Tag Archives: chinese rhetorics

Lu, Xing. “Studies and Development of Comparative Rhetoric in the U.S. A.: Chinese and Western Rhetoric in Focus”

In this article, Xing Lu describes the evolution of comparative rhetoric in rhetorical studies between Chinese rhetoric and Western rhetoric as has having occurred in four stages:  deficiency stage, recognition/emergence stage, the native/emic stage, and the appreciation/appropriation stage.  According to Lu, the during the deficiency stage, arguments about Chinese rhetorics are premised on the lack of logical thinking and rational arguments supposedly inherent in Chinese languages and tradition.  Robert Oliver, for instance, in his early study of ancient eastern rhetorics declares the “ancient East has not been much interested in logic…nor has it favored either definition and classification as aids to clear thought”  (Communication and Culture in Ancient Indian and China 10).  Other scholars have noted that Chinese rhetoric lacks logics of the West due to inability to make fine distinctions and abstractions.  Whatever the reason, during this stage, Chinese rhetorical practices are compared and deemed inferior to the logical, abstract, and definable practices of rhetoric of the West.  During the recognition/emergence stage, the stage in which Kennedy’s comparative Rhetoric was published, rhetorical scholars fully acknowledged and validated the value of non-Western rhetorics, identifying both similarities and differences between rhetorics of the East and West.  Still problems arose during this state of recognition. With Kennedy’s attempt to identify a “general theory” of rhetoric applicable to all societies and to develop a universal discourse with which to describe all rhetorical practices cross-culturally, for instance, Kennedy falls victim to creating an evolutionary model of rhetoric among other problems. Longings for a universal rhetoric also tend to erase difference all together.

            In the native/emic stage, rhetorical schlolars attempt to define non-western rhetorical practices on its own terms and in consideration of the social/political/cultural contexts in which they were produced.  Mao’s work on Confucian rhetoric is exemplary here as he shows that while Western conceptions of rhetoric emphasize causal and rational ideologies, Confucian rhetorics reveals a “participatory mode of discourse interested in transmitting knowledge, performing reciprosity,and acting in accordance with rituals” (114).  According to Lu, this state encourages rhetorical scholars to pay attention to the material realities in which these rhetorics were produced and acknowledge the recontextualization that always occurs as we represent rhetorical practices from other cultures and/or our own cultures from other points in time.  During the appreciation/appropriation stage, the shift focuses from emphasis of difference to emphasis on incorporating differences in respective rhetorical systems, or in other words, to borrowing rhetorical concepts from one culture to address problems and limitations in say Western rhetoric (115).  Stephen Comb’s article analyzing Sun Zi’s The Art of War, for instance, demonstrates how Daoist argumentation styles can provide western argumentation with a more flexible, critical approach (115).  Despite the improvement of comparative rhetoric from one that deemed Chinese rhetoric illogical, inadequate, and inferior to Western rhetoric to one that valued the unique qualities of Chinese rhetorical traditions, Lu claims that current challenges relating to translation, methodological research, and continued biases still exist.  Lu advocates continued research in comparative rhetoric as a means to develop intercultural understanding and communication.  The ideal approach, she says, is collaborative research by American and native scholars to address limitations in language competency, disciplinary training and misunderstandings that result in cross-cultural research.  


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Wang, Bo. “A Survey of Research in Asian Rhetoric”


In order to survey the existing state of research in Asian rhetorics, in this article, Bo Wang interviews top scholars in Asian rhetorics, who have recently begun to study Asian rhetorics on their own terms and in their own contexts and helped to broaden our modern conceptions of rhetoric.  Included in this survey are the opinions of Vernon Johnson (pioneer of Asian rhetoric whose work led to new and more appropriate ways of inquiry), Mary Garrett (studied pathos of early Chinese rhetorical practices through non-western rhetorical lens), XiaMing Li (ethnographic studies of writing in China and U.S. and author of “Good Writing” in Cross-Cultural Context), Xing Lu, (author of Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.), and LuMing Mao, (rhetorical and linguistic scholar who studies Confucian rhetoric and author of the important work “Reflective Encounters”).  According to Bo, these scholars’ research are “mindful of the logic of Orientalism…stud[y] Asian rhetoric in its own cultural and political contexts,… appropriates Asian rhetoric for Western contexts, and…applies Asian rhetorical traditions to the study of pedagogical issues” (172-3).  This survey reveals that we need: to “rewrite rhetorical theory and explore new research methodologies;” more scholars who have the tools and expertise to study Asian rhetorics in their original contexts and cultures; explore a broader scope of genres from their rhetorical perspective and encourage more interdisciplinary research in this area”  (173). 


Key points made by various scholars:


Xing Lu:


–analytical and definition modes of thinking create obstacles in rendereing a more nuanced and authentic understanding of rhetoric and communication in non-Western cultures.

