诚 chéng Sincerity
Sincerity is among the coreconcepts of the Confucian school of thought. Basically, it means truthfulnesswithout deceit. Confucians believed that sincerity is the essence of the “way of heaven” or “principles of heaven,” a basis on which everything else is built. At the same time,sincerity is also the root and foundation of morality. All moral deeds must beconducted on the basis of sincerity from the bottom of the heart. Otherwise,they are nothing but pretensions. The Doctrine of the Mean maintains, “Nothing can be achieved without sincerity.”Sages are sincere by nature. Therefore, their words and deeds are naturallyconsistent with the “way of heaven” and the “principles of heaven.” Junzi (a man of virtue) upholds sincerity as his goal for moralattainment and an approach to achieving the “way ofheaven” and the “principles ofheaven.”
Sincerity is the way of nature;to be a sincere person is the way to achieve self-refinement. (The Book ofRites)
Sincerity means uttertruthfulness without any pretensions or deceit. It is the natural state of theprinciples of heaven. (Zhu Xi: Annotations on The Doctrine of the Mean)
道 dào Dao (Way)
In its original meaning, dao (道) is the wayor path taken by people. It has three extended meanings: 1) the general lawsfollowed by things in different spheres, e.g. the natural order by which thesun, moon and stars move is called the way of heaven; the rules that governhuman activities are the way of man; 2) the universal patterns followed by allthings and beings; and 3) the original source or ontological existence ofthings, which transcends form and constitutes the basis for the birth andexistence of all things, and for the activities of human beings. In their respectivediscussions of Dao, Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism imbue it with verydifferent connotations. While benevolence, righteousness, social norms, andmusic education form the basic content of the Confucian Dao, the Buddhist andDaoist Dao tends to emphasize kong (空 emptiness) and wu(无 void).
The way of heaven is far away;the way of man is near. (Zuo’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals)
What transcends form is calledDao. (The Book of Changes)
德 dé De
The term has two differentmeanings. One is an individual’s fine moral character, or his proper conduct insociety. At first de (德) was only related to anindividual’s behavior, referring to his external moralconduct. Later, it also referred to something that combined external behaviorwith internal emotions and moral consciousness. The other meaning of de refersto the special laws and features obtained from Dao, or the physicalmanifestation of the hidden and formless Dao, as well as the internal basis forthe origination and existence of all things.
Heaven gives birth to people,provides them with goods and materials, and subjects them to rules. People obeyuniversal rules and value virtues. (The Book of Songs)
Dao creates all things underheaven while de nurtures them. (Laozi)
理 lǐ Li
The original meaning of li (理) was thetexture of jade; later it was extended to contain three meanings: 1) thephysical forms or proprieties of things, such as length, size, shape, tensilestrength, weight, and color; 2) the universal laws followed by all things andbeings; and 3) the original source or ontological existence of things. The lasttwo meanings are similar to those of Dao. Scholars of the Song and Mingdynasties were particularly interested in describing and explaining thephilosophy known as li (理), and considered it as thehighest realm, giving rise to the School of Principle which dominated academicthought in the period from the Song to the Ming dynasties.
Nothing happens at random; eachfollows its own li (laws). (Wang Bi: A Brief Exposition of The Book of Changes)
Everything exists according toits objective law but all things must follow the common li (law). (Writings ofthe Cheng Brothers)
气 qì Qi (Vital Force)
Qi (vital force) has a materialexistence independent of subjective consciousness and is the basic element ofall physical beings. It is also the basis for the birth and existence of lifeand spirit. In addition, some thinkers have given a moral attribute to qi. Qiis in constant motion and change, and has no specific shape. Its concentrationgives birth to a thing and its evaporation signals the end of that thing. Qipermeates all physical beings and their surroundings. Qi, as a philosophicalconcept, is different from what is commonly understood by the word qi (气), namely,gas. Although things in liquid or solid form are different from things in gasform, from the perspective of the ancient Chinese philosophy, their formationand existence are the result of the concentration of qi.
It is qi that permeateseverything under heaven. (Zhuangzi)
The convergence of qi of heavenand that of earth gives life to all things. (Wang Chong: A Comparative Study ofDifferent Schools of Learning)
情 qíng Qing
The term has three differentmeanings. First, it means human emotions and desires, referring to the naturaland instinctive reaction to external circumstances, not a learned response.Second, it refers to specific human emotions and desires, commonly known as thesix human emotions: love, hatred, happiness, anger, sadness, and joy, or as theseven human emotions: happiness, anger, sadness, fear, love, hatred, anddesire. Third, it means the true state of affairs, or actual situation. Forcenturies, scholars have had different interpretations on the first two meanings.Some advocated that emotions should be restrained or controlled, while othersbelieved that emotions and desires were natural and should be properly guided.
What are human emotions? Theyare happiness, anger, sadness, fear, love, hatred, and desire that ariseinstinctively. (The Book of Rites)
If those in high positions actin good faith, the people will not dare to conceal the truths. (The Analects)
趣 qù Qu
Qu is the aspirations, emotions,and interests expressed in the work of awriter or artist. His pursuit of qu determines his unique perception andcomprehension of nature and life. It also determines what theme he chooses forhis work and how he gives expression to it. Qu is invisible but manifests its value and appeal through aestheticappreciation.
Ji Kang was good at explainingprofundities and writing. He had a high style and fine taste. A forthright andbroad-minded man, indeed! (The Jin History)
The only thing really hard tounderstand in the world is qu. Qu is like the hues of hills, the taste ofwater, the splendor of flowers, or the beauty of a woman. Even an eloquentperson can hardly find words to put it clearly. Only those with empathy know itwell… Qu that comes from nature is deep and mellow; if it comes from booklearning, it is often shallow. (Yuan Hongdao: Preface to Chen Zhengfu’s Inspirations of the Mind)
仁 rén Ren
The basic meaning of the term islove for others. Its extended meaning refers to the state of harmony amongpeople, and the unity of all things under heaven. Ren (仁) constitutesthe foundation and basis for moral behavior. It is also a consciousness thatcorresponds to the norms of moral behavior. Roughly put, ren has the followingthree implications: 1) compassion or conscience; 2) virtue of respect builtupon the relationship between fathers and sons and among brothers; and 3) theunity of all things under heaven. Confucianism holds ren as the highest moralprinciple. Ren is taken as love in the order of first showing filial piety toone’s parents and elder brothers, and then extendinglove and care to other members of the family, and eventually to everyone elseunder heaven.
Ren means to restrain one’s self andfollow social norms. (The Analects)
Ren is the principle of love andthe moral nature of human mind. (Zhu Xi: The Analects Variorum)
天 tiān Tian (Heaven)
Tian (天) is a sacredand fundamental concept in ancient Chinese philosophy. It has three differentmeanings. The first is the physical sky or the entirety of nature (notincluding human society), the operations of which manifest certain laws andorder. The second refers to a spiritual being, which possesses ananthropomorphic will and governs everything in the universe. The third denotesthe universal law, which is observed by all things and beings, and which isalso the basis of human nature, morality, and social and political orders.
Heaven acts according to itsinherent laws. It does not exist due to the virtue of Yao, nor will itdisappear because of the tyranny of Jie. (Xunzi)
Heaven trusts and blesses thepeople. (The Book of History)
Heaven is the overarching law ofthe universe. (Writings of the Cheng Brothers)
王 wáng King
King was originally the titlefor the “Son of Heaven,” namely, the country’s supreme ruler in the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties. From theSpring and Autumn Period onward, the power of the Zhou court gradually weakenedand the kingdom disintegrated. By the time of the Warring States Period, anymonarch could call himself a king. Up to the Qin and Han dynasties, king becamethe highest title granted by the emperor to a male member of the imperialfamily. In the political philosophical discourse of Confucianism, especially inthe works of Confucius and Mencius, a king represents heaven’s will and therefore ought to have supreme, unchallengeable power;at the same time, he is imbued with a high moral attribute and politicalideals. According to Confucianism, to be a king is to unify or govern thecountry with benevolence and righteousness, or to win over people by morallyjustified means. Likewise, the pursuit of the kingly way means using benevolentand righteous means to unify and govern the country.
He to whom the people swearallegiance can rule as a king (王); he perishes (亡) whenthe people desert him. (Xunzi)
物 wù Wu (Thing or Matter)
Wu (物) usuallydenotes an existence in the universe that has a form or an image. In general,the word has three different meanings. First, it refers to any concreteexistence, encompassing all natural and man-made objects, all organisms andhuman beings. Second, it covers interpersonal matters and activities such astaking care of one’s parents, entering politics, ormanaging state affairs. In this sense, wu means “matter.” Third, the word sums up all existing physical and social matters,generally called “everything.”
