Poems of the Qing Dynasty
Poets of the Qing Dynasty outnumbered any previous dynasty and the abundance of their works was also unparalleled.
For a period of time after the Manchus passed the strategic Pass of Shanhaiguan, works that could most reflect the spirit of the times in the poetry circle were composed by poets of the previous dynasty. These poets could face the reality. At the particular time when national conflicts was extremely intense, they held the ambition to save people and the world, and were concerned about future and destiny of the country and the nation. Their poets rectified the pseudo-classic tendency of the former and latter seven scholars of the Ming Dynasty and the superficiality of Gong'an and Jingling poets, restored the tradition of Fengsao (Guofeng and Lisao) and the spirit of struggle in poems, and paved the road for the development of Qing poems. Gu Yanwu and Qu Dajun were the leading representatives of those poets.
Qian Qianyi, Wu Weiye and Gong Dingzi were officials of the Qing Dynasty that used to be officials of the Ming Dynasty and famous poets collectively called "Three Great Poets in the Jiangzuo Area". Both Qian Qianyi and Wu Weiye were at the leading position in the poetry circle. Although Qian Qianyi upheld the Song style while Wu Weiye advocated the Tang style, both of them were influential in leading the poetry fashion of the Qing Dynasty.
From the early years to the mid-term of the reign of Emperor Kangxi, the policy of the Qing Dynasty to win over Han literati gradually achieved expected results. Even though adherents of the Ming Dynasty standing against the Qing Dynasty were not willing to accept the fact, great changes had happened to the social psychology. Wang Shizhen adapted himself to such changes and became a new leader of the poetry circle.
During the reign of Emperor Qianlong, Wang Shizhen's Romantic Charm Theory was opposed by some great poets such as Shen Deqian, Yuan Mei and Wen Fanggang. The opponents, however, held different theories respectively. The most influential theory in the poetry circle for that period was the Temperament Theory of Yuan Mei who advocated personality in poets and expression of a poet's temperament, personality and poetic talents.
When it came to the reign of Emperor Daoguang, the poetry fashion changed again. By that time, both the romantic charm school and the style school upholding the Tang style had declined, while the school advocating the Song style became the mainstream with more and more supporters. Different from this conservative poetry school, there were also enlightening poets appearing before and after the Opium War with Gong Zizhen and Wei Yuan as the representatives, and neoteric poets appearing before and after the Hundred Days' Reform with Liang Qichao and Huang Zunxian as the representatives. Meanwhile, the classicist school was also changing. The poetry circle during the late Qing Dynasty was unprecedentedly complicated.