The Book of Literary Design

The Book of Literary Design

Siu-kit Wong
Allan Chung-hang Lo
Kwong-tai Lam
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 220
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jc0v9
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  • Book Info
    The Book of Literary Design
    Book Description:

    The earliest book-length treatise in Chinese literary criticism, the Wenxin diaolong is of central importance in the Chinese tradition. The work was compiled in the sixth century, one of the most fertile and original periods in Chinese critical thinking. Its author, Liu Xie, was a Buddhist monk as well as a Confucian scholar, and so represented the main persuasions of China. The Wenxin diaolong first came to be noted in the seventeenth century, when it was studied by scholars and edited by Mei Qingsheng. When the study of literary criticism became an independent discipline early in the twentieth century, it developed into a cynosure that was widely discussed and provided with learned annotations. This volume presents a fresh translation of the Wenxin diaolong that is at once authoritative and elegant. It may well be regarded as a standard reference by students of sinology and comparative literature.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-043-2
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Chronology of Chinese Dynasties
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xi)

    Of the life of Liu Xie, the author of the Wenxin diaolong, not much is known. The two brief accounts recorded in the official histories, the Liangshu and the Nanshi, are fairly similar. Liu was born circa 465, in Ju District of Dongguan (modern Ju District in Shandong). He was orphaned young. Being poor he did not marry. He became dedicated to learning. At some point he moved south to live in Jingkou (modern Zhenjiang in Jiangsu). In 483–493 when the monk Sengyou preached Buddhism in Jiangnan, Liu joined him and lived in Dinglin Monastery. According to “Declaration of...

  5. 1 The Way the Origin
    (pp. 1-3)

    Harmony, harmony such as you see in poetry, is universal; with the beginnings of earth and sky it was born. The earth’s yellow with the sky’s dark crimson merge and mingle, but the earth is square, the sky round. The sun and the moon are twin discs of jade, hanging from the face of the sky; luxurious as silk, rivers and mountains glitter, ornamenting the shape of the earth. Such is the harmony of the Way. The luminosities are made manifest above, the beauties, the patterns promised below; all things being in place, heaven and earth hold their own. Add...

  6. 2 The Sages the Oracle
    (pp. 4-6)

    Makers are sagely, perpetuators merely enlightened. Ancient philosophers are known to have shaped human nature through the making and perpetuation of poetry.“The Master’s civilization in the form of knowledge of the literary texts can still be cited,” according to a disciple of Confucius. Thus the Sage’s emotions are still preserved in written language. And as the Master’s personality survives in his wise sayings, the sacred teachings of the ancient kings before him, too, live on on the wood and bamboo tablets. This is why Confucius could sing the praises of the age of Tang in the distant past as a...

  7. 3 The Classics the Forefather
    (pp. 7-10)

    For the Trio Heaven, Earth and Man an unchanging doctrine lives; it lives in books that we speak of as the classical canon. By the classical canon, the classics, we mean that body of absolute wisdom, that noble creed, fit for propagation, which endures forever in an imperishable form. The classics of the Confucian persuasion mirror the universe, give expression to the ghostly beings, course through the order of things, and lend consistency to the structure of humanity. They penetrate the deep dark recesses of the soul and reach the marrow of all literature.

    In the “three greatnesses”,¹ the books...

  8. 4 Putting the Cabala in Order
    (pp. 11-13)

    The dark Way of the gods had to be lightened; Heaven’s mandate, barely discernible, must be magnified. The Yijing came, conveyed by a horse-like dragon; the Hongfan (great law) appeared in its glory, gift of a divine tortoise. The Appended Commentary of the Yijing says, “The Huanghe presented the Picture, the River of Luo yielded the Book, and the Sage found patterns in them.”¹ This summarises what we are considering. But the records on the subject have become obscure with the passage of time and while genuine articles have survived, imitations and counterfeits have also come into existence.

    While the...

  9. 5 Isolating Sao Poetry
    (pp. 14-17)

    The songs of the Shijing ended, for a while there was silence. Then the strange music of a new poetry came to be heard, the music of the Li Sao and kindred poems, whose authors came winging after the Shijing poets, preceding the makers of the cifu prose-poems. Can we not say then that these authors, talented men of the southern state of Chu, inherited the mantle of the canonical masters?

