This paper is an attempt to investigate how Lu Ji and Liu Xie develop their theories of literary creation on the foundation of the early philosophical discourse on language and reality. The first part of the paper examines various key terms, concepts, and paradigms developed in the philosophical discourse. The second part pursues a close reading of Lu’s and Liu’s texts to demonstrate how ingeniously they adapt and integrate those terms, concepts, and paradigms to accomplish two important tasks: to establish a broad framework for conceptualizing literary creation and to differentiate the complex mental and linguistic endeavors at different stages of the creative process. The paper ends with some general reflections on the impact of the two essays on the subsequent development of Chinese literary and aesthetic thoughts.
Invented in sixteenth-century Europe, the “ideographic myth”—the notion that all Chinese written characters are pictorial—has long been used either to romanticize or denigrate Chinese language and culture compared to those of the West. This article examines the many incarnations of this myth spanning more than half a century: from the Fenollosa-Poundian theory of the Chinese character and Ezra Pound’s reformulation of his Vorticist-Imagist ideals in the early twentieth century to the Imagist influence on modern Chinese poetry in the 1910s–1920s, and Sinologists’ reinterpretations of traditional Chinese poetry in the 1970s. Originated from Xu Shen’s 許慎 (30–124) Shuowen jiezi 說文解字 (Explanations of Simple and Compound Characters) in China, indiscreet ideogrammic explanations of Chinese characters made their way first to Japan, then through Fenollosa and Pound to the United States, and then back to China, marking the beginning of the age of international travel as well as a new model of cultural connectivity not limited to geographic boundaries. As an interesting case from a cultural export to a cultural import, the pictorial myth reinvented by Fenollosa and Pound, together with its incarnations, turned out to be beneficial to all cultures involved along its rapid but complex route of transmission. Both insights and errors arising therefrom not only helped modernist poets revolutionize their poetry in both China and the West but also inspired Sinologists to reinterpret traditional Chinese poetry from the perspective of the Chinese written character, especially the primacy of its sound.
Whether Chinese texts were transmitted along the ancient Silk Road, or through modern digital technologies, such well-traveled texts hold great promise for illuminating multiple aspects of China’s cultural relations with the world. The same holds true for the examination how reconfigured Chinese texts made their way back to China, to be reconstituted as culturally polyvalent, hybrid “imports”.
Critical studies explore new ways of engaging Chinese texts with non-Chinese intellectual and cultural traditions. Such studies include, but are not limited to, a traditional textually grounded Sinological work that contains a substantive dialogue with for instance Western texts; a collaborative work by Asia-based and non-Asia-based scholars on the critical issues important to different traditions; and even a work on non-Chinese texts as long as it significantly draws insights from or engages a substantive dialogue with the Chinese traditions.
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