This term refers to poetry that reflects social realities and major events of a historical period, thus possessing historical value. Some of the poems in The Book of Songs were about the realities of its time, which prompted Confucius to exclaim that “The Book of Songs enables one to understand society.” This means that he viewed The Book of Songs as using poetry to reflect history. Han-dynasty scholars stressed the importance of poetry as a means of recording history. Subsequently, Chinese scholars of poetry believed that poetry should reflect reality through aesthetic means so as to provide aesthetic enjoyment, understanding as well as education. The poems of Tang poet Du Fu are called “historical poetry” because they reflected what the country went through during the An Lushan-Shi Siming Rebellion and the author’s acute sense of sadness about the misery the country and its people suffered in times of national crisis.
Du Fu fled to the provinces of Gansu and Sichuan to escape turbulences caused by the An Lushan-Shi Siming Rebellion and wrote about his experiences in poems. As his poems gave vivid and detailed accounts about events of the time, they became known as “historical poetry.” (Meng Qi: The Story of Poetry)
People regarded the poems of Du Fu as historical poetry mostly because they described what really happened in his age, and they contained criticisms or praises of historical events. So his poems were aptly called “historical poetry.” (Wen Tianxiang: Preface to The Selected Poems of Du Fu)