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Poetry Guide: Ci

Ci (Traditional: 詞; Simplified: 词; Hanyu Pinyin: , interchangeable with 辭) is a kind of lyric Chinese poetry. Beginning in the Liang Dynasty, the ci followed the tradition of the Shi Jing and the yue fu : they were lyrics which developed from anonymous popular songs (some of Central Asian origin) into a sophisticated literary genre. The form was further developed in the Tang Dynasty, and was most popular in the Song Dynasty. The word "ci" is pronounced somewhat like "tsih".

Ci most often expressed feelings of desire, often in an adopted persona, but the greatest exponents of the form (such as Li Houzhu and Su Shi) used it to address a wide range of topics.

Typically the number of characters in each line and the arrangement of tones were determined by one of around 800 set patterns, each associated with a particular title. They were written to be sung to a tune, which was also determined by the title.

Famous Ci Poets

Li Houzhu
Su Shi
Liu Yong
Xin Qiji