written vernacular Chinese
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Written vernacular Chinese (), also known as Baihua, is the forms of
written Chinese Written Chinese () comprises Chinese characters used to represent the Chinese language. Chinese characters do not constitute an alphabet or a compact syllabary. Rather, the writing system is roughly logosyllabic; that is, a character generally ...

written Chinese
based on the
varieties of Chinese Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety Algebraic varieties are the central objects of study in algebraic geometry Algebraic geometry is a branch of mathematics, classically studying zero of a function ...
spoken throughout China, in contrast to
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the classic literature from the end ...
, the written standard used during
imperial China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was mentioned as the twenty-first Shang king by the same. Ancient hist ...
up to the early twentieth century. A written vernacular based on
Mandarin Chinese Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic languages, Sinitic (Chinese) languages natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of the phonology of Standard Chinese. Because Mandarin ...
was used in novels in the
Ming#REDIRECT Ming dynasty#REDIRECT Ming dynasty {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...

Ming
and
Qing The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last imperial dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n.''" Oxford University Press Oxford Univers ...
dynasties (14th–20th centuries), and later refined by intellectuals associated with the
May Fourth Movement The May Fourth Movement was a Chinese anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement which grew out of student protests in Beijing Beijing ( ), Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the Capital ci ...
. Since the early 1920s, this modern vernacular form has been the standard style of writing for speakers of all
varieties of Chinese Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety Algebraic varieties are the central objects of study in algebraic geometry Algebraic geometry is a branch of mathematics, classically studying zero of a function ...
throughout mainland
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion. Covering approximately 9.6& ...
,
Taiwan Taiwan (), officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia. Neighbouring countries include the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to the northwest, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. The main islan ...

Taiwan
,
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federation, federal constitutional monarchy consists of States and federal territories of Malaysia, thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two reg ...

Malaysia
, and
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bord ...

Singapore
as the written form of
Modern Standard Chinese Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of Chi ...
. This is commonly called Standard Written Chinese or Modern Written Chinese to avoid ambiguity with spoken vernaculars, with the written vernaculars of earlier eras, and with other written vernaculars such as
written Cantonese Written Cantonese is the written form of Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale: ''Gwóngdūng wá'') is a language within the Varieties of Chinese, Chinese (Sinitic) branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages originating ...
or
written Hokkien Hokkien, a Min Nan variety of Chinese spoken in Southeastern China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, does not have a unitary standardized writing system, in comparison with the well-developed written forms of Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東 ...
.


History

During the
Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ; Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscript ...
(1046–256 BC),
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese. The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle bones from around 125 ...
was the spoken and written form of Chinese, and was used to write classical Chinese texts. Starting from the
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
(221 BC), however, spoken Chinese began to evolve faster than written. The difference grew larger with the passage of time. By the time of the Tang and
Song A song is a musical composition intended to be performed by the human voice. This is often done at melody, distinct and fixed pitches (melodies) using patterns of sound and silence. Songs contain various song form, forms, such as those includi ...
dynasties (618–1279), people began to write in their vernacular dialects in the form of '' biànwén'' and ''yǔlù'' (), and the spoken language was completely distinct from the still-maintained written standard of classical Chinese (''wenyanwen''). The majority of the population, not educated in classical Chinese, could understand very little of written or printed texts. During the
Ming#REDIRECT Ming dynasty#REDIRECT Ming dynasty {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ...

Ming and
Qing The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last imperial dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n.''" Oxford University Press Oxford Univers ...
(1368–1912), vernacular language began to be used in novels, but formal writing continued to use classical Chinese.
Lower Yangtze Mandarin Lower Yangtze Mandarin () is one of the most divergent and least mutually-intelligible of the Mandarin languages, as it neighbours the Wu, Hui, and Gan groups of Sinitic languages. It is also known as Jiang–Huai Mandarin (), named after th ...
formed the standard for written vernacular Chinese until it was displaced by the
Beijing dialect The Beijing dialect (), also known as Pekingese, is the prestige dialect of Mandarin spoken in the urban area An urban area, or built-up area, is a human settlement with a high population density and infrastructure of built environment. Ur ...
in the late Qing. This Baihua was used by writers all over China regardless of the dialect they spoke. Chinese writers who spoke other dialects had to use the grammar and vocabulary of Lower Yangtze and Beijing Mandarin to make their writing understandable to the majority of Chinese. After the
May Fourth Movement The May Fourth Movement was a Chinese anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement which grew out of student protests in Beijing Beijing ( ), Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the Capital ci ...
, ''baihuawen'' became the normal written form of Chinese. While the
phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language vari ...

phonology
of Modern
Standard Chinese Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of Chi ...
is based on that of Beijing, its grammar is officially based on the exemplary works of vernacular literature, which excludes certain colloquial or 'extreme' forms while incorporating some constructions from Classical Chinese (see below). Similarly, the vocabulary of Written Vernacular Chinese discards the majority of slang terms from the Beijing dialect while absorbing some literary and/or archaic words from Classical Chinese, as well as foreign loanwords and a small number of regionalisms from other major dialect groups.