–we need not search for single definition of Chinese rhetoric or try to find equivalence from the Western terminology


LuMing Mao

–no evolutionary trajectory and no transferrance of Western terminologies uncritically

–futher explore how those rhetorical terms influenced and affected the rhetorical behaviors of their users and how they interacted with each other at different historical moments


XiaMing Lu

–broaden scope of texts to be studied beyond political and philosophical treaties

–eurocentrism still dominates rhetorical studies


Vernon Johnson

–don’t overlook southeast Asia. 

–look at rhetorics of contact between east and west and between asian nations

–analyze impact of mass media on individual asian nations

–explore impact of asian ancient religion and history on contemporary asian rhetoric and communication




















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Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks Eds. Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley

With the call in Octolog II to look for rhetoric in cultural locations unpreviously examined, Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks attempts to explore rhetoric before and beyond the limited scope of Athenian rhetoric in ways that do not reify Athenian rhetoric as the apex of the ancient rhetorical tradition.  As the editors note in their introduction, in order to survive over long periods of time, cultures existing before the Greeks had to use communication for significant social functions and to persuade and convince.  This collection aims to recover understanding of rhetorical use of language by early cultures—Mesopatamia, Egypt, China, ancient Israel, and other parts of Greece.  Scholars are particularly interested in recovering rhetorical genres and conventions used in particular moments in time and investigating how they might have grown and changed over time.  This work is controversial for a number of reasons.  One, ancient artifacts to study are often scarce and fragmented and the contexts in which they were produced are difficult to fully understand.  Two, the Aristotelian body of definitions, values, and practices has a strong hold on modern conceptions of rhetoric; some argue that studying rhetorical genres and conventions of other cultures threatens traditional classical notions of rhetoric.  Three, methodological concerns are raised as to how to study “alternative rhetorics” and whether or not to apply traditional Athenian concepts of rhetoric to other cultures such as George Kennedy does in Comparative Rhetoric or study other cultures use of rhetoric on their own terms and through their own analytical frameworks—an approach Xing Lu calls a hermeneutic method, which “allows the ancient Chinese texts[, for instance,] to speak for themselves without imposing assumptions or terminological equations on them” (15).  This approach also has the benefit, as Swearingen notes, of helping us “see the blind spots of our own terminology and [helping] us envision other possibilities” (19).  


“The Birth of Rhetoric”  William W. Hallo


In “The Birth of Rhetoric,” Hallo argues that rhetoric was actually birthed in Mesopatamia through the genre of cuneiform literature.  Hallo looks to the Epic of Gilgamesh to prove that Mesopatamian myths have rhetorical value and effect.  He notes, for instance, that the rhetorical devices employed in this epic include:  self-introduction of the “speaker,” invitation to the audience, hymnic apostrophe to the protagonist, partial repetition of the proemium to achieve a frame effect and closure, and mechanical addition of an extraneous addendum to arrive at a preferred length” (33). 



“The Rhetoric of Origins and the Other:  Reading the Ancient Figure of Enheduanna”  Roberta Binkley


In this important essay that attempts to disrupt the notion that ancient women had no agency and no voice, Binkley recovers the early literacy practices of the ancient figure of Enheduanna’s song writing and situates them within the long sacred tradition described by Swearingen as “Song to Speech.”  Enheduanna was a priestess, princess, poet and “consummate rhetorician” writing in 2300 B.C., yet recognition of her as an early rhetorician has been largely ignored because she is a geographically and gendered Other writing to an Other (sacred) audience.  Consequently, her “work, her documented existence, and her ethos problematizes rhetorical assumptions of origins and the Other in rhetorical historiography and in Assyriology” (47).  Binkley explains that Enheduanna was a composer of hymns intended to be sung, which contain strong elements of pathos, ethos, and logos.  Especially interesting, Binkley argues, is the articulation of Enheduanna’s invention process, which entails calling upon the goddess Inanna to assist in her creative process.  This creative process challenges Western notions of the intellect, which divorces the body from the mind, as well as notions that divorce rhetoric from the sacred.   Binkley concludes this article by stating that the acknowledgment of Enheduanna as an early rhetorician opens up future possibilities for enhancing our understanding of rhetorical consciousness, especially of the rhetorical Other, and reconfiguring the origins of rhetoric itself.


Carol Lipson  “Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric:  It All Comes Down to Maat


            In attempt to uncover an ancient Egyptian rhetorical system, Carol Lipson reveals the ways in which Egyptian rhetoric was founded to some extent on the cultural concept of Maat—also the name of a goddess often depicted in Egyptian mortuary mythology.  According to Lipson, Matt both a.) reflects “the culture’s understanding of interconnected order of the cosmic, divine, natural, and human worlds” as well as its understanding of the need to preserve that order; and b.) defines ways to conduct oneself blamelessly toward others  (81).  Maat is rhetorical then in the educational sense; by dictating behaviors appropriate for certain situations, Maat reflects and communicates certain cultural values as well as guidelines for action.  By rhetorically analyzing Egyptian conventional and ritual practices of writing letters, Lipson demonstrates how letters that perform Maat are actually epideictic in nature—letters reaffirm the social/political order of society and emphasize the roles and responsibilities of community members at various levels of society.  In these letters, Lipson explains, the communicator performs several acts simultaneously: “doing Maat, enacting ritual practices of Maat, carrying out Maat responsibilities, and showing devotion to Maat principles (90).  Communicators are also teaching Maat by articulating how to enact Maat in specific situations depending on one’s status in society.  Besides these immediate administrative functions, Lipson also explains that the rhetorical strategies employed in these letters also function for more divine purposes—to put “themselves up for and understanding by and assessment before the goddess Maat,” which Lipson correlates to what Bahktin calls any higher authority beyond the immediate audience, a “superaddressee” (93). 

