Posted by: L | June 20, 2007

More China-ware….

From Karl S. Y. Kao, on Chinese poetics:

“Hsing [xing] is an image whose primary function is not signification but, rather, the stirring of a particular affection or mood: hsing does not “refer to” that mood; it generates it. Hsing is therefore not a rhetorical figure in the proper sense of the term. Furthermore, the privilege of hsing over fu and pi [bi] in part explains why traditional China did not develop a complex classification system of rhetorical figures, such as we find in the West. Instead there develop classifications of moods, with categories of scene and circumstance appropriate to each. This vocabulary of moods follows from the conception of language as the manifestation of some integral state of mind, just as the Western rhetoric of schemes and tropes follows from a conception of language as sign and referent”


That sounds very much like the notion of rasa in Indian aesthetics. Each musical mode (raga), or gesture (mudra) of dance embodies a certain rasa, which is not the mood evoked, but the quality which evokes the mood.



A xing image is sometimes thought to function in such a way that it connects the events of the poem to a larger, “cosmic” order. It can do this because the image is said to belong to or to be correlative of a “category” with a cosmic significance. Unlike the bi comparison which derives its meaning from some recognizable common semantic grounds between the two things juxtaposed, the relationship here is based on a “categorical correspondence” predicated on an organic view of the universe. This relationship between a particular object and the “category” (or class: lei) it belongs to is described as “organic,” as that between genus and species, but from a linguistic point of view the “semantic features” presumably shared by the two entities are only assumed, not identified. Ultimately the “category” itself is a metaphor; it can only be conceived and represented metaphorically in terms, for instance, of yin and yang which “literally” mean the sunny and shady side (respectively) or those of the Five Elements defined as the correlatives of the Five Directions, the Five Internal Organs, etc. This reading may be understood as a kind of schematization that transcends both the dimensions of senses and feelings. ”


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