Heping Zhao

Wen Xin Diao Long: Chinese rhetoric of written discourse

Heping Zhao

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: PhD
  • Date: 1990 pp: 252
  • Advisor: Lauer, Janice M.
  • Source: DAI-A 53/09, p. 3190, Mar 1993
  • Subjects: Language, General (0679); Literature, Asian (0305)
  • ProQuest Document Number: 303829864
  • UMI Number: AAT 9301248


      • This study is an examination of Wen Xin Diao Long


    • (The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons), a rhetorical treatise on writing by Liu Xie, a fifth-century Chinese scholar. Chapter One argues for Wen Xin Diao Long as a treatise on the rhetoric of written discourse as a whole rather than on literature, its common interpretation. Chapter Two describes the historical background in which Liu Xie wrote Wen Xin Diao Long, examining the many facets–social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical–of the fifth-century China as they relate to Liu Xie’s conception of written discourse. It further investigates Liu Xie’s personal life and speculates on his motivations behind undertaking the writing of Wen Xin Diao Long in light of his personal, family and social backgrounds. Chapter Three studies Liu Xie’s view of written discourse, its major functions, its role in human interaction, and its relationship to the evolution of the human race on the one hand and of the whole universe on the other. Chapters Three, Four and Five describe and analyze the three canons in Wen Xin Diao Long: (1) a typology of written discourse: a study of thirty-two types of genre patterns ranging from the most aesthetic to the practical; (2) the process of writing, including acts of invention, drafting, and revision, and the necessary adaptation of all these acts to the situational context; (3) the art of organization, a comprehensive discussion of structural elements such as words, sentences, paragraphs, and the whole composition, and stylistic matters such as schemes and tropes. These three chapters form the basic components of Liu Xie’s theory of written discourse. Chapter Seven treats some extra-canonical factors in Liu Xie’s theory that affect writing, examining his notions of time, physical environment, and the role of the critic as external factors, and individual talent and personal aspiration as internal factors. In re-interpreting Wen Xin Diao Long, this thesis argues for the existence of a rhetorical treatise in ancient China, challenging the currently predominant notion that rhetoric has been an entirely Western phenomenon. As such, it contributes to the cross-cultural study of contrastive rhetorics.