(East-West Question) Ye Shuxian: "Cross" and "Safe Buckle", how to find Chinese cultural genes in comparative literature?

  China News Agency, Beijing, May 29th: Ye Shuxian: "Cross" and "Safe Buckle", how to find Chinese cultural genes in comparative literature?

  Author Wen Longjie Xu Crown

  Comparative literature is a literary study that takes the cross-ethnic, cross-language, cross-cultural and cross-discipline as a comparative perspective.

Over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, Chinese liberal arts have produced unique theoretical contributions and theoretical innovation achievements, and the research and teaching of comparative literature has taken the lead in it.

  What role does Chinese comparative literature play in leading cultural exchanges, discovering the genes of civilization, and forming a "Chinese perspective"?

Ye Shuxian, the Zhiyuan Chair Professor of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the President of the Chinese Society for Comparative Literature, recently accepted an exclusive interview with China News Agency "East and West Questions" to interpret this.

The following is a summary of the interview transcript:

China News Service reporter: Since the reform and opening up, what role has comparative literature played in generating Chinese theory and Chinese discourse, and what are the relevant theoretical propositions?

Ye Shuxian:

The great changes brought about by the reform and opening up in China's liberal arts and academics, first of all, is the integration and integration with the international humanities and social sciences, ending the lack of theory in the state of isolation and isolation.

Various theories and schools of criticism involved in translation and introduction in the field of comparative literature, from archetypal criticism, psychoanalysis, structuralism, deconstruction, ecocriticism to postcolonial theories, have sparked discussions and applications in China.

Only on this basis did the Chinese version of the literary theory and cultural theory construction attempt, and so far it has achieved remarkable results, such as the East-West Graduation Theory, Aphasia, Variation, Imageology, Translation and Interpretation, Chinese Character Semiotics, Reopening Silk The theory of the road, the theory of cultural traditions, the theory of Yucheng China, the theory of ten thousand years of China, the theory of cultural texts, etc.

The field of comparative literature became a major field that gave birth to Chinese discourse.

The S-shaped jade dragon pendant at "Tian Gong Han Jade - Xuzhou Han Dynasty Jade Fine Art Exhibition".

Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhai Yujia

China News Service reporter: What role do these theories play in activating cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries and leading mutual learning between civilizations?

Ye Shuxian:

Taking the theory of large and small cultural traditions as an example, Western academic circles originally believed that large traditions refer to urban, written, and elite culture, while small traditions refer to the folk culture of villagers.

We use the length of time as an objective measure to redefine: the culture that precedes writing is the big tradition, and the writing tradition is a small tradition.

Such theoretical ideas bring inspiration to the comparison of cultures and mutual learning between civilizations: only by focusing on cultural traditions, can the prehistoric era of writing effectively understand the cultural genes that gave birth to each ancient civilization, so as to grasp the reason for the small tradition of writing.

  From this, the focus is on "Chineseness", which is the unique feature of Chinese culture, and goes beyond the relatively empty comparison between China and the West in the past.

Taking the unique road of Chinese civilization as an example, Richthofen, a German in China after the Opium War, put forward the Silk Road theory, which is a major proposition involving the history of cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries. Before Zhang Qian, there was a transportation that was earlier and more lasting than silk. Materials are the jade resources of the Western Regions.

In a jade market in Urumqi, natural Hetian jade is full of goods.

China News Agency reporter Liu Xinshe

  The Jade Road is the birth road of Chinese civilization, as well as the predecessor and prototype of the Silk Road. Research in this area cannot rely solely on books.

Comparative literature scholars organized a total of 15 field trips, and roughly sorted out the time and space map of the traffic routes between the seven western provinces.

According to the position of the jade mine resources from near to far, it is carried out in a domino manner. The total time is about 5,500 years, which is more than 3,000 years longer than that of the Western Han Dynasty when Zhang Qian passed the Western Regions.

The existence of the jade resource area in western China can explain the deep problem of "Why China" from the perspective of the origin of the country's territory and the dependence on unique resources.

Other ancient civilizations in the world worship gold and other precious metals, but not jade. Such mutual learning can open up a systematic cognitive paradigm from myths, belief concepts, behavior patterns, and historical paths and civilization characteristics.

China News Service reporter: What is the significance of comparative literature to the "Chinese perspective" of the new liberal arts construction?

Ye Shuxian:

The biggest shortcoming of Chinese liberal arts is that it does not have its own original theoretical system. When college students and graduate students write their dissertations and begin to describe the theories and methods they use, they are accustomed to copying and appropriating various foreign theories and methods.

In response to this bias, the comparative literature community has insisted on encouraging attention to Chinese issues for more than 30 years, with particular emphasis on the importance of theoretical thinking from a Chinese perspective.

Comparing the general "Introduction to Literature" (basically following Western theories) and "Literary Anthropology Course" (2010) based on the conscious position of local culture, we can roughly understand what is meant by "Chinese perspective".

The chapters in the latter book on the origin of literature start with the analysis of the utterances of the narration from the Western Zhou Dynasty to the "Shangshu" narrative, which truly restores the sacred belief and the political context of kingship and power in the narration of the Jiajinwen, and explains the foundation of the Chinese version. The initial paradigm of narrative literature, so as to complete the specific case explanation of "Chinese Literature Origination Test".

This helps students avoid the labyrinth of endless debates over whether literature originated from labor or witchcraft.

In August 2020, the audience visited the exhibition "Zhaizi China - Bronze Ware and Bronze Inscriptions Unearthed in Baoji" at the National Museum of China.

