Modern essay, or creative nonfiction prose, whose success almost surpasses that of poetry, theater and fiction,1 was born out of the marriage of traditional Chinese and Western culture.2 On a superficial level, it distinguishes itself from traditional essay by using vernacular instead of classical or literary Chinese, and thus is more accessible to the masses. In terms of genre, it is narrower in scope than traditional essay which includes all non-verse writings, literary or not. More importantly, as Yu Dafu points out, modern essay values the expression of individuality and personality more than any other writings.3 By contrast, traditional essay assumed a political and ideological mission to assists state operation, or to uphold the Way (zaidao) by such figures as Cao Pi (187–226), Liu Xie (465–520), and Han Yu (768–824). In the eyes of modern essayists, traditional essay would be propagandist.
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