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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 9, 2015

A weapon in the battle of definitions: a special rhetorical strategy in Hánfēizǐ

  • Lukáš Zádrapa EMAIL logo


Regardless of the actual views on the art of embellished speech of the author(s) presented by the collection of essays known as Hánfēizǐ, the work is well known for its formal intricacy and refinement. The composition of several chapters appears unique against the background of other transmitted texts of the Warring States period, and the same is true of some textual strategies serving to convey the presented ideas with intensified rhetorical appeal. In this study, I aim to identify one of these strategies, showing, on the basis of thorough textual analysis, how the sections in which it is employed are structured and how the given devices contribute to the construction of meaning. Relevant parts of the chapters 45 (“Guǐshǐ” 詭使), 46 (“Liùfǎn” 六反) and 47 (“Bāshuō” 八說) are analyzed here both with regard to their formal features, such as various arrangements of basic building blocks or transformations of metalinguistic formulae, and to their semantics, including the systematic lexical-semantic relationships of synonymy and antonymy. It is argued that not only overt interventions by the author in favour of “correct” definitions of selected terms, but also the very inventory of the terms itself and their deeper structural relationships and tensions reveal much about the author's intentions and opinions.

Published Online: 2015-1-9
Published in Print: 2014-12-19

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Munich/Boston

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