First, there is the universe.Then everything comes into being and fills up the universe. (The Book ofChanges)
Conscience must relate to “things,” which refer to various matters. If one’sconscience is applied to parents, then taking care of one’s parents is the “matter.” (Wang Yangming: Records of Great Learning)
心 xīn Heart/Mind
The heart, a vital organ oflife, underpins one’s emotions, awareness, and value judgments. Different from the ears,eyes, nose, and mouth, which sense the outer world in a passive way, the heartis capable of thinking and performing intellectual and moral evaluations on thebasis of analyzing and sorting out what these organs have sensed. Menciusbelieved that the heart consists of four aspects: compassion, deference, senseof shame or detestation, and conscience. Preserving and expanding one’s good heart is the central aim in practicing moral teachings. Accordingto Daoism, a serene and uncluttered heart is the highest state for a humanbeing, much like a peaceful pool of still water. Such calmness is the way inwhich the heart can capture the essence of all things in the world.
The sensory organs like ears andeyes cannot think. Therefore, they tend to be overwhelmed by the representationof external objects, and be led astray by those objects when coming intocontact with them. The heart, however, is an organ capable of thinking.Thinking yields insight, while lack of it will get one nowhere. (Mencius)
Heart is the dominant organ ofone’s body. (Classified Conversations of Master Zhu Xi)
性 xìng Xing (Nature)
Xing (性) mainlyreferred to human nature in ancient times. The concept of xing has twoessential points. First, it refers to the inherent nature of all things, not asa result of nurture. Second, it refers to the common nature of certain kind ofthings, not the nature of individual things of that kind. Similarly, humannature, too, has two meanings. First, it refers to inherent attributes allpeople share, including physical features, desires, and consciousness. Second,it is the essential and distinct attribute that distinguishes people from birdsand beasts, in other words, human’s moral nature.Scholars throughout history held varied views over the question whether humannature was good or evil. Some believed it was good. Some thought it was evil.Some held that it was neither good nor evil. Some held that human nature couldbe both good and evil in the same person. Some thought that human nature wasgood in some people, but evil in others.
To love food and good looks isbut human nature. (Mencius)
Human nature is in line with theprinciples of heaven. (Writings of the Cheng Brothers)
虚 xū Xu
Xu refers to a state of thecosmos or a state of mind. Basically, it has two different meanings. The firstrefers to the origin of the universe, indicating that everything originatesfrom xu. Different ancient thinkers have different interpretations of thisnotion: Some take xu as being devoid of anything; others believe it is thestate of existence of qi (气). Because qi is invisible and formless, it issaid to be empty, but not a vacuum totally devoid of anything. The secondmeaning of xu refers to a state of mind that is peaceful, not preoccupied orsimply free of any preconceptions.
Xu is formless; it is theoriginal state of qi. (Zhang Zai: Enlightenment Through Confucian Teachings)
Dao gathers and presents itselfin an unoccupied and peaceful mind; being unoccupied means the pure state ofthe mind. (Zhuangzi)
义 yì Righteousness
The basic meaning of yi (义) is “reasonable” and “proper.” It has two extended meanings. One is the proper basis and standardfor people’s actions. The other is to adjust one’s words or deeds to meet certain standards, under the guidance ofmoral judgments. Scholars in the Song Dynasty used li (理) or “principles of heaven” to interpret yi, and considered yi to be the reasonable standarddefined by the “principles of heaven,” and hoped that people’s words and deedswould fall in line with the “principles of heaven.”
Junzi (a man of virtue)understands things and acts in accordance with righteousness. (The Analects)
Righteousness means exercisingself-restraint in order to do everything properly. (Zhu Xi: Mencius Variorum)
本末běnmò Ben–Mo(the Fundamental and the Incidental)
The two characters literallymean the different parts of a plant, namely, its root and its foliage. Theextended meaning is an important concept in Chinese philosophical discourse.The term can be understood in three different ways. 1) ben (本) refers towhat is fundamental or essential, while mo (末) meanswhat is minor or incidental, two qualities that differ in value and importance.2) ben refers to the existence of the world in an ontological sense, while morepresents any specific thing or phenomenon. 3) in Daoist political philosophyben is a state in which rule is exercised by not disrupting the natural orderof the world, while mo refers to moral standards and fundamental principlesgoverning social behavior. In any ben-mo relationship, ben is most importantand plays a dominant role, while mo exists thanks to ben. On the other hand, itis through the vehicle of mo that ben exerts its influence. Thus the two,though different, are mutually dependent.
Zixia’s students canclean, receive guests, and engage in social interaction, but these are trivialthings. They have not learned the fundamentals. How can this be sufficient?(The Analects)
One should respect, notinterfere with, the natural order of the world, and apply this principle when establishing moral standards, socialnorms, and laws and regulations. (Wang Bi: Commentaries on Laozi)
般若bōrě Bore or Boruo / Wisdom
Bore or boruo is thetransliteration of the Sanskrit word praj?ā, meaning wisdom. It refers to the supreme wisdom with insight intothe nature and reality of all things. Buddhism believes that such wisdomsurpasses all secular understandings, and therefore is the guide for or essenceof the effort aimed at achieving enlightenment and attaining Buddhahood or bodhisattvahood.Bore has no form, no appearance, and cannot be expressed in words. It can onlybe achieved by undertaking a variety of accessible Buddhist practices.
Bore is the wisdom that surpassesall common or ordinary knowledge and specific understandings. (Sengzhao:Treatises of Sengzhao)
大同dàtóng Universal Harmony
This term refers to the time ofpeace and prosperity envisioned by Confucian scholars when all the people underheaven are one family, equal, friendly, and helpful to each other (as opposedto xiaokang [小康] – minor or moderate prosperity). Confucianism takesuniversal harmony as the supreme stage of the development of the human society,somewhat similar to the idea of utopia in the West. Its main features are: Allpower and wealth belong to the whole of society; all people are equal and liveand work in peace and contentment; everyone is cared for by society; everythingis used to its fullest and everyone works to his maximum potential. In the lateQing Dynasty and the early Republic of China, the term referred to the conceptsof socialism, communism, or cosmopolitanism that had been introduced to Chinafrom the West.
When great Dao prevails, thewhole world is owned by all the people. Those who are virtuous and competentare selected as administrators. People treat each other with sincerity and livein harmony. People not only love their parents, bring up their children, butalso take care of the aged. The middle-aged are able to put their talents andabilities to best use, children are well nurtured, and old widows and widowers,unmarried old people, orphans, childless old people, and the disabled are allprovided for… This is universal harmony. (The Book of Rites)
法治fǎzhì Rule by Law
Rule by law, as opposed to ruleby man, calls for ruling a state and its people by the ruler through enactingand strictly enforcing laws and regulations. It is an important politicalthought of the Legalist scholars in the pre-Qin period. Rule by law meted outwell-defined rewards and punishments, but tended to be excessively severe andrigid in enforcement. From the Han Dynasty all the way to the Qing Dynasty,rule by law and rule by man were exercised by various dynasties, mostly incombination. With the spread of Western thoughts to China in more recent times,rule by law acquired new meanings.
When our forefathers ruled thestate, they did not act unscrupulously in disregard of law, nor did they bestowpersonal favors within the framework of law. (Guanzi)
Therefore, rule by law is thesupreme way to rule a country. It has been exercised by numerous countries inthe world for several thousand years. Who conceived this idea and developed itinto a theory of governance? It was none other than our fellow countrymanGuanzi! (Liang Qichao: A Critical Biography of Guanzi)
封建fēngjiàn Feudal System
Under this system, ancientmonarchs granted titles of nobility, land, and people to their relatives andofficials of merit, allowing them to establish dukedoms. Each territory wassmaller than that under the direct control of the monarch, and had its own militaryand administrative systems. All dukedoms checked each other while protectingthe monarch together. As a political scheme, the feudal system is believed tohave started in the era of the legendary Yellow Emperor, and became establishedin the Western Zhou Dynasty. In more than 2000 years from the Qin Dynasty tothe Qing Dynasty, centralized government or imperial autocracy was dominant,rendering the feudal system supplementary.
Feudal system survived the erasof all ancient sages, namely Yao, Shun, Yu the Great, Tang of Shang, King Wenof Zhou, and King Wu of Zhou. (Liu Zongyuan: On Feudal System)
格调gédiào Form and Melody
The term refers to the form andmetrical patterns, as well as content, of poetry. It relates to artistic taste and appeal in poetry criticism. Ge (格) refers to the need to satisfyestablished metrical rules, while diao (调) refers tothe need to follow tone and rhyme schemes in poetry. Some poetry critics of theTang and Song dynasties stressed the importance of form and melody in order toestablish a set of elegant and authoritative standards for poetry. Theory onform and melody in the Ming and Qing dynasties often emphasized the importancefor poets to abide by Confucian orthodoxy, thus constraining their expressionof feelings and artistic creations. The term was later also used in discussionsof other forms of art.
