In order to make rites and music, the Zhou Dynasty set up special officials to collect poems. In the spring and autumn, they went to various places to collect ballads. In order to offer sacrifices to ancestors, entertain guests, send troops, hunt and other purposes, the nobles compiled poems around the 6th century BC. "Shi" is the earliest poetry collection in China. There are 305 poems in total (there are six other poems with titles and no contents), so it is also called "three hundred poems". Since Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty, Confucianism has regarded it as a classic, so it is called "the book of songs". In Han Dynasty, Mao Heng and Mao Chang annotated the book of songs, which is also called Mao Shi. Most of the authors of the poems in the book of songs can't be verified.
The poetry recorded in the book of songs has a long time span, covering more than 500 years of social life from the beginning of the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC) to the middle of the spring and Autumn period (6th century BC), covering a wide range of regions, from the north of the Yellow River to the Jianghan River Basin. In Han Dynasty, there were Lu, Qi and Han first, and then there was Mao poetry. After the popularity of Mao poetry, the poems of Qi, Lu and Han were lost successively.
The book of songs is divided into three parts: Feng(transliteration), Ya(transliteration) and Song(transliteration). "Feng" is also called "Guo-Feng(transliteration)". There are 15 groups, called "fifteen Guo-Feng", which are folk songs from all over the country. "Feng" is the general term of songs. 15 groups of national styles are not music of 15 countries, but music of more than ten regions. The Guo-Feng includes 160 songs of Zhou Nan, Zhao Nan, Ying, he, Wei, Wang, Zheng, Hui, Qi, Wei, Tang, Qin, Chen, Cao. Guofeng was a popular local song with local style. In terms of content, most of them are folk songs. Most of the authors are folk singers, but there are also some aristocrats. This part of literature has the highest achievements, including the singing of love, labor and other beautiful things, as well as the lament and anger of homesickness, homesickness, anti oppression and anti bullying. There are 105 articles in Ya, including 31 articles in Da-Ya and 74 articles in Xiaoy-Ya. Most of them are poems of noble sacrifice, praying for good years and praising ancestors. "Ya" has the meaning of "Zheng(transliteration)". This kind of music is regarded as "Zheng Sheng(transliteration)", which is intended to show the difference from other local song. There are also some folk songs in Xiao-Ya. "Song" is the poem of sacrifice in the ancestral temple. It is the song for the nobles to sacrifice ghosts and gods in the family temple and praise the merits and virtues of the ruler. It should be accompanied by dance when playing. It is also divided into "Zhou Dynasty-Song", "Lu-Song" and "Shang Dynasty-Song", a total of 40 pieces. Among them, 31 pieces of Zhou-Dynasty Song are thought to be works of the Western Zhou Dynasty, most of which are before the Zhou Zhaowang and the Zhou Muwang; 4 pieces of Lu-Song are thought to be works of the Duke of Lu; and the song of Shang dynasty is thought to be works of the song state before the spring and Autumn period. The poems in "Ya" and "Song" are of great value to our study of early history, religion and society.
As for the classification of poems in the book of songs, there is a theory of "Si-Shi-Liu-Yi(transliteration)". "Si-Shi(transliteration)" refers to the four poems in the first place in Feng, Da-Ya, Xiao-Ya and Song. "Six righteousness" refers to "Feng, Ya, Song, Fu, Bi, Xing". "Fu, Bi, Xing" is the expression of the book of songs. "Fu" is a direct statement of events, describing the course of an event. "Bi" is to compare one thing to another. "Xing" is to associate one thing with another.
Confucius once summarized the tenet of the book of songs as "no evil thoughts in thought", and taught his disciples and children to read the book of songs as the standard of making a statement and doing something. Among the pre-Qin scholars, many quoted the book of songs, such as Mencius, Xunzi, Mozi, Zhuangzi, Hanfeizi, etc. in their reasoning and argumentation, they often quoted the sentences in the book of songs to enhance their persuasion. Later, the book of songs was regarded as a classic by the Confucians, and became one of the Six Classics (including the book of songs, the Book, the Rites, the Yue, the changes, the spring and Autumn period) and the Five Classics (without the Yue).