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

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).

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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).

Confucian Silence and Remonstration: A Basis for Deliberation?

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

Lyon, Arabella. “Confucian Silence and Remonstration: A Basis for Deliberation?” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks. Lipson, Carol and Roberta A. Binkley, eds. Albany: SUNY P, 2004.

To “place Confucius within a defined rhetorical tradition and to place Confucius in twenty-first century rhetoric,” Lyon examines remonstration and silence in Lunyu (The Analects) as they relate to deliberation and democracy (131-2). Lyon uses deliberative rhetoric “with its historical connections to democracy… [as] a lens for understanding Confucian rhetoric and its relationship to current democratic and civil rights movements in Asia” (131).  Lyon seems to focus on positive attributes of “Confucian silence,” (at least in contrast to George Xu) which she says, “is valued as…a positive tool, for building relationships; it works through emphasizing the worth of action, the character of the silent one, and the wisdom of not engaging what cannot be changed” (137). “Here, silence is not to be viewed as a “lack,” but it rather parallels action, which is positioned in contrast to glib speech. “Silence can indicate questions, promises, denial, warning, threats, insult, requests, command, deference, and intimacy” (137).  Furthermore, Confucian silence, in pedagogical contexts, “obliges students to find their own way” (138).

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).