Week 3 — Classical Chinese Rhetoric

Lu Xing

Associate Professor in the Department of Communications at DePaul University and the author of Rhetoric in Ancient China: Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.: A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric, Lu has also published many journal articles and book chapters on the subjects of Chinese rhetoric and Chinese communication studies.  She is one of the first to publish a book length study in English of Classical Chinese Rhetoric.

Liu Yameng

Liu Yameng is a contemporary scholar of rhetoric who has written extensively about the interaction and sometimes clashes between Western and Eastern rhetorical traditions, both in the realms of scholarly discourse and in public political debate.  Currently teaching at Fujan Normal University in China, he also taught for many years at Carnegie Mellon, and his article “To Capture the Essence of Chinese Rhetoric” is regarded as one of the germinal works on Chinese rhetoric as it has been perceived in the West.

Liu Xie

Living in 5th century China, Liu is the author of one of China’s greatest works of literary aesthetics, the Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons.  However, this work is now beginning to be recognized as an important work of rhetoric as well.  Unlike the Western tradition, Chinese rhetoric did not define itself in opposition to philosophy, logic, or poetics.  Instead, the all three practices were an integral part of communication.

2 comments for “Week 3 — Classical Chinese Rhetoric

  1. Gbuckingham
    March 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    According to what I have learned about Kaplan’s Doodles, people write in specific patterns in accordance to the regions where they were born and raised. People in born in English dominated (reading, writing and speaking) regions, America, England, etc., learn the specific patterns of RWS that are characteristically of that region. That is they actually a learn a thought process about writing (and thinking in general) that is part of that culture. According to Kaplan, these thinking patterns, which are directly reflected in the writing of that culture, vary from each other. The Chinese (People of “Eastern’ traditions) not only think differently than people of ‘Western’ Traditions, they also don’t organize and write in the same manner. English, for example, write in such a way that is very linear. The writing is direct and to the point. It literally moves from one point (call it A) to another point (call it B). In English writing, the writers are concerned about proving the main ideas of their paragraphs as truths or at least as valid points that deserve attention and recognition.
    Being as such, Kaplan has chosen a straight line, an arrow, as his doodle to represent English writing. Since Chinese (Eastern) writing, on the other hand, is somewhat vague and more metaphorical compared to writing that is traditionally Western, Kaplan’s choice to represent Chinese writing is a circular pattern, a swirl that starts on the outside and makes its way toward the center as it moves around. The idea represented by this doodle is that Eastern writing brings up many other points and examples that are loosely connected to the main idea of the writing. They are not as concerned about finding and proving truths as their friends in the West. Eastern writers are more concerned with traditions and mantras.
    I thought these concepts about cultural characteristics of writing were interesting to note when I read Yameng Liu’s essay, To Capture the Essence of Chinese Rhetoric: An Anatomy of a Paradigm in Comparative Rhetoric. The way the essay is written and organized reflects those same traits and characteristics that Kaplan is trying to demonstrate with his doodles. Liu starts with her article by comparing and contrasting English writing and rhetoric with Chinese writing and rhetoric. Liu then shows the readers that these ideas and concepts may not be fair to adhere and accept as truth since most of what is referred to when describing the Chinese writing and rhetoric is very limited. This limitation and others like it, even Kaplan and his doodles, therefore may not accurately reflect or define the Chinese, especially when considering that the country of China is a multinational with a wide range of dialects and traditions. From here, Liu then explains that there are centuries-old Chinese texts that list and explain writing strategies that are similar to what is found in Western tradition. Therefore, it is not fair and/or accurate to assume that the Chinese are only concerned about mantras and idioms, but it is safe to say that there is definitely an appreciation for them. By the end of the essay, like the hungry tiger stalking its prey, Liu has gone in a complete circle to metaphorically explain, define and even defend Chinese rhetoric, which may not be so different from English rhetoric after all.

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