Identifying and Mapping Issues, Theories, & Research in Asian/American Rhetoric(s): An Annotated Bibliography

Conclusion to Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin. “Conclusion.” Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions. U of Chicago P, 2004.

In this conclusion, Tsien discusses in more detail the types of writing materials used in ancient China, explaining that “Some of them were hard and durable [e.g. bones, shells, metal, stone, jade, pottery, clay], others soft and perishable [e.g. bamboo, wood, silk, paper].” Writings on hard surfaces are generally called inscriptions, and writings on perishable materials are usually considered books (199). Tsien explains that these two types of materials served distinct purposes: “The perishable materials, which were more convenient and sometimes less expensive, were used extensively for government documents, historical records, literary compositions, personal correspondence, and other writings of daily use. The permanent materials…were used for making commemorative or other inscriptions of more lasting value. The former were intended primarily for horizontal communication among contemporaries and the latter for vertical communication across generations.” including spirits or ancestors, as well as sons and grandsons; however, there were deviations from these general norms (199-200). Tsien goes on the describe methods of writing and duplication, styles of Chinese script, and the growth of vocabulary which occurred with the evolution of Chinese writing (202-3).

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Introduction to Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin. “Introduction.” Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions. U of Chicago P, 2004.

Tsien explains how prevailing religions and the dynasties in power influenced the production of and access to texts, and in effect, literacy and culture in Ancient China, thereby highlighting the politics of writing distribution and how sociopolitical influences affect the accumulative formation of culture, and knowledge. Tsien begins by describing the variety of materials and writing technologies used and invented by Chinese for writing, including paper, block printing, bamboo, silk, brush pen, and lamp-black ink along with their early attempts “toward the mechanical multiplication of writings” (2), which then led to an elaborate classification system of literature in China (3). In ancient China, writing was used for communication with the spirits, government documents and archives (developed extensively under the Zhou dynasty), and led to a literati class of recorders, users, and custodians (5, 7). Tsien suggests that with the Warring States period came private writings and collections, and the previously unseen notion of authorship in Chinese writing, as well as a growth in literacy among Chinese people (10-11). After the end of the feudal period in China, came the “burning of books,” a preventive measure of censorship and though control, which was meant to enforce unification. “A great many ancient books were destroyed, but certain kinds of writings were preserved for government monopoly” (12).

After the Qin empire was overthrown as result of a peasant revolution, the Han dynasty, which formed the foundation for a national culture, brought the rise of Confucianism and the restoration of ancient works (13). At this time book collecting “was engaged in by not only the government but by individuals as well,” including prices, high officials, and scholars, and the first comprehensive Chinese dictionary, Shuowen jiezi was printed (15-16). While “Books were produced and accumulated on a large scale…, great losses were suffered during the several political disturbances” (16). During the “Dark Ages” after the collapse of the Han, “Confucianism continued among the intellectual classes; Daoism emerged and developed as a religion; and Buddhism, which was first introduced to China at the beginning of the Christian era, flourished…” These developments led to the popularization of religious literature: “The introduction of Buddhism was an important milestone not only in the history of Chinese thought and religion but also in the development of Chinese scholarship and the popularization of literature” (17).

Nothing Can Be Accomplished If the Speech Does Not Sound Agreeable: Rhetoric and the Invention of Classical Chinese Discourse

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Liu, Yameng. “Nothing Can Be Accomplished If the Speech Does Not Sound Agreeable: Rhetoric and the Invention of Classical Chinese Discourse.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks. Lipson, Carol and Roberta A. Binkley, eds. Albany: SUNY P, 2004.

Liu discusses how the traditional predominant representation of “originators of classical Chinese discourse as primarily ‘philosophers’ or ‘thinkers’” rather than rhetorical critics in the academic literature has negatively affected subsequent research in rhetoric. By examining the rhetorical theory of Han Feizi and the concept of nan, or rebuttal, Liu explains that “rhetorical invention [in Classical China] is contingent on a primordial ambiguity or indeterminacy and is enabled only by the absence of an ultimate ‘arbitrator.’” Liu also includes Mencius as among those who “adopt[ed] the strategy of technically deconstructing the rhetoric of an opponent so as to discredit his ideology” (149). Liu additionally addresses the problematic neglect of the “textuality of history” in unilinear historical accounts of the development of classical Chinese rhetoric: such accounts treat “‘existing social or cultural conditions’ as a given and a prior order ontologically separated from discourse,” denying “discourses’ role in creating social and cultural meanings that shape the perceptions, desires, feelings, and hence behaviors of individual or institutional actors.” Ultimately, such stances “[fail] to properly to acknowledge the extent to which ‘cultural patterns and crises of ancient China”…were themselves products of discursive practices at that time (153).

