 廣雅疏證. 讀書雜志. 春秋公羊通義. 禮學卮言. 大戴禮記補注. 經學卮言. 溉亭述古錄. 羣經識小. 經讀攷異. 尚書今古文注疏. 問字堂集. 儀禮釋官. 禮經釋例. 校禮堂文集. 劉氏遺書. 述學. 經義知新記. 大戴禮正誤. 曾子注釋. 周易校勘記. 尚書校勘記. 毛詩校勘記. 周禮校勘記, 儀禮校勘記. 禮記校勘記. 春秋左氏傳校勘記. 春秋公羊傳校勘記. 春秋穀梁傳校勘記. 論語校勘記. 孝經校勘記

By Weitere enthaltene Werke in Originalschrift: 爾雅校勘記. 孟子校勘記. 考工記車制圖解. 積古齋鐘鼎彝器疑識. 疇人傳. 揅經室集. 撫本禮記鄭注考異. 易章句. 易通釋. 易圖略. 孟子正義. 周易補疏. 尚書補疏. 毛詩補疏. 禮記補疏. 春秋左傳補疏. 論語補疏.周易述補. 拜經日記. 拜經文集. 瞥記. 經義述聞. 通說. 經傳釋詞. 周易虞氏義. 周易虞氏消息. 虞氏易禮. 周易鄭氏義. 周易荀氏九家義. 易義別錄. 五經異義疏證. 左海經辨. 左海文集. 鑑止水齋集. 爾雅義疏. 春秋左傳補注. 公羊何氏釋例. 公羊何氏解詁箋. 發墨守評. 穀果癈疾申何. 左氏春秋考證. 箴膏肓評. 論語述何. 燕寢考. 研六室雜著. 春秋異文箋. 寶甓齋札記. 寶甓齋文集. 夏小正疏義. 秋槎雜記. 吾亦廬稿. 論語偶記. 經書算學天文考. 四書釋地辨證. 毛詩紬義. 公羊禮說. 禮說. 孝經義疏. 經傳考證. 說緯. 經義叢鈔 ZALT, Sin 923-B / Titel auf gelbem Papier / Bibliothek Arthur von Rosthorn ZALT

Oracle bone script甲骨文&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8Y4JU_XuFOjIyAGct4DACA&ved=0CFYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q&f=false甲骨文&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8Y4JU_XuFOjIyAGct4DACA&ved=0CFYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Rajmaan (talk) 06:10, 23 February 2014 (UTC)