            Lipson ends her article by disclaiming that the conventions she has uncovered in Egyptian autobiographies and letters are not static practices and also that a precise understanding of what it means to do Maat can never be known.  She calls for a transhistorical research to confirm Egyptian ways of reflecting and reinforcing their cultural system and ritually enacting its cultural values through the performance of Maat.  This article also illustrates that Rhetoric doesn’t always make an argument.   Rhetoric of accommodation is particular to Egypt.  Therefore, rhetoric was at work in helping people understand themselves and society. 


Rhetoric here was directed toward divine audience; hence numerous questions about audience arise:  How do they conceive this audience?  It is imagined.  Are we always writing to an imagine audience?  If so, then is it a worthy endeavor to write to an audience?  How can we truly know who we our audience is?


“The Use of Eloquence:  The Confucian Perspective”  George Q. Xu


In this essay, Xu demonstrates a general mistrust of eloquence, defined as the “skillful, artistic verbal expression for rhetorical effect,” reflected in Confucian texts (116).  As he explains, “While keenly aware of the usefulness of persuasion in political operations, they disdained ‘indulgence in argumentation with no useful purpose and flowery eloquence with no practical results’ and they even blamed the deterioration of government effectiveness on sophistry that served no practical function” (116).  Even as Confucianists employed eloquence to devalue eloquences, their devaluation of eloquence, Xu argues, has had a profound, long lasting effect on Chinese communication practices.  As Xu explains, Confucianism was the dominant controlling ideology in everyday life and the study of Confucianism was a means to climb the social ladder (which is why the study of Chinese rhetoric must focus on Confucian texts) (125).  Therefore, the devaluation of eloquence in Confucian texts is still embedded in the Chinese collective consciousness. 


“Confucian Silence and Remonstration:  A Basis for Deliberation?”  Arabella Lyon


Arabella Lyon begins this article with a rationale for why the recovery of Confucian rhetoric is so important.  As she explains, “for more than 2,500 years, his works—fragmented, edited, even written by his disciples—have been used to make a cacophony of claims about the nature of humanity, government, education, and the East” (131).   Through the lens of deliberative rhetoric, Lyon studies the relationship of Confucian rhetoric and current democratic and civil rights movements in Asia. More specifically, by exploring remonstration and silence in The Analects, Lyon  Lyon acknowledges the risk of looking through a Western lens to study Confucian rhetoric, but she does so in order to “place Confucian rhetoric within a defined rhetorical tradition and to place Confucious in twenty-first-century rhetoric” (132). 


Lyon begins by defining rhetoric as a metalinguistic awareness of language to be manipulated in the service of identity, communication, persuasion, or artifice (132).  She explains that “as Westerners after Plato conceived” rhetoric, the Chinese do not share western assumptions about “language, communication, and the individual” (132).  For instance, in ancient China there was a “great skepticism about persuasion as an ethical undertaking and even about language as revealing knowledge, action, or character” (132).  Such a difference raises the questions:  “how do you define rhetoric in a culture wituout a homologous word?  If you simply import rhetoric as a concept, what are the implications of bringing western concepts to Chinese culture?…In bringing the concepts of rhetoric and rhetorical theory to Confucian texts, are we colonizing China, or are we disrespecting rhetorical theory, a cultural perspective of the West?” (133).  What are we missing by forcing rhetorical theory upon Confucius? (133)


As she explains:

            …[T]he need to understand alternative strategies for language use, forces a conceptual form—the concepts available in the dicipline of rhetoric—upon a different conceptual system, one that values relationship over individual, conservation over experiment, and spirituality and self-cultivation over material accomplishment.  It creates a private/public distinction within a culture that has little.  China’s philosophical concern with process, cycle, and movement over Being, creation, and performance is more congenial with rhetoric, but our prior understandings of what is rhetoric may focus us on the wrong aspects of Chinese culture and filter out what is significant.  One may obscure what is uniquely there by foregrounding western assumptions and so distort and colonize.  It is the dilemma and tragedy of translation (133)


Translation, she explains, has led to controversies such as what Chinese concept most closely approximates rhetoric.  Some argue that bian (argue, debate) does, while others argue that shuo (explain, make clear) and shui (persuade) do.  Lyon asks, what about quan (urge) , jian (remonstrate), ming (naming, dialectics), yue (speaking), ci (speech), and yan (say, language).  Lyon argues for letting go of need to specify disciplined concept of rhetoric to more deeply understanding rhetorical complexity of language.  Lyon chooses to look at Confucian rhetoric through the lens of deliberation, which she extends Lani Guinier’s explanation of deliberation to define delibertion as “the process of (articulating and) framing issues to be resolved, proposing alternative solutions, examining the reasons for and against the proposed solutions, (advocating specific solutions, recognizing and responding to the concerns of others,) and settling on alternative (action)” (qtd. on 134).  Lyon studies two modes of deliberation—silence and remonstration—in The Analects to show how the process of deliberation assists Chinese citizens in becoming more human.


