Chinese poetic literature is divided into four categories: proper poetry, ci, ge, and fu. Each category of literature has its own unique style as well as structural limitations.
Proper poetry, the first category, has three sub-forms. The first is "lü shi" or code verse which must contain two or more parallel couples. Thousands upon thousands of parallel couples exist in Chinese literature. In addition to parallelism in content, code verse contains phonetic parallelism or a parallelism of tones as well. Classic Chinese poetry is very rhythmical but not necessarily musical. However, the earlier code verse writers did not consider this rigid pattern a formal necessity.
The second sub-form is gu ti, old style, or gu shi, old poetry. It doesn't include parallelism in its structure except where a poet purposely used it to emphasize a particular mood. In an old style poem, the rhymes can be changed at almost any place and the tonal order within a line does not conform to any set structure. Poems in this style can be in five, six, or seven-syllable lines; it is similar to free verse but with rhymes.
The third sub-form, jue ju, the curtailed or frustrated verse, is not used to tell a tale but to create a certain mood. A jue ju poem conveys ideas in the most frugal way possible and with a high tone. A jue ju poem has only four lines each containing five or seven syllables.
A ci is merely an intricate tonal pattern to which the writer sets characters. The term tian ci, filling out a pattern, comes from this idea. The longer ci patterns have rhyming schemes and tonal patterns are extremely complicated. The ci writers excelled in word painting in way in which even the curtailed verse writers could not achieve. The ci writers were the makers of a polished and suggestive vocabulary.
The third category of poetic literature is ge or songs. Ancient and modern folk songs are a part of this category. Poems to be sung in folk melodies and pieces set to more elaborate music by professionals of the imperial courts are also a part of this type of Chinese poetic literature. This class of literature differs from proper poetry only in its musical origin. While a song can be sung, a poem can only be chanted. A ge and a ci are even more closely alike.
The fourth conventional category is the fu or the descriptive poem. Very few poets have succeeded in writing a fu. Usually, it is just a group of parallel couplets of varying lengths. And sometimes, it degenerates into rhymed prose studded with useless and unrecognizable words.
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