The traditional version of the Chu Ci contains 17 major sections, anthologized with its current contents by Wang Yi, a 2nd-century AD librarian who served under Emperor Shun of Han. The early Classical Chinese poetry is known through the two anthologies, the Chu Ci and the Shi Jing. Chu Ci was named after a form of poetry that originated in the State of Chu, which was located in what is now central China, but was then in the southern fringe of the Chinese cultural area. The territory of Chu was known for its blend of culture from the Chinese heartland, or north, with cultural influences. Thus, in the north of China, Chu had a reputation for various features. A Chinese form of shamanism was prominent in Chu, and a number of the Chu Ci verses describe spirit journeys. The Book of Han noted 106 Chu poets with 1,318 compositions, other chu ci style verses were written, including some which survive, but are not generally included in the standard anthology. Wang Yi made a commentary on the Chu Ci, as well as appending his own Nine Longings, as the seventeenth. Although Chu Ci is an anthology of poems by poets, Qu Yuan was its central figure. There are various other authors which are thought to have written various sections of the Chu Ci. Various scholarly sources propose solutions for who wrote what, in the Chu Ci, besides the authorship of the actual content, much commentary has been written in regard to the Chu Ci, some of which is traditionally incorporated into the printed editions. The name Qu Yuan does not occur in any prior to the Han dynasty. It is also said that it is in remembrance of the circumstances of Qu Yuans death that the annual Dragon boat races are held. During his days of exile, Qu Yuan is thought to have written Li Sao, his magnum opus, the authorship, as in many a case of ancient literature, can be neither confirmed nor denied. Written in 373 verses containing 2490 characters, Li Sao is the earliest Chinese long poem and is acclaimed as the representative of Qu Yuans high moral conduct. Also, among the other Chu Ci works sometimes attributed to Qu Yuan, modern scholars have devoted long studies to the question of the Chu ci pieces authorship, but there is no consensus on which may actually be by Qu Yuan himself. Sima Qians Records of the Grand Historian mentions five of Qu Yuans works, Li Sao, Tian Wen, Zhao Hun, Ai Ying, Huai Sha. According to Wang Yi of the Eastern Han dynasty, a total of 25 works can be attributed to Qu Yuan, Li Sao, Jiu Ge, Heavenly Questions, Jiu Zhang, Yuan You, Pu Ju, and Yu Fu
Qu Yuan Sang while Walking (Quzi xingyin tu 屈子行吟圖), by Chen Hongshou (1616)
A depiction of Qu Yuan from an early 17th-century book
Tomb Beast-Guard (Zhenmushou). 5th - 3rd century BCE, Kingdom of Chu, Southern China.
Image: CMOC Treasures of Ancient China exhibit bronze zhou jie, detail