Worldly acts, not articulated ideas and plans, build human character according to The Analects.  Thus, the “lived character of the rhetor is more important than his speech” (137).  Therefore, The Analects identifys specific use of silence for specific rhetorical situations (138).  Remonstration is a process of persuasion that does not end in changing the audience but in audience deliberation (140).  Because the goal of remonstration is deliberation, the objective is to represent well rather than to say and sway (140).  The goal of this form of rhetoric is human connection and respect and honor of interlocuters.  As such, in this form of democracy, which is not focused on the individual or equality, the government has responsibility to learn from commoners, honor their will, and to demonstrate virtue in order to win over the mass population and sustain order (142).


 “’Nothing Can Be Accomplished If the Speech Does Not Sound Agreeable’:  Rhetoric and the Invention of Classical Chinese Discourse”   Yameng Lu


In this article, Yameng Lu begins by suggesting that rather than fret over how to studying Chinese rhetoric on its own terms, we think of rhetoric as “the effective use of symbolic resources in discursive and sociocultural practices [which] is applicable cross-culturally” in order to hone in on the abundance of Chinese textual evidence of rhetorical thinking (147).  Lu explores the genre of nan (rebuttal) to show how the deconstruction of one’s opponent’s rhetoric so as to discredit his ideology is a common rhetorical strategy found therein.  Nan, according to Lu, is just one example of the sophisticated understanding of language in Chinese rhetoric as well as the kind of depth, scope, and complexity that classical Chinese rhetoric had managed to achieve” (150).  In arguing how sophisticated and complex ancient Chinese rhetorical thinking was, Lu also draws on David Hall and Roger Ames, who in arguing that rhetoric rather than logic was main form of communication in ancient China, cite the four following observations as evidence of their claim:  a.) pathos and ethos used more than logos in Chinese texts; analogical reasoning employed; c.) no thinking/acting dichotomy in Chinese texts:  “an idea is a proposal for feeling and action”; d.) “Chinese modes of expression function imagistically and metaphorically” (150).  Thus rather than think of Confucius and others as philosophers and thinkers, we can think of them as outstanding orators who shared certain assumptions about rhetorical thinking (152).  Lu also makes clear that we need to think of Chinese rheteoric not just as produced in response to Chinese cultural crises, but as discursive practices that create social and cultural meaning that “shape the perceptions, desires, feelings, and hence behaviors of individual or institutional actors” (153).  This way of thinking meets Foucault’s challenge to not analyze the formation of discourses and the geneaology of knowledge “’in terms of types of consciousness, modes of perception and forms of ideology, but in terms of tactics and strategies of power’” (qtd. on 153).  This way of thinking also locates Chinese rhetoric as a productive art.  And finally, this way of thinking acknowledges that “the discursive practicioners of this period, regardless of their ideological affiliations, must have shared a body of terministic and conceptual resources, subscribed to the same set of basic problematics, assumptions, and norms, and functioned within the same rhetorical framework” (155) and that rhetoric and the normative discursive order would be the supplier of this shared body of resources (156).  Overall, Lu claims classical Chinese rhetoric was a “discipline/practice in its own right and what the orginators of traditional Chinese discourse were busy doing can…be described as rhetorical criticism”; and despite their differences among discourse communities,  the “various ‘schools’ or discourse communities actually shared much in their rhetorical thinking and their modes of rhetorical practice” (161).  He argues mainly for “redefining classical Chinese rhetoric as an ‘architectonic productive art,’ one that contributed vitally to the cultural and ideological production of the time by rendering possible meaningful interactions among divergent thoughts and ideologies” (161).



