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From 'Awe-Inspiringly Beautiful' to 'Patterns in Conventionalized Behavior': The Historical Development of the Metacultural Concept of Wen in Pre-Qin China.


The word wen [phrase omitted] as it occurs in pre-Qin texts has been given a bewildering number of different translations, ranging from 'decorative pattern', 'ornament', 'embroidered emblem', 'sign', 'graph', 'writing', 'text', 'literature', 'principle', 'culture', 'cultured', to 'civilization' and 'civil', just to name a few. (1) While the term wen does indeed have many different contextual meanings, additional layers of confusion have been added by the lingering tendencies in the traditional commentarial tradition to project Zhanguo-period meanings into pre-Zhanguo times. This paper aims to dispel some of this confusion by tracing the historical stages in the development of uses of wen to refer to language-specific conceptualizations of 'culture' as 'ideal patterns in conventionalized behavior' from Western Zhou (1045-771 BCE) to the end of the Zhanguo period (481-221 BCE).

Most studies of wen published in English mention that wen can be translated as 'culture'. Indeed, the quasi-equivalence of wen and the English word culture has become a widely accepted factoid in the secondary literature on pre-Qin thought and society. One of the most frequently cited instances of wen translated as 'culture' is Lunyu [phrase omitted] 9.5.
[phrase omitted] (2)
When the Master was threatened in Kuang, he said: After King wen had
died, did wen not remain here? If Heaven was going to destroy this wen
(si wen), those of us dying after [King Wen] would never have been able
to participate in this wen. And since Heaven has not yet destroyed this
wen, what can the people of Kuang do to me?

Most English translators of the Lunyu since Lyall's translation from 1909 render wen as 'culture' in this passage. (3) Arthur Waley's sweeping claim that "wen means something like our own word culture and served many of the same purposes" seems to have exerted great influence on the way this term is translated into English. (4)

Assuming semantic equivalence between the Old Chinese word wen and the Modern English word culture is problematic. As observed by Martin Kern, Peter Bol's translation of the expression si wen [phrase omitted] in Lunyu 9.5 as "this culture of ours" may be appropriate for Tang and Song times. (5) Whether it correctly translates the meaning of si wen in pre-Qin times is an open question which has so far eluded scholarly attention. In this paper I outline an answer to this question by providing an analysis of the different stages in the chronological development of wen in order to address to what extent it is used to refer to pre-Qin conceptualizations of 'culture'. (6)

In order to avoid the hermeneutical problems related to using the modern Anglophone category of 'culture' to study pre-Qin texts, I will analyze the use of wen referring to 'ideal patterns in conventionalized behavior', such as Lunyu 9.5, as a metacultural term. Greg Urban's theory of metaculture, which has served as inspiration for the notion of 'metacultural terms' proposed here, defines metaculture as the reflexive process of culture commenting on itself, or "culture that is about culture." (7) For example, a book review is a concrete manifestation of metaculture since it is a cultural entity which comments on or evaluates another cultural product (i.e., the book under review). In this paper, I use the term metacultural terms to refer to language-specific expressions, such as the English word culture and Old Chinese wen, that refer to tradition-specific conceptualizations of '(sets) of conventionalized behaviors'.

The coining of words is a process of prepackaging reality into discrete tradition-specific concepts associated with language-specific terms. Two of the most prominent meanings of the modern English metacultural term culture are (i) the nineteenth-century notion of 'high culture' defined as the universally valid values and practices of human civilization, popularized by Matthew Arnold (1869) among others, (8) and (ii) the anthropological concept of 'culture' defined as the set of transmitted practices of a specific group, as per Tylor (1871). (9) Rather than being neutral and universally applicable analytical categories, these parochial concepts of 'culture' emerged in particular historical contexts and represent collectively shared conceptualizations of specific groups of people with particular agendas in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain and North America.

Similarly, metacultural wen is a language-specific term for a tradition-specific concept of 'ideal patterns in conventionalized behavior' which differs in important ways from Modern English notions of 'culture'. One of the advantages of the theory of metacultural terms proposed here is that it allows us to engage in comparative study of metacultural concepts and trace historical changes in conceptual frameworks through changes in language-specific metacultural terms, without having to rely on the modern English metacultural concept of 'culture', which is, after all, no less parochial and language-specific than the Old Chinese term wen.

Since exhaustive study of wen in the entire pre-Qin corpus is not feasible in a single article, I focus on tracing the development of metacultural uses of wen in the Shijing [phrase omitted], the Zuozhuan, the Lunyu, and the Xunzi I use these four texts for two reasons. First, each of them contains enough instances of the term wen to reconstruct a coherent theory of its uses and meanings. Second, these texts can be seen as representing the intellectual milieus of three different periods: (i) the Shijing (ca. tenth to sixth century BCE), (ii) the Zuozhuan (late fifth and early fourth centuries BCE) and the Lunyu (fifth to fourth centuries BCE), (10) and (iii) the Xunzi (third century BCE). (11) To mitigate the problems related to the dating of received texts, recently discovered manuscripts will also be discussed.

This paper contributes to our understanding of the term wen in two ways. First, in section 1, I argue that metacultural uses of wen did not exist in texts from before the Zhanguo period. I also propose that pre-Zhanguo uses of wen referring to positive attributes of individuals of noble or royal birth meant 'awe-inspiringly beautiful', rather than 'accomplished' or 'cultured', and that they derive from the basic meaning 'decorative pattern' through regular historical processes of metaphorical extension and abstraction. That is, pre-Zhanguo uses of the term referred to physical appearance rather than acquired moral traits. The analysis proposed here thereby offers new insight into the social importance of externally visible beauty in early Zhou society. Second, in section 2, I show that, as far as we can tell from our sources, metacultural uses of wen referring to the abstract concept of 'ideal patterns in conventionalized behavior' (e.g., Lunyu 9.5 discussed above) emerged in the Zhanguo period. (12) This process can be broken down in three steps. First the pre-Zhanguo adjectival meaning 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' became reinterpreted in moral terms and started to refer to 'morally refined' individuals. Second, adjectival wen in the meaning 'morally refined' started to be used to describe whole dynasties. Third, wen started to be used as a noun referring to the abstract concept of 'ideal patterns in conventionalized behavior' of an entire dynasty or of social practices in general. By providing a chronology of these changes, I avoid the anachronistic interpretations of wen proposed in the commentarial tradition which continue to influence the contemporary translations of the term in pre-Zhanguo texts.


Metacultural uses of the term wen are not attested in pre-Zhanguo texts. (13) The three main attested uses are (a) as a word referring to concrete 'decorative patterns' on physical objects, (b) as a word referring to rank-indicating embroidered 'emblems' on garments and flags, and (c) as a word meaning 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' used in expressions referring to ancestors and in posthumous titles. In this section, I briefly describe these uses of wen and argue that (b) derives from (a) and (c) derives from (b).

Wen occurs in the basic meaning 'decorative pattern' in a few passages in the pre-Zhanguo corpus. A typical example is the poem "Xiao Rdng" (Mao 128) in the Shijing, which contains a description of war chariots which, among other attributes, have 'patterned-decorated (wen) floor-mats' (wen yin [phrase omitted]). (14) The Shiming [phrase omitted], a lexicographic work from the Eastern Han, defines wenyin as "made from tiger skin and having patterned colorings" [phrase omitted]. (15)

The use of the word wen to refer to 'rank-indicating emblems'--which consisted of 'embroidered patterns'--derives directly from the basic meaning 'decorative pattern'. Mao 177 contains a description of 'woven' (zhi [phrase omitted]) 'patterned markings' (wen) on flags: "[the flags] have woven pattern-emblems (wen) and bird insignia and the white banners were brilliant" [phrase omitted]. (16) Thus, here 'emblems' (wen) refer to a special kind of institutionalized embroidered 'decorative pattern' (wen). (17)

I suggest that the use of wen to refer to rank-marking decorative patterns on emblems gave rise to the use of wen to refer to people of high rank--who would have carried status-indicating emblems (wen) on their robes--as 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' through metaphorical extension. A similar metaphorical extension from a word referring to physical decorations to a more abstract term referring to high rank is exemplified by English term decorated, as in McArthur is a highly decorated officer. Mao 299 contains a passage which provides support for the reading of wen as 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' in the pre-Zhanguo period.
[phrase omitted] (18)
Solemn, solemn is the Marquis of Lu, respectfully bright [is] his
charismatic power. Respectful and careful, having awe-inspiring dignity
(wei) and deportment, he is a model to the people. Truly
awe-inspiringly beautiful (wen)! Truly martial! He shines upon his
resplendent ancestors.

Here the ruler of Lu is described as being "respectful and careful, having awe-inspiring dignity (wei) and deportment" in parallel with his attributes of being "truly awe-inspiringly beautiful (wen)" and "truly martial." This juxtaposition of wen and wei 'dignified, imposing, awe-inspiring' indicates that these terms have compatible and thus potentially overlapping meanings.

In addition to being 'awe-inspiringly beautiful', members of the royal family or high nobility were often described as having a beautiful external appearance, being dressed in beautiful robes, and being equipped with beautifully fashioned and decorated objects. The following passage from Mao 55 illustrates the impressively beautiful external appearance of the 'lord' (junzi) that indicates his social status and authority and inspires awe and respect in the beholder. (19)
[phrase omitted] (20)
Elegant (21) is the lord, he is as if cut, as if polished; as if
carved, as if ground. How bright, how beautiful, how majestic, how
splendid! Elegant is the lord, his ears are [decorated with] jewels and
precious stones. His fastened cap is bright like stars. ... Elegant is
the lord, like bronze, like tin, like a jade tablet, like a jade disc.
How magnanimous, how generous!