Literature in vernacular Mandarin and the modern written language

Jin Shengtan, who edited several
novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself ...

novel
s in vernacular Chinese in the 17th century, is widely regarded as the pioneer of literature in the vernacular style. However, it was not until after the
May Fourth Movement The May Fourth Movement was a Chinese anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement which grew out of student protests in Beijing Beijing ( ), Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is the Capital ci ...
in 1919 and the promotion by scholars and intellectuals such as pragmatist reformer
Hu Shih Hu Shih (; 17 December 1891 – 24 February 1962), also known as Hu Suh in early references, was a Chinese philosopher Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a pe ...

Hu Shih
, pioneering writer
Chen Hengzhe Chen Hengzhe (; 12 July 1890—1976), pen name Sophia H. Z. Chen (), was a pioneering writer in modern vernacular Chinese Written vernacular Chinese (), also known as Baihua, is the forms of written Chinese Written Chinese () comprises Chinese c ...
, leftist
Lu Xun Lu Xun (or Lu Sun, Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a Romanization of Chinese, romanization system for Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Francis Wade, during the mid-19th century, and was giv ...
,
Chen Duxiu Chen Duxiu ( zh, t=陳獨秀, w=Ch'en Tu-hsiu; October 8, 1879 – May 27, 1942) was a Chinese revolutionary socialist, educator, philosopher and author, who co-founded the Communist Party of China (with Li Dazhao) in 1921. From 1921 to 1927, he se ...

Chen Duxiu
, and leftist
Qian Xuantong
Qian Xuantong
that vernacular Chinese, or ''Bai hua'', gained widespread importance. In particular, ''
The True Story of Ah Q ''The True Story of Ah Q'' is an episodic novella written by Lu Xun, first published as a serial between December 4, 1921 and February 12, 1922. It was later placed in his first short story A short story is a piece of prose fiction that typi ...
'' by Lu Xun is generally accepted as the first modern work to fully utilize the vernacular language.Luo, Jing.
004004, 0O4, O04, OO4 may refer to: * 004, fictional British 00 Agent * 0O4, Corning Municipal Airport (California) * O04, the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation * Abdul Haq Wasiq, Guantanamo detainee 004 * Junkers Jumo 004 The Junkers Jumo 004 ...
(2004). Over a Cup of Tea: An Introduction to Chinese Life and Culture. University Press of America.
Classical Chinese became increasingly viewed by the progressive forces as hindering education and literacy, and, many suggested, social and national progress. The works of Lu Xun and other writers of fiction and nonfiction did much to advance this view. Vernacular Chinese soon came to be viewed as mainstream by most people. Along with the growing popularity of vernacular writing in books in this period was the acceptance of
punctuation Punctuation (or sometimes interpunction) is the use of spacing, conventional signs (called punctuation marks), and certain typographical devices as aids to the understanding and correct reading of written text, whether read silently or aloud. Ano ...
, modeled after that used in
Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...

Western
languages (traditional Chinese literature was almost entirely unpunctuated), and the use of
Arabic numerals Arabic numerals are the ten digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. The term often implies a decimal number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and ...