To be elegant and unaffected isto satisfy the requirements of form; to be tuneful and resonant is to followthe rules of melody. (Li Mengyang: Arguments Against He Jingming’s Views)
Jiang Kui’s poems arecharacterized by ethereal purity. Though tinged with loneliness and sadness attimes, they are of high standard and taste. (Chen Tingzhuo: Remarks on Lyricsfrom White Rain Studio)
The forefathers of the Hanpeople living in the Central Plains referred to themselves by this term.Earlier on they called themselves Hua (华), Zhuhua (诸华),Xia (夏) or Zhuxia (诸夏). Theterm Huaxia (华夏) embodies the common identity of theway of life, language, and culture of the people living in the Central Plains,mainly the Han people, and the inheritance of such identity. The Huaxia peopleevolved into a fairly stable ethnic group in the Qin Dynasty, which establisheda unified country of many ethnic groups with Huaxia being the principal group.In the Han Dynasty, the term Han became an alternative name of Huaxia. Later,the term Huaxia was extended to refer to China or the Han people.
The Chinese character夏 (xia) meansbig and great. Since the ancient Huaxia people practiced grand and elaboraterituals, they called themselves Xia (great). Their dresses were resplendent, sothey were referred to as Hua (splendid). Therefore, both Hua and Xia refer tothe Han people. (Kong Yingda: Correct Meaning of Zuo’sCommentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals)
教化jiàohuà Shaping the Mind ThroughEducation
Shaping the mind througheducation was a key concept of the political philosophy and an essential way ofgovernance in ancient China. Rulers usually used a combination of means, bothvisible and invisible, to subtly spread their values among people so that thesevalues would be observed in people’s daily life, leading to integrationof governance and social mores. These means include issuing administrativedecrees, conducting moral education, creating a favorable environment,disseminating popular literature that promoted ethical values, and selectingofficials through imperial examinations.
Educating and influencing thepeople through li (礼) has the invisible impact of getting rid of immoral thoughts in thebud. (The Book of Rites)
九州jiǔzhōu Nine Zhou (Regions)
This term is an alternativedesignation for China. According to The Book of History, the country consistedof nine zhou (州), namely Jizhou, Yanzhou, Qingzhou, Xuzhou, Yangzhou, Jingzhou,Yuzhou, Liangzhou, and Yongzhou. There are similar references to the nine zhouin classic works of the same or later period, such as The Rituals of Zhou, ErYa, and Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals. The ninezhou were never adopted as actual administrative divisions of the country, butthey did show the general geographical area inhabited by the Chinese peoplesince the late Spring and Autumn Period.
The vitality of China depends onwind and thunder, unfortunately not a single horse’s neighing isheard. I urge the Lord of Heaven to once again lift his spirits and, breakingall bonds and fetters, send talent of all kinds to the human world. (GongZizhen: Miscellaneous Poems Written in the Year of 1839)
As I see it, the cause of China’s disasterslies not overseas but within the country. (Zhang Zhidong: Preface toEncouragement to Learning)
良史liángshǐ Good Historian/Good History
This refers to historians orhistory books that record historical facts in an objective and truthful waybased on evidences without covering up anything. Objectivity is the ultimatecriterion for judging historians or history books in historiography.
However, after reading a hugenumber of books, Liu Xiang and Yang Xiong came to view Sima Qian as a greathistorian… His accounts are straightforward and reasonable, accurate andsubstantive, and free from false praise; they do not cover up evil deeds. (TheHan History)
A good history is one which recordsboth good and evil that have happened. (Su E: Textual Studies by Su E)
良知liángzhī Liangzhi (Conscience)
Humans are born with innateconscience and the ability to know and act upon it. The term liangzhi (良知) was firstused by Mencius, who believed that what man knew by instinct was liangzhi(knowledge of goodness). The term includes ren (仁),i.e. love for one’s parents and yi (义), i.e. respect for one’s elder brothers.The concept is an important component of Mencius’belief in the innate goodness of human nature. The Ming-dynasty philosopherWang Shouren raised the idea of “attaining liangzhi.” He extended the Mencius’ liangzhi to meanthe principles of heaven, maintaining that all things under heaven and theirlaws were covered by liangzhi. With liangzhi being extended to its fullest(through self-cultivation and moral practice), it is possible to know and putin practice all moral truths.
What is known without thinkingis the innate knowledge of goodness. (Mencius)
Principles of heaven andconscience are the same in essence. (Records of Great Learning)
情景qíngjǐng Sentiment and Scenery
This term refers to the mutualdependence and integration of an author’s description of scenery and objects,and his expression of feelings in his literary creation. Qing (情) is an author’s inner feelings, and jing (景) refers to external scenery or an object. The theory of sentimentand scenery stresses integration of the two, maintaining that sentiment canhardly be aroused without scenery and that scenery or an object cannot beappreciated without sentiment. This term appeared in the Song Dynasty. Comparedwith earlier notions about sentiment and scenery, this one is more emphaticabout fusing the depiction of scenery with the expression of feelings, and theprocess of creation with that of appreciation.
Scenery has no place in poetryunless there are feelings for it; feelings cannot be stirred without theinspiration of scenery. (Fan Xiwen: Midnight Dialogues Across Two Beds)
Sentiment and scenery seem to betwo distinct things, but in fact they cannot be separated. A good poet knowshow to integrate them seamlessly. An ingenious combination of sentiment andscenery means scenery embedded in sentiment and vice versa. (Wang Fuzhi:Desultory Remarks on Poetry from Ginger Studio)
人治rénzhì Rule by Man
Rule by man, as opposed to ruleby law, is the most important ruling concept in the Confucian politicalphilosophy in ancient China. It calls for ruling a state and its people throughorderly human relations, moral standards, and other value systems. Rule by manemphasizes the fundamental role and importance of people in conductingpolitical affairs. It emphasizes that a ruler should have a lofty and noblecharacter, select competent officials with integrity to run the state, andeducate and influence the general public. In Chinese history, this concept ofgovernance was designed to achieve a harmonious relationship between thesovereign, his officials, and his subjects, which meant “benevolentgovernance.”
Rule by man aims to regulatehuman relations. (Zheng Xuan: Annotations on The Book of Rites)
日新rìxīn Constant Renewal
This term refers to an ongoingprocess of self-renewal, which also brings new life to the people, society, andthe nation. This process features continuous progress and improvement. Itrepresents a tenacious and innovative spirit that permeates all levels of “self-cultivation,family regulation, state governance, bringing peace to all under heaven.”
“If we can improve ourselves in oneday, we should do so every day, and keep building on improvement,” reads the inscription on the bathtub of Tang, founder of the ShangDynasty. “People should be encouraged to discard theold and embrace the new, give up evil ideas, and live up to high moralstandards,” says The Book of History. “Though it was an ancient state, Zhou saw its future lying incontinuously renewing itself,” comments The Book ofSongs. Therefore, junzi (men of virtue) should strive to excel themselves inall aspects and at all times. (The Book of Rites)
镕裁róngcái Refining and Deleting
This term refers to improving aliterary work by refining its basic content and making the presentationconcise. Refining and deleting is a basic process in literary writing. The termwas first mentioned in The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons. It means thatin producing a literary work, the author should select the right elements fromall the material he has, delete unnecessary parts and keep the essence, andwrite in a concise way to best present what he has in mind and to best suit thestyles of writing. It shows that literary creation is a process of constantlystriving for perfection in terms of both content and form. This idea had agreat impact on the theory of theatrical writing in the Ming and Qingdynasties.
Refining means to shape thebasic content and structure of a literary work, while deleting means to cut offredundant words or sentences. Once done, the essay will be well structured,with a clear-cut theme. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
神思shénsī Imaginative Contemplation
The term refers to a state ofmind in the process of literary and artistic creation. It suggests that theauthor, fully inspired by emotions, transcends the constraint of time andspace, and enters into a state of free imagination or a special mood forliterary and artistic creation, before producing a natural and beautiful workof literature or art, either in language or in imagery. This term was popularlyused in literary and artistic theories of the Wei, Jin, and Southern andNorthern dynasties. Liu Xie of the Southern Dynasties devoted one chapterespecially to this term in The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons. Withemphasis on the unique mental activity in literary and artistic creation,imaginative contemplation is different from other cognitive activities.