“The Art of Rhetoric at Rhodes:  An Eastern Rival to the Athenian Representation of Classical Rhetoric”             Richard Enos


In this article, Enos demonstrates that what we usually think of as Greek rhetoric is actually Athenian rhetoric created in response to the particular internal, civic needs of that emerging democracy.  In Rhodes, however, the first true “Greco-Roman” rhetoric that was produced was externally oriented—produced in other words to faciliate communication with other peoples (184).  Enos points out that “the thought that Aristotle’s Rhetoric may have been accounting of rhetoric that was not meant as a universal explanation but rather as a study of rhetorica indigenous to Athens is so out of harmony with our assumptions that it is not given serious consideration” (186).  We need to create knowledge of other manifestations of Greek rhetoric, Enos argues, and study them in ways that do not deem them as inferior or derivative of Athenian rhetoric (186).  Enos explains that Rhodes was artistic center of Greece.  In Rhodes, rhetoric was not just employed for civic functions for sustaining democracy (forensic and deliberative); rhetoric also had artistic and epideictic functions that facilitated cultural diversity (189).  Overall, Enos makes five important observations of rhetoric of Rhodes:  a.) Rhodes offered a rival and enduring veriosn of Greek rhetoric; b.) it stressed epideictic function that served to create cross-cultural ties; c.) it’s moderate style made it ideal for study and practice of declamation; d.)  it was inherently inclusive and made popular in Rome; e.) its rhetorical riches are yet to be discovered (194).  I would add that it illustrates that rhetoric is just not about persuasion…


“Story-List-Sanction:  A Cross-Cultural Strategy of Ancient Persuasion” James Watts


In this article, Watts demonstrates that the genre of rhetoric that entails presenting story, generating a list, and articulating a sanction is not specific to one culture but exists across cultures and time.  Because this genre at work in ancient Eastern texts can still be found today in Western settings, Watts argues that “some ancient rhetorical forms have survived alongside the arguments of theorists who rejected them, thereby institutionalizing that conflict in the social structures that shape contemporary public discourse” (210). 


“Song to Speech:  The Origins of Early Epitaphia in Ancient Near Eastern Women’s Lamentations”  Jan Swearingen


In this article, Swearingen takes both an etic and emic approach to study the women’s songs and lamentations in the ancient Near East.  In other words, Swearingen both employs a Greco-Roman rhetorical framework to study these songs and lamentations(etic) and attempts to explore these songs and lamentations on their own terms (emic).  Swearingens’s research demonstrates that “first rhetorical epitaphia in Athens bear traces of earlier song traditions, some of them composed by women, as it was traditional for women to perform the lamentations at burials” according to Ochs and Alexiou (215).  Alongside Homeric sagas and plays as well as Hebrew scriptures, Swearingen demonstrates that the women’s songs and lamentations are revealing that women in the ancient East had some agency.  These women’s roles have been largely ignored, however, because we only have fragments of their voices and, as Kinneavy has noted, because they, as performers of rituals, were often depicted as having only evoked superstitions rather than “promoting persuasive appeals to volitional beliefs and affirmation” (216).  This distinction has been used, by the way, to draw a line between “religious and secular discourse, primitive and advanced cultures, religious and rhetorical discourse” (216).  Swearingen argues that “we need to recover…the self-conscious reflections of women singers of songs, and composers of ceremonial verse whose practices, and whose beliefs about their practices, shaped the common language of the culture before the emergence of city-states and male prose rhetoric” (218).










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Combs, Steven C. The Dao of Rhetoric

In the introduction to The Dao of Rhetoric, Combs advocates for a study of ancient Chinese rhetorics in their own cultural texts and contexts as a means to challenge Eurocentric assumptions about communication, culture, and rhetoric (2).  Daoism, Combs claims, is especially worthy of study because of its antithetical rhetorical nature compared to ancient Greek rhetoric.  For instance, Daoism devalues persuasion and argumentation and is founded on an entirely different view of reality, which manifests in different conceptions of language and uses of rhetoric.  In classical Greece, a “two-world” notion of reality posits that through knowledge and reason, the underlying stable reality of life can be perceived and represented in language.  In Daoism, however, which is based in a “one-world” view of reality, an underlying stable reality does not exist; reality is always changing, thus cannot be ascertained by reason or language.  As Combs writes, Daoism “espoused views that are compatible with postmodern critiques that deny objective foundations for knowledge, essential meanings and identities, universal truths, and deprivilege reason and rationality” (4).  Combs also explains that rhetoric is rooted in philosophy of Daoism and used to make Daoism accessible and appealing (4).  Combs also aims to demonstrate how Daoist rhetoric can function as a method of rhetorical criticism, which has the potential to both “provide a lens for viewing limitations of current Western rhetorical theorizing” and vehicle for creating “exciting avenues for theory, criticism, and social action” (7). 


In Chapter 1 “Culture, Text, and Context,” Combs explains how the philosophical underpinnings of Daoist rhetoric are different from philosophical suppositions inherent in classical Western rhetoric (9).  Again, Combs explains how Western reason is a faculty believe to be able to get to true essence of things, to find cause, rational explanation, etc., for a hidden, fixed reality.  Daoism, on the other hand, believes universe is constantly changing and developing and is thus unknowable.  “Knowing [instead] rests on the ability to perceived the connections and interactions, the comprehensiveness, which constitutes the world”…. [And r]ational explanation lies ‘in mapping out the local conditions that collaborate to sponsor any particular event or phenomenon’” (10).   Combs explains that  foregrounding is a useful strategy in Daoism that can help us write rhetorically….Foregrounding context in daoist rhetoric is not done to make a claim about reality, but rather to describe influence of historical and cultural events, rhetors, and audience which are important to know about because at the time in which artifact was produced, these interactions were at work.  What is important to realize is that according to Daoism, “context does not imply causation.  Daoists reject linear explanations of events.  Texts are not caused by situations but are part of them (13).  Combs also differentiates between Confucianism and Daoism, explaining that while Confucianist rhetoric aims to determine a “strict conduct code, observance of rituals, and a resurrection of practices of sage monarchs,” Daoism, whose main goal is harmony, aims to align people with “eternal, universal force by living consistently with the natural world, recognizing the unity of things rather than their distinctions, and transcending the material world” (20).


