Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 12
The Book of Songs: From Its Origin to Confucian Concept
Chair: Xiao Chi, National University of Singapore
Organizer: Chen Zhi, Hong Kong Baptist University

This panel aims to explore a few respects of the shaping of the Shi jing (Book of Songs), the earliest anthology of Chinese poems. Dr. Chen Zhi's paper attempts to trace the etymology of the character song and to reconstruct the reality of ritual music of Shang by resorting to archaeological evidence and paleographic analysis. Dr. Jia Jinhua's paper explores the origin of the character fu, one of the six terms -- feng, fu, bi, xing, ya, and song recorded in the Zhou li, and proposes that the original character for fu might have been wu (martialness), the term used to designate Da-Wu, an early Zhou music-dance suite. Dr. Yan Shoucheng analyzes the Confucian Way of moral transformation through the Poems (Shi jing) and music and proposes that the virtue of shu (empathizing reciprocity) is best nurtured by the Poems together with music. Dr. Xiao Chi's paper examines Wang Fuzhi's reinterpretation of the Confucian concept for function of poetry, and suggests that Wang's poetics stands as a great theoretical summary of Chinese lyricism from the stance of the tradition itself and meanwhile a revision of its "ontological consciousness".

1) Chen Zhi, Hong Kong Baptist University. "From Theological to Utilitarian: The Transformation of the Sung Sections of the Shih ching."

Note: The following chart gives the characters for some key terms in the text. The two characters read sung are numbered to differentiate them in the text. Note also that this abstract uses the Wade-Giles system of romanization, whereas the other abstracts use the Pin-yin system.

The present paper seeks to explore the origin of the Sung (1) Section of the Shih ching in light of archaeological investigation and paleographic analysis. It discusses the etymology of a few characters in early inscriptional writing, such as sung (1), sung (2), kung and yung, and argues that the original meaning of sung (1), derived from the name of a Shang instrument yung, depicts a musical suite commonly used in Shang ancestral sacrifices.

The script sung (1) in inscriptional writings takes the shape of a man kneeling before his ancestor, thereby signifying a man's devotion in worshiping his ancestors and his feeling of awe toward his forefathers. It can be postulated that sung (1) must be a word derived from the primitive ancestral cult. Conforming precisely to this etymological deduction, the poems collected in the three "Sung" (1) sections of the extant Book of Songs, as we can see, compose an intact unity of songs praising the greatness of ancestors and used in sacrificial activities.

A structural and contextual analysis of the terms sung (1), yung and sung (2) presents a clearer picture of the word relations of these early scripts, their multi-layered semantics, and the transformations which they underwent. Yung must be the precedent word for the sung (1), a Chou term designating the musical style of sacrificial songs derived from the Shang ancestral beliefs. Archaeological evidence suggests that this yung was a privileged instrument of Shang royal and noble families used in a ritual orchestra. Yung in the oracle-bone inscriptions refers not only to an instrument, most presumably the Shang bell, but also a dance and probably a musical performance. The yung dance-music suite have transformed during the dynastic transition or neighbouring cultural exchange between the Shang and the Chou. The sung (1) was the term created by the Chou rulers to designate this yung music altered to need of Chou. In emulating yung, the sacrificial music of Shang, the sung (1) genre of Chou underwent a substantial transition from religious to utilitarian, thereby leading to the transformation of the early poetics from a theological to a social function.

2) Jia Jinhua, City University of Hong Kong. "Fu and the Dawu Suite of Dance Music"

The Zhouli records six terms -- feng, fu, bi, xing, ya, and song as six kinds of poetry and song. However, since there are only three kinds of poetry and song in the Shijing -- feng, ya and song -- and no poem or song has been found related to fu, bi and xing, this record has continued to cause much controversy in later times. In this paper, I propose that, since the character fu is not seen in the rediscovered Oracle Bone Inscriptions, the original character for fu might have been wu (martialness), as many pictorial-phonetic compounds were not produced until the Spring-Autumn and Warring States periods. Throughout the Zhou dynasty, "Wu" was used to indicate the "Dawu" (Grand Martialness) suite of dance music, which was composed by Duke Zhou soon after King Wu's conquest of Yin (Shang) and was the first and most important suite in the Zhou. It comprised six movements, through which an array of dancers performed majestic scenes and stagings of the military conquest of Yin and the establishment of Zhou. There was a song in each movement, and all the six songs are preserved in the "Zhousong" section of the Shijing. It is highly possible that these "Wu" songs were included in wu (fu), one of the six kinds of poetry and song. First, since the "Wu" songs and poems were the most significant works of the Zhou, it is inevitable that they were included in the songs and poems that music masters taught to young nobles. Second, although the "Wu" songs were very important, they were not numerous enough to form an independent section in the Shijing. Hence, they were absorbed into the "Song" section when the text was compiled. Third, from "Dawu" suite's successful elaboration of historical events and display of majestic scenes, an extended meaning of elaboration and exhibition was later derived from the character wu, and this meaning was expressed by the character fu, so that it could be differentiated from the former. Fourth, perhaps because the "Wu" songs were representative works of the Zhou, the singing of songs or recitation of poems were generally called "wu (fu) " as well. Finally, after the "Wu" songs were absorbed into the "Song" section, wu's implication as a kind of song and poetry was gradually lost, so later people used fu to replaced wu in most texts related to songs and poems.

