a history of chinese literary thought.by aoki masaru

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  • A History of Chinese Literary Thought. by Aoki MasaruReview by: James R. HightowerThe Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 3 (May, 1951), pp. 313-320Published by: Association for Asian StudiesStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2049325 .Accessed: 12/06/2014 22:15

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    Shina bungaku shis5-shia (A history of Chinese literary thought). BY AOKI MASARU.b Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1943. 430 + 10 p. Aoki Masaru (or Seiji) is known to all students of Chinese literature for his

    important History of recent Chinese drama,' his Outline of Chinese literatures (certainly the best work of its kind), and his collections of essays,3 which range beyond literature proper to include music and fine arts. The present book is essentially a reprint of earlier publications by Aoki. In his preface he unravels what otherwise could be a complicated problem for the bibliographer by in- dicating which of his books and articles he has included here. The first half of this book appeared earlier as Shina bungaku shis54 and constitutes a historical outline of Chinese literary thought, where the major theories are described and the general characteristics of each period indicated against a background of literary practice and philosophical opinion. Two chapters from his Shina bungei shich6,5 "Regional characteristics of [Chinese] literature" and "The three great transformations in the development of literary thought," along with two new topics, "Confucianism and Taoism - [their effects on] literary thought" and "The two extremes in literary thought: attitudes toward the creative process and modes of expression," serve as a general preface to the historical section proper.

    The second half of the book consists of a series of essays on topics related to literary attitudes and theory which are better treated outside the framework of his historical outline. Two of these essays are taken from Shina bungei shich5; the rest are reprinted from other of the author's publications. Bringing together all his scattered contributions to the subject of Chinese literary thought is a real service and makes possible an estimate of the value of those contribu- tions. Such an estimate must take into consideration the presently available studies by other scholars, and before discussing Aoki's work in detail I should like to mention some of them briefly.

    Western Sinology has neglected Chinese literary theory even more pointedly than it has Chinese literature itself. Except for two chapters in Alexeiev's Six conferences sur la litterature chinoise,6 no Western Sinologist has made a seri- ous attempt to describe Chinese views of literature, much less to give a con-

    'See FEQ, 9 (Feb. 1950), 210, note 7. 2Shina bungaku gaisetsu (Tokyo: Kobund&, 1935, and at least seven subsequent printings.

    242 p.).c It has been translated into Chinese by Kuo Hsfi-Chungd (Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1936. 192 p.) and by Sui Shu-sene (Shanghai: Kai-ming Shu-tien, 1938. 199 p.).

    'Shina bungei rons5 (Kyoto: K6bund6, 1927. 562 p.).f Shina bungaku geijutsu k3 (Same 1942. 474 p.).g

    4 Two fascicles in Toy3 shich5, Iwanami Koza series (Tokyo, 1936). 123 p. rIn Sekai shich5, Iwanami Koza series (Tokyo, 1928). Translated into Chinese by Wang

    Chfin-yfih as Chung-kuo ku-tai wen-i ssu-ch'ao lun (Peiping: Jen-wen Shu-tien, 1933. 160 p.). 6Delivered in Paris in 1926, these lectures were first published by Geuthner (1937. 229 p.).


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    secutive account of their historical delevopment. The pioneer effort came from the Japanese Sinologist Suzuki Torao, and his Shina shiron shii (History of Chinese poetic theory)7 remains a standard work after 25 years. Its limitations are partly indicated by its title: it deals only with theories of poetry and so does not include an account of the important prose movements. A serious weak- ness is the extremely cursory treatment of the T'ang and Sung periods, which are included only as an introduction to his long essay on the representatives of the "Three theories."8 For the earliest period the book is weakened by a too rigidly traditionalist acceptance of the Confucian authorship of the preface to the Classic of songs. The great value of the book is in Suzuki's lucid exposi- tion of the theorists of the Six Dynasties, certainly the most important single period in Chinese literary thought, and in his systematic presentation of Ming and Ch'ing poetic theory.

    In China the first modern attempt to write a history of literary theory was Ch'en Chung-fan'se Chung-kuo wen-hsfieh p'i p'ing shih.9 I do not now have access to a copy, but my recollection of a cursory reading several years ago is that it is in no way comparable with Suzuki's study, although attempting to cover a wider field.10

    In 1934 two books appeared on the subject. The more ambitious, volume one of Kuo Shao-yii's History of Chinese literary criticism,n was a detailed chronological survey through the Northern Sung.l" The promise of a con- tinuation implicit in the "volume one" of the title and more specifically stated in the preface, was amply fulfilled thirteen years later by the appearance (in two parts) of volume two, with over 650 pages devoted chiefly to the critical theories of the Ming and Ch'ing periods. A series of articles on special topics in criticism published during the interval by Mr. Kuo in scholarly journals need not be mentioned separately, as most of them are incorporated in this second installment of a truly monumental work. The two volumes differ in organization and approach, but they are alike in being quite detailed and pro- viding generous quotations from the critics studied. In fact the book suffers as a whole from the tendency - not easily avoidable for one writing in Chinese - to let the texts speak for themselves. The result is that the reader, less familiar with the technical terminology of the old critics, is left with a selection of texts

    "Kyoto: Kobund6, 1925. 262 p. Translated into Chinese by Sun Liang-kungi (Shanghai: Pei-hsin Shu-chu, 1929. 140 + 174 p.).

    8Ka-t'iao "ideal form," Shen-yisn "poetic essence," and hsing-ling "pure feeling."k These concepts of the poetic essence are to be viewed as norms subscribed to in varying degrees by followers of the many rival schools of poetic theory and practice which flourished in Ming and Ch'ing times. Acceptance of any one usually meant the rejection of the others or their relega- tion to a subordinate position. They were used more as slogans than as critical terms subject to rigorous definition - the same charge could be made against much of the critical vocabulary of the West - and my translations of these expressions is intended to be suggestive rather than philological.

    9Publisher: Chung-hua Shu-chi. I am relying on Aoki's statement (Konan Shun, p. 95) that it was published after 1925.

    1O Li Li, whose judgment is usually to be respected, gives the book his highest praise (San- ting kuo-hsileh yung-shu chian yao, p. 106);m however, he was writing in 1927 and probably did not know Suzuki's work.

    11Shanghai: Commercial Press, 1934. vol. 1, 430 p.; 1947, vol. 2, 652 p.

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    which he only half understands, and which the author fails to elucidate. Kuo Shao-yii's work stands, in spite of such lapses, as an invaluable reference book.

    The other book on Chinese literary criticism which appeared in 1934 was by Lo Ken-tseo and bore an identical title.12 Like Kuo's, it was presented as volume one, with three more to follow. Though only secondarily chronological, it dealt with pre-T'ang theories, treating a series of separate problems within a chronological frame. Essentially Mr. Lo was here applying to literary theory the technique he had followed in his genre studies, which taken together he considered would make up a history of Chinese literature. This thesis is open to question, but there is no denying the value of such studies in themselves, and it is one possible approach to literary thought. (Kuo Shao-yii tends to use the same method in his second volume.) Subsequent volumes of Mr. Lo's book never appeared; instead, in 1944, he began to publish a series of volumes in- tended to replace - and continue - his earlier work. Four installments had been published up to 1948,13 and others may by now be in print. This new work is a considerable improvement over his earlier one and shows the advan- tages of a topical t