    Emperor Wu of the Han was a great lover of the Li Sao (i.e., Chuci) poems. At his suggestion Prince Huainan wrote a dissertation in which he said, “The...

  10. 6 Understanding Shi Poetry
    (pp. 18-22)

    “Mental activities transformed into spoken words become poetry, and words made lyrically drawn out are song,” said Emperor Shun.¹ The message of this analysis which is recorded in a sacred text is amply clear. One corollary is this: “Mental activities occur in the heart and mind; when delivered in language they become poetry.” Herein lies the basic theory of the expression of real mental experience through the medium of structured language. Poetry (if we may explain it homophonously) means going at something, more specifically, going at the emotions in order to control them. That is why “overcoming waywardness” is the...

  11. 7 The Yuefu Poems
    (pp. 23-26)

    “Melody comes from following the lengthening of the spoken word, and music is made by mixing the melodious.” That then is what we mean by yuefu (“music department”, “music house” — as the name of the institution, of the place, the music, the vocal music, the lyrics or poem related to or ultimately derived from such music).

    Where the endlessly repeated performance took place was in mid-heaven, in the abode of the gods; and the eight songs were sung in the days of the legendary emperor Getian, in primeval times. Of these, as of Huangdi’s Xianchi and Di Ku’s Wuying, we...

  12. 8 Explaining Fu Poetry
    (pp. 27-29)

    Of the six principles of the Shijing,¹ fu is the second. (Whether it refers to a manner of writing or a genre) fu means spreading out, the spreading out of literary grace, the concrete representation of things for the expression of feelings.

    Shaogong the duke is on record as having said, “the ministers present shi poems, education officers present advisory pieces, the blind present fu poems.” The Mao Commentary of the Shijing says, “You are good enough to be a nobleman if when you rise you are capable of quoting poetry, spreading it out.” The fu is regarded as one...

  13. 9 Eulogistic Songs and Summaries
    (pp. 30-33)

    The four sections of the Shijing, each headed by an opening that stands for the ultimate perfection of poetry, conclude with the “Songs of Praise”. The songs are descriptions; their end, the glorification of virtue. In the days of Di Ku, Xian Hei composed a song of praise, to the tune of Jiu shao (nine summonses). The rules governing the composition of this type of song were settled with the completion of the “Shang Songs of Praise” of the Shijing.

    Poems that exerted an influence on a single state were known as “Popular Songs”; those that corrected and normalized the...

  14. 10 Prayers and Oaths
    (pp. 34-37)

    When heaven and earth were in place the gods were feasted. Unto the six deities were sacrifices made, and mountains, streams and the stars were honoured in succession. The sweet rains came, with the gentle breeze, and the cereals grew. On this mankind counted and the myraids depended, and the gods themselves were to be recompensed. The ox, the sheep and the millets were aromatic, but it was an aroma that originated in glowing virtue; the priest pleaded with sincerity, but the sincerity had to be made eloquent by words. When Yi Qi offered up his year-end prayers to the...

  15. 11 Inscriptions and Punctures
    (pp. 38-41)

    In the ancient world the Yellow Emperor had his carriage and desk carved to aid the correction of errors. The great Yu too had his rack for bell and chimes inscribed with the message that counsel was welcome. “Daily renewal” was the advice carried by the eating utensils of King Tang. In the inscriptions on doors and seats King Wu gave us indispensable warnings. The “Bronze figure” of the Duke of Zhou preached careful speech. Confucius changed countenance at the sight of the Balance Container.¹ That our wise forefathers paid heed to cautions has therefore had a very long history....

  16. 12 Laudations and Epitaphs
    (pp. 42-44)

    Inscriptions and laudations first appeared in the the Zhou period, when virtue reigned supreme. One definition for a major minister was that in the presence of death he could laud. To laud is to lump together, to lump together the virtuous deeds of the dead, in order to extol them, so that they do not die. Before Xia and Shang times inscriptions and laudations were unknown; and even when they were introduced during the Zhou, their application was not yet extended to the “knights”; further, “the humble do not laud the great, the young do not laud their elders”, and...

