- The written Chinese language used from the Zhou Dynasty (1045 BCE) (especially the Spring and Autumn Period), through to the end of the Han Dynasty (220 CE). In Chinese, 古文 (“Ancient Writing”) or, formally, 古典漢語 (“Classical Chinese”). The language of many classics of Chinese literature.
- The written Chinese language used from the Zhou Dynasty (1045 BCE) to the early 20th century.
Sinologists distinguish between the language as used in antiquity (Classical Chinese), and the language used after the fall of the Han Dynasty (Literary Chinese) – in Chinese, 文言 (“literary writing”) – similar to the distinction between Classical Latin and Late Latin. In casual usage, these may be conflated.