With Confucianism participate relations between manmade things/people, Daoism align with nature of life.  Nature is outside of self and self is in nature.  No outside/inside binary.  Daoist—self is part of nature…..Unity between nature and self; rhythm is harmony; no distinctions….


In Chapter 2, Combs analyses Laozis rhetoric and identifies the philosophical underpinnings and commonly used rhetorical strategies and methods that were directed at rulers to urge a return to the natural way of life.  Laozi dissuaded argumentation because there was no universality to reality and language and perception are always limited (34).  He utilized negation (describing Dao by what it is not), paradox (contradicting to dissimilar things to show the “Dao is neither one things nor its opposite, but both simultaneously”, and analogy—all which are consistent with his philosophy, acknowledge limitation of language, and adhere to his natural way of communication (35-36).  Still, Daoists acknowledge purpose of language; is multi-modality might be move in direction of Daoism, certain things can be communicated better in certain modes.  Doaism interested in modality of communication; spontaneous, effortless, communication.  Daoists realize every assertion is local…


These rhetorical strategies are not unique but the philosophical view of argument in and of itself is unique….argument is made differently


Dao is “way” or “path;” but “de jing” is the design of all things…


In Chapter 3, Combs analyses Zhuangzi’s main us of the rhetorical strategy evocativeness—“the use of rhetoric designed to induce others to join in a communication interaction and engage in self-persuasion” …and “find Dao in their own lives” (38 and 40).  Thus, unlike Laozi who addressed rulers, Zhuangzi “offers common peasant a manual for practical living during an incredibly dangerous period in Chinese history…[and] suggests principles for appropriate ways to communicate” (43).  These strategies include going with flow, being a “natural” man, avoid contrived effort to persuade, use simple language,  and don’t communicate in ways that drawn attention to the self…So opposite from conquest and win that are goals of rhetoric…Similar to cooperation.  Egolessness…


Sunzi’s Art of War  main rhetorical strategy is parsimony:  use of extreme economy in the expidenture of resources.  Use minimal level of resources…Knowledge is necessary

 What do we mean when we say that we use Daoism as a method of rhetorical criticism? 


 Is Daoism effective for comparative rhetoric  vs.  performative contradiction?


 Comparative work can be strategic essentialism….




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Mao, LuMing “Reflective Encounters: Illustrating Comparative Rhetoric”

Mao’s Reflective Encounter’s begins with three challenges that comparative rhetoric as defined by Kennedy faces:  temptation of resorting to the defiency mode, identifying “rhetorical universals” across cultures and imposing principles from Western classical rhetoric onto other cultural rhetorical practices.  Mao offers a brief history of comparative rhetoric as subdiscipline in our field and fleshes out the advances that have thus far been made as well as the Orientalist perspectives that have often resulted.  Mao suggests taking an emic-etic approach to produce “reflective encounters,” which puts rhetorical traditions/practices into conversation to see how they can learn from each other. Mao explains that contrastive rhetorics by and large studies ESL and EFL rather than individual rhetorical tradition and practices on their own terms.  He asks:  how should we understand, study, and compare various rhetorical traditions and practices without resorting to the defiency model or forcing Western principles to unique rhetorical traditions so they fit within Western conceptions of rhetoric. Mao begins by analyzing whether or not Robert Olivers succeeds in studying Indian and Chinese rhetorics on their own terms as he proclaimed we must do and set out do in his seminal work in comparative rhetoric. Mao claims that Oliver does and does not succeed.  Problematic are the ways in which Oliver relies on unreliable sources, makes unwarranted general or stereotypical conclusions, makes misinterpretations because of his reliance on translated materials, as well as his failure to look at Chinese and Indian rhetoric on their own terms.


Mao also discusses the work Carolyn Matalene, who in conducting an early study of Chinese rhetoric, resorts to binary characterizations and the deficiency model, which result in part from not considering other social, cultural, and linguistic forces that shaped Chinese rhetorical practices she was studying. Mao also faults the scholarship of John Morrison, which claims Japanese lack a rhetorical tradition, for implying there is only one rhetorical tradition, the western one, and for a lack of primary research. Carl Becker’s work is also problematic in Mao’s eyes because in using negative correlation as a methodology, Becker focuses on what is absent  rather then what is present in Chinese rhetorical traditions, which Mao claims reflects not only a bias but also an Orientalist logic at work in Becker’s scholarship. Mao defines Orientalist logic as using “Western systems of thought or norms to adjudicate or to make value-laden judgments about rhetorical traditions in the East, without making any effort to reflect upon their own systems or norms or to search for interpretive norms or categories that inform these Eastern traditions” (409). Mao also claims that Kennedy’s work operates by an Orientalist logic that sparks rhetorical Darwinism in Kennedy’s work as well as the consistent use of Western rhetorical concepts to make sense of so called non-Western rhetorical practices.