Arabic numerals
. Following the
1911 Revolution The 1911 Revolution, also known as the Chinese Revolution or the Xinhai Revolution, ended China's last Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty, the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and resulted in the establishment of the Republic of China (1912 ...
, successive governments continuously carried out a progressive and national education system to include primary and secondary education. All the curriculum was in vernacular Chinese. Prolific writers such as
Lu Xun Lu Xun (or Lu Sun, Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a Romanization of Chinese, romanization system for Standard Chinese, Mandarin Chinese. It developed from a system produced by Thomas Francis Wade, during the mid-19th century, and was giv ...
and
Bing Xin Xie Wanying (; October 5, 1900 – February 28, 1999), better known by her pen name Bing Xin () or Xie Bingxin, was one of the most prolific Women writers in Chinese literature, Chinese women writers of the 20th century. Many of her works w ...
published very popular works often in important literary journals of the day, the journals published essays and reviews providing the theoretical background for the vernacular writings. For example, Lu Xun's ''
A Madman's Diary "A Madman's Diary" () is a short story published in 1918 by Lu Xun, a Chinese writer. It was the first and most influential modern work written in Written vernacular Chinese, vernacular Chinese in the republican era, and would become a cornersto ...
'' elicited spirited debate in the journals of the time. Systematic education, talented authors and an active scholastic community closely affiliated with the education system all contributed to the establishment of the contemporary vernacular written language within a short time. Since the late 1920s, nearly all Chinese newspapers, books, and official and legal documents have been written in vernacular Chinese using the national standard. However, the tone or
register A register is an authoritative list of one kind of information. Register or registration may refer to: Arts entertainment, and media Music * Register (music), the relative "height" or range of a note, melody, part, instrument, etc. * ''Regis ...
and the choice of vocabulary may have been formal or informal, depending on the context. Generally, the more formal the register of vernacular Chinese, the greater the resemblance to classical Chinese; modern writing lies on a continuum between the two. Since the transition, it has been, however, extremely rare for a text to be written predominantly in classical Chinese. Until the 1970s, the legal code of the Republic of China was written in classical Chinese, though in a form replete with modern expressions and constructions that would have been foreign to ancient writers. Similarly, until the end of the 20th century, men of letters, especially in the Republic of China (Taiwan), exchanged personal letters (known as 尺牘) using Classical Chinese stock phrases for openings, greetings, and closings, and using vernacular Chinese (albeit heavily influenced by the classical language) for the body. Nevertheless, only well-educated individuals in modern times have full reading comprehension of classical texts, and very few are able to write proficiently in classical Chinese. Presently, the ability to read some classical Chinese is taught throughout mainland China in simplified orthography, while in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau traditional orthography is used as part of compulsory primary and secondary education, with the reading of Tang poetry taught starting from elementary school and classical prose taught throughout lower and upper secondary schools. Though it is rare to encounter fully classical texts in modern times, it is just as rare to see text of a considerable length ''only'' employ colloquial Chinese resources and exclude all classical constructions and lexical items. Despite initial intentions on the part of reformers to create a written language that closely mirrors the colloquial Mandarin dialects and to expunge classical influences from the language for the sake of modernization, it became clear to users of the new written standard that the admixture of a certain proportion of classical (''wenyanwen'') grammatical constructions and vocabulary into ''baihuawen'' was unavoidable and serves as an important means of conveying tone and register. Thus, for the vernacular language used in official settings like academic and literary works or government communications (e.g. academic papers, formal essays, textbooks, political speeches, legal codes, state-media news, etc.), a small number of stock classical constructions (around 300 patterns) and vocabulary items (around 250 expressions) continue to be employed and are subject to additional related requirements relating to classical prosody and parallelism. The use of these structures is a characteristic of formal registers of ''baihuawen'' (termed 書面漢語, 'Formal Written Chinese', lit. 'book surface Chinese') and distinguishes the formal modern language from conversational ''baihuawen'' on the one hand and fully classical ''wenyanwen'' on the other hand. Though clearly dependent on context and on the personal preferences of the author, analyses of typical 20th century essays and speeches have yielded a ratio of formal to informal expressions of around 2:3 (i.e., ~40% of the texts consist of formal expressions). Even in informal personal communications otherwise composed entirely in the vernacular, classical words and usages may still appear every so often. In particular, ''
chengyu 250px, / (simplified/traditional) ''Chengyu'' () are a type of traditional Chinese idiom An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative language, figurative, non-literal meaning (linguistic), meaning attached to the ...
'' (成語), four-character classical idioms, are used by writers and speakers of all education levels in a variety of contexts.


Literature in other Chinese varieties

There is also a modest body of literature for
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale romanization of Cantonese, Yale: ''Gwóngdūng wá'') is a language within the Varieties of Chinese, Chinese (Sinitic) branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages originating from the city of Guang ...
,
Shanghainese Shanghainese (rarely "Shanghaiese", without second "n"), also known as the Shanghai dialect, Hu language or Hu dialect, is a variety of Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically ...
, and
Taiwanese Hokkien Taiwanese, also known as Taigi,, Taiwanese Minnan, Holo, Taiwanese Hokkien (), is a variety of the Hokkien language spoken natively by about 70% of the population of Taiwan. It is spoken by the Hoklo Taiwanese, Taiwanese Hoklo people, who desce ...
, which include additional
characters Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * Character (novel), ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk * Characters (Theophrastus), ''Characters'' (Theophrastus), a classical Greek set of char ...
for writing the language as spoken. Efforts to standardize the written forms of these languages include the Taiwanese Southern Min Recommended Characters lists in the case of Taiwanese. They are most commonly used in
commercial advertisements
commercial advertisements
, song lyrics sung in local varieties, and court records of dialogue and colloquial expressions. They are often mixed to varying degrees with Classical Chinese and Modern Standard Chinese.


See also

*
Chinese literature The history of Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archive An archive is an accumulation of Historical document, historical records – in any media – or the physical facility in which t ...
*
Chinese poetry Chinese poetry is poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and ...


References

{{Chinese language Chinese language