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Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.
A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric

Xing Lu

A thorough exploration of the Chinese rhetorical tradition

In Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E., Xing Lu examines language art, persuasion, and argumentation in ancient China and offers a detailed and authentic account of ancient Chinese rhetorical theories and practices in the society's philosophical, political, cultural, and linguistic contexts. She focuses on the works of ten well-known Chinese thinkers from Confucius to Han Feizi as well as on the Later Mohists, a group that represents five schools of thought-Mingjia, Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism, and Legalism. Lu identifies seven key Chinese terms pertaining to speech, language, persuasion, and argumentation as they appeared in these original texts, selecting ming bian as the linchpin for the Chinese conceptual term of rhetorical studies.

The author shows that ancient Chinese rhetorical practices shifted in emphasis from ritualistic ceremony to political persuasion, from poetic composition to philosophical debate. The rhetorical perspectives were diverse, evolutionary, and contextual and were typically characterized by one of four main elements: the moral, epistemological, dialectical, or psychological.

Lu compares Chinese rhetorical perspectives with those of the ancient Greeks. The author contends that the Greeks and the Chinese shared a view of rhetoric as an ethical enterprise and of speech as a rational and psychological activity. The two traditions differed, however, in their rhetorical education, sense of rationality, perceptions of the role of language, approach to the treatment and study of rhetoric, and expression of emotions.

The author also links ancient Chinese rhetorical perspectives with contemporary Chinese interpersonal and political communication behavior and offers suggestions for multicultural rhetoric that recognizes both culturally specific and transcultural elements of human communication.

Xing Lu is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at DePaul University. A native of China, Lu received her undergraduate degree in China, her M.A. in Australia, and her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. She lives with her daughter and husband in Skokie, Illinois.

"Learned, often polemical, and always stimulating, Rhetoric in Ancient China will prove to be the catalyst we have always needed to probe deeper into the collective culture of the human race. This will become a classic study and should influence all future work on the subject."—Molefi Kete Asante

"Xing Lu's rigorous scholarship has provided a unique bridge: chronological (ancient and contemporary), spatial (East and West), between multiple academic disciplines, between multiple cultures, and between rhetorical theory and practice. Her pioneering volume will be an inspirational reference point for scholars far into the future."—J. Vernon Jensen

"While she skillfully explicates ancient Chinese language and persuasion theory in a way that respects its cultural specificity, Lu also manages to compare it fruitfully to classical Greek rhetorical theory in a way that illuminates both while obscuring neither. Her book is a model of careful historical reconstruction."—Edward Schiappa

"A useful introduction to a wealth of Chinese material of potential interest over a very broad literary, historical and philosophical range …Many Classicist readers will nevertheless profit from exposure to this rich material."—Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Xing Lu's work on ancient Chinese rhetoric certainly is an inspiring book."—Journal of Asian Studies



book jacket for Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.


6 x 9
364 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-216-5
cloth, $49.95s
Studies in Rhetoric/Communication

1999 National Communication Association James A. Winans-Herbert Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address


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