Title

Sound over ideograph : the basis of Chinese poetic art

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture

Publication Date

11-2015

Volume

2

Issue

2

First Page

545

Last Page

572

Publisher

Duke University Press

Keywords

Chinese poetic language, monosyllabic Chinese characters, Chinese prosody, prosodic and thematic rhythm, syntax and structure

Abstract

The author argues that Chinese characters have shaped Chinese poetic art not through their ideographic form but through their monosyllabic sound. Specifically, the pauses in a Chinese poetic line tend to be determined by sound patterns. Since monosyllabic sound is nearly always endowed with meaning, sound patterns tend to be semantic groupings as well. These groupings of meaning, in turn, determine syntax and, by extension, the organization of an entire poem. Given the semantic denseness of Chinese poetry, this structure is crucial to the overall meaning of a poem, to how we read or understand it. So what we have is something like sound ⇒ prosodic pattern ⇒ semantic grouping ⇒ syntax ⇒ structure. A multilayered integration of all these elements seems to represent the gestalt of Chinese poetic form, with monosyllabic sound as its foundation. At its best, this gestalt engenders a dynamic interplay of all its elements, from which poetic vision emerges.

DOI

10.1215/23290048-3324212

Print ISSN

23290048

E-ISSN

23290056

Funding Information

Hong Kong Research Grants Council research grant (Project Code: LU13400014)

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2015 by Duke University Press

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Recommended Citation

Cai, Z.-q. (2015). Sound over ideograph: The basis of Chinese poetic art. Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture, 2(2), 545-572. doi: 10.1215/23290048-3324212