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Shi Jing

Shi Jing, or The Book of Poetry ,is the first anthology of Chinese poems. It contains 305 poems written over a 500-year period spanning from the beginning of Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC-771BC) to the mid-Spring and Autumn Period (475-221BC). The book has three parts: Feng (Songs), Ya (Odes and Epics), and Song (Hymns). Feng includes 160 songs sung by people in 15 city-states. Ya includes 105 poems in two parts: "The Book of Odes " and "The Book of Epics." Song includes 40 poems in three parts: "The Hymns of Zhou," "The Hymns of Lu," and "The Hymns of Shang."

"The Book of Songs" (Feng) is the most significant segment of The Book of Poetry. The folksongs of the Zhou Dynasty (11th century-256BC)collected into "The Book of Songs" recount the real life of common people, and express their indignation about oppression and their yearning for a happy life. "The Book of Songs" is the wellspring of Chinese realist poetry.

"The Life of Peasants" faithfully captures the wretched lives of enslaved people. The "Woodcutter's Song" rouses the slave class to awareness. The angry slaves call the slave owners to account: "How can those who neither reap nor sow have three millions sheaves on their plate? How can those who neither hunt nor chase have in their courtyard the game of each race?" Some poems even describe the direct resistance of slaves to the ruling class, Such as "The Large Rat".

Some poems in "The Book of Songs," like "My Lord, My Man is Away" and "Returned," capture the trauma caused by forced military service and conscripted labor. Some love poems in "The Book of Songs" reflect women's anguish at being forced into marriage and recall young people's longing and search for happy marriage, as in "A Faithless Man" and "A Rejected Wife." "Depression," another love poem, even discloses a deep awareness of resistance. "A Shepherdess" and "Gifts" wish good cheer and call for optimism. All of the poems in "The Book of Songs" are honest expressions of laboring people's thoughts and feelings.

Many folksongs in "The Book of Songs" criticize and satirize the ruling class's decadent and promiscuous lifestyles, such as for example, "Incest", "The Duke's Mistress," and "Complaint of a Duchess."
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