By describing the physical beauty of the lord and his accessories and comparing him to precious metals and jade artifacts, this passage indicates that physical appearance played an important role in the construction of social hierarchies in the pre-Zhanguo period in ways that seem alien from a modern perspective. The beholder knows that the lord is the lord because he is physically beautiful as a polished piece of jade and because he wears robes with 'emblems' (wen) and is equipped with rank-indicating accoutrements, all of which makes him 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' (wen). When the term wen is used to describe individuals in the pre-Zhanguo corpus, it thus refers to the external appearance of members of the ruling elite. The preoccupation with physical beauty and the social importance of being 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' in pre-Zhanguo Zhou society seems to have been overlooked in previous studies of the term wen. In contrast, I propose that pre-Zhanguo uses of wen to describe people refer to the property of being 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' by having externally visible concrete markers of status and authority.

Indications that in pre-Warring States times the word wen was interpreted in aesthetic rather than ethical terms may be found in the earliest forms of the graph [phrase omitted]. The literature on early Chinese paleography contains numerous attempts at reconstructing the etymology of the word wen by identifying semantic components in the early forms of the graph in Shang oracle bone inscriptions (OBI), see (a)-(c) in figure 1, and Western Zhou bronze inscriptions (BI), see (d)-(e).

Since the basic meaning of the word wen is '(decorative) pattern', it is not surprising that many paleographic accounts of the meaning of the graph involve the meaning 'pattern' in one way or another. The Shuowen suggests that <[phrase omitted]> means 'crisscrossed lines' (cub hua [phrase omitted] ). Based on the assumption that early forms of the graph look like a 'big person/man' with something added on the torso, Ji Xusheng suggests that its original meaning may have been 'a human body with intercrossing patterns'. (23) Thus, as also discussed by Shirakawa Shizuka, 'tattoo, tattooed' (wen shen [phrase omitted] lit. 'decorated body') may have been an early meaning of this word. (24) Being tattooed, or otherwise 'decorated', may have contributed to making a person appear 'awe-inspiringly (beautiful)'. (25)

While paleographic studies of graphs may sometimes be useful, in many cases they provide little more than qualified guesses about how the shape and structure of graphs may, or may not, inform hypotheses about the meanings of the words they were used to write. Nevertheless, the idea that the early forms of the graph <[phrase omitted]> shown in figure 1 resemble a 'pattern-decorated person' is compatible with the lexicalization process proposed here. The analysis of pre-Zhanguo wen as meaning 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' when used as an epithet also finds support in the entry for the term in Xu Zhongshu's [phrase omitted] 2006 Dictionary of Oracle Bone Inscriptions, which defines wen as meaning 'beautiful' and states that "it is used as a positive appellation when prefixed to royal names." (26)

The use of wen in expressions referring to ancestors and posthumous titles accounts for the great majority of all pre-Zhanguo occurrences of wen in the meaning 'awe-inspiring'. Examples of wen used as a positive adjective modifying expressions referring to ancestors include 'awe-inspiring [late] father' (wen kao [phrase omitted]) and 'awe-inspiring ancestor' (wen zu [phrase omitted]). Posthumous titles are name-like appellations given to high status individuals after their death. (27) They are composed of a descriptive term, e.g., wen [phrase omitted] 'awe-inspiring', wu [phrase omitted] 'martial', cheng [phrase omitted] 'successful', and so forth, modifying an expression referring to either (i) a title, e.g., wang [phrase omitted] 'king', gong [phrase omitted] 'ruler, duke', etc., (ii) a noun indicating family seniority, e.g., bo [phrase omitted] 'senior (uncle)', shu [phrase omitted] 'junior (uncle)', etc., or (iii) the term zi [phrase omitted] 'son, prince, master'. (28) As observed by Lothar von Falkenhausen, the contexts in which these expressions occur in bronze inscriptions--which seldom amount to more than a laconic dedication "to our awe-inspiring [late) father"--do not allow us to determine the exact meaning of wen. Von Falkenhausen therefore tentatively adopts 'accomplished' as a stopgap translation. (29)

Although I agree with von Falkenhausen that we should be careful not to presume to know exactly what wen means, I suggest that 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' is a better faute de mieux translation than 'accomplished'. (30) The translation 'accomplished' obscures the semantic link between the basic meaning of wen as 'externally visible decorative pattern' and its derived uses to describe the externally visible 'decorative patterns'--on the 'emblems' (wen) on garments and the 'decorated' (wen) accoutrements--of a high status 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' (wen) ancestor or deceased ruler. As mentioned above, this metaphorical use of wen is akin to the modern English use of the adjective decorated to refer to military rank. That is, just as the medals and honors physically carried by a 'decorated soldier' indicate his rank and status, so do also the physical appearance of a Zhou king or aristocrat--that is, his or her embroidered clothes, carved jade objects, and so forth--constitute the external 'decoration' (wen) that indicates awe-inspiring dignity (wei) and authority. However, unlike a 'decorated soldier', the high status of the Zhou royal family and high nobility derived more from birthrights than from 'accomplishments'. The quality of being wen was not due to an accumulation of deeds (and even less the result of a long process of moral edification), but rather a function of who one was, i.e., one's social status as manifested in visible markers of status and wealth.

The translations of wen as 'accomplished' and 'cultured' appear to derive from the tendency in much of the Chinese exegetical tradition to project later 'moralizing' interpretations of wen as 'morally refined' into pre-Zhanguo texts. The translation of wen as 'accomplished' in early Chinese texts goes back to nineteenth-century translators such as James Legge (1815-1897). Since Legge produced his translations with the help of Chinese scholars, it is highly plausible that his translation of wen was inspired by the Chinese commentarial tradition in which wen is often assumed to mean 'acquired moral refinement'. As argued below, this was indeed one of the meanings of the term in Zhanguo-period texts such as the Lunyu and the Xunzi. Translating wen as '(morally) accomplished'--as Legge indeed does--is thus justified in these texts. However, as translations of wen in pre-Zhanguo texts, 'accomplished' and 'cultured' are anachronistic.

Although little or no evidence in pre-Zhanguo texts supports interpretating wen in abstract metacultural or moralizing terms, such anachronistic interpretations still abound. Let us first consider the occurrence of the expression wen de [phrase omitted] 'awe-inspiring charismatic power' in the last stanza of Mao 262: "Bright, bright is the Son of Heaven. His good reputation is endless. By displaying his awe-inspiring charismatic power (wen de), he ruled the states of the four quarters" [phrase omitted] (31) From the preceding stanzas of this poem, which describe the Son of Heaven's military might and his successes in suppressing enemies and securing his domain, we learn about a military official Hu, who was rewarded for his efforts on the battlefield. In return, as described in the stanza quoted above, he extols the 'awe-inspiring charismatic power' of the Son of Heaven. Given the emphasis on military exploits in this poem, Karlgren's translation of wende as 'fine virtue' is somewhat awkward. (32) Waley's translation as 'power of governance' is also problematic since it is difficult to justify translating wen as 'governance'. (33) Legge's translation of wende as 'civil virtue' also bears the imprint of anachronistic interpretations inspired by the commentarial tradition, which projects Zhanguo-period metacultural meanings of wen into the Western Zhou period. (34) The translation of wen as 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' proposed here thus represents an improvement over previous interpretations since it is grounded in an analysis of the social importance of external appearance in Western Zhou times. It also has the added benefit of being based on the meaning of wen in posthumous titles and descriptions of ancestors.

The definition of wende' in Xiang Xi's [phrase omitted] Shijing Dictionary is a typical example of the Chinese commentarial tradition imposing later abstract meanings of wende' onto pre-Zhanguo texts: "wende' refers to using the transformative teachings of rites and music to engage in the governing of the state. It is used in contrast to 'military accomplishments'." (35) The problem with this definition is that there is no evidence for interpreting the expression wende to refer to 'ruling through charismatic virtue and moral education' before the Zhanguo period. (36) As argued here, the contrast between ruling through 'moral refinement' (wen) and 'military prowess' (wu) also does not predate the Zhanguo period. (37) Although he does not list his sources, the editor of the Shijing Dictionary most likely got the inspiration for his anachronistic definition either directly or indirectly from the Chinese commentarial tradition, which often projects Zhanguo, or even later, concepts into the pre-Zhanguo period.

In sum, wen in pre-Zhanguo texts meant something quite different from the English words cultured, civil, and accomplished. First, it was only noblemen (or noblewomen) who were described as wen--either during their lifetime or as ancestors--in expressions such as wen kao 'awe-inspiring [late] father' and posthumous titles such as Wen Gong 'awe-inspiring [late] Duke'. Reserved for people of aristocratic descent, it was not an acquired feature but rather an inherited privilege. It thus differs from the English word cultured, which refers to a trait acquired through study or training. Second, the word wen--which in its most basic meaning refers to 'decorative patterns'--is much more grounded in the physical appearance of the person described (his clothes, accoutrements, etc.) than the English word cultured. Thus, while taking certain uses of wen to mean 'beautiful' seems quite justified, as argued above, it is hard to think of any contexts in which the word cultured can mean 'beautiful' in its most basic sense. Third, the meaning 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' is certainly not readily associated with the English word culture(d). While I might be in awe of someone's culture--in the nineteenth-century senses of refinement of manners (which may include the way he or she dresses) and thought--this is still quite different from the awe that a Western Zhou ruler or noblemen, wearing 'emblems' (wen) and standing on his beautifully 'decorated' (wen) chariot, would inspire in someone at the bottom of the social hierarchy.


