3.6 Learning and the Arts
of the Two Chin and the Southern and Northern Dynasties

Table of Contents
3.6.1 Philology (文字學)

3.6.1 Philology (文字學 Wen-tzu Hsüeh)

With regards to the evolution of Chinese philology (linguistics) at the time of the Two Chin and the Southern and Northern Dynsaties, one aspect is the growth in the number of characters, another aspect is the development of the study of phonology which had a major influence on Chinese literary studies and then there is calligraphy from the li (隸) clerical style of the Han to the hsing (行) running style, we call these the three major thrusts of the philology of the period. As for the organization of characters then from start to finish, it is the principle of Hsü Shen's (許愼) so called theory of Six Classes.

First, with regard to the recording of characters, during the Eastern Han Hsü Shen produced the Shuo Wen (說文解字 Shuo-wen Chieh-tzu) and assembled a collection of 9,353 characters then during the Wei Dynasty Chang I (張揖) wrote the Kuang-ya (廣雅) and increased this to 18,150 characters, in the Liang Dynasty Ku Yeh-wang (顧野王) produced the Yü-p'ien (玉篇) with 22,720 characters so from this it is possible to begin to comprehend the extent of this increase. In addition, the Book of Wei the Basic Annals of T'ai-tsu (魏書 太祖本紀 Wei Shu T'ai-tzu Pen-chi) records that in the year T'ien-hsing 4


This was the Northern Dynasties task of ordering the characters of the Classical texts. Second is the research into Phonology, beginning in the Wei with Sun Yen (孫炎) (courtesy name: 叔言 Shu-yen) who started to compose the Fan-chieh (反切). Li Teng (李登) composed the Sheng-lei (聲類) with 10 sections (卷 chuan) and a total of 11,520 characters, using the five sounds (五聲命字 Wu-sheng Ming-tzu TRANS: also known as the Five Classes of Initial Sounds - glottals 宮 kung, palatals 商 shang, dentals 角 chiao, labials 徵 cheng, and velars 羽 yü). After this An Fu () of the Western Chin directed Lu Cheng () to compose the Yün-chi () in five sections, kung, shang, chiao, cheng and yü each comprising one section. The Five Yin () came to completion and following it the study of the Four Tones (四聲 ssu-sheng) commenced. In the Yung-ming period of the Ch'i Dynasty ruler Wu-ti, the Ju-nan native Chou Yung 周顒 (courtesy name: 倫 -lun) along with the Wu-hsing native Shen Yueh 沈 (courtesy name: 文 -wen ) both researched tones, Chou Yung producing the Ssu-sheng Chieh-yün (四聲切韻) and Shen Yueh writing the Ssu-sheng Pu (四聲譜) using the four tones of p'ing (平 even), shang (上 rising), ch'ü (去 departing) and ju (入 entering). Ch'i Wu-ti asked Chou She a question: "How do you say the four tones?" to which Chou She replied, "The Son of Heaven is a wise man!" (天子聖哲 T'ien-tzu sheng che) (TRANS: these four characters express each of the four tones but not in the usual order, in this case: 1,3,4,2.) From the start the study of phonology has had a great influence on the writing of that period. Literary figures such as Wang ?, Liu ?, Fan Yün and others all respected its influence such that the study of phonology became known to the world as the Yung-ming style (yung-ming t'i - Yung-ming is the reign title of Ch'i Wu-ti 483-493 AD. You might also call this the Spirit of Yung-ming.) The Wen-hsin Li-lung written by Liu ? also had phonology as its foundation. Therefore, Ku Yen-wu of the Ch'ing Dynasty in his Yin-lun (Commentary on Sound) posited "the discussion of the four tones began in the Yung-ming era and was settled in the period of the Liang and Ch'en Dynasties." In addition, there was the research into the aspect of commentary as Chang I of the Wei produced the Kuang-ya as well as the Chin-ku-tzu Ku, and Kuo ? of the Chin annotated the Erh-ya and Fang-yen serving as a commentary school of the time. With regard to the evolution of the form of characters as well as calligraphy, it gradually changed from the clerical style (li shu) to the standard (k'ai-shu) and running (hsing-shu) styles. Society at the start of the Two Chin Dynasties period was in general a society that followed customary practices and for the most part followed the style of the Eastern Han. By the time of the Southern and Northern Dynasties, calligraphy had split into southern and northern schools. The Northern school followed the clerical style (li-shu) of the Han Dynasty with a brush style that was vigorous and straightforward with the round becoming square; the Southern school followed Chung Yü (鍾繇) of the Wei and the characters were soft and beautiful, making the square into a circle. The Northern school became more like the Han li and was good at writing on stone thus Wei tablets and the Han tablets are very similar, while the Southern school drew farther away from Han li and drew closer to the chen-shu (standard) style of calligraphy and was good at writing on silk, Wang Hsi-chih and Wang Hsien-chih of the Chin were both skilled at the chen-shu style.

In addition to all this, paper became an important tool in writing characters as its use continued to spread. At first because sheets of paper were expensive, bamboo tablets were still used and it was only later that paper universally replaced the tablets. As a result of the universal use of paper the writing of characters became even more of an art form. Not just paper, but the writing tools of the time included a brush, ink, inkstone and more, became even more refined in their construction and as a result of this both writing and painting made great advances.