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Towards a World History of the Humanities: The Impact of China

Towards a World History of the Humanities: The Impact of China

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Towards a World History of the Humanities: The Impact of China

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  1. Towards a World History of the Humanities:The Impact of China Public Lecture, The History of Logic in China, 24 Nov 2010 Rens Bod Institute for Logic, Language and Computation University of Amsterdam

  2. This talk is based on two recent books

  3. What’s this talk about? • Common wisdom: Chinese reasoning and argumentation are not based on deductiveinference but on analogicalinference • Controversy that Chinese thinking is different from other cultures • Yet surprisingly little work goes beyond logic and philosophy, and looks at other humanistic discipines • As I will show, other humanistic discipines are often • Rule / principle-based • Similar to European (and even Indian) humanities • While Chinese (Mohist) logic uses analogical patterns of argumentation, it is based on formal principles (cf. Fenrong’s talk)

  4. History of the Humanities in China • Any distinction between humanities and sciences before 19th century is anachronistic (distinction is from Dilthey 1883) • But not all anachronisms are harmful (cf. Jardine 2004) • While Chinese mathematics, technology and knowledge of nature have been quite widely studied (Needham a.o.), the study of the “humanities” is still underexposed • There is no general overview of the history of the humanistic disciplines in China • But this is also missing for Europe, India, Africa…(for English)

  5. What do we mean by humanities? • Philology • Logic & Philosophy • Rhetoric • Historiography • Poetics (literary theory) • Music theory/history • Art theory/history • Linguistics • …

  6. Preview: Characteristics of the Humanities in China • A strong interest in deriving rules and/or principles for ‘good’ literature, music, art, source treatment, etc: Prescriptive • A strong interest in discerning patterns in literature, art, music andthe past on the basis of these principles: Descriptive • There is a continuity from pre-Qin to Qing dynasty in this search for rules, principles, patterns • For sake of time, I will often abstract from cultural background, even if this is not always possible

  7. Structure of the rest of the talk • I’ll start with the principles and patterns that have been developed in the humanities in ‘early’ China and after: • (I) Poetics • (II) Art theory/Art history • (III) Historiography • (IV) Philology/Linguistics • (V) Music theory • I will compare these with the humanities outside China • I’ll draw conclusions about the humanities in general

  8. (I) Poetics (Literary theory) • Confucius already mentioned the didactic and allegorical scope of literature • But the oldest critical work in poetics is arguably by Cao Pi (187-226 CE), son of the legendary general Cao Cao, first emperor of Wei • Cao Pi’s thesis: • Most important in literature is the vital breath (qi) which varies from singer to singer in the execution of the same song • However: nosearch for methodological principles or empirical patterns 7th c. Tang painting of Cao Pi by Yan Liben

  9. Rules and patterns in Chinese poetics: Wenxin diaolong • Liu Xie (465-521CE): Wenxin diaolong (“The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons”), 50 chapters • An exposition of 32 writing styles, from the most aesthetic to the most practical • This exposition is descriptive. First part gives an overview of • myths, • classics (and their imitations) • styles of poetry (yuefu) • poetic prose (fu) • hymns, eulogies, prayers • historical works (including a stylistic analysis of Sima Qian), • philosophical works • exam papers, reports, • war declarations, and more!

  10. Writing process according to Liu Xie • 2nd part deals with actual writing process • Process of writing the literary text (“inventio”) • First rough version • Revision • Necessary adaptation to specific context • Rules for composition(“compositio”) • Division into structural elements of words, sentences, paragraphs • Tropes, metaphors • Expression of emotions, vitality, musicality, parallellism • Role of external factors, as well personal aspirations • In terms of coverage, Wenxin diaolong is one of the most extensive works in poetics and rhetoric from antiquity