While older meanings, such as 'pattern-decorated' and 'awe-inspiringly beautiful', continue into the Zhanguo period, the term wen undergoes a reinterpretation and is increasingly used to refer to the externally observable patterns in the appearance and behavior of the morally edified individual. The pre-Zhanguo uses of wen in the sense 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' refer to the externally observable appearance of the people at the top of the social hierarchy. In contrast, the Zhanguo uses of wen in the sense 'morally perfected' refers to the charismatic appearance of the people at the top of a moral hierarchy. This reanalysis of the term wen happens in parallel with a reanalysis of the term junzi [phrase omitted]. The term junzi is composed of the words jun 'lord' and zi 'son' and literally means 'the lord's son'. In a more extended meaning it refers to 'noblemen' as members of the ruling elite and hereditary nobility in general. Around the beginning of the Zhanguo period the term also came to be used in an extended meaning to refer to 'noble men' in the sense of people who are morally superior, regardless of whether they are of noble birth or not. (38)

Metacultural uses of wen as a noun referring to the 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior', such as those in Lunyu 9.5 discussed above, emerged at around the same time as (or slightly after) the reinterpretation of wen from 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' to 'having the appearance of a morally perfected person' in the Zhanguo period. This development can first be traced in the Zuozhuan, where both meanings are equally present. In the Lunyu the moral readings are more prominent. Finally, in the Xunzi 'morally perfected' has become the dominant meaning of adjectival wen used to describe individuals, and uses of wen as a noun referring to the '(ideal) patterns of conventionalized behavior' have become fully established in the collectively shared vocabulary of the Zhou literary elite.

2.7 The Zuozhuan: The Beginnings of Moral Interpretations of wen

The Zuozhuan, the bulk of which I assume to have been composed in the period from the late fifth to the late fourth century BCE, represents a later intellectual milieu than that of the Shijing and contains some of the earliest evidence of a reinterpretation of wen in moral terms. (39) Adjectival uses of wen in the Zuozhuan often retain the older pre-Zhanguo meaning 'awe-inspiringly beautiful', while at the same time developing new interpretations in moral terms.

That wen could still mean something akin to 'beautiful' at the time of the Zuozhuan is supported by passages which juxtapose wen and expressions meaning 'elegant' and 'beautiful'. Xiang 31.10 describes how people were selected for government offices. Someone called Zi Taishu is described as being selected because he was 'beautiful, elegant, and wen' (mei xiu er wen [phrase omitted]). (40) This description indicates that the property of being wen was compatible with and potentially overlapped with the property of being 'beautiful' (mei). Thus, at the time of the composition of the material in the Zuozhuan, the word wen retained the ability to refer to a 'beautiful' external appearance that it had in the pre-Zhanguo period.

The Zuozhuan also provides support for the hypothesis that wen could mean 'awe-inspiringly beautiful'. In Xiang 31.13 we learn that during a visit to the state of Chu, Beigong Wenzi [phrase omitted] observed that the chief minister of Chu was beginning to behave like the ruler of a state. Nevertheless, Beigong Wenzi concluded from the chief minister's lack of 'dignity and deportment' (wei yi [phrase omitted]) that he would not succeed in his schemes. To prove his point Beigong Wenzi expounds on the qualities necessary for being the ruler of a state. To give his arguments scriptural support, he quotes a passage from Mao 299, which describes the ruler of Lu as "respectful and careful about maintaining his awe-inspiring dignity and deportment, a model to the people." Although he only quotes this line, we know from the discussion of Mao 299 above that it also describes the ruler of Lu as being "truly awe-inspiringly beautiful (wen) and truly martial." By citing Mao 299, which juxtaposes wen and wei, Beigong Wenzi is thus implying that he assumes both 'dignity and deportment' (wei yi) and 'awe-inspiring beauty' (wen) to be necessary attributes of a true ruler. Beigong Wenzi further elaborates on these attributes in a way that connects wen even more explicitly to the properties of having 'awe-inspiring dignity' (wei) and being held in awe (wei [phrase omitted]).
[phrase omitted] (41)
King Wen led a military campaign against Chong. The second time he
drove [his chariots] there he made [them] surrender and become his
subjects; and the Man-Yi (42) generals submitted. This can be called
standing in awe (wei [phrase omitted]) of him.... Till this day the
acts of King Wen are a model. This is what is called emulating him.
King Wen had awe-inspiring dignity (wei [phrase omitted]) and
deportment (yi [phrase omitted]). Thus when a nobleman (/noble man),
while in office, is held in awe (wei); ... and when his movements and
stirrings have wen and his utterances and sayings have 'decorative
flourishes' (zhang [phrase omitted]) and he uses these things to
oversee his underlings, this is called to have awe-inspiring dignity
and deportment (wei yi).

In Beigong Wenzi's description of the 'awe-inspiring dignity and deportment' (weiyi) of the ruler the words wei 'awe, fear' and wei 'awe-inspiring dignity' are connected to wen in two respects. (43) First, King Wen's ([phrase omitted]) actions are held up as a model (fa [phrase omitted]) for awe-inspiring behavior (e.g., subjugating the restive Man-Yi groups). As witnessed by Lunyu 9.5 discussed above, King Wen comes to be associated with metacultural wen in the Zhanguo period. Beigong Wenzi thus mentions King Wen to illustrate that his actions which inspired 'awe' (wei) are examples of him being wen 'awe-inspiring', both in a moral sense and from the point of view of his physical appearance and actions. (44)

Second, Beigong Wenzi's summary of the behavior and attributes of the nobleman/noble man (junzi) starts by saying that "the junzi, when in office, is held in awe (wei)." Toward the end of the list of attributes of the junzi, Beigong Wenzi includes a description of his "movements and stirrings" as having wen. Beigong Wenzi concludes by stating that these attributes are "that by which he oversees his underlings" and thus amounts to what "is called having awe-inspiring dignity (wei) and deportment." This passage thus contains the most explicit connection between being 'awe-inspiringly beautiful'/'morally refined' (wen) and being 'awe-inspiringly dignified' (wei) in the entire pre-Qin corpus.

In addition to the older meaning 'awe-inspiringly beautiful', other Zuozhuan passages show that wen can refer to both external appearance and moral attributes. In the passage from Huan 2.2 quoted below, Zang Aibo, a Lu official, remonstrates with Duke Huan (r. 711-694) for transgressing ritual propriety by looting the ritual vessels of the state of Gao and placing them in the Grand Temple of the state of Lu. Zang Aibo uses the opportunity to lecture Duke Huan on the proper behavior and appearance of a ruler and the importance of his 'displaying his charismatic power' (zhdo de [phrase omitted]). In his description of the ideal ruler Zang Aibo links the ruler's property of inspiring apprehension and fear (jie ju [phrase omitted]) to his 'awe-inspiring beauty' (wen) displayed by his emblems and to his virtues recorded in his 'decorated' (wen) objects:
[phrase omitted] (45)
He who rules people displays his 'charismatic power/moral virtues' (de)
and obstructs transgressions so that he may thereby shine on the
hundred officers from above.... Hence, he displays his great
'charismatic power /moral virtues' (de) in order to show it to his sons
and grandsons.... As for the flames, dragons, and the fu and fu designs
on embroideries, these display his wen.... As for his charismatic power
(de), and his property of being frugal and measured ... decorated (wen)
objects are used to record them. [These properties] are manifested in
sound and brightly displayed so that they shine on the many officials
from above. Consequently, the many officials are struck with
apprehension and fear, and do not dare to change the rules and statutes.

The first occurrence of wen refers to the 'awe-inspiring beauty' of the ruler expressed by the embroidered status-indicating emblems, i.e., the flame and dragon patterns and the fu fu designs found on his garments, flags, and banners. (46) This occurrence of wen is thus comparable to the occurrence of the term to refer to "woven patterns (wen) and bird insignia (zhang)" in Mao 177 discussed above. Note also the similarities between Zang Aibo's description of the ideal ruler and the description found in Mao 55 discussed in section 1 above. Both passages emphasize the dashing external appearance of the ruler, detailing his garments and various accoutrements on himself, his chariots, and horses. Thus, this Zuozhuan passage reflects a society in which physical appearance is still closely connected to status and authority.

