(768 - 824)
Han Yu, considered one of the “Eight Great Prose Masters of the Tang and Song,” was an orphan who taught himself to read and write. Although the examiners judged his writing inadequate the first three times he took the civil service test, he is now considered one of the finest prose stylists in Chinese history. He became a proponent of guwen, an unadorned style of composition that “necessitated thinking for oneself” and sought to emulate the ancient Confucians. Han helped lead a revival of Confucianism, attacking Daoism and Buddhism, even going so far as to write a letter in 1819 to the emperor chastising him for his adoration of a Buddhist relic. Han was exiled, and just barely escaped with his life.