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Chinese History - Sui Period Literature, Thought, and Philosophy

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After three hundred years of disunion the Sui Dynasty reunited northern and southern China, and traditions that had developed their own shapes and appearance, found together. Southern and northern traditions and styles of philosophy, literature, language, music, arts, and so on, started to merge and united two hitherto separated traditions to one new. While in the southern Buddhism for example laid more stress on principles and rituals, in the north a more intuitive approach to Buddhism was prevalent, crystallizing in the foundation of the Chan Sect 禪宗. A person who assembled the two traditions was Zhiyi 智顗 who founded the Tiantai School 天台宗. Confucianism had also developed into different directions during the time of division: In the south the "School of the Mystery" (xuanxue 玄學), influenced by Daoism, was prevalent, while the traditional legist Confucianism of the Han Dynasty 漢 had been revived in the north by Yan Zhitui 顏之推. Now, unifying the two mainstreams, Liu Zhuo 劉焯 and Liu Xuan 劉炫 reinterpreted some Confucian Classics. In the sphere of poetry, the south was more sublte and refined, the north more practical and austere. Although the first Sui emperor Sui Wendi 隋文帝, on recommendation of Li E 李諤, tried to prohibit the spread of southern literature throughout the empire, his successor, Emperor Yangdi 隋煬帝 esteemed and promoted the southern style. In the sphere of calligraphy, the south revered and copied the style of Wang Xizhi 王羲之 and his son Wang Xianzhi 王獻之 that was held in a cursive type (xingshu 行書, caoshu 草書), while the north followed the tradition of the more regular and strict chancery script (lishu 隸書) of the Han and Cao-Wei 曹魏 periods. The southern style became widespread throughout the empire during Sui through the calligraphers Wang Bao 王褒 and Zhao Wenyuan 趙文淵 (Zhao Wenshen 趙文深).
Three hundred years of division had also a deep effect on the language of China: The influence of the non-Chinese "barbarians" in the north had simplified the phonetic system in this part of China. The language of modern Beijing and Hebei was estimated as "heavy" and "impure", while the southern dialects were held as "light" and "pure". A commission lead by Yan Zhitui, Lu Fayan 陸法言 and others compared the phonetic differences throughout the Sui empire and compiled the dictionary Qieyun 切韻.

2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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