  17. 13 Commiseration and Condolence
    (pp. 45-47)

    A Guide to Posthumous Nomenclature says, “Death in infancy is called ‘misery’.” “Misery” means “deputy”: sorrow depends on and so deputises the heart and is therefore called misery. The language of Misery or pity, of commiseration, is spent for the very young, not for the elderly, for those who die in infancy. When the three innocents sacrificed their lives for the duke of Qin and a hundred other men could not redeem them, their deaths were as good as death in infancy.¹ “Yellow bird”, the Shijing poem that mourns their deaths, should be regarded as a commiseration piece from the...

  18. 14 Miscellaneous Rhythmic Prose
    (pp. 48-51)

    Intellectuals, artists, the well-informed, the artistic, all have speech overflowing with beauty and breath filled with eloquence. They cultivate beauties, making them new everyday. Song Yu who had talent in him and rather looked down upon the common herd invented “Answering questions” in order to make clear his point of view. The result was a piece of writing in which he soared high, propelled by his great vitality. Then it was Mei Sheng who broadcast loveliness and created the “Seven cures”, whose luxurious language was as nobly patterned as the clouds; whose ample pulchritude rose like the wind. What came...

  19. 15 Puns and Parables
    (pp. 52-55)

    “Perverse entrails, that make people mad,” says the Shijing poem by Rui Liangfu. Where the heart of the prince is treacherous like mountain paths, the mouths of the people will be no more dammable than a mighty river. Sorrow and anger assume different forms, mockery and scorn find unlikely expressions. Hua Yuan cast away his armour in flight and the builders of the city-wall sang the ditty of the widely open eyes.¹ Zang He was routed, and his countrymen invented the pygmies’ song. In both cases the jest was motivated by grievance and made at the expense of physical appearance....

  20. 16 Scribal Hermeneutics
    (pp. 56-61)

    To the first gleams of the created world the annals return. We who live in the present can know the past only through the chronicles. The Yellow Emperor had a scribe in Cang Jie and the duties of recording have long been known. The Details of Ceremony says, “Armed with the pen the scribe.” Scribes scribbled when instructed. Pen in hand they stood on the two sides of the prince charged with the making of records. The scribe on the left recorded the words, the one on the right, the actions. The words are still there in the Shujing, the...

  21. 17 The Philosophers
    (pp. 62-65)

    “The Philosophers” are works in which the authors having explored the Way presented their personal interpretations. The acme of personal achievement is the erection of virtue, next to it is the erection of the word. Men of a hundred names that dwell in the world are pestered by the incomprehensible confusion of the world’s phenomena, and native gentlemen who have lived in human community would resent it if their reputations failed to shine. But only geniuses of exceptional abilities can have a bright bequest of beauty and refinement for posterity whereby their names may rise and place themselves in the...

  22. 18 Argument and Persuasion
    (pp. 66-70)

    The immutable doctrine of the sages constitutes the canonical classics; the recounting of the substance of the classics and the truth it implies is known as discourse (lun). Lun means “truth”, “the orderly”. When the truth is correctly represented without error, the message of the sages sits secure. When the disciples of Confucius recalled and recorded his pregnant words they chose to suppress “canonical classic” as a possible name; instead they called the collection Discourse (Lunyu, the Analects); but it was from this book that all later discourses derived their name. We may note that before the Analects no classic...

  23. 19 Imperial Edicts
    (pp. 71-74)

    Holding sway over the universe the emperor speaks words that are inviolable. He sits, profoundly silent, in front of the imperial screen and his voice is heard in the four comers of the world, thanks to the imperial edict. In the days of the Yellow Emperor and during the Tang and Yu dynasties, such edicts were known as ordinances (ming), and by virtue of ordinances were clan names conferred. In the three dynasties of Xia, Shang and Zhou there were also contractual speeches (shi) and proclamations (gao). Contractual speeches were intended for the education of the army, proclamations for the...

