From the Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore to the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, the Asian literature has undergone a wondrous shift over the last few centuries. Asian literature encompasses the rich and widely diverse cultural and ethnic heritages found in countries such as China, India, Bangladesh, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and more. This literature is well known for its old heritage sharing about wars and culture of Asians. Why Asian literature is significant and how did it develop over time? Read on to know more regarding the growth of Asian literature.
Importance of Asian Literature:
The historical experiences of people of Asian descent have been deeply intertwined for centuries. Their literature reflects the similarities in customs and traditions of Asian countries, their philosophies of life, the struggles and successes of their developing nations and its people.
Characteristics of Asian Literature:
Asian literature mirrors not only the customs and traditions of Asian countries but also their philosophy of life which on the whole is deeply and predominantly contemplative. It is a reflection of the storm and stress in & of developing nations seeking a place under the sun which everyone must understand so that one can know how this literature affects the history and culture of a nation.
Asian literature can be dated back to prehistoric times. An exact date is harder to come by given the broad nature of this topic. Like most other literature, earlier documents were based on stories that were passed on by word of mouth.
Literary forms of Asian Literature:
Throughout the centuries a vast amount of Asian literature has been written, most of Asian literature can be broadly categorized as lyric, drama or narrative. The literary type of Asian writing was usually determined by the surrounding culture of the time and often expresses the ideologies prevalent in the era.
Growth and development of Asian Literature:
The oldest Central Asian pieces of literature employed Sogdian and Khwarezmian, both Iranian languages. As a result of the Arab conquest of the region, however, New Persian had by the 8th century CE become established in such urban centres as Bukhara (now in Uzbekistan) and it gradually replaced the region’s indigenous languages.
The use of the Turkic languages as a literary medium originated in the 8th century. In the ensuing century, during which the Uighurs ruled the Orkhon River valley in Mongolia, peoples moved between this region and the cities of the Tarim Basin; the resultant contact between the different populations helped shape Central Asia’s literature. Of the manuscripts in the Uighur language that have been found in the Tarim Basin region, the oldest date to the 8th century. These use the Uighur script, derived from Sogdian. The defeat of the Uighurs by the Kyrgyz in 840 led to the establishment of several Uighur states. The Uighur language continued to be used as a medium for translations until the 14th century and possibly later.
The conversion of the Golden Horde to Islam in the 14th century led to the creation of new Turkic literature closely modelled on Persian. That new literature was created mainly in Khwārezm, a historical region in present-day Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The establishment of the Timurid dynasty diminished Khwārezm’s status as a cultural centre but led to the development of Chagatai literature, which echoed the literary style of works that had been produced in Khwārezm. Chagatai literature flourished in the 15th century and was taken to India by the Mughal emperor Bābur. Although the poet and scholar ʿAlī Shīr Navāʾī brought the Chagatai language to new literary heights during the later 16th century it declined in relation to Persian, both in Transoxania and in India.
By the 17th century, literary innovation was more evident among the nomadic peoples of Central Asia than among the settled cultures. The weakening of the Uzbek khanates and the decline in Chagatai literature led to the emergence of Turkmen literature in the later 17th century, which culminated during the 18th century in the poetry of Makhtumkuli. Turkmen literature remained highly influential across the region throughout the late 19th century. Although lacking a unified state, the Kazakhs consisted of large and powerful tribal groups that supported flourishing oral literature created by professional bards. Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, Kazakh literature became increasingly static. Although less politically developed than the Kazakhs, the Kyrgyz created oral literature that emphasized the epic cycle of Manas, the Kyrgyz national hero. The Uzbek tribes, partly under Turkmen influence, developed their own form of the oral epic, known as the destān, on which all subsequent Uzbek literature was based.
The Russian conquest of Central Asia during the 19th century led to transitional literature in which traditional literary practices began to give way to modern national pieces of literature. Among the Kazakhs this transition was especially conspicuous: during the second half of the 19th century, Abay Qunanbaev (Abay Ibrahim Kūnanbay-ulï) fused native Kazakh and Russian elements, with little reference to the region’s Islamic cultures. Elsewhere, the emergence of the Soviet Union created the modern literature of Central Asia. Among the Uzbeks, Turkmen and Kyrgyz, therefore, literary modernity arrived in a Soviet guise, to which the Kazakhs also would conform. During the 20th century, Abdullah Qadiriy wrote the first successful novels in Uzbek, while Mukhtar Auez-ulï became an outstanding modern writer in the Kazakh language. Among all of these groups, part of their literature is in the Russian language; the most outstanding example of a 20th-century Central Asian writer who wrote in Russian is Kyrgyz novelist Chingiz Aytmatov, whose works were widely translated.
To conclude, the growth of Asian literature is a wonderful study field for all sorts of authors and readers out there. This literature is rapidly growing and is expected to portray much more diversity in the future.
This article was written by Jinnatul Raihan Mumu.