Classical Chinese

Classical Chinese (Chinese: 文言文; pinyin: wényán wén; literally: “literary language writing”), also known as “Literary Chinese”,[a] is the language of the classic literature from the end of the Spring and Autumn period through to the end of the Han Dynasty, a written form of Old Chinese. Classical Chinese is a traditional style of written Chinese that evolved from the classical language, making it different from any modern spoken form of Chinese. Literary Chinese was used for almost all formal writing in China until the early 20th century, and also, during various periods, in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Among Chinese speakers, Literary Chinese has been largely replaced by written vernacular Chinese, a style of writing that is similar to modern spoken Mandarin Chinese, while speakers of non-Chinese languages have largely abandoned Literary Chinese in favor of local vernaculars.

Literary Chinese is known as kanbun in Japanese, hanmun in Korean (but see also gugyeol), and Hán văn in Vietnamese (From 漢文 in all three cases; pinyin: hànwén, “Han writing”).

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