  24. 20 Declaration of War and of Disquiet
    (pp. 75-78)

    As a thunderbolt begins with a flash of lightning, so an army that sets out on its expedition must be heralded by fierce battle-cries. It has long been an established practice for an advancing army to be preceded by threats of havoc. In days beyond recall the chieftain of Yu was the first to know that the civilians must be warned. The chieftain of Xia was the first to make a speech to his army. The leader of Shang spoke at the entrance to the garrison. The leader of Zhou delivered his harangue when his and the enemy army were...

  25. 21 The Fengshan Sacrifice
    (pp. 79-81)

    Enthroned without bias like the Northern Star, looking south in the direction of radiance, he is the master of the Northern Star, the fosterer of subjects wise and foolish. For his imperial course to be inscribed he needs the network of morality. “Twirling whirling, doubling troubling, all is life,” says the Green Picture, speaking of what comes under the influence of the highest virtue.¹ “There is ease when rightness overcomes desire: the dominance of desire spells disaster,” says the Red Book,² advocating caution. Thus caution leads to the exaltation of virtue, virtue leads to the fulfilment of life. Rightly did...

  26. 22 Memorials Illuminative and Manifestative
    (pp. 82-85)

    In as much as duties must be divided offices had to be established so that in the governance of the state the high and the low might link hands. Under pendent pearls¹ the son of heaven audited and, armed with jingling jade, his vassal lords paid him obeisance. Reports to the throne and suasions were spoken, appointments were handed out for the best results. That was the spirit in which Yao consulted with the four mountain kings and Shun issued instructions to the eight model sons. The requests that begged to be allowed to decline if I may make bold...

  27. 23 Reports to the Throne and Statements
    (pp. 86-89)

    In Tang and Yu times when a minister reported he did so by word of mouth. The state assistants of the Qin and Han addressed “reports to the throne” (zou) to their sovereigns. The explanation of political matters, the presentation of details of major ceremonies, the announcement of emergencies, the bringing of charges ... all these were referred to as “reports to the throne”. Zou, the word for this kind of writing, meant lodging, presenting, and referred to the presentation of statements by lowly people to the powers that be. The report to the throne was first designated as such...

  28. 24 Debates and Answers
    (pp. 90-94)

    “Thoroughly let us consult,” — therein is a reference to debate (yi), a word that reminds us of the notion of appropriateness (yi), the appropriateness of judgement. Commenting on the water image the Jie hexagram of the Yijing says, “This is how the native gentleman, debating on the nature of virtue, arrives at the rules of action.” The Shujing says, “If you will debate particular issues against the background of accepted rules of action, you will not err in your governance.” In the general philosophy of the canonical classics it seems that regulation and restraint are essential to debate.

    Debate has...

  29. 25 Notes and Letters
    (pp. 95-100)

    The great Shun said, “Letters serve the purpose of recording.” It was the events of the time that were recorded. The words of the sages were put together in a body of letters and, in that sense, letters took over from and controlled language. Yang Xiong said, “The spoken word is the voice of the heart and the profession of letters paints its picture. As the voice and the picture takes shape, we can tell the men of breeding from the scum.” Thus letters let, or let out. They let out the spoken word, displaying it on bamboo and wood...

  30. 26 Magical Imagination
    (pp. 101-103)

    “Your earthly frame may indeed be sailing upon the main, but your longings linger yet over the mightiest portal,” someone said, speaking out of the distant past. But that is precisely what one means by inspiration, the mental process that defies analysis. Literary thinking emphatically is magical, beyond analysis. Silent, lost in thought, you mentally move back a thousand years; and, with a mere twitch in your face you direct your gaze to objects ten thousand miles away. The tinkle of pearls and jade pieces is heard and vanishes as your versify; the majesty of winds and clouds is spread...

  31. 27 Style and Personality
    (pp. 104-106)

    Language takes shape when the emotions are moved, poetry appears with the appearance of the decorous thought. The progress is from within to without, from the concealed to the ostensive. But if you consider writers in terms of abilities there are the ordinary and the brilliant; of overall personal attributes (qi), the assertive and the resilient; of learning, the shallow and the profound; of developed style the noble and the popular. These distinctions are so many shapes made by molten temperament, products of the potter’s wheel or the dyer’s hand. They are the considerations that account for the cloud-like changes...

