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According to the movie A River Full of Red(电影《满江红》), a work of Zhang Yimou(张艺谋), the famous poem 满江红 created by the framed general of Song Dynasty Yue Fei(岳飞)was made known to the public, when the double of the prime minister Qin Hui(秦桧)was forced with sword put on his neck to read out from his memory that very poem to thousands of Song Dynasty soldiers who lined up before him.

But it is a long poem with many unusual expressions in it, but not a ballad that average people can easily understand, is it possible that as shown in the movie, it can be passed on to the later generations with such a reading out loud by the voice of a huge crowd of militants, most of whom I believe could not even catch what the original reader was reading to them at all.

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Yes, I believe the scenes in the movie are likely exaggerated, but the word-of-mouth transmission of the "词" is possible. The reasons are as follows:

  1. In ancient military marches, there were often literati accompanying the troops. These individuals possessed a higher level of cultural literacy. In the context of the Song Dynasty, literati frequently engaged in poetry composition, making it feasible for them to memorize a poem easily.
  2. The "宋词" in that era was not particularly profound or obscure for the people of the time. Song Dynasty poetry developed based on the foundation of Tang Dynasty poetry. Additionally, the initial dissemination of these terms often occurred in more public settings. Some terms were even adapted into songs and circulated in entertainment venues.

Based on these two points— the accessibility of the terms and the presence of literati in the military— the word-of-mouth transmission of the term is plausible.

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