An ancient saying goes, “Though helives among the common folks, deep in his heart he concerns himself withaffairs of the imperial court.” This is calledimaginative contemplation. When one writes, his imaginations and thoughts maytranscend time and space. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving ofDragons)
The guiding principles forliterary creation come from imaginative contemplation. Man’s feelings andthoughts about the external world are formless and highly changeable. (XiaoZixian: The Book of Southern Qi)
太极tàijí Taiji (The Supreme Ultimate)
Taiji (the supreme ultimate) hasthree different meanings. First, it refers to the origin of the world. Theancient Chinese saw it either as qi (vital force) or yuanqi (primordial vitalforce) that permeates the chaotic world, or as a universal principle, i.e. Daoor li (理), or as wu (无). Second, it is used as aterm of divination, referring to the initial state before divinatory numbers,the odd number one (written as –) and the even numbertwo (written as –?–), are applied or before theyarrow stems are divided. Divination is conducted on the basis of taiji. Third,it stands for the highest point or boundary of space.
Changes evolve from taiji, whichgives rise to two primal forces of yin and yang. They in turn give birth toheaven and earth. (An Alternative Explanation of The Book of Changes)
Taiji is the overriding law ofall things, as well as heaven and earth. (Classified Conversations of MasterZhu Xi)
体性tǐxìng Style and Temperament
This is an important term aboutliterary style that stresses the unity and integration of the styles ofwritings with the temperaments of their authors. The term originated from LiuXie’s The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons. One chapter of thebook discusses how the styles of writings are related to the temperaments ofthe writers, and argues that the writings truly reflect the temperaments oftheir authors. This has encouraged later generations to analyze differentstyles of literary works based on the authors’temperaments and became a basic line of thought on ancient Chinese literarystyle.
When emotions stir, they takethe form of language. When ideas emerge, they are expressed in writings. Thus theobscure becomes manifest and the internal feelings pour into the open. However,talent may be mediocre or outstanding, temperament masculine or feminine,learning deep or shallow, upbringing refined or vulgar. All this results fromdifferences in nature and nurture. Hence the unusual cloud-like variations inthe realm of writing and the mysterious wave-like undulations in the garden ofliterature. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
体用tǐyòng Ti and Yong (Substance andUtility)
Ti and yong (substance andutility) can be understood in three different ways: 1) a physical thing and itsfunctions or roles; 2) the ontological existence of a thing and its expressionand application; and 3) the fundamental code of conduct, and its observance. Inany ti–yong relationship, ti (体) provides the basis on whichyong (用) depends.
Tian means heaven in thephysical sense, while qian (乾) means its functions and significance. (KongYingda: Correct Meaning of The Book of Changes)
What is most subtle is li (理), while whatis most conspicuous is xiang (象). Li as the ontologicalexistence and xiang as its manifestation are of the same origin; there is nodifference between them. (Cheng Yi: Cheng Yi’sCommentary on The Book of Changes)
天下tiānxià Tianxia (All Under Heaven)
This term referred mainly to allthe land under the name of the Son of Heaven and the right to rule on suchland. Ancient Chinese held that the rule of senior officials was over theirenfeoffed land, and that of dukes and princes was over feudal states. The ruleof the Son of Heaven was over all the land. Literally, tianxia (天下) means “all under heaven.” It actually refers to allthe territory embracing the enfeoffed land and feudal states under the rule orin the name of the Son of Heaven, as well as all the subjects and the right torule. The term has later evolved to refer to the whole world.
All land under heaven fallswithin the domain of the Son of Heaven; all those on this land are hissubjects. (The Book of Songs)
王道wángdào Kingly Way (Benevolent Governance)
Confucianism advocates thepolitical principle of governing the country through benevolence and winningpeople’s support through virtue as opposed to badao (霸道) – the despotic way. Enlightened kings and emperors ofancient times governed the country primarily through benevolence and virtue. Inthe Warring States Period, Mencius advocated this idea as a political concept:Only by governing the state with benevolence and righteousness, and by handlingstate-to-state relations on the basis of virtue, can a ruler win popularsupport and subsequently unify the country. The kingly way or benevolentgovernance epitomizes the Chinese people’s respect for “civilization” and their opposition to theuse of force and tyranny.
By upholding justice without anypartiality or bias, the kingly way is inclusive and boundless. (The Book ofHistory)
文明wénmíng Wenming (Civilization)
This term refers to a thriving,prosperous, and perceptibly refined society in which people behave in acultured fashion. Wen (文) refers to the arts and humanities, including social norms, musiceducation, moral cultivation, and a social order that is hierarchical yetharmonious. Ming (明) means bright, prosperous, andhighly civilized. The Chinese nation has always preferred wen to wu (武 force). This is the loftiest ideal pursued by the Chinese nationsince ancient times. It was also the criterion by which to judge whether thegovernance of a nation was well conducted.
In a civilized society weaponsare destroyed and war ceases. (Jiao Gong: Annotations on The Book of Changes)
Wenqi is the personality an author demonstrates inhis works, and is a fusion of his innate temperament and the vitality seen inhis works. Originally, qi (气) referred to the basic element in the initialbirth and formation of all things, as well as heaven and earth. In literarycriticism, it refers to an author’s distinctiveindividuality and its manifestation in his writings. Humans are believed todevelop different characters and traits endowed by the qi of heaven and earth.Reflected in literary creation, such different characters and traits naturallyfind expression in distinctive styles and varying degrees of vigor as well asrhythm and cadence.
Literary writing is governed byqi. Either clear or murky, qi determines the temperament of a writer, refinedor vulgar, and his talent, high or low. Qi cannot be acquired. (Cao Pi: OnLiterary Classics)
If a writer has a strong innerflow of qi, the length of his sentences will be well-balanced, and his choiceof tone and cadence will just be right. (Han Yu: A Letter of Response to Li Yi)
Wuwei (non-action) refers to astate of action. Daoism contrasts “action” to “non-action.” “Action” generally means that the rulers impose their will on others or theworld without showing any respect for or following the intrinsic nature ofthings. “Non-action” is theopposite of “action,” and hasthree main points: 1) through self-control containing the desire to interfere;2) following the nature of all things and the people; and 3) bringing into playthe initiative of all things and people. “Non-action” does not mean not doing anything, but is a wiser way of doingthings. Non-action leads to the result of getting everything done.
Sages deal with things throughnon-action and teach ordinary people through non-speech. (Laozi)
Dao always makes all thingspossible through non-interference with them. (Laozi)
There are three meanings to theterm. 1) The five fundamental things or elements that make up all things. TheBook of History was the first to define the five elements: metal, wood, water,fire, and earth. Each of these has its own properties and they interact in agenerative or destructive relationship. 2) On a more abstract level, the termrefers to the basic framework to understand the world. All things can beincluded in the realm of wuxing (五行) and their properties are explainedor understood accordingly. 3) It refers to five kinds of moral behavior. Xunzionce criticized Zisi and Mencius for “creating wuxingon the basis of old theories.” Ancient bamboo slipsunearthed from a grave at Guodian dating back to the State of Chu as well asinscribed silk texts from the Mawangdui Tomb of the Western Han Dynasty, alldescribe this wuxing as benevolence, righteousness, li (礼), wisdom, and the wisdom and character of a sage.
In heaven there are the sun,moon, and stars, while on earth there are the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. (Zuo’s Commentaryon The Spring and Autumn Annals)
兴象xīngxiàng Xingxiang (Inspiring Imagery)
Inspiring imagery is an artisticachievement of profound literary significance and with great aesthetic taste,obtained through the perfect blending of an author’s feelingswith an objective situation or scenery. Xing (兴) is animpromptu inspiration of the author, and xiang (象) amaterial object he borrows from the external world in his writing. Tang-dynastypoetry critic Yin Fan first used the term “inspiringimagery” in his “Preface to A Collection of Poemsby Distinguished Poets” in commenting on the works ofpoets in the golden period of the Tang Dynasty. It later became a standard forassessing the merit of a poetic work.
These poets’ works featureboth inspiring imagery, as well as fenggu (class and integrity). (Yin Fan:Preface to A Collection of Poems by Distinguished Poets)
Poetry has two basic aspects:one includes form, rhythm, and rhyme; the other includes imagery and charm. (HuYinglin: An In-Depth Exploration of Poetry)
玄览xuánlǎn Xuanlan ( Peaceful Contemplation)
This term was first used byLaozi as a way to understand Dao. He believed that one can not understand Daoby calmly observing everything unless one abandons all distracting thoughts andbiases, and keeps one’s mind as clear as a mirror. Later literary critics believed thatthe state of mind as required for xuanlan has similarities with the state ofmind required for literary writing and appreciation, thus they made it animportant term to mean one’s state of mind must transcend all desires andpersonal gains in literary writing and appreciation.
