(Chinese: "Songs of Chu" - formerly transcribed as Ch'u Tz'u)
Together with the Shi Jing ("The Odes"), the Chu Ci make up the poetical heritage of the oldest part of Chinese history. The Songs of Chu were conceived in the southernmost Chinsese state, Chu, and are mostly ascribed to the courtier Qu Yuan (c. 340 BCE-278 BCE). Banished from court, he took to writing morose poetry. Tradition has it that he drowned himself, and he was made a minor deity of the dragon boat cult.
The poems of the Chu Ci reflect a completely different culture from that of the Shi Jing. The sunny southern climate, fantasy and melancholy of the Chu Ci counterpoint the more cool and reflective northern lifestyle of the Shi Jing. In the south, shamanistic practices endured, and fire, wine], women, and flowers were objects of worship, rather than heroes or moral thinkers.
The longest poem of the Chu Ci is Li Sao ("In the arms of despair"), which describes an imaginary journey made by a courtier who has fallen out of favour (probably autobiographical detail from Qu Yuan's own experience). Exotic flowers and sensory impressions symbolise the protagonist's chaging moods and his erotic adventures.
The collected poems of the Chu Ci also include many shamanistic songs, dirges and narrative poems of a fairy tale-like style.