  11. Rules and patterns in Liu Xie’s Wenxin diaolong • Prescriptive rules: principles for writing styles • Descriptive patterns: generalizations over 32 different styles • cf. Aristotle’sPoetica: underlying theory (katharsis), but also rules for plot (may have been descriptive at the beginning, but then interpreted as prescriptive rules by e.g. Horace) • Longinus: literary history with notion of sublime • Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Quintilian: rules for composition, similar to Liu Xie • Bharata Muni (India): Natya Shastra, rules, very prescriptive, but perhaps originate from descriptive generalizations

  12. Search for empirical regularities after Liu Xie • Song period: Chen Kui’s Wen ze: descriptive patterns in Chinese Classics which Chen Kui proposes as prescriptive rules as a help for preparing state examinations • Ming period: Hu Yinglin discerns rules for good poetry • Qing period: Zhao Zhi-xin’s handbook of tonal patterns gives prosodic rules for Chinese (classical) poetry

  13. (II) Art Theory: Xie He’s Six Principles in Gu huapin lu (6th c. CE) • Spirit Resonance: the nervous energy transmitted from the artist • Bone Method: the way of using the brush • Correspondence to the Object: the depiction of form, which includes shape and line • Suitability to Type: the application of color, including layers, value and tone • Division and Planning: placing and arrangement, corresponding to composition, space and depth • Transmission by Copying: the copying of models, not only from life but also the works of antiquity • These principles are used by Xie He to systematically compare and analyze a large number of art works

  14. Similarity with Alberti’s Disegno • Xie He’s principle-based approach is surprisingly similar to L.B. Alberti’s Disegno theory (1435): • Circumscriptio(sketch): form of the object in terms of shape and line • Compositio(composition): placing and arrangement in terms of hierarchical constituent structure • Receptio luminum (light): treatment of light and colour • Xie He’s Principles probably derive from the Sadanga six principles brought to China via Buddhist monks • But this does not explain the surprising similarity with Italian Renaissance principles of Alberti

  15. Principles and patterns in Xie He • Xie He’s approach is a principle-based way to analyze and compare works of art, just like Liu Xie’s analysis of literature • Extremely influential: his principles were used to define the painting styles in Tang, Yuan and Song painting • Some works discussed in Xie He’s 6th c. treatise are still available today: Gu Kaizhi, Admonitions of the Instructress to the Palace Ladies(4th c. CE)

  16. After Xie He • Ming period: Xie He’s method loses importance. Literati collect paintings, manuscripts etc, and create new art theories focusing on history of art: • E.g. Wang Shizhen (1526-1590) describes the history of Chinese art as a sequence of turning points where different styles are treated equally • This is very different from his Italian contemporary Giorgio Vasari where only the classical style is celebrated, and history is next seen as linear progress • In China, such linear progress would probably be impossible, given the dominance of cyclic view of history, as rise, glory and fall (see later)

  17. After Xie He (2) • Consciousness of historization of style leads to neo-styles in the 17th century Ming: artists can paint in any style • Interesting parallel: this also happens in Europe, but in the 19th century • 18th c. Jezuit painters in China learn historical notion of style and paint in ‘any’ style, e.g. Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1768), a.k.a. Lang Shining became court painter for the Old Summer Palace • Yet: No explicit principles in art history; only in art theory (Xie He)

  18. (III) Historiography: Sima Qian • First critical Chinese historiography based on principles is probably by Sima Qian (Han period) • As Grand Historian (like his father), he compiles in 130 volumes the Shijicovering the period from 27th c. BCE till 2nd c. BCE (his own Han time) • It’s by far the largest historiography from antiquity, covering all regions and nations known to him

  19. Shiji: a new historical method • Sima Qian combines two principles: • Principle of written source (using e.g. Book of History, Bamboo annals, Autumn, Spring annals, and collections by his father Sima Tan) • Principle of oral source • These principles were not used by the Attic Greeks • Herodotus: principle of most plausible source • Thucydides: principle of first eye-witness • Yet, principle of written source was used later by Babylonean historians (Berossus), Egyptian historians (Manetho) and the Romans with their Annales maximi (also used by Livy, Tacitus a.o.) • Yet, we don’t know what kind of selection method Sima Qian used for his oral sources • First critical approach to oral chain of transmission was constructed by the Arabs in the isnad methodology

