DUILIAN

T.C Lai, Chinese Couplets (Hong Kong, 1969)

Couplets, also known as yinglian 楹聯 or duizi 對子, are a distinctive Chinese form of

poetic expression. They consist of two lines, called the "head" and "tail", and the number of characters in each is the same. The form arises out of the satisfying symmetry of antithesis and parallelism in poetic expression, a key feature of Chinese poetry going back to the Classics. In the couplet a balance must be found between head and tail, between each character in the one and the usually contrasting character in the same position in the other, and in tone, rhyme and meaning. Combined with the capacity for multiple layers of meaning in individual characters and the esoteric allusiveness of Chinese poetic expression, the form provides potential for infinite wit and subtlety of expression - a combination which has always delighted the scholarly Chinese mind.

Couplets are commonly divided and carved symmetrically on both sides of the entrance to a room, pavilion, temple or other building. Sometimes a horizontal inscription or hengpi 橫披, with a few characters, is added above the entrance, to bring out the theme from the two vertical lines of the couplet. 

Couplets on buildings first appeared in the early tenth century, though there are records of couplets in literature from the arly Tang dynasty. Couplets are still popular today in the form of calligraphy written on red paper, especially at the New Year.

T.C Lai, Chinese Couplets (Hong Kong, 1969)


Link to Google Books, China: a historical and cultural dictionary By Michael Dillon


Embeded Google Books, China: a historical and cultural dictionary By Michael Dillon


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