Unlike the passage from Mao 55, Zang Aibo does interpret some of the physical objects and qualities as signs of moral virtues ([phrase omitted]). In contrast, in Mao 55 the 'lord' (junzi) simply is 'beautiful' and 'awe-inspiring'. The end of the passage from Huan 2.2 quoted above summarizes the link between 'inner power' (de) and virtues of 'frugality' (jian) and 'measure' (du) by stating that they are externally manifested/expressed in 'patterned accoutrements' (wen wu [phrase omitted]). In the Zuozhuan the ruler's external appearance thus serves the double purpose of being visually 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' while at the same time indicating his 'moral virtues' (de) of 'frugality' (jian [phrase omitted]) and appropriate sense of 'measure' (du [phrase omitted]). (47)

Though wen begins to be interpreted ethically, it still retains the aesthetic connotations of its basic meaning of '(externally visible) decorative pattern'. In Huan 2.2 discussed above, wen refers to the fire and dragon emblems (wen) on garments and 'decorated accoutrements' (wen wu). In Xiang 31.13, also discussed above, wen describes the "movements and stirrings" (dong zuo) of the junzi as well as his property of having awe-inspiring dignity and deportment' (wei yi). Xi 24.1 adds to this picture by describing words as the 'external decoration' (wen) of a person: "Utterances are the 'decoration' (wen) of a person. When a person is about to go into reclusion, what is the use of decorating (wen) oneself? That would be seeking ostentatious display." (48) Uttered by Jie Zhi Tui [phrase omitted] to explain why he will not plead his case with Duke Wen of Jin, who has neglected to reward him for his loyal service during the long years of the duke's exile, this statement indicates that in the Zuozhuan wen is the externally observable expression "in clothing, accoutrements, gestures, and words" of a person's inner worth and dignity. (49)

2.2 The Emergence of Metacultural wen in the Lunyu

The Lunyu discusses the moral interpretation of wen more explicitly than the Zuozhuan. (50) In the Lunyu wen, understood as 'moral refinement', is first and foremost viewed as an acquired attribute of the 'noble man' (junzi). In it we also find some of the earliest metacultural uses of wen as a noun referring to the 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behaviors'. Since the term junzi now also refers to non-noble individuals (i.e., 'noble men' in the moral sense of the term), the property of being wen is no longer a prerogative of the hereditary nobility but can be acquired even by non-nobles providing that they engage in the proper edification process, which consists in imitating the 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior' (wen). In the Lunyu, wen is therefore no longer understood exclusively in terms of physical appearance as 'awe-inspiring beauty', as in the pre-Zhanguo period, but is increasingly conceptualized in moral terms.

In Lunyu 5.15, Kongzi and his followers explicitly discuss the motivation for the use of wen in posthumous titles in moral terms. (51)
[phrase omitted] (52)
Zigong asked, "What is the reason Kong Wenzi is [posthumously] called
Wen? The Master replied, "He was diligent and fond of learning. And he
did not consider it shameful to ask those below him. This is the reason
why he is [posthumously] called Wen."

After his death around 484 BCE, Kong Yu [phrase omitted], a minister at the Wei court, was given the posthumous title Kong Wenzi [phrase omitted]. Zigong's question why Kong Yu was honored with this title is probably motivated by his knowledge of Kong Yu's rather mixed record. Being part of the eulogizing lore following the death of a high-status individual, many (but not all) posthumous titles are positive terms such as wen 'awe-inspiring', ling [phrase omitted] 'potent', and hui [phrase omitted] 'wise'. Such highly positive titles were often less reflective of the carriers' true mettle than of the power and influence of their family and supporters. Kongzi justifies Kong Yu's posthumous title by citing positive traits such as being hard working, humble, and studious. Although Kong Yu may have been far from perfect, at least he possessed enough positive traits to be called 'morally decorated/refined' (wen). Lunyu 5.15 thus illustrates a new use of wen in the meaning 'morally refined' not seen before the Zhanguo period.

In the Zhanguo period being wen in the moral sense began to be considered an acquired property. Lunyu 1.15 contains a metaphorical interpretation of the line "as if cut, as if polished, as if carved, as if ground" from Mao 55, which implies that the 'moral decoration/refinement' of a noble man is acquired through a slow process of moral edification.
[phrase omitted] (53)
Zigong asked, "being poor but not fawning, wealthy but not arrogant.
What do you think of this?" The Master said, "That is acceptable, but
it is not as good as being poor but still finding joy in the Way, or
being wealthy but still being fond of the rites." Zigong said, "A poem
says, as if cut, as if polished; as if carved, as if ground. Is what
you just said not an example of what is expressed in this line?"

The main purpose of Lunyu 1.15 is to describe the 'moral refinement' of the '(morally) noble man' (Junzi) as consisting in having acquired certain moral traits such as being "observant of the rites" and "delighting in the Way" rather than "obsequious" and "arrogant." The fact that Lunyu 1.15 quotes from Mao 55 provides us with an opportunity to compare the semantic shift of wen, from 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' in pre-Zhanguo times, as illustrated by Mao 55 discussed in section 1, to 'morally refined' in the Zhanguo period as illustrated in Lunyu 1.15. As persuasively argued by Edward Slingerland, the passage from Mao 55 "as if cut, as if polished; as if carved, as if ground" is used metaphorically in Lunyu 1.15 to refer to the process of edification. (54) Just as the decorative patterns (wen) on a jade vessel are applied externally, so is also the 'decoration/moral refinement' (wen) of the noble man (junzi) acquired through imitation of an external tradition of 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior' (i.e., the si wen referred to in Lunyu 9.5).

Further support for the analysis of wen as an acquired attribute is found in Lunyu 14.12, where wen is used as a transitive verb meaning 'to pattern' or 'to decorate': "If someone who possesses Zang Wuzhong's wisdom, Gongchuo's freedom from desire ... is wen'ed ('refined') through ritual and music, then he can be considered a perfected person." (55) Here Kongzi describes the 'perfected man' (cheng ren [phrase omitted]). In addition to possessing certain inner qualities (i.e., wisdom and freedom from desires) as raw material, he needs to undergo further refinement or decoration (wen) through the 'rites and music' (li yue [phrase omitted]). Only then will he achieve the balance of 'moral refinement' (wen) and 'native substance' (zhi [phrase omitted]) that is required of the 'noble man' in Lunyu 6.18. (56)

By opening up the possibility that 'moral refinement' (wen) can be acquired, Lunyu 1.15 and 14.12 imply that it is possible for persons of non-noble background to become 'morally refined' (wen) through the proper edification process. Thus, for example, the passage from Lunyu 14.12 quoted above does not assume that the 'perfected person' has to be of noble birth. Since wen is explicitly mentioned as part of the curriculum taught by Kongzi, (57) and since several of his students, such as Yan Hui, (58) were of non-noble origin, it is clear that the edification process through which one acquires wen was not confined to people of noble birth. (59)

The reinterpretation of adjectival uses of wen from 'displaying awe-inspiring external marks of social status and authority' to 'displaying the external appearance and charisma of moral perfection' was an important step in the development of metacultural uses of wen as a noun referring to 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior' (as in Lunyu 9.5). After this semantic shift had taken place, the new meaning of wen as 'displaying the external appearance of moral perfection' could now be applied to entire dynasties. (60) Thus, while adjectival wen refers to the 'moral refinement' of a person in Lunyu 5.15, in Lunyu 3.14 Kongzi uses it to describe the Zhou dynasty:
[phrase omitted] (61)
The Master said, "As for the Zhou, when viewed on the background of the
two [preceding] dynasties [i.e., the Xia and the Shang], how splendid!
How morally refined (wen) indeed! I follow the [the ways of the]
Zhou." (62)

In this passage Kongzi sets apart the Zhou as being the greatest and morally most perfected, i.e., the most wen, of the three dynasties. Lunyu 9.5 contains another example of wen referring to the 'refinement of the tradition' passed down from the revered founding kings of the Zhou. Since Lunyu 3.14 and 9.5 are statements explicitly referring to and commenting on the tradition of the Zhou, these occurrences of the term wen constitute the first cases in the texts that we have of what I refer to here as metacultural wen.

2.3 Wen in Recently Discovered Texts

Recently discovered manuscript texts confirm that metacultural uses of wen date back to the fourth century BCE, as suggested by the above analysis of wen in received texts such as the Lunyu and the Zuozhuan. Some of the earliest uses of wen and wu to refer to contrasting principles of governance are found in the recently discovered Shanghai Museum bamboo manuscripts and the Zuozhuan. Strip 5 of the "Tianzi jian zhou" [phrase omitted] manuscript, which was likely composed in the fourth century BCE, contains a passage which explicitly contrasts wen and wu.
[phrase omitted]
Wen is yin and wu is yang. If one is trusted in wen, then one will
obtain officials: if one is trusted in wu, then one will obtain fields.
Morally refined (wen) charismatic power [is used to] rule/govern;
martial (wu) charismatic power [is used to] attack [militarily]. Wen
gives birth and wu kills. (63)

The explicit associations of wen and wu with other pairs of contrasting concepts such as governing (zhi [phrase omitted]) versus attacking (fa [phrase omitted]), and 'giving birth/life' (sheng [phrase omitted]) versus 'killing' (sha in this passage have parallels in late Zhanguo and Western Han texts and seem to anticipate the association of wen with rewards and wu with punishments found in the Hanfeizi. (64)

The graph wen <[phrase omitted]> occurs several times in the Guodian manuscripts, but always in names, such as King Wen. However, as observed by Scott Cook, in the "Human Nature Comes Via Mandate" Guddian text, the graph <[phrase omitted]> is used to write the word wen in the verbal meaning 'to refine', much as in the passage from Lunyu 14.12 discussed above. (65)
[phrase omitted]
The Odes, Documents, Ritual, and Music all in their beginnings arose
from mankind.... The sages compared their types and arranged and
assembled them; ... gave embodiment to their propriety and provided it
with regularity and refined pattern. (66)

2.4 Metacultural wen in the Xunzi: Ideal Patterns of Conventionalized Behavior

There is general agreement that most of the Xunzi was composed in the third century BCE. (67) Since it also has a well-developed theory of wen, it is the perfect work for illustrating the last phase in the development of metacultural uses of this term in the pre-Qin period. In many ways the Xunzi represents late Zhanguo-period developments of earlier uses of wen found in the Lunyu and the Zuozhuan. First, the Xunzi defines the wen of the 'noble man' (junzi) in even more explicitly moral terms than these two earlier works.
[phrase omitted]. (68)
The noble man (junzi)... debates, but does not compete.... He is hard
and strong, but not violent. ... He is respectful, reverent, attentive
and cautious, but still generous. Indeed, this is what is called
[being] utmost wen.

