Ancient Chinese Culture Clashes

Aaron Arias

English 5001       

Kim DeVries

Spring 2009

Ancient Chinese Culture Clashes

Response # 2

                                The fact that American Rhetoric requires proof and a case does not mean that other forms of rhetoric are not acceptable.  So what, some cultures rely on flattery, imitation and tradition as the basis for their rhetorical devices.  Who are we to judge other cultures when we do not have any idea of where other systems have come from in a traditional sense.   Liu Yameng is a contemporary scholar of rhetoric who has written about the interaction and clashes between Western and Eastern rhetorical traditions.   American rhetoric looks at Ancient Chinese texts as unorganized, leading to the conclusion that China does not have a structured tradition of rhetoric, pointing to a culture clash that the Chinese are not logical.

                        This misunderstanding over Chinese processes leads to over generalizations about China, Chinese culture and Chinese rhetoric.  The work of Carolyn Matalene in the article written by Yameng Lu bears no credit just for the fact that Matalene’s claim that Chinese thought does not value the new and suffers from faulty logical skills is based on the essay of a student.  Lui understands the difficulty of coming to understand ideas in another culture. There are examples of Chinese traditionalists condemning the progress of the ensuing generation.  This is very similar to the invention of writing in the western philosophies in Ancient Greece.  They older citizens thought that writing would dull the senses of the younger because the system was based on memory.  Well…in Chinese tradition…much of the rhetorical beliefs are based on memory much like the west of old. 

            The fact that miscommunication is the focal point of discussions, and discussion leads to misunderstanding, and in turn, miscommunication moves the competing systems toward war, is a sad state of affairs.  In comparing the east to the west, one must take a huge step back and realize that the tradition of the east is to remember where you have been. If the history was bad, then avoid going there again.  While in the west, the way to move forward is to beg, borrow, and steal from every other culture that can offer something of value. In consideration of all of these differences it is a wonder that we ever open dialogues at all.  Necessity facilitates the need to effectively communicate cross culturally. As we speak the world is shrinking…See!



2 comments for “Ancient Chinese Culture Clashes

  1. March 8, 2009 at 9:18 am


    You seem much struck by the level of misunderstanding and you point out an instance in which Western scholars have overlooked similarities between the classical Chinese rhetorical tradition and our own–in attitudes toward change.

    At the same time, you argue we take very different approaches to achieve progress over time. Recall that the US does not represent the whole of the Western tradition–we might say something different about Europe, Canada, or Mexico.

    What might American scholars/teachers of rhetoric do to sort out the misunderstandings?

  2. Gbuckingham
    March 11, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Liu explains that it is unfair to lump all of Chinese rhetoric under one giant category because of shear size of the country. Within that large land mass resides a population of people that may share an ethnic identity, but there is also a vast array of various dialect and cultures coming from China. Liu uses the term multinational to describe this idea.

    I agree with this idea. From an American standpoint, it would just as unfair to make a claim based on a few pieces of writing from only region in the Untied States. Doing so would be unfair, biased and insulting. The main thing to keep in mind here is to appreciate how difficult it is to accurately find a piece of writing that could accurately and fairly describe a nation, a country, a group of people. Is this even possible?

    As for the American scholars/teachers of rhetoric, they can present this idea to other and as many people as possible. They can lead by example and not make such inaccurate claims. In order to maintain a better sense of fairness, scholars and teachers in general, not just American, can look at as many different pieces of writing as possible. These pieces of writing can and should come from as many sources as possible, from as many different regions as possible and then, moreover, evaluated by as many different people as possible. Only through a very meticulous, tedious process would it then be fair to present a piece of literature and call it an accurate representation of a particular group’s writing. Even then still, people should keep in mind that any particular conclusions presented would only represent a fraction of that populace and not be the representative of the entire country as a whole.

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