Liu concludes that “the traditionally received approach to mapping [classical Chinese rhetoric] remains trapped in its own conceptual, theoretical, and interpretive myopia”. Through textual analysis, Liu discovers that “1. instead of a mere byproduct of philosophical inquiries, classical Chinese rhetoric was a discipline/practice in its own right and what the originators of traditional Chinese discourse were busy doing can better be described as rhetorical criticism; and 2. despite their differing politicoideological commitments and the fierce contention among heterogeneous “Ways” that resulted, the various ‘schools’ or discourse communities actually shared much in their rhetorical theinking and their modes of rhetorical practice.” These contending discursive communities were able to engage one another in a critical, inventive, and productive manner due to “a reservoir of shared rhetorical resources, ranging from noncontroversial assumptions about the telos and the methodology of discursive practices, agreed-upon values and criteria, to commonly employed concepts, genres, criteria, techniques, strategies” (161).

The Use of Eloquence

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Xu, George Q. “The Use of Eloquence.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks. Lipson, Carol and Roberta A. Binkley, eds. Albany: SUNY P, 2004.

Xu examines the notion of “eloquence”–and I think this choice of word purposeful–in the classical Chinese context, explaining, “Ironically, and perhaps uniquely, however, verbal eloquence was not valorized by classical Chinese thinkers, and on the contrary the views found in their texts reveal a general mistrust of it, a sentiment common to almost all major schools of thought despite their fundamental philosophical differences, but it is most conspicuously and extensively reflected in Confucian texts” (115). Xu goes on providing sociopolitical historical context as well as implications for the Confucian position against eloquence: “their condemnations had the effect of silencing dissident views” (116). He also contends that this attitude has had long-lasting influence in Chinese culture, for example in perpetuating certain conceptions of hierarchy and seniority, and in silencing views contrary to the government endorsed doctrine: “In contemporary China, theoretically Marxism has supplanted Confucianism for more than half a century, but the Confucian tenet remains influential…” (125) Xu refers to the silencing effects of a rhetoric of “patriotism”, as it is defined by certain groups. He concludes, saying that “Confucian antipathy toward eloquence has deeply penetrated into the collective consciousness of the Chinese people…it has been so inextricably embedded in Chinese culture that a proper understanding of Chinese rhetoric would be all but impossible without taking it into full account” (125).

Tao Te Ching

Posted in Uncategorized by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Lau, D.C., trans. Tao Te Ching. New York: Penguin, 1964.

This seminal work in Ancient Chinese Philosophy (and rhetoric) has much relevance for the cultural development in all of the East Asian countries. Beautifully poetic in style, Lao Tzu builds a philosophy for “the way,” communication and living that emphasizes namelessness, silence, inaction, and reciprocity. However, these concepts are oftentimes misconstrued under the lens of “the West”.

Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.: A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Lu, Xing. Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.: A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric. Charleston: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Rhetoric in Ancient China takes a comparative approach to establishing ancient Chinese rhetoric, examining specifically five schools of thought: Mingjia, Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism, and Legalism, alongside historical and sociopolitical contextualization. Lu also identifies seven key Chinese terms pertaining to speech, language, and argumentation: “Indeed, the ancient Chinese appear to have their own well-developed sense of rhetoric, revealed morphologically throughout primary Chinese texts in the following frequently used terms: yan 言 (language, speech); ci 辭 (mode of speech, artistic expression); jian 諫 (advising, persuasion); shui 說 (persuasion)/ shuo 說 (explanation); ming 名(naming); and bian 辯(distinction, disputation, argumentation)” (3).

Lu also deals with the issue and problem of translation, rationalizing that “Translation is considered the core of hermeneutics, as it is only through translation…that the meanings of ancient texts can be deciphered, interpreted, and understood by readers across time and space” (10).