Ming Dynasty

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Literature and Arts

The mid- and late Ming Dynasty saw an unprecedented boom in commerce and commodities. As people increasingly congregated in commercial centers, classical novels and traditional operas depicting the lives of the urban population emerged as primary forms of entertainment.

Art and literature, like science and philosophy, built on the achievements of previous generations to rise to new levels. Great strides were made in the development of the novel, drama, calligraphy, and painting.

Shuiui Zhuan (Outlaws of the Marshes

Representative works of the new novel form included Sanguo Yanyi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms), Shuihu Zhuan (Outlaws of the Marshes), and Xiyou Ji (Journey to the West).

Ming Dynasty painting carried on the spirit of Yuan Dynasty xieyi (free style) brush and ink painting. Representative artists included Shen Zhou and Wen Zhengming, who developed the "Wu School" during the mid-Ming Dynasty, Dong Qichang and Xu Wei during the later Ming Dynasty, and Chen Hongwei during the final years of the Ming Dynasty.

Yongle Dadian (The Yongle Encyclopedia), compiled by Zhu Di, the Yongle Emperor, was the crowning achievement of classical Chinese writing. The most comprehensive Chinese encyclopedia ever produced, it is universally recognized as the world's first large-scale reference work.