3) Yan Shoucheng, Nanyang Technological University. "The Poems in Confucian Education: Its Role and Implications"

In regard to Confucian ethics we must keep in mind that it is based on moral feelings rather than moral principles. The mind which cannot bear to see the suffering of others is the source from which all morals derive. Ren (humanity)-the cornerstone of Confucian moral philosophy-like a plant, can be nourished but cannot be forced to grow. Therefore in the Confucian view, you can make one virtuous by immersing him in goodness, but you will certainly fail if you try to win his allegiance by disciplining him in doctrines. To quote Confucius himself, "To know something is not as good as loving it; to love something is not as good as rejoicing in it." From this perspective, to steep in the Poems is the best way to inspire goodness in man. Moreover the Poems is inseparable from music, which, getting rid of the limitation of language and concrete images, exerts direct influence on man's feelings. As indicated by St. Augustine while he was talking about Church music, what touched him most was the song rather than what was sung. But Confucianism, unlike Christianity, holds that goodness is within one's heart instead of being imparted by God's grace. It is in this sense that Confucius said that man finds his fulfillment in music. If one is morally too strict and demanding toward others, it will be difficult to cultivate humanity by his side. The reason is that he lacks in the virtue of shu (empathizing reciprocity), which is best nurtured by the Poems together with music. Without such reciprocity the more moral sense one has, the more intolerant and even cruel he will be, as is manifested in the religious fundamentalists of today's world.

4) Xiao Chi, National University of Singapore. "On Wang Fuzhi's Reinterpretation of the Confucian Concept for Function of Poetry: 'Stimulating, Observing, Expressing Fellowship, and Showing Resentment'"

Wang Fuzhi's reinterpretation of Confucius' concept for poetry, "xing (stimulating), guan (observing), qun (expressing fellowship), yuan (showing resentment)," is one of the essential notions undersetting his poetics. The modern scholars have explained Wang's meaning of this notion as either an emphasis on unity between non-utilitarian and endless status of the poet's aesthetic creation and the poetic work's social function, or a highlight on the reader's participation in the creation of meanings of a poetic work. However, these two meanings, i.e., "aesthetic consciousness" and "social participation," respectively represented in the West by Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher and Georg Gadamer, are opposite to each other in the Western hermeneutics. In the face of the above puzzles, this essay is intended to make an overall re-examination of the meanings of this concept related to Wang's poetics. It argues that, deviating from the Confucian original denotation that the textualized poetry (The Classic of Poetry) has four social functions working through reading process, the concept in Wang's reinterpretation covers the meanings both about composing and reading, the author and the reader. That is to say, in terms of the reader's need, Wang discusses how the poet "enable to produce any of the four functions depending on what the reader encounters" and thereby establishes a structure for poetry's aesthetic life which connects the authorial "intention" with the "meaning" of a work produced in its presentation. In so doing, Wang, first of all, tries to resolve the contradiction between the endlessness and intuitiveness of aesthetic creation and the social utilitarian function of a poetic work. Yet, different from the way Western hermeneutics justified its own undertaking, for Wang, the confirmation of the poet's unconsciousness in composition does not follow a recognition of the need for a conscious hermeneutics. On the contrary, Wang highlights that a reader only when he releases himself from any personal concern can enjoy the experience of "wandering within the four feelings" through the reading of poetry. At this point, Wang radically denies the Han Confucian scholars' hermeneutic concept that the meaning of a poetic work can only be derived from the reconstruction of its author's "intention". Furthermore, as Gadamer uses Aristotle's notion "catharsis" to discuss the tragedy for defining the genre, Wang also defines the aesthetic life of the lyric poetry in terms of its presentation by readers. But, Wang's hermeneutic concept should not be exaggerated as to confirming Gadamerian "hermeneutic continuity". The final part of this essay compares the intellectual backgrounds, the philosophical shifts concerning human existence, behind the development of hermeneutic concepts in the West and ancient China. The comparison reveals that, since Wang Fuzhi could not finally depart from the tradition to discuss the human nature in terms of continuum between man and heaven, his philosophy about human existence accordingly is still totalistic and the so-called "wandering within the four feelings" is not equivalent to Gadamer's "hermeneutic continuity" that is based upon the human historical existence, "the dasein." Nevertheless, by his philosophy of the heavenly ordained and human nature, in spite of his confirmation that all individuals' nature in last analysis are generally same, Wang emphases that feelings between the poet and reader, or between readers, at every particular moment are not necessarily same. His poetics therefore stands as a great theoretical summary of Chinese lyricism from the stance of the tradition itself and meanwhile a revision of its "ontological consciousness".

Discussant: Murayama Yoshihiro, Professor Emeritus Waseda University


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