  32. 28 The Affective Air and the Literary Bones
    (pp. 107-109)

    Among the six principles of the Shijing¹ feng comes first. This is because feng, the “affective air” (the wind, the civilizing influence, etc.) of any specimen of literature is located at the source of the process of education and is a voucher of the breath-and-force (qi) that feeds and conveys the writer’s conscious experience (zhi). When sorrow comes and you must give expression to the emotion (qing), you begin with the affective air; but as you work and rework your music and lay out the elements of language, there is no more pressing consideration than the boney structure (gu) of...

  33. 29 Continuity and Change
    (pp. 110-113)

    The forms of literary compositions being constant it is the methods of writing that are of infinite variety. We know this is the case in the sense that the shi poem, the fu, the letter and the formal note are all contiguous in name and nature, giving them a permanence in form, whereas language, style and other manifestations of personality both persist and change in order to survive, leading to the infinite variety. Since name and nature are constant, literary forms must be sustained by what has already been achieved; and since change, which is inseparable from continuity, is infinite,...

  34. 30 Stylistic Force
    (pp. 114-116)

    Moods and emotions are various, and writings assume different forms, but without exception emotion determines form and form gives rise to stylistic force (shi) which is the product when you follow the most facilitative course. When the clutch is released the arrow is shot — straight as an arrow, and in pent-up waters there is always a whirl. Such are the tendencies in rerum natura. The circle is the shape drawn by the compasses and it has the stylistic force to twirl naturally; the square is the form produced by the set-square and it has the stylistic force to sit secure....

  35. 31 Substance and Style
    (pp. 117-119)

    When the sages and the worthy men described everything they ever wrote as “patterned brilliancies” (or “beautiful brilliancies”: wenzhang, which is also the name for “literary pieces”), what reason could they have other than that everything they wrote was colourful (cai)? Ripples form in yielding water and sepals flutter on the tree’s solid wood, suggesting that beauty (or pattern) attaches itself to quality. But quality in turn has need of beauty: a tiger or a leopard without its beautiful pattern would have a skin that could not be distinguished from that of the dog or sheep, while the rhinocero’s hide...

  36. 32 Modelling and Tailoring
    (pp. 120-122)

    When the arguments and the sentiments have secured their rightful places the literary graces will be able to move freely through them. The base is established by the principles of the strong and the submissive, and the need for change dictated by time is met by adjustment. The base of the literary activity is the literary work’s body and substance, in which the theme can be too large; and as the need for change in manner of expression is variable, the language sometimes becomes overgrown and disorderly. The way to wrestle with these problems lies in modelling and tailoring, in...

  37. 33 The Music
    (pp. 123-125)

    Music begins in the human voice, and the source of the music of the voice is the blood and élan vital in man. This is a fact that the former kings understood well in their making of music whether vocal or instrumental. To suppose that the voice is an imitation of musical instruments is an error, for instruments only help in giving expression to the voice. Language is the lock and key of literature, the hinge and gear of the human spirit, but the music of the language which one speaks is produced by nothing but the mouth. Traditional vocal...

  38. 34 Chapter and Verse
    (pp. 126-128)

    For the accommodation of the emotions there is a house, for the disposition of words there are appointed places. What houses the emotions is the chapter, what offers proper places for words is the verse. Chapters cheer like light, verses prevent vagrancy. In the confinement of words in the verse, the words are aligned and boundaries are established; in the illumination of the emotions, the message is reined in within the form; in them domains are given separate identities and roads provide communication among them. When one writes one makes verses out of words, and accumulates verses to make up...

  39. 35 Couplets
    (pp. 129-132)

    As in physical frames designed by nature members occur in pairs, so in the deployment of the imagination allusions are rarely single. In the birth of the fine phrases in the heart hundreds of concerns have to be managed and it is natural for complementary thoughts to be coupled. In the age of Tang and Yu when the refinement of language still had some way to go Gaoyao was already able to say summarily, “If in doubt punish lightly; if in doubt reward heavily.” Yi too in presenting his policy could say, “Conceit incurs loss, humility gets gain.” These were...

