Shen Yue (traditional Chinese: 沈約; simplified Chinese: 沈约; 441–513), courtesy name Xiuwen (休文), was a Chinese historian, music theorist, poet, and politician born in Huzhou, Zhejiang. He served emperors under the Liu Song Dynasty, the Southern Qi Dynasty (see Yongming poetry), and the Liang Dynasty.

Shen Yue
Traditional Chinese沈約
Simplified Chinese沈约

He was a prominent scholar of the Liang Dynasty and the author of the Book of Song, an historical work covering the history of the previous Liu Song Dynasty. He is probably best known as the originator of the first deliberately applied rules of tonal euphony (so called "four tones and eight defects" 四聲八病) in the history of Chinese prosody. He was also the leading scholar on the musical practices of his time and author of the essays on qilin and omenology.[1]


Shen Yue was known for his love of poetry. For example, he wrote a set of poems, called by Burton Watson the Six Poems on Remembering, describing his beloved during six times of the day.[2] The Six Poems on Remembering get fairly close to being specifically erotic, which is rather unusual for Classical Chinese verse (at least as it has been handed down). The verse on remembering her when she sleeps includes the lines:

undoing her sheer gown without waiting to be urged,
resting on the pillow till caresses find her.
Fearful that the one by her side is watching,
she blushes under the candle's glow.[3]

Contributions to literary theoryEdit

Shen Yue was one of the most import writers in terms of contributing to the ideas behind much of later Classical Chinese poetry.

Contributions to Regular Verse tonality theoryEdit

Shen Yue apparently was the initial developer of the theoretical basis for the development of tonality in relationship to regulated verse.[4][5] This would become crucial to certain forms especially associated with poetry of the Tang Dynasty, such as the lüshi (poetry).


Shen Yue is also credited with being the first to apply the term Yuefu in a generic sense to the Han Dynasty ballad style poetry, as opposed to the earlier meaning of referring to the Yuefu, or the Han imperial Music Bureau[6]

Book of SongEdit

Shen Yue was largely responsible for writing and compiling the Book of Song, a history of the Liu Song Dynasty. One of the most important sections on this is his Treatise on Music.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Kern, Martin. "Religious anxiety and political interest in Western Han omen interpretation", p.1
  2. ^ Watson, 99
  3. ^ translation by Watson, 99
  4. ^ Watson, 110
  5. ^ Davis, lxvi
  6. ^ Birrell, 7


  • Birrell, Anne (1988). Popular Songs and Ballads of Han China. (London: Unwin Hyman). ISBN 0-04-440037-3.
  • Davis, A. R. (Albert Richard), Editor and Introduction,(1970), The Penguin Book of Chinese Verse. (Baltimore: Penguin Books).
  • Mather, Richard B. (1988). The Poet Shen Yüeh (441–513): The Reticent Marquis. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • ——— (2003). The Age of Eternal Brilliance: Three Lyric Poets of the Yung-ming Era (483–493). Leiden: Brill.
  • Shen, Yucheng. "Shen Yue". Encyclopedia of China, 1st ed.
  • Watson, Burton (1971). CHINESE LYRICISM: Shih Poetry from the Second to the Twelfth Century. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-03464-4.