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Indirect persuasion in ancient Chinese texts

How do nations tell their stories? Marcin Jacoby, Ph.D. / Associate Professor from SWPS University’s Institute of Humanities analyzed persuasive use of the narrative in the Lüshi Chunqiu, an encyclopedic Chinese classic text compiled around 239 BC, using approaches of rhetoric narratology and rhetorical criticism.

#parable #indirect persuasion #lushi chunqiu #asian studies #ancient china

What we researched:

  • Twenty-one narratives were identified as vehicles of indirect persuasion and put on the mimetic and thematic scales to show how their relation to reality and history corresponds to their rhetorical use in discourse.

How we did it:

  • Three of the 21 narratives, exhibiting typical traits of historical anecdotes, were analyzed in detail in their original context, to prove their parabolic function.

Why is it important:

  • The analysis of narratives present in the Lüshi Chunqiu in their original communicative framework shows that they occupy different positions across the mimetic and thematic dimensions. Several historic anecdotes used parabolically prove that in the political and philosophical discourse of the Warring States period, history was being used in indirect persuasion similarly to the fantasy and literary fiction of fables and parables. It is thus necessary to broaden the understanding of Chinese pre-Qin anecdotal tradition to include the term ‘parabolic narrative’, to cover all types of narratives used instrumentally in indirect persuasion, whether they are fables, parables or historic anecdotes.

“The parabolic use of narratives is not a niche phenomenon, but an important one representative of persuasive discourse in the Warring States period. As such, it should not be omitted from discussions of the literary and rhetorical traditions of this period of Chinese history."

Marcin Jacoby
Marcin Jacoby, Ph.D. / Associate Professor
author of the publication, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities in Warsaw, SWPS University