  20. The cyclical pattern • By combining written and oral sources, Sima Qian manages to “reconstruct” large parts of ancient history • Many books were gone due to the book burning under Li Si (213 BCE) • Cyclical pattern in history: rise, glory and fall of dynasties. • An initial emperor gets a mandate from heaven, next emperors get less virtuous until heaven restracts the mandate and history (including calendar counting) starts over again • Sima Qian thus rejects the strictly annalistic form of all previous historical writings (e.g. Bamboo annals) • Also Herodotus and Thucydides find this pattern, • but not Polybius, and neither the Roman and the Arabic historiographers who see world history as a linear pattern(e.g. Christian and Islamic “Universal History”)

  21. Sima Qian’s innovations • Sima Qian: • Uses two principles to conduct historiography • Discerns patterns in the historical material • Creates five new historical genres to present his material, that even influenced Poetics • Thus also Chinese historiography follows the use of principles and patterns • Even though the observation of patterns is heavily influenced by underlying world view -- as with every observation • Sima Qian’s method becomes the standard for 1800 years of Chinese historiography (the official Shi guan) • Though there are exceptions, e.g. Liu Zhiji a.o.

  22. (IV) Philology: fascinating parallel with Europe • Also here a use of a priori principles and a posteriori patterns • Chen Di (Ming period): derives principles of language change, especially for phonology • Gu Yanwu (Ming/Qing period) founder of School of Text Criticism, Kaoju Xue, a.k.a. Empirical School • Principles: manuscript comparison, ‘genealogical’ method of establishing oldest source, sound shifts: falsifiable method • Discoveries: 26 chapters from Book of History were shown by Yan Ruoqu to be forgeries, and many other incorrect attributions to Confucius were rebutted • Europe: Cf. discovery by Lorenzo Valla that Donatio Constantini is a forgery, and the rebuttal of the biblical age of the Corpus Hermeticum by Casaubon (roughly same age as Gu Yanwu) • Systematic manuscript comparison is very similar to Poliziano, Scaliger, Bentley a.o. Gu Yanwu

  23. (V) Musicology: the most mathe-matical discipline of the humanities • Principle of mathematical analysis • Liu An (2nd c. BCE), king of Huainan, gives in his Huainanzithe first full analysis of the twelve-tone tuning system • In 1978, the Bells of Zenghouyi (433 BCE) were discovered, with similar but less accurate tuning written on each bell • From the Tang period onwards: a focus on music history • In other regions (e.g. Europe, India) music histories appear in the 18/19th c.

  24. A musicological discovery that refuted a world view • Cai Yuanding (1135-1198) shows in Lülü xinshu (“New treatise of music theory”) that the tones in the circle of fifths contradict a then widespread cosmological interpretation of the 12 standard tones: • These 12 standard tones were supposed to be equidistant and cyclic but Cai Yuanding shows that this is mathematically impossible • This was a refutation of the omnipresent cosmological notion of cyclicity in the Chinese world view at the time (but the refutation had little influence…)

  25. Principles and patterns in the Chinese humanities Discipline Principles Patterns

  26. Conclusions I • Humanities use precise methods (‘principles’) and obtain falsifiable results (‘patterns’) • Our comparative history of the humanities in China indicates that Chinese humanities focus on deriving and discerning empirical patterns in texts, music, art, language, literature with the help of methodological principles The Chinese humanities are not ‘analogical’ but rather inductive and sometimes even deductive (philology, music theory)

  27. Conclusions II • The Mohist’s focus on analogical rather than deductive argumentation may be an exception in Chinese thinking • BUT: Mohist analogical argumentation is also based on formal principles (law of non-contradiction and law of excluded middle – see this conference) • Thus in all (Chinese) humanities we find a search for methodological principles and empirical patterns – just as we see in other parts of the world! • This search is perhaps what all human intellectual activities have in common (contra Nisbett’s Geography of Thought)