This passage from the Xunzi leaves no doubt that the wen of the 'noble man' consists in having a set of moral qualities which are observable in his behavior and demeanor. (69) In contrast to the Shijing and the Zuozhuan, having a 'beautiful' (mei) or 'awe-inspiring' (wei) external appearance is no longer necessary for being a 'morally refined' (wen) 'noble man'. (70)

As in the Lunyu, the wen of the noble man is an acquired trait which is accessible to anyone who is willing to undergo the necessary edification process. While the Lunyu does not formulate its theory of moral education explicitly, the Xunzi spells out the implications of using crafts metaphors to describe the process of acquiring wen: (71)
[phrase omitted] (72)
Pattern (wen) imitation (xue) is to a person what polishing and
grinding are to jade. A poem says, "As if cut, as if polished; as if
carved, as if ground." This refers to imitating and inquiring. As for
He's jade disc and the Jingli stone, after jade specialists polished
them, then they became treasures of all under Heaven. (73) As Zigong
(74) and Ji Lu--who were men of lowly backgrounds--donned pattern (wen)
imitation and dressed in the rites and duty, then they became
illustrious retainer-officials (75) for all under Heaven.

This crafts metaphor shows that the Xunzi views the edification process as a slow process of fashioning the moral mettle of the individual through 'imitation of the ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior' (wenxue [phrase omitted]), (76) which are preserved in the tradition of government institutions and social mores from the early Zhou. Using Lakoff and Johnson's theory of conceptual metaphor, this crafts metaphor can be analyzed as follows: (77) The physical process of jade carving provides the structuring source domain for the conceptualization of moral edification. First, just as raw jade does not have the teleological potential to turn into beautifully carved objects on its own, the implication is that human beings also do not have innate knowledge of normative values that would allow them to turn into sages on their own. Second, in the same way that raw rocks containing jade appear crude and unappealing at first glance, the potential worth of people of humble origins (such as Zigbng and Ji Lu) also cannot easily be judged from appearances. Third, by cutting and carving it, the jade carver can turn an unassuming rock into a treasured gem. Similarly, since people do not have the innate resources to transform themselves on their own, the implication is that they need to learn about the 'ideal patterns of normative values' (wen) from an external tradition under the guidance of a teacher or mentor. Through this process even 'lowly people' (bireri) are able to become morally refined retainer-officials known everywhere under Heaven. In sum, although not spelled out in the original passage, the implications furnished by the source domain (i.e., jade carving) allow us to infer that the authors assume the carved patterns on the jade object to correspond to the 'moral refinement' (wen) of the 'noble man' (junzi). (78)

By using the exact same phrase 'as if cut, as if polished; as if carved, as if ground' from Shijing 55 as the one also quoted by Zigong in Lunyu 1.15 discussed above, the Xunzi explicitly anchors its theory of moral education in the virtue ethics of the Lunyu. In sum, the acquisition of 'moral refinement' (wen) through a long edification process based on the imitation of the 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior' of the early Zhou was seen as a necessary prerequisite for office-holding in both the Lunyu and the Xunzi.

Now let us turn to nominal uses of wen referring to metacultural concepts. As in Lunyu 9.5, where Kongzi refers to the tradition of the early Zhou as 'this wen' (si wen), the Xunzi also contains nominal uses of wen referring to the metacultural concept of 'ideal patterns in transmitted practices'. Thus Xunzi 19.11 explicitly describes how the former kings established the 'ideal prescriptive patterns' (wen) of sacrificial rites in order to help the mourners control and channel their emotions in socially appropriate ways.
[phrase omitted]. (79)
The former kings consequently established the ideal patterns (wen) for
these situations ... Therefore I say: As for sacrifice ... it is the
[manifestation] of utmost loyalty, trust, caring, and respect; [it is ]
the perfection of the rites and restraint and of refined (wen)

Interestingly, this passage uses the term wen both to refer to the metacultural concept of the ideal prescriptive 'patterns' for the conventional practices of mourning rites established by the former kings, and to refer to the 'morally refined' appearance (mad [phrase omitted]) of the person following these practices appropriately. In other words, wen is used to refer both to the physically observable dignified appearance of an individual, and to the less directly observable ideal patterns in conventionalized behavior.

In another passage, the Xunzi describes how the former kings made (wei [phrase omitted]) the 'ideal patterns' for music. "Sounds and music penetrate deep into people, and their transformation of people is swift. Therefore the former kings diligently made 'ideal patterns' (wen) for [sounds and music]"[phrase omitted]. (80) The implication, spelled out in the continuation of this passage, is that the ideal musical patterns (wen) of the former kings ensured centered and balanced music which made the people behave correctly and thereby prevented disorder. Thus, without the ideal patterns (wen) made by the sages, music as a tool for governing the people would be much less efficacious.

Seeing the former kings as responsible for establishing the 'correct patterns' of sacrificial practice and music, the Xunzi develops a theory of kingship which includes 'perfecting' (cheng [phrase omitted]) the 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior' (wen), in order to display it to all under heaven:
[phrase omitted] (81)
The king ... is the most worthy and is thereby able to save the
unworthy. He is the strongest and is thereby able to be broadminded
toward the weak. If he engages in warfare then he will necessarily
destroy [his enemy] but he still considers it shameful to fight with
anyone. Indeed, he perfects wen in order to display it to all under
heaven so that aggressive states will be at peace and transform

This passage describes how the ruler can pacify potential enemies by perfecting wen, understood either as his own 'moral refinement' or as the 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior'. That wen still refers to externally observable patterns is indicated by the fact that it must be displayed (shi [phrase omitted]). The transformative power of the display of 'patterned moral perfection' wen is also emphasized in Xunzi 14.6, which states that "if those above are wen, then those below will be peaceful" [phrase omitted]. (82) These passages thus indicate that metacultural wen was mainly conceived of as a property of the ruler and ruling elite ('those above'), rather than as something that the masses should strive for. In this respect it differs significantly from the modern English concept of 'culture'.

In the Xunzi, the social function of wen as a form of transformative communication between high and low is intimately linked to the rites (li [phrase omitted]). Thus according to the Xunzi, the "rites ... use [distinctions between] noble and base to create patterns (wen) [of social distinction]" [phrase omitted]. (83) In a different passage, the Xunzi elaborates on this theme by describing how the former kings made 'emblems and insignia' (wenzhang) as well as elaborately decorated status objects such as carved jades, metal inlay, and embroidered garments only "to distinguish the noble from the base and nothing more, and not to strive for ostentatious display" [phrase omitted]. (84) In this passage, 'emblems (wen) and insignia (wenzhang)' are thus one of the physical manifestations of the 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior' (wen) instituted by the former kings to create social order by establishing a social hierarchy. (85)

As observed by Sato Masayuki, several passages in the Xunzi thus reveal that wen and rites stand in a close relationship to each other. (86) In a concrete sense, wen 'emblems' and wenzhang 'insignia' as signs of social status are the overt manifestations of the hierarchical relations encoded in the rites. On a more abstract level, wen can also be used to refer to the ideal 'prescriptive patterns of conventionalized behavior' (wen) which the former kings established to regulate practices such as music and mourning sacrifices. The 'Way of the noble man' [phrase omitted] can therefore be equated with striving to achieve the 'refined patterning of rites and duty' [phrase omitted]. (87) Another passage describes rites as the 'moral refinement' (wen) which must be applied to native human nature in order to make people 'elegant' (ya [phrase omitted]) 'noble men' (junzi) and save them from becoming like birds and beasts:
[phrase omitted]. (88)
Is this a thing which is 'patterned/decorated' (wen), but not [overly]
variegated? ... Is this a thing which the noble man (junzi) respects,
but the petty person does not? Is this a thing, which if inborn nature
does not acquire it, then one becomes like the birds and the beasts;
and if inborn nature does acquire it, then one will be extremely
elegant (ya)? Is this a thing that if an ordinary man makes it flourish
then he will become a sage? ... I beg to categorize this under the term
"rites" (li).

Beyond establishing that the rites are the ideal 'patterned decoration' of human nature, this passage also clearly shows that wen is the 'moral refinement' that, if acquired through implementation of the rites, can make an 'ordinary man' (pifu [phrase omitted]) into a 'noble man' (junzi), or even a sage ([phrase omitted] sheng ren). (89)

In sum, the passages from the Xunzi analyzed above illustrate four meanings that the term wen had in the late Zhanguo period: (90) (i) the already somewhat archaic meaning of 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' (wen) referring to the imposing appearance of the ruler, (ii) the 'moral refinement' (wen) of a 'noble man' (junzi) who is trained in the 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior' (wen) of the early Zhou period, (iii) the 'moral refinement' (wen) of an entire society embodying the social mores and traditions of the early Zhou period, and (iv) metacultural concepts such as the 'ideal patterns of the conventionalized practices' established by the former kings.


This paper provides a genealogy of the metacultural concept of wen, which has been neglected in the otherwise vast literature on the term. I argue that pre-Zhanguo uses of wen referring to positive attributes of individuals of noble birth mean something like 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' and that they derive from the basic meaning 'decorative pattern' through regular diachronic processes of metaphorical extension and abstraction. Possessing a beautiful and awe-inspiring appearance was not conceived of as an acquired property. Wearing clothes embroidered with rank indicating emblems (wen) and being equipped with lavishly decorated (wen) accoutrements signaling 'dignity' and 'authority' (wei) were the prerogative of members of the royal family and high nobility, i.e., the junzi in the aristocratic sense of 'noblemen'. Pre-Zhanguo uses of wen referred to having an 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' physical appearance, rather than to acquired moral traits. This analysis of wen helps us avoid the anachronistic interpretations of wen in moral terms often found in the traditional commentarial tradition and improves our understanding of the role played by physical appearance in the construction of pre-Zhanguo social hierarchies.

