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Indo-european langauges bought the golden age to Chinese poem


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No one would deny that Tang Dynasty was the golden age for Chinese poem, but one would be wondering how Chinese used characters, without pinyin at that time, to build a comprehensive knowledge about rhyme. But today i got an interesting answer.

According to 許倬雲, a renowned Chinese historian, the development of the Tang Poem was coincident with the boom of Buddhism in India. Hundreds of Buddhism classics were bought into China, along with the knowledge of Indo-European languages. Inspired by the way that ancient Indian wrote their language, Chinese found a way "反切" to indicate a sound of Chinese characters with two other characters. This was done for easing the translation of Devanagari books at first, but 反切 also marked the milestone for Chinese study on rhythm and made a foundation for the Tang-style Poem.

That's a surprise to me personally. I know the Chinese traditional music and mandarin were deeply influenced by non-Han tribes, but never had an idea that the ancient Tang Poem was also closely related to non-Han culture. Possibly it's a good and interesting challenge for Han-ism.

P.S. the book is called "萬古江河" (recently published) and it's absolutely Dr. Xu's ambitious attempt for covering most Chinese culture. I take it as one of the greatest books I've read in the past 5 years, and hope you like it too.

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one would be wondering how Chinese used characters, without pinyin at that time, to build a comprehensive knowledge about rhyme.

That's indeed an interesting theory, and it sounds plausible to me, but not convincing enough.

To answer the question above, they had some sort of reference books "Book of Rhyme". But obviously they didn't have to rely on these books to write poems. The discover of four tones 四声和平仄 was during Qi and Liang. Then poets established 格律.

I think the introduction of foreign language might have helped Chinese language's development. But in this case, I can't see how they could help the discover of tones, which I suppose Indian language doesn't have?

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