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The substitution of paper for bamboo and the new trend of literary development in the Han, Wei and early Jin Dynasties

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The time from the mid-late Eastern Han Dynasty to the early period of the Three Kingdoms witnessed the simultaneous use of both bamboo and paper and the transition from the former to the latter as the preferred medium for literature. Paper, as a newly developed medium, was an informal text vehicle at first and had a closer connection with popular and recreational texts. The breakdown of the Eastern Han Dynasty accelerated the process of the replacement of bamboo by paper. Broad room for writing and cheap cost for production by paper changed writing conventions, shortened the composing process, and enlarged the volume of texts; all these made for a freer and more direct expression of feelings and meanings. The innovation in text carrier directly broadened the influence of literature, raised its value, promoted “letter correspondence” as a literary genre and enhanced the quality of literature as a way of expressing one’s emotions. The change of text carrier led to the change in literary style, which gave rise to a more detailed study of literary genres. The enlargement of knowledge among intellectuals brought about the fashion of using dian 典 (words that have a historical context). With the rising status of paper, the status of recreational works also rose. Meanwhile, the transition between these two mediums disrupted the propagation of traditional works.


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