In the Zuozhuan, wen in the sense 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' begins to be reanalyzed in moral terms, thereby giving rise to the new adjectival uses referring to the 'moral refinement' of the noble man. This development happens at the same time as the reinterpretation of junzi from 'nobleman' to 'noble man' in the sense of morally edified person. Nevertheless, at this time wen is still often associated with having an 'awe-inspiring' (wei) and 'beautiful' (mei) appearance.

In the Lunyu metacultural and moral uses of wen dominate. Adjectival wen in the sense 'morally refined' becomes applied to dynasties (Lunyu 3.14). Nominalized versions of such uses of wen then gives rise to metacultural wen referring to the 'moral refinement' of the Zhou, e.g., the ideal 'patterns of social mores and conventionalized practices established by the former kings' in Lunyu 9.5.

The Xunzi defines wen explicitly as acquired 'moral refinement' which can be obtained even by people of lowly background. It is also in the Xunzi that nominal wen used to refer to the 'ideal conventional patterns' of transmitted practices such as music and sacrifice is first mentioned explicitly as having been established by the former kings.

In contrast to previous analyses, this paper provides explicit hypotheses about the lexicalization of the different meanings of wen that account for how they all derived from the same basic meaning: '(decorative) pattern' > 'decorated' (lit.) > 'decorated' (metaph.) = 'high-rank' > 'morally refined' > 'ideal patterns of conventionalized behavior'. This analysis also allows us to see how intimately linked the concept of wen was to external visibility. In the pre-Zhanguo period one was 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' (wen) if one bore the externally visible signs of nobility (e.g., decorated [wen] objects and accoutrements). In the Zhanguo one could be 'morally refined' (wen) by behaving and adopting the demeanor of a morally superior gentleman. In both cases, external visibility was more important than any translation of wen as 'accomplished', 'cultured', or 'civil' would suggest.

Finally, let us return to the question of translation. Translating wen in pre-Zhanguo texts as 'culture/cultured' or 'civilization/civil' is clearly anachronistic. At that time members of the royal family and noblemen dressed in clothes with emblems (wen) and insignia and used decorated (wen) implements in order to display their authority (wei) and status, and thereby awe (wei) underlings into submission and obedience.

Although wen does develop metacultural uses in Zhanguo texts, translating it as 'culture' and 'cultured' is still problematic. The Old Chinese word wen and Modern English culture have different etymological origins which continue to inform their uses and meanings. As shown above, metacultural uses of Old Chinese wen ultimately derive from the basic meaning 'decorative patterns' produced by painting, carving, or embroidering. Thus, as shown by the carving metaphor discussed above, the 'decorative patterns' (wen) of moral perfection are applied to the noble man (junzi) from the outside rather than being the result of a process of growing or cultivating. In contrast, the English word culture derives from a word meaning 'to grow or cultivate [plants and crops]'. And it still retains these connotations when used to refer to the 'culture of a gentleman', which is acquired through a long process of cultivation and nurturing of certain qualities through education and moral discipline.

As aptly phrased by Tessa Morris-Suzuki, the modern English word culture is heavily "burdened by the karma of previous incarnations." (91) The modern English concepts of 'culture' referring to (i) universal 'high culture' and (ii) the anthropological notion of 'sets of conventionalized behaviors of specific groups' are both concepts that developed in Europe and the United States in the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. The complex profusion of technical definitions of culture in anthropological theories as well as numerous different meanings in colloquial usage makes the use of the term in the study of premodern societies especially precarious. Therefore, rather than dealing with the hermeneutical problems caused by using a language-specific parochial metacultural term such as English culture as an analytical category in studies of pre-Qin conceptualizations of metaculture, it is better to try to reconstruct the meaning of a language-specific metacultural term such as wen based on how it is used in the pre-Qin texts themselves.



(1.) Italics indicate linguistic expressions. Single quotation marks ' ' refer to concepts or meanings of terms.

(2.) Lunyu 9.5, Lunyu jishi [phrase omitted], ed. Cheng Shude [phrase omitted] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1997), 576-79. All translations are my own unless otherwise indicated. Some commentaries emend [phrase omitted] to [phrase omitted] wei '(to be) surround(ed)'. According to William Baxter, p.c, [phrase omitted] wei and [phrase omitted] wei were too different phonologically to be mutually interchangeable. Hence in Lunyu 9.5 the graph [phrase omitted] refers to the word [phrase omitted] wei '(to be) threaten(ed)'.

(3.) Leonard Arthur Lyall, The Sayings of Confucius (London: Longmans, 1909), 54. See also the study of wen in translations of the Lunyu in Uffe Bergeton, "From Pattern to 'Culture'?: Emergence and Transformations of Meta-cultural Wen" (Ph.D. Dissertation, Univ. of Michigan, 2013), 152-235.

(4.) Arthur Waley, The Analects of Confucius (London: Allen and Unwin, 1938), 40.

(5.) Kern, "Ritual, Text, and the Formation of the Canon: Historical Transitions of 'Wen' in Early China," T'oung Pao 87 (2000): 51-52 n. 26, referring to Peter Bol, "This Culture of Ours": Intellectual Transitions in T'ang and Sung China (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1992).

(6.) Previous studies have focused on other aspects of the term. Chow Tse-tsung ("Ancient Chinese Views on Literature, the Tao and Their Relationship," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews I CLEAR] 1 [ 1979]: 1-29) centers his analysis of wen on its uses in expressions referring to 'writing' and 'literature'. Martin Kern ("Historical Transitions of 'Wen' in Early China," T'oung Pao 87 (2000]) focuses on the use of the term wenzhang to refer to "written textual compositions." David Schaberg (A Patterned Past: Form and Thought in Early Chinese Historiography [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Asia Center, 2001]) focuses on the uses of wen in the Zuozhuan [phrase omitted] to refer to rhetorically patterned speech (wen ci [phrase omitted]). Krzysztof Gawlikowski ("The Concept of Two Fundamental Social Principles: Wen and Wu in Chinese Classical Thought," Part I, Annali 47.4 [1987]: 397-433 and Part II, Annali 48.1 [1988]: 35-62) analyzes the wen-wu 'civil-martial' dichotomy. Lothar von Falkenhausen ("The Concept of Wen in the Ancient Chinese Ancestral Cult," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR) 18 [1996]: 1-22) analyzes the use of wen in inscriptions as a positive epithet in Western Zhou Bronze. Shirakawa Shizuka [phrase omitted] (Zhongguo gudai wenhua [phrase omitted] [Taibei: Wenjin chubanshe, 1983]) briefly touches on different attitudes towards the concept of wen in pre-Qin works. Peng Yafei [phrase omitted] ("Xian Qin lun 'wen' san zhong yaoyi" [phrase omitted] [phrase omitted], Wen shi zhe 1996.5: 41-45) discusses three main concepts of wen in the pre-Qin period. Martin J. Powers (Pattern and Person: Ornament, Society, and Self in Classical China [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Asia Center, 2006]) discusses wen in the context of his analysis of the role of patterns in the construction of person-hood. Finally, Liu Shaojin [phrase omitted] ("Zhoudai lizhi de 'wen hua yu Rujia meixue de wenzhi guan" [phrase omitted] wenyi yanjiu 2010.6: 40-48) analyzes the role of wen in pre-Qin theories of aesthetics.

(7.) Urban, Metaculture (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press. 2001), 281 n. 4.

(8.) Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1869). Arnold (1822-1888) played a key role in the popularization of a concept of 'culture' that refers to the refinement of the mind, tastes, and manners through "acquainting ourselves with the best that has been known and said in the world"; see his Literature and Dogma: An Essay Towards a Better Apprehension of the Bible (Boston: Osgood, 1873). xiii. "The best" tradition is the one Western Europe had inherited from ancient Greece and Rome, which in his view was superior to the traditions of the rest of the world.

(9.) While a precursor of the use of the term culture in this sense appeared in Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture (London: J. Murray, 1871), it did not gain currency beyond academic circles before the popular introductions to the anthropological study of cultures by Franz Boas. Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead, among others, in the early twentieth century; see Tomoko Masuzawa, "Culture," in Critical Terms for Religious Studies, ed. M. Taylor (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1998), 70-93.

(10.) Parts of the Lunyu were composed after the fourth century BCE. This paper focuses on the parts which can be argued to date from the fifth and fourth centuries BCE.

(11.) To be sure, other Zhanguo-period texts, such as the Hanfeizi [phrase omitted] and the Lushi chunqiu [phrase omitted] and so forth, could have been chosen as well. But some of these either discuss wen polemically, or use the term less consistently.

(12.) My claim that abstract uses of wen as a metacultural concept emerged in the Zhanguo period does not imply that I assume that people in the earlier period were unable to think in abstract concepts. In other words, this paper studies the historical development of specific word meanings, not the general evolution of human cognitive abilities.

(13.) Beyond the pre-Zhanguo parts of the Shijing, the Shangshu [phrase omitted] the Chunqiu [phrase omitted] and the Zhouyi [phrase omitted] the pre-Zhanguo texts analyzed here also includes the oracle-bone and bronze inscriptions in the CHANT database (

(14.) Mao 128, Shi san jing' zhu shu [phrase omitted] (SSJZS) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980): 370. I refer to poems in the Shijing by their number in the Mao edition.

(15.) Shiming shuzheng bu [phrase omitted] ed. Wang Xianqian [phrase omitted] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju. 2008), 254.

