Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Uses of Rhetoric in Chinese Poem

China, it’s a country with more than 5,000 years of history. With the time passed by, the Chinese cultures are more and more extensive and profound. One of the most outstanding cultures, I think, is the language and literature. And the rhetoric is one thing I have to mention.

            The rhetoric has been used in Chinese language and literature since the era of Confucius, and even earlier. I’ve been told about rhetoric since I was in elementary school. And after I went into the middle school, it has become a part of our Chinese class. We were taught how to use rhetoric in our writing, and how to analysis others’ writing such as the classical Chinese poems and some essays. As a Chinese who has been affected profoundly by the traditional culture, I’m particularly fond of the ancient poetries. So, I think my first post could talk about the uses of rhetoric in classical Chinese poem.

            To echo today’s weather, here is a poem I found about snow. The first section is this poem in Chinese, the second is Chinese poeticizes. And I translated it by myself, so there might be some inaccurate descriptions. You can try to read it.


Chūn Xuê
Xīn nián dōu wèi yôu fāng huá,
Èr yuè chū jīng jiàn câo yá.
Bái xuê què xián chūn sè wân,
Gù chuān tíng shù zuò fēi huā.

Spring Snow
The New Year has come, but the fragrant and beautiful flowers haven’t bloomed.
Until February, it’s so surprised that the grass is sprouting.
however, It seems like it couldn't stand the belated spring.
 White snows falling down softly and profusely,
like flowers falling down, and flying among the trees in the courtyard.

(This poem written by Yu Han, he was a famous litterateur, philosopher, and ideologist in Tang Dynasty.) 
            In this poem, both rhetorical figures and tropes were used. First is the parallelism, which is commonly used in Chinese poetry. You can see from the first two sections that every line has same structure, including number of words. Sometimes even the position of noun, verb, and adjective are same. This could be one of the most outstanding features of ancient Chinese poem.

            Second is the using of rhyme/ homeoteleuton, which is also a prominent feature in most ancient poems. At the end of first, second, and last lines, there are three words “huá”, “yá”, and “huā,” they have similar pronunciation. Which like the example that professor Damien showed in the list “It is important to use all knowledge ethically, humanely, and lovingly.”
            Then is the metaphor, personification or anthropomorphism, which are also the most widely used rhetorical devices. I think they have similar usage in Chinese rhetoric, so I put them together to explain. Usually, the use of personification could enhance the vividness of description. “Xián”, in English as “dislike.” It’s a word to describe a person’s emotion. Put it in the context of this poem, it says, “Because the spring doesn’t come on time, the snows became impatient, then they falling.” And “chuān” in here could mean, “shuttle.” “Snows shuttling or flying among trees.” The using of verb made it sound like a person. The whole sentence could be translated as “because of the belated spring, the white snows became impatient. They falling down, and pretend themselves as flowers that falling down from the trees, and flying among them.” So, the poet saw snow as a person, put person’s emotions and behaviors. Therefore, when people read it, they could imagine a vivid picture, and put themselves into the scene. 

Moreover, the poet also used synecdoche. “Fāng huá” in Chinese could mean beauty. Spring flowers are always fragrant and beautiful, so poet used it to refer to the flowers.

So, it is an example of the uses of rhetoric in Chinese; there might be some differences from it in English. (But this’s also one of my purposes, to show you the differences. There must be differences about the same thing in different cultures.) However, I think the reason why people of different cultures use rhetoric is same. To people who use rhetoric, it is like adding your favorite toppings on the ice cream, which could make the ice cream is more tasty, and also pleasing others’ eyes. To their audiences, it’s like tasting a goblet of minces and souplesse red wine. It could leave a lingering fragrance in your mouth, and make it memorable.

(I wish you now know more about rhetoric, and also my culture. Since I’m still improving my English, there might be some inaccurate explanations or word using. I will appreciate if you guys could help me correct them, or give me some advises to improve. What’s more, as an international student in communication major, I’d like to spread my culture to people in different cultures. Hope you all can like it. Thank you.)

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