  40. 36 Bi and Xing — Two Types of Metaphor
    (pp. 133-136)

    In the vast repository of the Shijing there are six principles,¹ but when Mao Gong transmitted the meaning of the text in his Commentary he singled out the xing principle. We can only conjecture that this is because feng and fu are similar, both being inclusive of other divisions (feng includes ya and song; fu includes bi and xing) and bi is pretty self-evident, leaving xing as the one object of curiosity.

    Bi means “approach”; xing means “raise”. If you wish to approach the underlying pattern of things you have to apprehend the category accurately and then pinpoint the particular....

  41. 37 Hyperbole
    (pp. 137-139)

    That which is above form is known as an ideal; that which is not above form is called a vessel. Ideals, being beyond humanity, can hardly be portrayed, in the sense that the finest of language cannot be expected to do them justice. Vessels, having form, can more easily be described, and well-developed language is known to have captured their essence. This is not a question of the individual writer’s ability, but one of relative intrinsic difficulty. One consequence of this is that, since the inception of the world, in every incursion into shape and sound, language has had a...

  42. 38 Allusions
    (pp. 140-143)

    Allusion is the use in one’s writing beyond one’s words of stories that can be grouped together according to theme; it is an appeal to the past for the confirmation of the present. When King Wen of Zhou compiled the interpretations of the hexagrams and pontificated on the component lines, he referred at line Yang-three of Hexagram Jiji to the conquests of Gaozong of the Shang dynasty as retrieved from memory, and at line Yin-five of Mingyi to the integrity of Jizi his contemporary, and thus instanced personages and stories briefly for the affirmation of his arguments. As for the...

  43. 39 Language Refinement
    (pp. 144-147)

    Rope knots were displaced when the Hexagrammatic lines appeared; the written character came into being when the mysteries of animal tracks had been understood. Herein was an embodiment of the spoken language, a local habitation for the literary art. When Cangjie invented the written script, grain came flying down from heaven and the gods whimpered. When the Yellow Emperor put it into use his government became orderly and for the first time aware of the needs of the people. In the pursuits of popular education and a personal reputation, our sovereigns of yore would use a single script for all...

  44. 40 Hidden Grace and the Visible Flower
    (pp. 148-150)

    As there is width to thinking in general, so there is depth to the literary imagination. What comes out from the deep sources develops into tributaries and strong roots produce the ripeness of the grain. The flowering of poesy includes the hidden (yin) growth (or life, or grace, or even beauty) as well as the beautiful budding (xiu). The pregnancy of poetry, its hidden growth, is in the fullness of thought that lies outside poetry; its beauty is in the flower that blows alone in the finished work. The pregnancy is best when the meaning is multiple, the beauty should...

  45. 41 Picking out the Imperfections
    (pp. 151-153)

    Guan Zhong said, “Without wings the voice flies and without roots the emotions are secure.” If flying comes easily to the voice though unassisted by wings, and it is not hard for the emotions to become secure without the help of roots, how then can we not be cautious when we give them the permanence of the written word? Writers from time immemorial have always competed, from generation to generation, some shining with their quick wit, others excelling in their scrupulosity. But the mind does fail one, not so infrequently, and one ends up with blots in one’s writing. We...

  46. 42 Preservation of the Life-breath
    (pp. 154-156)

    When Wang Chong wrote the Preservation of Life he developed its arguments on the basis not of his imagination but his personal experience. The ears, the eyes, the nose and the mouth are at the service of life, and thought and speech do the biddings of the psyche. When you allow your mind sufficient rest you think in harmony and feel with no interruption; but if you tax your mind excessively your spirit (shen and qi) wearies and then goes into decline. This, after all, is what you might expect of the mechanism of the mind.

    In the days of...

