Rhetoric in the texts of the Warring States

Workshop: Rhetoric as a Political Tool in Early China II

Tuesday, 14:00-16:00, 505





Alienating rhetoric of the Book of Lord Shang

The Book of Lord Shang, supposedly composed by Shang Yang (d. 338 BCE) and his disciples, is one of the most controversial texts of the Warring States period. Aside from engagement in what may be defined as "normal" polemics with ideological opponents, the authors at times adopt a radically alienating rhetoric, assaulting ideas and values which were overwhelmingly cherished by members of the educated elite. In several chapters, the authors deride fundamental moral norms, such as benevolence, righteousness, filiality, fraternal duty, trustworthiness and honesty, as "lice"; call upon establishing the regime in which "scoundrels rule the morally upright"; and advocate military victory by performing "whatever the enemy is ashamed of." These pronouncements may explain strongly negative reaction that the Book of Lord Shang and its putative author, Shang Yang, generated among intellectuals from the Warring States period through the imperial era and well into our days.

In my study I want to analyze, first, the reasons for the adoption of "alienating rhetoric" in the Book of Lord Shang. Who were the addressees of harsh pronouncements and what did the authors try to achieve by appalling their audience? How does the assault on traditional moral values in the Book of Lord Shangg fares in comparison with similar pronouncements in a few other contemporaneous texts, such as the Laozi, Zhuangzi and Han Feizi? Second, I shall focus on those chapters in the Book of Lord Shang which try to moderate the negative impression left by "alienating" chapters. Several demonstrably later chapters of the book adopt a more accommodative rhetoric, trying to bridge rather than increase the gaps between the Book of Lord Shang and its ideological rivals. By comparing two sets of chapters, I hope to be able to add yet another dimension to the ongoing discussion about the formation of the Book of Lord Shang and its ideological evolution.


Theories of Self Cultivation and Nurturing Life as legitimating political authority in the Lüshi Chunqiu

The aim of this paper is to show how the so called “yangist theories” based on the principles of “valuing the self (gui ji)” and “giving importance to life (gui sheng>)” on the one hand developed a moral theory based on an heremitic ideal of detachment from society and political affairs, while on the other they formed a solid background for the education of the Ruler through self-cultivation practices. The Lüshi Chunqiu is quite a remarkable example of both nei sheng wai wang “inner sageliness and outer kingliness” and zhi shen zhi guo “governing the country and governing one’s own person”. During the process of practicing inner sageliness, heart/mind (xin), human natural endowment (xing) and the whole person (shen) are participating into the cosmic processes to the extent that the comprehension of dao and Tian “Heaven” is allowed through governing one’s mind and body; during the process of practicing outer kingliness, the Ruler must show his ability to govern the nation by emulating self-cultivation theories based on nurturing life. “Practices of mind” (Xin shu) and “kingcraft” (zhu shu) are interrelated, and they both converge into the methods of understanding the dao.


The hook and the nobleman. A survey on the content and style of the Guodian Yucong

Among the early excavated text at Guodian, the Yucong si is maybe the most interested in dealing with the topic of strategy. This article will focus on the concept of strategy in this manuscript and its application when seeking to persuade the listener and what do this action and approach entail. This topic will include a survey and a comparison with another text dealing with strategy, the Guiguzi, paying particular attention to the Mopian, Chuaipian and Moupian when describing how to combine language and strategy.