(16.) Mao 299, SSJZS 425. According to Zheng Xuan [phrase omitted] (127-200), here "zhi refers to a woven emblem" [phrase omitted] , see SSJZS 425.

(17.) The term zhang [phrase omitted], which often occurs in juxtaposition with wen referring to 'emblem(s)', refers to 'rank-indicating insignia'.

(18.) Mao 299, SSJZS 611.

(19.) While Mao 55 does not contain the word wen, it illustrates how important having an imposing external appearance was for the construction of social status in the pre-Zhanguo period.

(20.) Mao 55. SSJZS 321, translation inspired by Bernhard Karlgren, The Book of Odes (Stockholm: Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1950), 37.

(21.) Following Axel Schuessler, A Dictionary of Early Zhou Chinese (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1987), 160, I read fei [phrase omitted] as fei [phrase omitted] 'elegant, ornate'.

(22.) Ji Xusheng [phrase omitted] Shuowen xin zheng [phrase omitted] (Fuzhou: Fujian renmin chubanshe, 2010), 731. See also LI Zongkun [phrase omitted] Jiaguwen zibian [phrase omitted] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2012), 1292.

(23.) Ibid., 732. See also the conveniently collected paleographic studies of <[phrase omitted]> in Guwenzi gulin bianzuan weiyudnhui (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe, 1999).

(24.) Shirakawa Sizuka, Kanji no sekai [phrase omitted] (Tokyo: Toyo bunko, 1976), 29-32.

(25.) An imposingly beautiful appearance may inspire a range of different feelings other than awe, e.g., envy or intimacy. However, since external appearance of individuals (as well as monumental architecture and precious objects such as bronzes) served an important role in the construction of social hierarchies, 'awe', 'deference', or 'respect' best capture the feelings the 'awe-inspiringly beautiful' (wen) appearance of a ruler or nobleman was intended to generate.

(26.) Xu Zhongshu, Jiaguwen zidian [phrase omitted] (Chengdu: Sichun cishu chubanshe, 2006), 996.

(27.) The origin of the system of posthumous names (shi fa [phrase omitted]) is controversial; see Wang Shoukuan [phrase omitted], Shifa yanjiu [phrase omitted] (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1995). According to the "Shi fa jie" [phrase omitted] ('Explanation of the system of posthumous names') chapter in the Yi Zhou shu [phrase omitted], the Duke of Zhou established it in the eleventh century BCE: see Yi Zhou shu huixiao jizhu [phrase omitted], ed. Huang Huaixin [phrase omitted], Zhang Maorong [phrase omitted], and Tian Xudong [phrase omitted] (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2007), 618-707. In more recent times. Wang Guowei [phrase omitted] (Guantang jilin [phrase omitted], 4 vols. [Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987], 895-96) places the origin of the shi fa system in the mid-Western Zhou period. Guo Moruo [phrase omitted] (Jinwen congkao [phrase omitted] 3 vols. [Beijing: Kexue, 1954], 89a-101 b) dates it to the Zhanguo period. Following von Falkenhausen, "The Concept of Wen," I assume that an incipient system existed in the late Shang and further developed in the Western Zhou period.

(28.) This list of terms which can be modified by wen is based on von Falkenhausen, "The Concept of Wen."

(29.) Ibid., 3.

(30.) Von Falkenhausen's excellent 1996 study establishes that the uses of wen in pre-Zhanguo posthumous names did not have the "moralizing dimension" later acquired in texts such as the Zuozhuan and the Lunyu. Von Falkenhausen also explicitly states that his translation of wen as "accomplished" is only a "stopgap" translation.

(31.) Mao 262, SSJZS 574.

(32.) Karlgren, The Book of Odes, 234.

(33.) Arthur Waley, The Books of Songs (London: Allen and Unwin, 1937; rpt. New York: Grove Press, 1996, cited after rpt.), 281.

(34.) See James Legge, The She King (London: Trubner. 1876), 344. According to Qu Wanli [phrase omitted] (Xian Qin wenshi ziliao kaobian [phrase omitted] [Taibei: Lianjing chuban shiye gongsi, 1983], 334), Mao 262 was composed during the reign of King Xuan of Zhou (r. 827/25-782).

(35.) Xiang Xi, Shijing cidian [phrase omitted] (Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chubanshe, 1986), 485.

(36.) A late Zhanguo-period occurrence of wende meaning 'morally refined virtue' is found in Lunyu 16.1, where the ruler is advised to make distant peoples submit by "cultivating his moral virtue" [phrase omitted]; see Lunyu jishi, 1137. For the dating of Lunyu 16, see n. 50.

(37.) Gawlikowski proposes that abstract uses of wen only developed at the end of the Spring and Autumn period. See Gawlikowski, "Wen and Wu in Chinese Classical Thought," 55-56.

(38.) For that shift in meaning see Scott W. Morton, "The Confucian Concept of Man: The Original Formulation," Philosophy East and West 21.1 (1971): 69-77.

(39.) The dating of the Zuozhuan is controversial. According to Schaberg (A Patterned Past), parts of the text must have been composed and added quite late. However, based on lexical and grammatical usage patterns I date the composition of the bulk of the content of the Zuozhuan to the late fifth and early fourth centuries BCE. See Anne Cheng. "Ch'un ch'iu [phrase omitted], Kung yang [phrase omitted] Ku liang [phrase omitted] and Tso chuan [phrase omitted]," in Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide, ed. Michael Loewe (Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China, 1993), 67-76; Yang Bojun [phrase omitted] "Zuozhuan chengshu niandai lunshu" [phrase omitted], Wenshi 1979.6: 65-75; and Bernhard Karlgren, "On the Authenticity and Nature of the Tso Chuan," Goteborgs Hogskolas Arsskrift 32 (1926): 1-65.

(40.) Zuo, Xiang 31.1, Chunqiu Zuozhuan zhu [phrase omitted], ed. Yang Bojun [phrase omitted] (Beijing: Zhonghu shuju. 1990): 1191.

(41.) Zuo, Xiang 31.13, Chunqiu Zuozhuan zhu, 1193-95.

(42.) Man [phrase omitted] and Yi [phrase omitted] refer to non-Zhou peoples.

(43.) The Old Chinese words 'awe-inspiring dignity; (natural) authority' (wei [phrase omitted]) and 'to fear' (wei [phrase omitted]) derive from the same root *?uj. The graph <[phrase omitted]> is not found in excavated documents, which use the graph <[phrase omitted]> to write both *?uj and *?uj-s. Baxter and Sagart reconstruct the Old Chinese word which is written with the graph <[phrase omitted]> in received versions of pre-Qin texts as *?uj (> wei) and the word written with <[phrase omitted]> as *?uj-s (> wei ); see William Baxter and Laurent Sagart, Old Chinese A New Reconstruction (Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press, 2014), 101. The -s suffix here indicates a transitive verbal meaning. *?uj-s (> wei) was a verb meaning 'to fear; to frighten; threaten' and *?uj (> wei) was a noun 'fright; fear', or an adjective 'frightening; awe-inspiring'.

(44.) Besides Lunyu 9.5, King Wen is also explicitly linked to the 'virtue of being wen' in the "Jifa" [phrase omitted] chapter of the Liji: "King Wen governed through wen" [phrase omitted] (SSJZS, 1590). For the relationship between King Wen and wen (esp. the compound wenci [phrase omitted]), see also Schaberg, A Patterned Past, 81-86.

(45.) Zud, Huan 2.2, Chunqiu Zuozhuan zhu, 86-89.

(46.) Martin Powers ("The Figure in the Carpet: Reflections on the Discourse of Ornament in Zhou China," Monumenta Serica 43 [1995]: 223) translates fufu [phrase omitted] as "noble designs" and suggests that it refers to patterns "in which figure and ground are reversible."

(47.) In the pre-Zhanguo period de referred to externally observable 'charismatic power'. Like junzi and wen, the word de is reanalyzed in the Zhanguo period when it started to be analyzed in moral terms as 'moral virtue'.

(48.) Zuo, Xi 24.1 Chunqiu Zuozhuan zhu, 418-19.

(49.) See Schaberg, A Patterned Past, 64.

(50.) The material in the Lunyu (LY) was composed over the span of several centuries from the beginning of the Zhanguo period down to the third century BCE. It can be divided roughly by century as follows: (i) LY 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 composed in the fifth century BCE, (ii) LY 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 composed in the fourth century, and (iii) LY 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 composed in the third century BCE or later. The passages from the Lunyu discussed in this paper are all from groups (i) or (ii) and thus represent the intellectual milieu of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. See Bruce Brooks and Taeko Brooks, The Original Analects (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1997); Anne Cheng, "Lun yu [phrase omitted]," in Early Chinese Texts, 313-23; John Makeham, "The Formation of Lunyu as a Book." Monumenta Serica 44 (1996): 1-24; and Qu Wanli, Xian Qin wenshi ziliao, 382-89.

(51.) The "Shi fa jie" chapter in the Yi Zhou shu discusses the use of wen in posthumous titles in moral terms: "Someone whose Way and virtue is broad and thick may be called wen; someone who has studied assiduously and been fond of asking questions may be called wen; someone who has been kind and gracious in caring for the people may be called wen; someone who has had sympathy with the people and graciously performed the rites may be called wen" [phrase omitted] (Yi Zhou shu huixiao jizhu, 635-37). The Yi Zhou shu was probably composed in the Zhanguo period or early Han times; see Edward Shaughnessy, "I Chou shu [phrase omitted]" in Early Chinese Texts, 229-33.