  28. Thank you!

  29. Selected bibliography on the history of the humanities in China • Rens Bod, The Forgotten Sciences: A History of the Humanities (In Dutch, “De Vergeten Wetenschappen: Een Geschiedenis van de Humaniora”), Prometheus, 2010. (English translation appears in 2011) • Rens Bod, Jaap Maat and Thijs Weststeijn (eds.), The Making of the Humanities, Vol I, Amsterdam University Press, 2010. • Susan Brush, China, Painting Theory and Criticism, Oxford Art Online, Oxford University Press, 2004. • Benjamin Elman, From Philosophy to Philology: Intellectual and Social Aspects of Change in Late Imperial China, Harvard University Press, 1984. • Benjamin Elman, “Philology and its Enemies: Changing Views of Late Imperial Chinese Classicism”, Colloquium “Images of Philology”, 2006. • Yang Guobin, Dragon-Carving and the Literary Mind: An Annotated English Translation and Critical Study of Wenxin Diaolong by Liu Xie, Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2003. • Chad Hansen, Language and Logic in Ancient China, University of Michigan, 1983. • NicholasJardine, “Uses and Abuses of Anachronism in the History of the Sciences”, History of Science, 38, 2000, pp. 251-270.

  30. Selected bibliography on the history of the humanities in China • Walter Kaufmann, Musical References in the Chinese Classics, Detroit Monographs in Musicology Nr 5, 1976. • Andy Kirkpatrick, “China’s First Systematic Account of Rhetoric: An Introduction to Chen Kui’s Wen Ze”, Rhetorica, 23(2), 2005, pp.103-152. • Joachim Kurtz, “Coming to Terms with Logic: the Naturalization of an Occidental Notion in China”, in Michael Lackner, Iwo Amelung and Joachim Kurtz (eds.), New Terms for New Ideas: Western Knowledge and Lexical Change in Late Imperial China, Brill, 2001, pp. 147–176. • Joseph Lam, “Chinese Music: History and Theory.”in Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music, Macmillan, 2001. • James Liu, Chinese Theories of Literature, The University of Chicago Press, 1975. • Ernest McClain and Ming Shui Hung, “Chinese Cyclic Tunings in Late Antiquity”, Ethnomusicology, 23(2), 1979, pp. 205-224. • John Minford and Joseph Lau (eds.), Classical Chinese Literature, from Antiquity to the Tang Dynasty: An Anthology of Translations, Columbia University Press, 2002. • Robert Oliver, Communication and Culture in Ancient India and China. Syracuse University Press. 1971.

  31. Selected bibliography on the history of the humanities in China • Betty Peh-T'i Wei, Ruan Yuan, 1764–1849: The Life and Work of a Major Scholar-Official in NineteenthCentury China before the Opium War, Hong Kong University Press, 2006. • Willard Peterson, “The Life of Ku Yen-wu (1613-1682)”, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 28, 1968, pp. 114-156. • Edward Shaughnessy, Rewriting Early Chinese Texts, SUNY Press, 2006. • Osvald Sirén, The Chinese on the Art of Painting: Texts by the Painter-Critics, from the Han through the Ch’ing Dynasties, Dover Publications, 2005 [1936]. • Denis Twitchett, The Writing of Official History Under the T'ang, Cambridge University Press, 1992. • Burton Watson, Ssu-ma Chien: Grand Historian of China, Columbia University Press, 1958. • Lin Yutang, The Chinese Theory of Art, Putnam’s, 1967. • Jialong Zhang and Fenrong Liu, “Some Thoughts on Mohist Logic,” in Johan van Benthem, Shier Ju en Frank Veltman (eds.), A Meeting of the Minds: Proceedings of the Workshop on Logic, Rationality and Interaction, College Publications, 2007, pp. 85-102.

  32. For further information: http://staff.science.uva.nl/~rens/