• This paper examines the birth of classicist poetry by paying attention to the Southern Society’s (Nanshe) diachronic succession of the late Qing Poetic Revolution. It provides a careful analysis on the novelty of Huang Zunxian’s poetry and shows how the Southern Society transformed Huang’s Europeanized innovation into something that was rooted in both traditional scholarship and modern political discourse. I argue that the poetry of the Southern Society as being more formally conservative than Huang’s; however, spiritually, it represents a kind of progress as it styled itself as the “poetry of the cotton-clothed” (buyi zhi shi)—the “cotton- clothed” stands for the scholars not serving in court. In this regard, its poetry could be seen as modern in spirit. It selectively integrated the traditional and the Western, for pragmatic and utilitarian purposes.