from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. The higher literary idiom of Chinese, that of the canonical books and of all composition pretending to literary standing. It employs a classical or academic diction, and a more condensed and sententious style than Mandarin, and differs also in the doubling and arrangement of words.
Sorry, no etymologies found.
An article in New Youth fired the first shot in the battle between wen-li, the ancient classical written language intelligible only to scholars, and pai-hua baihua, the despised medium of ordinary speech.
Perhaps the Sydenstrickers recognized that China had marked Pearl indelibly, and perhaps they felt she should learn literary wen-li as an antidote to the racy popular language she spoke with her friends and Wang Amah.
wen-li ancient classical written Chinese language, 50, 90, 136–37