(52.) Lunyu 1.15, Lunyu jishi, 325.

(53.) Lunyu 1.15, Lunyu jishi, 54-56, translation partially inspired by Edward Slingerland, Analects (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003), 6-7.

(54.) Slingerland, Effortless Action: Wu-Wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003), 53.

(55.) Lunyu 14.12, Lunyu jishi, 969: [phrase omitted].

(56.) See Lunyu 6.18, Lunyu jishi, 400: "When wen and native substance are balanced, then you are a noble man" [phrase omitted] For the contrast between wen and zhi see Kim-Chong Chong, "The Aesthetic Moral Personality: Li, Yi, Wen, and Chih in the Analects," Monumenta Serica 46 (1998): 69-90.

(57.) See Lunyu 7.25, Lunyu jishi, 486: "The Master used four things to teach: wen, behavior, loyalty, and trust" [phrase omitted].

(58.) See Lunyu 9.11, Lunyu jishi, 593-95: "Yan Hui, sighing, said, ... the Master ... has broadened me with wen and restrained me with the rites"[phrase omitted].

(59.) In contrast, in the pre-Zhanguo corpus, the term junzi consistently refers to 'rulers/lords' or aristocratic 'noblemen'. The pre-Zhanguo corpus contains no clear examples of the term junzi used exclusively in the Zhanguo sense of 'morally refined gentleman (regardless of birth)'. There are no pre-Zhanguo instances of junzi referring to men of non-noble birth.

(60.) In Zuo, Xiang 8.3 'awe-inspiring charismatic power' (wende [phrase omitted]) is described as something which a state (guo [phrase omitted]) can either have or lack: "There is no greater disaster than if a small state is without wende but still [wants to] have military achievements" [phrase omitted] (Zuo, Xiang 8.3, Chunqiu Zuozhuan zhu, 956).

(61.) Lunyu 3.14, Lunyu jishi, 182.

(62.) In this passage wen can also be translated as a noun, i.e., "How splendid [its] wen indeed!"

(63.) See Shanghai howuguan cang zhanguo Chu zhushu [phrase omitted], vols. 1-9, ed. Ma Chengyuan [phrase omitted] (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2001-12). Though wen does occur in the recently discovered texts known as the Qinghud manuscripts, none of these occurrences contradicts the analysis presented here. See Qinghud daxue cang zhanguo zhujian [phrase omitted] vols. 1-3, ed. Li Xueqin [phrase omitted] (Shanghai: Zhongxi shuju, 2010-13).

(64.) For the association of the wen-wu pair with the changing seasons and the yin-yang pair see also Robin McNeal, Conquer and Govern (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawai'i Press, 2012).

(65.) Scott Cook, The Bamboo Texts of Guodian: A Study and Complete Translation (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 2012), 711.

(66.) Cook. Bamboo Texts of Guodian, 709-12. See also Guodian Chumu zhujiun [phrase omitted] ed. Jingmen shi bowuguan (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe. 1998).

(67.) Needless to say this does not preclude later interpolations, or even the possibility of entire chapters dating from the Qin or early Han periods. See John Knoblock, Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1988), 105-28, and Michael Loewe, "Hsun tzu [phrase omitted]," in Early Chinese Texts, 178-88.

(68.) Xunzi 3.4. Xunzi jijie [phrase omitted], ed. Wang Xianqian [phrase omitted] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1988): 40-41.

(69.) Masayuki Sato [phrase omitted] (Xunzi lizhi sixiang de yuanyuan yu zhanguo zhuzi zhi yanjiu [phrase omitted] [Taibei: Guoli Taiwan daxue chuban zhongxin, 2013], 229) also interprets wen in this passage as "elegant and refined speech and actions" [phrase omitted].

(70.) In spite of the fact that the Xunzi most often uses wen to refer to the 'moral refinement' of the 'noble man' (junzi), it also uses the term in the older sense to refer to the important social function of the 'beautiful' and 'awe-inspiring' appearance of the ruler: "The former kings and sages ... knew that if those who were rulers of men and superiors did not make [themselves] beautiful (mei) and did not decorate (shi) [themselves], then they would not be able to unify the people; ... that if they were not awe-inspiring (wei) and strong, then they would not be able to prevent aggression and conquer ferocious enemies. Hence, ... [one] must chisel and polish [stones], [and one] must carve and inlay [metals], and emblems (wen) and insignia (zhang) must have fu fu designs in order to fill the eyes [of their subjects]"[phrase omitted] (Xunzi 10.9, Xunzi jijie, 185). The description of the ruler as 'awe-inspiring' and 'beautiful' in this passage resembles the use of wen in the Zuozhuan passage from Xiang 31.10 discussed above. Only by 'decorating' and making himself 'beautiful' can the ruler unify the entire realm under heaven (tian .xia). The ruler's impressive emblems (wen) and insignia play a central role in this process by 'filling the eyes [of his subjects]'. Not surprisingly, the authors of the Xunzi use this older meaning of wen when describing the ancient kings.

(71.) For the use of crafts metaphors in the Lunyu and the Xunzi, see also chapters 2-7 in Slingerland, Effortless Action.

(72.) Xunzi 27.84, Xunzi jijie, 508.

(73.) Following Wang Niansun [phrase omitted] is emended to <[phrase omitted]>; see Xunzi jijie, 508.

(74.) The text writes the name Zigong [phrase omitted] as Zigan [phrase omitted] For simplicity, I use Zigong in the translation.

(75.) The term shi [phrase omitted] is notoriously difficult to translate. For lack of a better word, I use 'retainer-officials' as a stopgap translation.

(76.) The exact meaning of the expression wenxue [phrase omitted] is controversial. Much confusion has been generated by projecting later meanings into the pre-Qin period. Although the term means something like 'literature' or 'literary studies' in later periods, I agree with Martin Kern ("Historical Transitions of 'Wen'") that such readings are anachronistic in pre-Qin texts. As discussed here, rather than referring narrowly to texts, pre-Qin uses of wen in the expression wenxue refer more broadly to the social and moral 'patterns' (be they in sacrifice, rites, music), of which the body of classical texts (the Shu and the Shi) are but a small part. For a different analysis of wenxue, see Chow, "Ancient Chinese Views on Literature," 1-29. For an excellent study of the concept of wen in medieval to modern China, see Pablo Ariel Blitstein, "From 'Ornament' to 'Literature': An Uncertain Substitution in Nineteenth-Twentieth Century China," Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 28.1 (2016): 222-72.

(77.) George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh (New York: Basic Books, 1999).

(78.) This analysis of crafts metaphors in the Xunzi is based on chapter 7 in Slingerland, Effortless Action.

(79.) Xunzi 19.11, Xunzi jijie. 375.

(80.) Xunzi 20.2, Xunzi jijie, 380.

(81.) Xunzi 7.1, Xunzi jijie, 108.

(82.) Xunzi 14.6, Xunzi jijie, 263. Compare this contrast between 'those above' (shang), who have wen, and 'those below' (xia), who are in 'awe' (wei) of and are governed by the dignified (wei) wen appearance of their superiors, with the passage from Zuozhuan Xiang 31.13 discussed in section 2.1.

(83.) Xunzi 19.3, Xunzi jijie, 357. The same description of the relationship between wen and li is found in Xunzi 27.45, Xunzi jijil, 497.

(84.) Xunzi 10.1, Xunzi jijie, 357. The last phrase "[The former kings] did not [thereby] strive for ostentatious display" [phrase omitted] was most likely added to preempt criticism from followers of the Hanfeizi and the Mozi. which are full of critical remarks about what they considered to be the wasteful practices of Ru rites (li) and wen practices. The most explicit criticism of the Ru concept of wen is Hanfeizi 49: "The Ru throws the government models (fa) into disarray through wen" [phrase omitted] see Hanfeizi 49, Hanfeizi jijie [phrase omitted], ed. Wang Xianshen [phrase omitted] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2006), 449. This passage also indicates that the Hanfeizi assumes wen to be associated with the Ru. For more discussion of the diversity of attitudes towards the metacultural concept of wen in the pre-Qin period, see Bergeton, From Pattern to 'Culture'?, 92-124.

(85.) See also Zuo, Yin 5.1: "Display emblems and insignia (wenzhang) to clarify the distinction between noble and base." Du Yu's commentary to this passage specifies that wenzhang refers to chariots, clothes, banners, and flags. As we have seen in many of the passages discussed here, marks of status and rank were often manifested as decorations (wen) on items such as these.

(86.) Sato, Xunzi lizhi sixiang, 227-33.

(87.) Xunzi 19.4, Xunzi jijie, 359.

(88.) Xunzi 26.1, Xunzi jijie, 472-73.

(89.) Another direct equation of wen and li can be found in Xunzi 13.7, which states that the '"good person" [phrase omitted] "takes rites and duty as his '(externally visible] decorative patterns (wen)'" [phrase omitted]; see Xunzi jijie, 256.

(90.) Obviously, the term wen was also used in a host of other senses, e.g., 'written graph', 'tattoo', and 'striped (tiger)'.

(91.) Tessa Morris-Suzuki, "The Invention and Reinvention of 'Japanese Culture,'" Journal of Asian Studies 54.3 (1995): 762. For a comprehensive study of the concept of bun [phrase omitted] in Japanese thought, see also Lin Saoyang [phrase omitted] wen yu Riben xueshu sixiang: Han zi quan 1700-1990 [phrase omitted] 1700-1990 (Beijing: Zhongyang bianyi chubanshe, 2012).

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Author:Bergeton, Uffe
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
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Date:Apr 1, 2019
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