Is it for sure that there willbe no flaws when one cleanses away all distracting thoughts and watches theworld with a clear, peaceful mind? (Laozi)
Standing between heaven andearth and watching the world with a clear, peaceful mind, the writer enrichesand improves himself through reading great works of the past. (Lu Ji: The Artof Writing)
雅俗yǎsú Highbrow and Lowbrow
Highbrow and lowbrow, adichotomy in literary criticism, refer to two kinds of literary and artisticworks, namely, the refined versus the popular, and the lofty versus the vulgar.Highbrow describes works that elegantand reflect what conforms with mainstream ideology, whereas lowbrow-art formstend to meet popular aesthetic standard. From the perspective of art creation,highbrow art may be exquisite, but often appears affected, whereas lowbrow art,which has a folk origin, is natural, refreshing, unaffected, and unconstrained.From the Tang Dynasty onward, it became a trend for men of letters to borrowthe best from popular art, thus further spurring the growth of lowbrow art,enriching cultural life and leading to more diversified artistic expressions.
Confucius said, “I detestreplacing red with purple and interfering refined classical music with themusic of the State of Zheng. I loathe those who overthrow the state with their glibtongues.” (The Analects)
养气yǎngqì Cultivating Qi
This term suggests cultivatingone’s moral spirit and improving one’s physicaland mental well-being to achieve the best state of mind during literarycreation in order to write excellent works. “Cultivatingqi (气)” has three implications:1) in the pre-Qin period Mencius emphasized that the virtuous and the capableshould foster a “righteous qi”conducive to moral cultivation; 2) A Comparative Study of Different Schools ofLearning by Wang Chong of the Eastern Han Dynasty has a chapter entitled “Treatise on Cultivating Qi,” whichemphasizes qi cultivation primarily in regards to maintaining good health; 3)Liu Xie of the Southern Dynasties, in The Literary Mind and the Carving ofDragons, drew upon the foregoing ideas and suggested maintaining good physicalcondition and a free, composed mental state in the initial phase of literarycreation, while opposing excessive mental exertion. “Cultivatingqi” subsequently became an important term in thelexicon of literary psychology.
I am capable of differentiatingbetween the thoughts and sentiments people convey in their words because I knowhow to cultivate my qi, and keep it strong. (Mencius)
Hence, when engaging in writingone must learn how to constrain and regulate oneself, keep one’s mind pureand peaceful, and modulate one’s mental vitality andactivities. One should stop writing when upset so as not to disrupt one’s train of thinking. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving ofDragons)
Imagery refers to a typicalimage in literary works, which embodies the author’s subjectivefeelings and unique artistic conceptions. Yi (意)literally means an author’s feelings and thoughts, andxiang (象) refers to the image of a material object inthe external world, an artistic image reflecting the author’s thoughts and feelings. In literary creation, imagery often refersto those images in nature with which an author’sfeelings and thoughts are associated. Emphasizing the harmonious relationshipbetween beauty in both form and content, it is a mature state of literarycreation.
An author explores the imageryin his mind, conceives a work, and writes it down. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mindand the Carving of Dragons)
What a wonderful state of natureit is when the imagery of a poem is about to emerge! (Sikong Tu: Twenty-FourStyles of Poetry)
阴阳yīnyáng Yin and Yang
The primary meaning of yin andyang is the orientation of things in relation to the sun, with yang meaning thesunny side and yin the shady side. There are two extended meanings: 1) two opposite kinds of qi (气) in nature; and 2) two basic contrary forces or qualities that coexist,thus the active, hot, upward, outward, bright, forward, and strong are yang,while the passive, cold, downward, inward, dark, backward, and weak are yin.The interaction between yin and yang, or yin qi and yang qi, determines the formation and existence of all things. The theory of yin and yang later became the basis for ancient Chinese to explain and understand the universe and everything in it, social order, and human relations. For example, heaven isyang and earth is yin, ruler is yang and subordinates are yin, husband is yangand wife is yin, noble is yang and ignoble is yin, leading is yang andfollowing is yin.
All things stand, facing yang and against yin. The interaction between yin and yang creates a state of harmony. (Laozi)
Yin and yang cannot work without each other. (Dong Zhongshu: Notes to The Spring and Autumn Annals)
有无yǒuwú You (Being) and Wu (Non-being)
The term has three definitions.First, it describes two different dimensions of things: one is real and theother unreal. Second, it refers to two different stages or states of a thing during its generation, existence, and demise. You (being) refers to the stateof a thing after it has come into being and before it dies out; wu (non-being)refers to the state of a thing before its birth and after its death. Third, yourefers to any tangible or identifiable thing or the sum total of such things;wu refers to the original source or ontological existence, which is intangibleand unidentifiable, and transcends all specific objects. With regard to the third definition, some philosophers consider wu to be the original source orontological existence of the world, and you comes from wu; others believe thatyou is fundamentally significant, and dispute the notion that you owes its existence to wu. Despite their differences, you and wu are mutually dependent.
Therefore, the being part of anobject provides ease and convenience, whereas the non-being part performs thefunctions of that object. (Laozi)
The formation and existence ofyou originate from wu. (Wang Bi: Annotations on Laozi)
缘起yuánqǐ Dependent Origination
The term is a translation of theSanskrit word pratītyasamutpāda. Yuan (缘) means conditions; qi (起) meansorigination. That is to say, all things, phenomena, and social activities ariseout of the combinations of causes and conditions. They exist in the continuousrelationship between causes and conditions. Thus all things originate, change,and demise depending upon certain conditions. Dependent origination is thefountainhead of Buddhist thought and forms the common theoretical basis for allBuddhist schools and sects. Buddhism uses this concept to explain everything inthe universe, the constant changes of social and spiritual phenomena, and theinternal laws of origination, change, and demise.
All things originate out of thecombinations of causes and conditions, thus they cannot be regarded as originalexistence; at the same time, they arise, change, and demise upon certainconditions, so they cannot be said as non-existence. (Sengzhao: Treatises ofSengzhao)
知音zhīyīn Resonance and Empathy
The term is about appreciatingand understanding the ideas in literary and artistic works and the thoughts oftheir authors. The original meaning was feeling a sense of resonance withmusic. It was later extended by literary critics in the Wei, Jin, and Southernand Northern dynasties to mean resonance or empathy between writers/artists andtheir readers/viewers. As a core concept in literary criticism, it touches uponboth general and particular issues in artistic creation and appreciation,involves rich intellectual implications, and meshes with the audience’s response inWestern criticism, receptive aesthetics, and hermeneutics.
Talking about melody withsomeone who has no ear for natural sounds would be a waste of time, and sowould discussing music with someone who knows nothing about melody. One whoknows music is close to understanding social norms. (The Book of Rites)
直寻zhíxún Direct Quest
A poet should directly expresshis thoughts and sentiments when he is inspired. This is a concept for writingpoems proposed by poetry critic Zhong Rong of the Southern Dynasties in hiswork “The Critique of Poetry” as a reaction to theexcessive use of allusions and quotes from earlier works. Inspired bynaturalist ideas of Daoism and by his own reading of the fine works of earlierpoets, he developed a new form of poetic creation which he named “direct quest.” By this, he meant directlydescribing matters that one senses and learns about, directly expressing one’s inner feelings, and creating aesthetic images in which thesensibilities match up with current realities. The theory of naturaldisposition and intelligence used in Ming- and Qing-dynasty poetics wasinfluenced by this idea.
A comprehensive survey of thebest-known works of ancient and current poets shows that most of the poets didnot borrow favored lines or literary allusions from their predecessors, butdirectly sought inspirations from their personal experiences. (Zhong Rong:Preface to “The Critique of Poetry”)
Since I want to use my own wordsto express my feelings, how can I let myself be bound by the content and formsof ancient writings? (Huang Zunxian: Five Poems on Random Thoughts)
中国zhōngguó Zhongguo (China)
This term refers to the areasalong the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River where ancient Huaxia (华夏) people orthe Han people lived. Originally, the term Zhongguo (中国)meant both this region and its culture. The Huaxia people established theirstates along the Yellow River. Believing the areas were located in the centerof the world, they called it Zhongguo (the Central Country, as against otherareas around it). Later, the term was used to refer to the Central Plains inNorth China and the states founded in that area. Since the late Qing Dynasty,Zhongguo has been used to refer specifically to all the territory of China andits sovereignty. Currently, Zhongguo is used as the abbreviated form of thePeople’s Republic of China.
