The Book of Literary Design
Publication Year: 1999
Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU
Table of Contents
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Chronology of Chinese Dynasties
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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...
1. The Way the Origin
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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...
2. The Sages the Oracle
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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...
3. The Classics the Forefather
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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...
4. Putting the Cabala in Order
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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...
5. Isolating Sao Poetry
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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...
6. Understanding Shi Poetry
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"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...
7. The Yuefu Poems
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"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...
8. Explaining Fu Poetry
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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...
9. Eulogistic Songs and Summaries
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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 Rei composed a song of praise, to the tune of...
10. Prayers and Oaths
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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, ...
11. Inscriptions and Punctures
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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...
12. Laudations and Epitaphs
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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...
13. Commiseration and Condolence
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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...
14. Miscellaneous Rhythmic Prose
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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...
15. Puns and Parables
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"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...
16. Scribal Hermeneutics
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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...
17. The Philosophers
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"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...
18. Argument and Persuasion
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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...
19. Imperial Edicts
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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...
20. Declaration of War and of Disquiet
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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...
21. The Fengshan Sacrifice
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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...
22. Memorials Illuminative and Manifestative
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Inasmuch 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...
23. Reports to the Throne and Statements
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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...
24. Debates and Answers
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"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."...
25. Notes and Letters
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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...
26. Magical Imagination
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"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...
27. Style and Personality
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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...
28. The Affective Air and the Literary Bones
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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...
29. Continuity and Change
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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...
30. Stylistic Force
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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...
31. Substance and Style
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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...
32. Modelling and Tailoring
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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...
33. The Music
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Music begins in the human voice, and the source of the music of the voice is the blood and elan 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...
34. Chapter and Verse
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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...
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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...
36. Bi and Xing -- Two Types of Metaphor
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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...
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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...
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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...
39. Language Refinement
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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...
40. Hidden Grace and the Visible Flower
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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...
41. Picking out the Imperfections
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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...
42. Preservation of the Life-breath
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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...
43. Assemblage and Collation
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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...
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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...
45. Chronological Order
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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...
46. The Beauty of Nature
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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...
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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...
48. Understanding Another's Voice
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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...
49. Weighing the Vessel
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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...
50. Declaration of Intent
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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...
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Page Count: 220
Publication Year: 1999