《诗经》 The Book of Songs
The Book of Songs is the earliest collection of poems in China. It contains 305 poems created over a period of some 500 years from the early Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century-771 BC) to the middle of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). It was said that, in the Zhou Dynasty, there were officials whose job was to collect poems from the public. There was also a rule requiring officials to compose poems and present them to the emperor for eventual editing and compilation in this anthology. At first, The Book of Songs was known as Poems or Three Hundred Poems. Confucius used it as a textbook for teaching his disciples. Eventually, after the Han Dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago, it became known officially as The Book of Songs.
Poems in The Book of Songs are made up of four-character verses. The language used is in the form of concise and refreshing rhymes. They are simple in style. For instance:
There she is gathering vine/ A day without seeing her/ Is like three seasons.
This poem entitled Gathering Vine expresses a young man's anxiety in the absence of his woman. The popular idiom "a day without seeing is like three seasons"originated from this poem.
Many poems in The Book of Songs truthfully mirror the life and society of that time. A large number are about love and marriage. Others depict the hard work of laborers at the bottom of society, while some reflect people's wishes for a free and happy life, denounce wars that caused sufferings, and directly expose the evil acts of rulers.
The Book of Songs' ideological and artistic achievements had great influence on the evolvement of poetry of later generations.