Give benefit to the people inthe capital, and reassure and pacify all the feudal dukes and princes in thecountry. (The Book of Songs)
If the areas of Wu and Yue(under the control of Sun Quan) could stand up to confront the central region(under the control of Cao Cao), the former should better cut ties with thelatter. (History of the Three Kingdoms)
This term is an abbreviation ofthe compound word formed by Zhongguo (中国) and Huaxia (华夏). Here, hua (华) also means “flower” or “flowery,” which was used as an analogy for a splendid culture. The ancestorsof the Huaxia people established their state in the middle and lower reaches ofthe Yellow River, which they thought was the center (zhong) of the world andwhich had a flourishing culture (hua), so the state was called Zhonghua. Thismulti-ethnic state, with the Huaxia people as the predominant group of itspopulation, later began its territorial expansions, and the places where itextended to became part of Zhonghua. In modern times, Zhonghua became a termdenoting China, the Chinese people, and its culture.
Zhonghua refers to China. Underthe wise rule of the sage king, all his subjects belong to China. They aredressed in a dignified manner, practice filial piety, love and respect theelderly, and follow moral norms in personal and social conduct. This is thecountry called Zhonghua. (Commentary and Explanation on Well-Known Law Cases ofthe Tang Dynasty)
中庸zhōngyōng Zhongyong (Golden Mean)
Zhongyong (golden mean) wasconsidered to be the highest level of virtue by Confucius and Confucianscholars. Zhong (中) means moderate in one’s words and deeds.Everything has its limits, and neither exceeding nor falling short of thelimits is desirable. Yong (庸) has two meanings. One iscommon or ordinary and the other is unchanging. Moderation can be maintained forover a long time only when one practices it in everyday life. Zhongyong meansthe standard of moderation that one should follow in dealing with others and inone’s everyday conduct.
Zhongyong is the highest ofvirtues. (The Analects)
Zhongyong does not bend one wayor the other; it is the common principle of neither exceeding nor falling shortof the line. (Zhu Xi: Commentary on The Doctrine of the Mean)
滋味zīwèi Nuanced Flavor
This term refers to an effectthat allows lasting satisfaction and rewarding in poetry appreciation, which isa particular sense of beauty offered by poetry. In the Southern Dynasties,poetry critic Zhong Rong proposed in “The Critique of Poetry” that in writing five-character-per-line poems, one should payspecial attention to the combination of form and content, so that readers couldenjoy a poem with inexhaustible delight. Later, nuanced flavor also came torefer to a kind of taste in literary and artistic creation.
Five-character-per-line poemsconstitute the most important poetic form and are most richly imbued withnuanced flavors. (Zhong Rong: Preface to “The Critique of Poetry”)
The term refers to theprimordial state of things, unaffected by the various meanings imposed on it byman. The concept of naturalness in philosophy is different from that of naturein the ordinary sense. In daily language, the term refers to the physicalworld, which is independent of human interference, as opposed to human society.In philosophy, there is also a natural state of man and society. In politicalphilosophy, “naturalness” specifically applies to thenatural state enjoyed by ordinary people free from the intervention ofgovernment supervision and moral edification. Daoism holds that in governance amonarch should conform to the natural state of the people.
Dao takes naturalness as itslaw. (Laozi)
Heaven and earth alloweverything to follow their natural course without imposing any interference sothat all things interact and govern themselves. (Wang Bi: Annotations on Laozi)
宗法zōngfǎ Feudal Clan System
This system was central to lifein ancient China; it was a system of principles and measures by which a clan, astate, or society was run, based on bloodline or whether a son was born fromthe wife or a concubine. The feudal clan system evolved from the patriarchalchiefs system. Taking shape during the Western Zhou Dynasty, this system andthe feudal system were mutually dependent and complementary. The feudal clansystem had two levels: one was the familial level, where the eldest son by thewife was the first in line to inherit the family’s property and thus enjoyed thegreatest authority. Other members of the clan were allotted their status andauthority according to their closeness of kinship, ancestry, or seniority. Inthe families of the emperor, kings, and other nobility, this pattern wasextended to the state or national level. It had a decisive impact on theinheritance of the imperial throne and on state politics. The feudal clansystem greatly influenced the Chinese way of life and thinking for severalthousand years.
The feudal clan system is astate’s bedrock for fostering and educating its people. (Feng Guifen: MyArgument for Restoring the Feudal Clan System)
风雅颂fēngyǎsòng Ballad, Court Hymn, and Eulogy
In The Book of Songs, thecontent is divided into three categories according to style and tune: feng(ballads), ya (court hymns), and song (eulogies). Ballads are music fromdifferent regions, mostly folk songs. Court hymns, divided into daya (majorhymns) and xiaoya (minor hymns), are songs sung at court banquets or grandceremonies. They are mostly the works by lettered noblemen. Eulogies are ritualor sacrificial dance music and songs, most of which praise the achievements ofancestors. Court hymns and eulogies are highbrow songs while ballads arelowbrow ones. Therefore, ballads, court hymns, and eulogies not only refer tothe styles of The Book of Songs but also classify the songs into highbrow andlowbrow categories. Later on fengya (风雅) generally referred to anythingelegant.
Therefore The Book of Songs hassix basic elements: ballads, narratives, analogies, association, court hymns,and eulogies. (Preface to The Book of Songs)
赋比兴fùbǐxīng Narrative, Analogy, andAssociation
These are the three ways ofexpression employed in The Book of Songs: a narrative is a direct reference toan object or an event, an analogy metaphorically likens one thing to another,and an association is an impromptu expression of a feeling, a mood or athought, or using an objective thing as metaphor for sensibilities. Confucianscholars of the Han Dynasty summarized and formulated this concept ofnarrative, analogy, and association, which later became the basic principle andmethod in classical Chinese literary creation.
In The Book of Songs, narrative,analogy, and association are three techniques in its creation, whereas ballads,court hymns, and eulogies represent three established styles of the poems.(Kong Yingda: Correct Meaning of “Preface to The Book of Songs”)
A narrative is a directdescription of an object, an event or a relationship. An analogy metaphoricallylikens one thing to another. An association employs a metaphor as a lead-in forthe real subject of a poem. (Zhu Xi: Studies on The Book of Songs)
发愤著书fāfèn-zhùshū Indignation Spurs One to WriteGreat Works.
This term means sufferinginjustice in life can spur one to create great works. It originated from the “Preface by theGrand Historian to Records of the Historian.” AfterSima Qian, an official in the Western Han Dynasty, suffered the unjustpunishment of castration, his indignation spurred him to write the great work,Records of the Historian. In the book he gave expression to his thoughts,feelings, and aspirations, which made the book a classic for later generations.The expression “indignation spurs one to write greatworks” was used to explain one of the motivations andreasons for creating masterpieces. It points to the fact that injusticesuffered by an author often turns out to be the source of inspiration for himto write a literary masterpiece. It later led to similar terms like “Where there is injustice there will be an expression of indignation” and “Frustration inspires poets to writefine poems.”
I am saddened that my frankremonstration with the king has brought false accusations on me and left me inexile. In anguish and indignation, I am writing these poems to express mystrong feelings. (Qu Yuan: Collection of Nine Pieces)
Most of the 300 poems in TheBook of Songs were written by sages who were in anguish and indignation. Theywere depressed over what had prevented them from fulfilling their aspirations,so they composed poems about what had happened in the hope that futuregenerations would understand them. (Sima Qian: A Letter of Reply to Ren An)
怀远以德huái yuǎn yǐ dé Embrace Distant States by Meansof Virtue
This expression refers topursuing conciliatory and benevolent policies and offering benefits to tribesand groups in remote areas. It was a political concept adopted by successivegovernments led mostly by the Han people in their relations with other ethnicgroups, tribes in remote areas not yet directly under their rule, and foreignstates. It also represented an important component of the theory of winningover others by virtue. China was, as it is today, a multi-ethnic country. TheHan-led government ruled over a large territory and believed that they had anadvanced culture. They usually took a conciliatory approach based on theConfucian concept of benevolence in dealing with the tribes and populations inremote regions, rather than conquering them by force, with the goal ofplacating them and winning their allegiance.
Guan Zhong said to the Marquisof Qi, “I have heard it said: Win over the disaffected with respect andembrace distant states with virtue. With virtue and respect unchanging, thereis no one that will not be embraced.” (Zuo’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals)
利用厚生lìyòng-hòushēng Make Full Use of Resources toEnrich the People
The ancient Chinese believedthat good governance allowed people to lead a life of plenty. The ruler shouldbe frugal, not extravagant or wasteful. He should make good use of the country’s materialresources, reduce the corvée and tax burdens on thepeople so that they could live peaceful, prosperous, and happy lives. Thisbelief was one of the sources of advocation for the people’s livelihood and socialist thinking in modern China.
