Classical Chinese

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Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese,[lower-alpha 1] 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.

Buddhist texts, or sutras, are still preserved in Classical Chinese from the time they were composed or translated from Sanskrit and other languages.

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 (漢文) in Japanese, hanmun in Korean (but see also gugyeol), and cổ văn (古文)[1] or văn ngôn (文言)[1] in Vietnamese.


  1. Some sources distinguish between Classical Chinese as strictly the language of the ancient classics and Literary Chinese as the classical style of writing used throughout Chinese history prior to the May Fourth Movement (see "Definitions")



  1. 1.0 1.1 Nguyễn, Tri Tài (2002). Giáo trình tiếng Hán. Tập I: Cơ sở. Nhà xuất bản Đại học Quốc gia Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh. p. 5. 
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