Drawing on the work of J. Vernon Jenson, Mao demonstrates how comparative rhetoric can operate outside an Orientalist logic if scholars do not use Western rhetorical concepts as only “points of reference or origin and that insists on reflective encounters” (412). Reflective Encounters demand “critical interrogation and informed contextualization” (412).  Mao cites Mary Garrett’s work as example that does this important work on ancient Chinese rhetorics to prove that argumentation played a role in the Chinese rhetorical tradition and accomplished various rhetorical and political objectives. Mao reminds readers that motivating forces behind comparative work is to not only better understand Western rhetoric but also to redefine and enrich it through comparison with other rhetorical traditions operating in different contexts (413). Perhaps one of the strongest points made by Mao is that in comparative rhetoric, “the point of origin can be non-Western…and…tools for crosscultural comparisons can be based on non-Western terms or concepts” (414). Using Lu as an example, Mao also reminds us that we need to study original texts rather than rely on translations to identify rhetorical practices that have often been overlooked. Mao claims Lu effectively models how to conduct contextual analysis; describe non-Western rhetorical practices by using their own terms and concepts which do not already exist; identify how non-Western cultures conceputalized rhetoric and put it to practice; and investigate multicultural rhetorics, which are simultaneously both local and global (415). Mao does not simply praise Lu, however.  Mao claims that any move toward identifying universal rhetorics is risky, unappealing, and idealistic because that move demands extensive knoweldge across rhetoridal traditions, which there is far to less work on to be able to do it well. Mao discourages the temptation to characterize different rhetorical traditions in dichotomous terms, which in turn causes various concerns.  


Instead, he suggests to take an etic/emic approach, and more specifically an emic approach if we want to study rhetorical traditions on their own terms.  An emic approach describes elements that are already components of a rhetorical tradition and focuses our attention on materials and conditions that are embedded in these traditions. Mao acknowledges, however, that we are always located outside our object of study in time and place so that there is always pressure to use concepts from the here and now to describe an Other rhetorical tradition.  As long as we avoid Orientalist logic, attempt emic accounts, and practice self-interrogation, we can practice comparative rhetoric ethically. Mao concludes that an etic/emic approach produces reflective encounters, which results when we both study a non-Western rhetorical tradition on its own terms and develop on ongoing dialogue between these rhetorical traditions and Western ones.  We must again interrogate  our own dominant traditions, dominant positions, and well meaning representations of the other.  Interestingly, Mao notes that those scholars native to a non-western rhetorical tradition do not necessarily offer more authentic accounts of their own rhetorical traditions because “studying (one’s own0 rhetorical and cultural experiences is always a process of recontextualization, no matter how intimate they are with these experiences” (418).  In order to avoid resorting to Occidentalism, they too need to employ reflective encounters, which “renounce domination, adjudication, and assimilation, and…nurture tolerance, vagueness, and heteroglossia” (418).

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“Studying the Chinese Rhetorical Tradition in the Present: Re-presentiing the Native’s Point of View” by LuMing Mao