A ruler should manifest hisvirtue in good governance, and the goal of governance is to bring a good lifeto the people… The ruler should act in an upright and virtuous manner, and ensurethat the country’s resources are put to good use andthat the people live a prosperous life. These three goals complement oneanother. (The Book of History)
民惟邦本mín wéi bāng běn People Being the Foundation ofthe State
This term means that the peopleare the essence of the state or the foundation upon which it stands. Only whenpeople live and work in peace and contentment can the state be peaceful andstable. This saying, which first appeared in a pseudo-version of The ClassicalBook of History as an instruction by Yu the Great, can be traced to Mencius’ statement: “The essence of a state is the people, next come the god of land andthe god of grain (which stand for state power), and the last the ruler,” and Xunzi’s statement, “Just as water can float a boat, so can water overturn it.” This idea gave rise to the “people first” thought advocated by Confucianism.
Our ancestor Yu the Greatwarned: (a ruler) must maintain a close relationship with the people; he mustnot regard them as insignificant. They are the foundation of a state, and astate can enjoy peace only when its foundation is firm. (The Book of History)
人文化成rénwén-huàchéng Ren Wen Hua Cheng
The term is used to describeefforts to teach people essential ideals and principles of ren wen (人文) and guidethem to embrace goodness with the aim of building a harmonious –albeit hierarchical – social order, according to the level of development ofa civilization and the specifics of the society. Ren wen refers to poetry,books, social norms, music, law, and other non-material components ofcivilization. Hua (化) means to edify the populace; cheng (成)refers to the establishment or prosperity of rule by civil means (as opposed toforce). The concept emphasizes rule by civil means, and is another expressionof the Chinese concept of “civilization.”
Observing the movements of thesun, moon, and stars helps us learn about the change of seasons; studying thedevelopment of poetry, books, social norms, and music enables us to edify thepopulace so that the rule by civil means can prosper. (The Book of Changes)
顺天应人shùntiān-yìngrén Follow the Mandate of Heaven andComply with the Wishes of the People
The ancient Chinese believedthat virtuous men followed the will of heaven in establishing a politicalregime and becoming its sovereigns; hence their success came from the mandateof heaven. This thought is similar to the Western notion of the divine right ofkings; but it also emphasizes the wishes and will of the people, orpeople-centered thinking. In ancient China, this phrase was often used inpraise of the founding of a new dynasty, and the implementation of major socialreforms to justify its legitimacy.
Changes of yin and yang inheaven and earth give rise to the four seasons. Following the mandate of heavenand complying with the wishes of the people, King Tang and King Wu overthrewold regimes and established the Shang and Zhou dynasties respectively. (TheBook of Changes)
为政以德wéi zhèng yǐ dé Governance Based on Virtue
Governance of a state should beguided by virtue. Confucius expounded this philosophy –which his followers in later eras promoted – on the basis of theapproach advocated by the rulers in the Western Zhou Dynasty that prized highmoral values and the virtue of being cautious in meting out punishment.Governance based on virtue stands in contrast to rule by use of harshpunishment as a deterrent. It does not, however, exclude the use of punishment,but rather highlights the decisive role of virtue in governance, and regardsmoral edification both as the fundamental principle and the essential means forachieving good governance.
Governance based on virtue islike the North Star taking its place in the sky, while all the other starsrevolve around it. (The Analects)
文以载道wén yǐ zài dào Literature Is the Vehicle ofIdeas.
This term is a Confucianstatement about the relationship between literature and ideas. Wen (文) refers toliterary creations and works, while dao (道) refers tothe ideas conveyed by literary works. Writers and philosophers in ancient Chinaexplicated these ideas as Confucian thought and ethics. Han Yu (leader of themid-Tang-dynasty movement advocating the prose style of the Qin and Handynasties) and some others proposed that the purpose of writings should be inline with the classics of the ancient sages as well as promote them. ZhouDunyi, a neo-Confucian philosopher of the Song Dynasty, expounded the principleof literature serving as a vehicle of ideas. He concluded that literature waslike a vehicle while ideas were like goods loaded on it, and that literaturewas nothing but a means and a vehicle to convey Confucian ideas. This theorywas valuable because it stressed the social role of literature and emphasizedthat writers should know what they were writing about to ensure that theirworks conveyed correct ideas. However, it underestimated the aesthetic value ofliterature and later met opposition from thinkers and writers who emphasizedthe value of literature per se.
Writings are meant to conveyideas and ethics. When vehicles are not used, even if the wheels and shafts areexcessively decorated, it is simply a waste. Fine language is only a means forwriting, whereas ethics are the essence of writings. (Zhou Dunyi: The Gist ofConfucian Thought)
协和万邦xiéhé-wànbāng Coexistence of All in Harmony
The term refers to the exerciseof benevolent government by virtuous and wise rulers in ancient China to winthe allegiance of all the vassals, so as to achieve an integration andacculturation of different ethnic groups and create a harmonious and unifiedalliance of tribes or a multi-ethnic state. Harmonious coexistence of all is akey feature of the concept of social harmony in Chinese culture and one of thecore values of the Chinese nation.
(Emperor Yao) was able topromote moral values, so that amity prevailed in his clan. He then clarifiedthe hierarchical order of tribal officials. Only when this was done could allvassal states, big and small, prosper in harmony, and the people becomefriendly with each other. (The Book of History)
兴观群怨xīng guān qún yuàn Stimulation, Contemplation,Sociability, and Criticism
According to Confucius, The Bookof Songs served these four purposes, which summarize the basic functions andvalues of literature. “Stimulation” means that the appreciation ofliterary works arouses imagination, stimulates reflection on society and life,and inspires aspirations and interests. “Contemplation” means that reading leads to understanding nature, society, life,and politics. “Sociability”means that reading encourages discussion with others, and exchange of thoughtsand feelings. “Criticism” meanslearning how to critically express oneself about state affairs and voice innerfeelings. These four functions are closely associated and involve theaesthetic, cognitive, and educational functions of literature. Later scholarshave continued to make original contributions to the study of these themes.
The Book of Songs stimulates themind, inspires contemplation, enables one to understand society, exchangefeelings and thoughts with others, and express resentment. The book guides oneon how to support and wait on one’s parents at home and how to serve one’s sovereign in public life. One can also learn about birds, beasts,and plants from the book. (The Analects)
If works created on the basis ofthe author’s understanding have the value of cognition, his understanding musthave been profound. If his feelings are based on recognition, his observationmust have been sharp. If certain resentment arises from discussions among agroup of people, it must be unforgettable. If a group of people have cometogether because they share certain resentment, they must be closely knit.(Wang Fuzhi: Desultory Remarks on Poetry from Ginger Studio)
Self-cultivation, FamilyRegulation, State Governance, Bringing Peace to All Under Heaven
Self-cultivation is the startingpoint of several steps moving outward. The next step is managing familyaffairs, followed by governing the state. The final step is moving to providepeace and sound governance to all under heaven. This process is a fundamentaltheme in Confucian moral philosophy and discourse on politics. It is agradually expanding process beginning with the individual and emanating outwardinto serving and benefiting an ever-larger whole. In such a process anindividual’s virtue and self-improvement are inseparable from his politicalaspirations.
The ancients, who wished topromote illustrious virtue under heaven, first had to rule their own stateswell. Wishing to govern their states well, they first had to manage theirfiefdoms well. Wishing to manage their fiefdoms well, they first had tocultivate themselves. (The Book of Rites)
Education for All WithoutDiscrimination
Education can and must beprovided for all. It eliminates the differences in social status and wealth.(Another explanation is that education should be provided to students withoutdiscrimination on the basis of social status or wealth.) Education consists ofteaching of social norms, music, and moral principles. A non-discriminatoryapproach to education means making no distinction between students based ontheir social status, wealth, mental capability, moral character, geographiclocation, or ethnicity. Transcending differences in social status, geography,and ethnicity, education for all without discrimination is a humanistic idealthat champions equal treatment of all people and rejects all forms ofdiscrimination.
The moral values promoted byancient sages are universal. That is why “once the same education is provided,differences in geography and ethnicity would be smoothed out.” When the Tujue people who suffered from war trauma and were inpredicament submitted themselves to the Tang Dynasty, we should assist andprotect them, let them settle down among us, teach them social norms and law,and help them engage in farming… What should we beworried about? (The New Tang History)
zǐ zhī duó zhū
Purple Prevailing over Red
This refers to evil prevailing overgood and falsehood being mistaken for truth in literature and art as well as insocial life. It is red, not purple, that was viewed as a truly proper color bythe ancient Chinese. Confucius, upset by the loss of judgment over good andevil, and by the fact that vulgar music was taking the place of refinedclassical music in the Spring and Autumn Period, called for dispellingconfusion and putting things in the right order. With this in mind, Liu Xie ofthe Southern Dynasties criticized some writers for abandoning Confucianteachings and catering to vulgar tastes. Scholars of later generations usedthis notion to reaffirm Confucian criteria and norms for literary creation.