  47. 43 Assemblage and Collation
    (pp. 157-159)

    What do we mean when we speak of “assemblage and collation”? We mean the total organization of a piece of writing, its unification from beginning to end, the adoption and rejection of details in the best interests of consistency, the patching and tugging in of a collection of parts which may be miscellaneous but under no circumstance should be allowed to run wild. It is a process that may be likened to the need to provide a foundation and a framework when you build a house, the need to sew and stitch up when you make a dress.

    When the...

  48. 44 Methodology
    (pp. 160-162)

    In the parlance of today there is an adorned prose and there is a plain prose, the belief being that adorned prose (wen) is rhythmical and plain prose (bi) is not. The truth is, all prose — indeed all writing — was an extension of the spoken language and could manifest itself in the style of the Shijing as well as that of the Shujing; it was only in recent times that we became accustomed to two contrasting categories, two different names. Yan Yannian argued that plain prose was ordinary spoken language (yan) given a written form, that the canonical classics were...

  49. 45 Chronological Order
    (pp. 163-168)

    Time passes, qualities change. This is a fact, one on which I propose to offer a few comments.

    In the days of the Tangs, the personal virtue of the prince was powerful, his fatherly influence on the world evenly spread. Then did the ancient rustic mouth his question on the ruler’s relevance, and the country boy warble the disclaimer’s note. The Yus followed in the wake of the Tangs, the government was prosperous and the people knew ample peace. Shun the emperor made up the lyrics about the warm wind and his many servitors sang the chorus of the bright...

  50. 46 The Beauty of Nature
    (pp. 169-171)

    Autumn and spring alternate, pain in the yin and pleasure in the yang; all things in nature change in appearance and your heart cannot remain unmoved. The dark horse of an ant stretches its legs as the breath of the male begins to wake, and the fire-fly our crimson bird will feed herself as the rhythm of the female settles. If even worms that are barely visible are affected thus, all animate things must be profoundly under the influence of the four seasons. Your sentient heart rises with the self-assurance of the jade tablet, your unsullied nature blooms like the...

  51. 47 Talent
    (pp. 172-176)

    Let us talk about the literary and cultural history, the wen, of the nine ages;¹ let us talk about this wen in its richness and beauty of language; but let us talk about it in generality.

    The wen of the Yu and Xia dynasties includes the six virtues² enumerated by Gaoyao, the eight musical instruments³ described by Kui, the words of advice spoken by Yi, the song of the five sons. Mild and correct in style and substance, they provided models for the generations to come. In the Shang and Zhou dynasties, Zhong Hui handed down his warning, Yi Yin...

  52. 48 Understanding Another’s Voice
    (pp. 177-180)

    How difficult the appreciation of style seems. The appreciation of style, of the individual voice, is itself difficult, and when there is somewhere someone who appreciates your kind of music, it is difficult finding out where he is. Meeting one’s appreciative interpreter happens about once in a thousand years.

    Interpreters have always tended to look on the ancients with affection and treat their contemporaries with contempt, according to the formula that “She who is in his presence from day to day prompts no act of love; she whose voice is heard in the distance is an object of desire.” When...

  53. 49 Weighing the Vessel
    (pp. 181-185)

    Man as material is like timber to the carpenter. That is the comparison offered by the Shujing, in the spirit that utility must go hand in hand with refinement. Articles that have been made must yet be painted red, walls erected must be white-washed. Unfortunately men of letters in recent history have only striven for flowering, forgetting that they must also bear fruit. In the words of Cao Pi, “Men of letters past and present have on the whole been inattentive to details of behaviour.” Wei Dan lashed out at some of them individually with considerable vigour. What a pity...

  54. 50 Declaration of Intent
    (pp. 186-190)

    When I speak of the “literary mind” (wenxin) I mean the exercise of the mind in the making of literature. Juanzi¹ in the ancient days spoke of the “musical mind”, Wangsun² of the “cunning mind”, making the mind a thing of beauty, which is why I too choose the mind for my theme. From days immemorial literary writing has always been characterized by a rich and complex carving: the “dragon carving” (diaolong) that occurs in my title has nothing to do with the reported application of the expression to Zou Shi’s rhetoric by way of compliment.³

    The universe is an...

  55. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 191-196)
  56. Glossary
    (pp. 197-208)