In this important article, Mao insists that those scholars studying cultural rhetorics must reflect on the methodologies we employ in studying the rhetorical practices of the Other and deepen our understanding of how these methodologies connect to our objects of study and our understanding of Other as well as ourselves (216).  Mao advocates for a methodological study of discursive fields to re-present the Other’s point of view and illustrates how this methodology might function through an analysis of the discursive fields at play in Confucious’ Analects.  Mao also models the type of self-reflexivity needed when undertaking the study of Other’s rhetorical pratices.  He dissuades scholars from:•    following Kennedy’s lead in testing the adaptbility of Western or Aristostlean rhetorical concepts and theories in other rhetorical traditions;•    taking the piecemeal approach of making direct comparisons between individual theories and concepts across cultures in search of direct equivalences, which often only leads to “defiency” labels and perpetuated divisions of ways of thinking;•     employing an Orientalist logic, which essentializes other, constructs West as idealized standard, applying Western values and ideas to study of other rhetorical traditions, and “discursive hypercorrecting” orientalist logic by studying other rhetorical traditions outside its own political and social context, distorting importance of certain rhetorical practices because of “our present rhetorical exignency and the level of importance” that accrued because of the rhetorical practices’ “own context and its own terms” (221).Mao also examines our turn to and from cultural anthropology in the study of cultural rhetorics.  He challenges Clifford Geertz’s historical methods of to see from Other’s point of view by enacting experience-near  and experience-distinct concepts, which create in Geertz’s words “a dialectical tacking between the most local of local detail and the most global of global structure in such a way as to bring them into simultaneous view” (qtd. on 222).  Mao explains that while we can certainly try to “stay in the Other’s context and on the Other’s terms all the time,” we can literally do so because our present location always impacts how knowledge is both produced and consumed and we are so far removed from some rhetorical practices in terms of time, that we can’t possibly 100% accurately represent the Native’s point of view.Mao asks an important set of questions:“In whose name or on whose behalf is our study of the Chinese rhetori- cal tradition being carried out, and to what end? What kind of knowledge is being created through this exercise? What are those sociocultural conditions and power relations that have framed the production and consumption of this knowledge? Are the concepts and practices chosen for study more important to us here and now than to the actors there and then? Given the methodological challenges discussed above, to what extent, then, can we pursue this kind of study without privileging the Euro- pean American rhetorical tradition and without holding on to a monolithic or reified idea of the Chinese rhetorical tradition?”Mao also points to the fact the experience-near concepts does not attend to discursive conditions in which rhetorical practices were created nor does it create space to examine the “structural indifference to the material conditions of the present” (223).  Therefore, Mao suggests a turn toward the discursive fields—“textual spaces where related concepts and categories cluster, and where different semantic alignmens and subject positions take shape” (223).  A study of discursive field reveals that meaning of discourse “lies beyond any predetermined situation type;” rather meaning is produced and consumed by “the occasion of use in complicity with or in competition with existing meanings or associations” (225).  This methodology, as Mao illutrates through his study of the Analects, can help give distinct rhetorical practices the agency they deserve and perform by “anchoring it in its own context and its own terms and ascribing to it a relevance and topicality that is only made possible by who we are and where we are” (226).In his conclusion Mao argues we must be more self-reflexive and “less afraid” to interrogate the evidence and conclusion we draw from our own studies.  He promotes a culture of reciprocity in the study of cross-cultural rhetoirics, one which moves beyoon polarized thinking and negotiates difference, ambiguity, and contradictions that arise when studying diverse discourse practices.  He advocates putting opposing discourses into dialogue with one another, which can lead to “creative confrontation,” which itself can lead to “cultural bending and recreation” (see Joseph Chan and Eric Ma) (234).  This methodology, Mar argues, has the potential to create a “true dialectical tacking…,where we can begin to represent the native’s point of view in ways that can contribute to a discourse of reciprocity, and that can reconfigure the relations of power in the process of interconnectedness” (235).

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Culture in Ancient India and china by Robert Oliver—Chapter 1: Culture and Rhetoric

In Chapter 1 of Communication and Culture in Ancient India and china, Robert Oliver attempts to explain the manner in which these cultures talked–“how they addressed one another, under what circumstances, on what topics, in what varied styles, with what intent, and with what effects” (3)–as expressed in communication theories articulated in classical philosophies and in life styles of their societies. Oliver argues that as we begin to locate” rhetorics of the East,” we need to create ways of identifying and depicting these rhetorical practices in ways that make sense to Western minds without denying its unique, essential character (11).

Thomas Mann in MAGIC MOUNTAIN–“speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact–it is silence which isolates” (2).

Questions Addressed:

“How have Asians conceived the problems of communication? What significance have they conceived he problems of communication? What significance have they conceived the problems of communication? What significance have they attached to barriers which impede it? By what means and in what contexts have they considered such questions? What sorts of communication systems—nonverbal as well as verbal—have they conceived? What theories and practices have they fostered? How have they institutionalized communication beyond the boundaries of talk?” (3)

Key Quotes:

The standards of rhetoric in the West which have had a unitary development since their identification by Aristotle are not universals. They are expressions of Western culture, applicable within the context of Western cultural values….Any attempt to discover in Asia prototypes of the Western rhetorical canons would be unavailing. It would resemble trying to measure the salinity of water with a ruler” (3).

“What happens when we try to understand a set of meanings in another culture is, to use world coined by Gregory Bateson, schizmeogenetic,” mening in effect, that one difference creates another. Strangeness begets strangness” (5).

“The necessity of accepting differences not as barriers to understanding but as invitations to inquiry, and even to new modes or channels of investigation, is especially pertinent for a study of ancient Asian rhetoric” (6).

“Plato’s injunction to’discover the type of speech appropriate to each nature’ is indeed a rhetorical universal. But his insistance upon ‘knowing the truth about the subject,’ and thence proceeding to ‘isolate it in definition’ and ‘to divide it into kinds’ is based upon a particular view of the nature of truth and a particular concept of psychology” (8)

“In the West rhetoric has been considered to be so important that it has had to be explored and delineated separately, as a special field of knowledge about human relations. In the East, rhetoric has been considered so important that it could not be separated from the remainder of human knowledge. Asian thinkers have consistently seen rhetoric as being inseparably interconnected with problems of ethics, psychology, politics, and social relations” (10).

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