Literary Chinese, also known as wenyan, is a written Chinese that emerged during the Han dynasty and was used until the early 20th century. Literary Chinese was used for works of literature, historiography, and religious texts. It is different from spoken Chinese in that it is not a spoken language, but a written one. Literary Chinese is not based on any particular dialect of Chinese, but is instead a written form that is used across China.
The earliest examples of Literary Chinese date back to the Han dynasty, when it was used for works of literature, historiography, and religious texts. Literary Chinese continued to be used during the Tang and Song dynasties. By the Ming dynasty, Literary Chinese had become the standard written form of Chinese. During the Qing dynasty, Literary Chinese continued to be used, but it was slowly replaced by vernacular Chinese, which was based on spoken Chinese.
In the early 20th century, Literary Chinese was replaced by vernacular Chinese as the standard written form of Chinese. Today, Literary Chinese is no longer used, but it is still studied by scholars of Chinese literature and history.