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

Rhetoric as the Art of Listening: Concepts of Persuasion in the First Eleven Chapters of the Guiguzi

Joachim Gentz


The first eleven chapters of the book Guiguzi 鬼谷子 are ascribed to Master Guigu, the alleged teacher of the two famous rhetoricians Su Qin 蘇秦 and Zhang Yi 張儀. These chapters provide a methodological approach to the art of persuasion which is fundamentally different from European rhetoric. Whereas European rhetoric, originating in Greek rhetoric, is mainly concerned with the persuasion of big audiences in public forums and institutions such as assemblies (the agora as birthplace of democracy) and courtrooms, the persuasive strategies in the Guiguzi mainly focus on the involvement with an individual counterpart. In the Guiguzi listening to and assessing the particular type of opponent and then taking advantage of his individual preferences is most decisive for the success of persuasion. The Guiguzi does not teach how to formulate a perfect piece of rhetorical art which accords to all rules of a commonly shared system of persuasive logic as it is known from European rhetorical traditions. From this different approach also follows a different set of systematic problems in the art of persuasion. The typology of formal figures of speech, so important in European rhetoric, is not as important as the exact typology of human characters which have to be correctly identified to be correlated to the types of speech which have the greatest persuasive effect on them. Each of the eleven chapters discusses a particular method of persuasion in an analysis of different aspects of the communicative process in which persuasion takes place. Together they appear as a handbook on the dynamic process of persuasion, a persuasion that evolves in a dialogic encounter not in a monologic performance as in European rhetoric.

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

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Munich/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow