Chinese Classical Rhetoric Online Meeting




We have planned to do an online meeting on Chinese classical rhetoric. The purpose of it is to discuss ideas in Chinese classical rhetoric, Classical Greece and China comparative studies or any other related topic. If your are interesting, we would like you to provided same suggestions in the link bellow:

Suggestions (English)

我們計畫做網路上的關於中國古代修辭學的會議。此會議目標是世界各地學者能夠討論中國古代修辭學、古典希臘與中國比較學以及其他相關研究領域。若您感興趣, 可以在下面連結提供建議。


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What issues can be the target of Classical Greece and China comparative studies? (I)




Javier Caramés Sánchez 

IE University

In this entry I will discuss how comparative research can be done. G.E.R Lloyd sees two problems in comparative studies. The first is the generalization and to presuppose that there is a different mentality in China and Greece. He states that it does not provide any expiation and it does not clarifies but obscure the issues. This kind of arguments is often circular: the evidence of the mentality is the mentality itself. Lloyd also criticizes the assumption of uniformity in relevant characteristics across different domains and periods. It is necessary to do a cautious distinction between the different ages and disciplines. A statement that may be suitable for the domain of mathematics may not be applicable for medicine. The Second problem is the piecemeal approach. It is not suitable to compare theories or concepts as if they address to the same question our to presupposes that the ancients address to questions that modern science considers important (Lloyd 1996, pp.4-6)

I agree with Lloyd in these two points. However, although Chinese concept and theories does not address to the same questions, they may be come from similar human problems. There is not any philosophical our rhetorical term whose meaning is completely identical but some of then are a manifestation of similar social phenomena. It can be illustrated with the Classical Greek term pathos (πάθος) and Classical Chinese xīn 心 and qíng 情. These three concepts do not refer to the same thing but are all concerns with the emotions of the target of a persuader. (Haweier 哈偉爾 2015, pp.41-69 ) In classical Greece and China there were political systems in that people who came from lower classes can become rich and famous if there were skill in persuasion. People of both times trained their eloquence. For this reason, many rhetoric documents were wrote in Classical Greek and Chinese. Despite the conceptual system are different, in all of them the appeal emotions is a core mean of persuasion. There are different theories and terms about how correctly use interlocutor’s emotions, but all these rhetoric documents address the same human problem.

Sivin and Lloyd found that Ancient Chinese and Greece Science have these four common features: The first is that Greece and China developed a language and concepts in order to explore every aspect of individual and collective experience. The second is that people of both questioned the traditions and conventions of their time. The third is that there were groups that took the lead in many branches of study and got authority in the field of knowledge. The fourth is that they were convinced that it was necessary to understand how humans fit in the universal scheme of things  to order human affairs. (Lloyd & Sivin 2002.pp.1-2)

So, what can be compared of Chinese and Greek Civilization? I am my opinion, a suitable target for comparative studies is the analysis of some key word of both classical languages that are concern with a human problem. In the field of rhetoric what can be studied are  words about persuasion and the moral problems of cheating and manipulation. The key words of both classical languages have not the same meaning but address to the same human problem. In my opinion, the different conceptualizations of the same human problem may provide us a better understanding of Western and Chinese intellectual tradition.


Haweier 哈偉爾 (Caramés Sánchez, Javier), 2015. Zhanguoce Xiuci Yanjiu戰國策》修辭研究, Golden Light Academic Publishing.

Lloyd, G.E.R, 1996. Adversaries and Authorities, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lloyd, G.E.R & Sivin, N., 2002. The Way and the Word: Science and Medicine in Early China and Greece., Yale: Yale University Press.

It is also interesting the Youtube video bellow:

Comparing Ancient Worlds: Greece and China

What do Greek and Chinese Classical Rhetoric have in common?

What do Greek and Chinese Classical Rhetoric have in common?


Javier Caramés Sánchez 

IE University

Ancient Greece and Classical China are cultures of reference as Denecke has said (Denecke 2014) . Both developed an intellectual foundation followed by posterity.. What is this intellectual foundation? It is a system of concepts about knowledge and ethics. It began in the classical period and later philosophers followed it.

The political system of classical China and Greece are quite different. The first is believed to be authoritarian and the second is seen as democratic. In pre-imperial age there were some institutions with democratic features. There is a text in the Zuo Zhuan in that, according with Yuri Pines exegesis (that I completely subscribe), the character xiao 校 it is probably refer to a “kind of community club” in witch people “debate and criticize government actions” (Pines 2009, pp. 195). In Zhan Guo Ce there is other text in that the king of Qi makes a decree that rewarded those who criticized his mistakes.

Although there were no democratic systems in China, people from the lower classes could become officials. This gave rise to struggles for power. Therefore, the Greeks and Chinese thinkers debated how they could avoid manipulation. Of course, the solutions were different since the political systems were also different. However, in both cases the thinkers proposed different solutions in order to avoid manipulation and cheating.

Both in a democratic system and in a monarchy there are tricksters trying to influence the power in order to achieve their goals at the expense of others. However, the way to cheat on both systems is different. In a democracy the objective of the deceiver is a mass of citizens while in a monarchy the main objective is the monarch and the people around him.

For this reason, philosophers dealt with the problem of what is true and what is false. In Classical Greece and China there was a crisis with language (Raphals 1992). Thinkers of both times criticized flattery and cunning. In Greece this phenomenon caused the distinction between philosophy and rhetoric. This dichotomy was not exactly the same in China. However, there was a school of thought related to persuasion based on deception and harming others. This was Zongheng School 縱橫家, represented by Su Qin and Zhang Yi.



Denecke, W., 2014. Classical World Literatures-Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Comparisons – New York: Oxford University Press.

Pines, Y., 2009. Envisioning eternal empire :Chinese political thought of the Warring States era, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Raphals, L.A., 1992. Knowing Words: Wisdom and Cunning in the Classical Traditions of China and Greece, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.