Confucius said, “I detestreplacing red with purple and interfering refined classical music with themusic of the State of Zheng. I loathe those who overthrow the state with theirglib tongues.” (The Analects)
Rhetoric is like the skin of anessay; the writer’s thoughts and feelings are its marrow. A piece of elegant writingis like the embroidery on a ceremonial gown in ancient times –magnificent and dignified. Excessive focus on rhetoric and technique, however,is no different from an abnormal color taking the place of a truly proper one.(Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
Charm of Spontaneity
This term means poetry creationshould present the unembellished beauty of nature and the genuine sentiments ofhuman beings. The original meaning of yingzhi (英旨) is good taste. Used as aliterary term, however, it refers to charming content and imagery in poetry. In“Preface to ‘The Critique ofPoetry,’” Zhong Rong of the Southern Dynasties calledon poets to express their thoughts and sentiments in their own words andopposed borrowing expressions from ancient poets. He criticized the excessiveattention to ornate language and tonal rhythms in the writing offive-character-per-line poetry. He maintained that spontaneously created poemsof good taste were most valuable. The expressions “natural” and “simple and unaffected” in later literary criticisms contain Zhong Rong’s ideas.
Ren Fang, Wang Rong and someother writers of recent times have given no attention to linguistic innovationyet vied with each other for using literary allusions that no one else has everemployed. Subsequent writers have turned this practice into a habit. And so, allsentences must contain allusions, and every word and expression has to betraceable to some sources. Allusions are clumsily tacked onto the authors’ own words,severely damaging their works. There are few poets capable of producing worksthat display the pristine beauty of nature or their genuine sentiments. (ZhongRong: Preface to “The Critique of Poetry”)
I have read with great interestthe letters, poems, and essays you have sent to me. Broadly speaking, they areall like floating clouds and flowing waters, have no set form or structure, andfrequently flow when they should flow and remain still when they must stop. Thearticles are presented in a natural way and have multiple and uninhibitedstyles. (Su Shi: A Letter of Reply to Xie Minshi)
bù xué shī， wú yǐ yán
If You Do Not Study The Book ofSongs, You Will Not Be Eloquent.
In Confucius’ time, howwell one understood The Book of Songs was a sign of his social status andcultural attainment. If one did not study it, one would find it difficult toimprove one’s ability to express oneself and toconverse with people of high social status. Confucius’elaboration on the relationship between studying The Book of Songs and socialinteraction actually expounds on the importance of literature in education.
Confucius was standing alone inthe central hall when his son Boyu walked across the front yard. Confuciusasked, “Have you studied The Book of Songs?” “Notyet,” was the reply. Confucius then said, “If you do not study it, you will not be able to express yourselfproperly.” (The Analects)
yǒu dé zhě bì yǒu yán
Virtuous People Are Sure toProduce Fine Writing.
Virtuous people are sure towrite fine works which will be passed on to later generations. According toConfucianism, the moral character of a writer determines the value of his work,virtuous people would naturally write well, but those who wrote well might notnecessarily be virtuous. Therefore, authors should write to disseminate moralvalues; virtue and writings should be consistent. However, later Confucianscholars sometimes overemphasized the influence that ethics and the authors’ moralcharacter had on their writings to the neglect of the characteristics andvalues of literary creation per se.
Confucius said, “Virtuouspeople are sure to have good writings or words to pass on to later generations,but it is not always true the other way round.” (TheAnalects)
A man of character shouldpossess exceptional capability and his eloquent expressions should portrayeverything truthfully. His great wisdom should enable him to explain all thingsunder heaven. He does not need to hide his aspirations to serve as a model ofvirtue. If he has come to a good understanding of Dao, he surely willdisseminate it extensively. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving ofDragons)
lài yǔ Xīshī， dào tōng wéi yī
A Scabby Person and theBeautiful Lady Xishi Are the Same in the Eyes of Dao.
This is a famous statement madeby Zhuangzi on how beauty is relative. Originally it meant there was nodifference between a beauty and an ugly person, because they both came from andreflected Dao. The character 厉 meant 癞 (covered inscabs) in ancient Chinese. Whether a person is beautiful or ugly is but asubjective perspective in the mind of the beholder. Besides, beauty can turninto ugliness, and vice versa. Zhuangzi, from the perspective of the origin ofall things, stressed that beauty and ugliness are both in accord with Dao andare inherently the same. This idea has encouraged later literary critics tolook at all things, including literary works, from the perspective thatopposite things complement each other.
In the light of Dao, a smallblade of grass or a tall pillar, someone as ugly as a favus patient or someoneas beautiful as Lady Xishi, as well as crafty and strange things, are all thesame. (Zhuangzi)
Dao manifests in an array ofobjective things, but its genuine spirit lies within them. (Sikong Tu:Twenty-Four Styles of Poetry)
lè ér bùyín，āi ér bù shāng
Express Enjoyment WithoutIndulgence and Express Grief Without Excessive Distress
This is what Confucius said ofthe description of love between young men and women in the poem entitled “Guan Ju” in “Ballads of Zhounan,” The Book of Songs. Later Confucian scholars regarded this as abasic requirement for poems and other literary works to advocate impartiality,peace of mind, and harmony between emotion and reason, making it a criterionfor evaluating literary works. Its connotation is in accord with Zhongyong (thegolden mean) of Confucianism. In the more recent history, the connotation ofthe term has been continuously renewed to keep pace with the times.
The poem “Guan Ju” expresses enjoyment without indulgence and grief without excessivedistress. (The Analects)
Ballads from the states expresspassion of love without indulgence. Minor court hymns make complaints andcriticisms without inciting trouble. (Sima Qian: Records of the Historian)
shēng yī wú tīng，wù yī wú wén
A Single Note Does Not Compose aMelodious Tune, Nor Does a Single Color Make a Beautiful Pattern.
This statement suggests that thebeauty of literature and art lies in the unity and harmony of diverse elements.It became an important principle in ancient Chinese theories on literature andart, and facilitated the development of literature and art.
A single note does not compose amelodious tune; a single color does not form a beautiful pattern; a singleflavor does not make a delicious meal; and a single thing has nothing tocompare with. (Discourses on Governance of the States)
It is natural that silk ofdifferent colors can be used to embroider a beautiful pattern, different notesto produce melodious music, and expressions of different feelings to present afine work of literary art. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving ofDragons)
xiàng wàizhī xiàng，jǐng wài zhī jǐng
The Image Beyond an Image, theScene Beyond a Scene
Readers of poetry create imagesand scenes in their minds based on what they are reading. These are the readers’ imaginationsbased on what is depicted in the poems. The term comes from Daoist theoriesabout the relationships between discourses, ideas or meanings, and images thatsymbolize profound meaning in The Book of Changes. From the Wei, Jin to theTang dynasties, poetry critics sought “the image beyondan image, the scene beyond a scene” in order to pursuethe spiritual implications and the beauty of images that are beyond textualdescriptions. This term gives expression to the artistic and aesthetic tastesand ideals of the Chinese nation.
The imagery of poets is like thesunshine warming Lantian so that fine jades under its ground issue smoke: Theycan be seen from afar but not observed right before your eyes. The image beyondan image, the scene beyond a scene—are they not simply beyond words!(Sikong Tu: Letter to Wang Jipu)
That which makes a poem a poemis a poetic appeal beyond the image, an image beyond the words and words sayingthings beyond their meaning. (Peng Lu: Preface to Collected Poems of Peng Lu)
xìn yán bù měi，měi yán bù xìn
Sincere Words May Not BePleasant to the Ear; Flowery Rhetoric May Not Be Sincere.
To address the extravagance insocial mores and in the style of writing of his time, Laozi advocated simpleand natural lifestyles and literary presentations. During the Wei and Jindynasties, men of letters valued natural and simple literary styles and wereopposed to extravagant and superficial styles. This line of thought led to theemergence of great poets like Tao Yuanming, and shaped literary writings toreflect direct thoughts and natural expressions. Subsequently, ancient Chineseliterature and art took simplicity and naturalness as the highest aestheticstandards.
Sincere words may not be pleasant to the ear; flowery rhetoric may not be sincere. A kind-hearted person may not be an eloquent speaker; a glib person is often not kind. (Laozi)
Laozi detested pretense, so he said, “Flowery rhetoric words may not be sincere.”However, the 5,000-word Dao De Jing (another name of Laozi) he wrote is not only profound in ideas but reads beautifully. That means he was not opposed to writings using fine words. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)