Han Li


Because of the birth of five-character poetry at the end of the Han dynasty, the folk yuefu narrative poetry led the trend and produced many excellent story poems. When literati five-character poetry rose, lyricism gradually overwhelmed narration. With their cultural training and knowledge cultivation, literati brought poetry and prose as well as embellishments into lyricism; as a consequence, rhetoric gradually emerged as a central element of poetry. As the emotional strength of lyric poetry decreased, literary grace became prominent. In the Jin dynasties and the Southern dynasties, both the narrative and emotional aspects of poetry further weakened, whereas a flowery writing style rose as the supreme artistic pursuit of poetry. The deepening of literary consciousness was concretized as the pursuit of formal beauty. In this development path, starting from narration, going to lyricism, and ending up with a flowery style of writing, rhythm became the ultimate symbol of formal beauty. When surveying the evolution of five-character poetry from the Han and Wei dynasties to the Six dynasties, it is necessary to pay attention to the importance of the waxing and waning of narration and lyricism as a primary impetus to literary history.

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