Photo by Du Jianpo issued by China News Agency

  Similarly, "Cultural Interpretation of the Book of Songs" completed from the perspective of comparative culture focuses on the difficulty of the origin of Chinese poetry and analyzes the ancient Chinese keywords such as "Feng Ya Song" one by one, revealing the mythological belief of the homology phenomenon of oracle bone inscriptions "fengfeng". From this, we sort out the essence of the unique concept of China as a poetry classification, combined with the activation effect of the third evidence, from the western folk custom of "Hua'erhui" and the practice of opposite songs, explain why "wind" and "elegance" and "" Song" is a completely different genre.

Starting from the gender seductive function of "wind", the etymological connotation of a series of words ranging from Fengjiao to Fengsao and Merry in the history of Chinese literature is explained.

Dance performance at "Ode to Fengya--2014 Guozijian Mid-Autumn Festival Poetry Concert".

Photo by Guo Haipeng issued by China News Agency

  In short, the special significance of the Chinese perspective is to guide students to put themselves in the local context to recognize the cultural characteristics of theories and concepts, and to avoid the indiscriminate abuse of Western theories and genre terms, such as in Chinese literary history writings. Differently apply terms such as poetry, prose, tragedy, comedy; to inspire readers' awareness, the cultural characteristics of genres are incommensurable.

Translating the "wind" of the national style into "poetry" in Western language is paradoxical and misleading.

To identify "The Analects" as prose is a pseudo-scientific name.

The current direction of the new liberal arts needs to return to the Chinese perspective and local position, and start anew.

China News Service reporter: As the founder of Chinese literary anthropology, can you talk about the role this discipline has played in the construction of Chinese theory and Chinese discourse?

Ye Shuxian:

The comparative literature camp is basically divided into two groups: research on the impact of transnational literary exchanges or interdisciplinary research.

This latter aspect is the basic purpose of the current national education authorities to carry out the construction of new liberal arts in colleges and universities across the country.

Literary anthropology, as an interdisciplinary subject of literature and cultural anthropology, was born and developed under the support of the Chinese Society for Comparative Literature. It is an aspect that can represent the characteristics of Chinese comparative literature.

  Cultural anthropology brings cross-cutting perspectives to all humanities and social science disciplines.

Because, in literature, history, philosophy, politics, economy, law, art, and religion, there is no subject that is not an organic part of culture.

In our education system, there are various disciplines that study local parts, but the disciplines that study the whole are ignored.

Cultural anthropology can change the single perspective of various disciplines, re-integrate the part and the whole of culture, change the narrow knowledge structure of subject-basedism in the past, and get out of the passive situation of blind men and elephants.

China News Service reporter: The "quadruple evidence method" you proposed has been included in the Chinese foreign translation academic project. What is the "quadruple evidence method"?

Why do you say that it provides today's scholars with a set of Chinese-style research strategies that have the significance of new liberal arts?

Ye Shuxian:

The characteristic of traditional Sinology is a set of knowledge system that is closed within the gate of the country with the handed down literature as the axis.

We today call handed down documents a piece of evidence.

The newly discovered oracle bone inscriptions and bronze inscriptions in modern times belong to the second evidence besides documents.

Subsequently, a large number of bamboo slips and silk books were added.

In 1994, he proposed that cultural anthropology and folklore focus on non-literate social etiquette, mythology, singing, festivals, etc., as the third evidence to reconstruct the three-dimensionality of cultural traditions.

In 2005, a fourth layer of evidence was presented: archaeological sites, artifacts and images.

The integration of the four-fold evidence is equivalent to constructing a new set of unprecedented knowledge paradigms based on the interaction of cultural anthropology, folklore, archaeology, art history and other disciplines.

In the exploration and practice of this new methodology in the humanities, theories such as the theory of cultural traditions and the theory of ten thousand years of China were born.

In August 2020, citizens visited the famous bronze ritual vessel He Zun in the early Western Zhou Dynasty in the National Museum of China in Beijing. The inscription on the inner bottom of He Zun contains the earliest written record of the word "China".

Photo by China News Agency reporter Hou Yu

China News Service reporter: You put forward the theory of "Jade China" and "China of Ten Thousand Years". What is the significance of confirming the most important cultural genes and ideological prototypes of Chinese civilization?

Ye Shuxian:

Different civilizations have different core values.

The mutual learning of civilizations makes it clear that four of the five ancient civilizations (Sumerian, Egypt, Babylon, and India) all originated from pasta (wheat) agriculture and precious metal worship.

Only the Chinese civilization originated from rice food (northern millet, southern rice) agriculture and jade worship.

This is the most basic difference at the genetic level.

The earliest gold artifacts discovered by Chinese archaeologists were unearthed at the Yumen Huoshaogou site in the Hexi Corridor near Xinjiang, dating back about 3,600 years.

This gold earring typically represents the coordinate meaning of foreign cultural elements entering China.

The jade culture entered China from the northeast five or six thousand years earlier than the precious metal culture, and then spread all the way to the south.

Even before the Gold Worship started, it covered most of the country.

We summarize theoretically as "Jade culture first unifies China" or "Jade becomes China".

Visitors visit the Neolithic Hongshan Culture Jade Dragon at the "Why China" exhibition in January 2022.

Photo by Du Jianpo issued by China News Agency

  More importantly, jade worship plays a foundational role in the establishment of the core values ​​of Chinese civilization, that is, the prototype role in spiritual belief.

The combination of jade worship and silk worship constitutes the axis of Chinese national belief before the emergence of Taoism and Buddhism, which is reflected in the incisive summary of the pre-Qin document "Jade and silk are the two essences".

It is a pity that since the spread of Western learning to the east, the efforts to find Chinese beliefs by referring to the churches and the Bible in Western society are very misleading, and thus become invalid academically.

From He's Bi, Qin Shihuang's imperial jade seal, to Jia Baoyu's "Tongling Treasure Jade", local beliefs and practical characteristics are fully reflected, showing the huge shaping energy of the inheritance of traditional beliefs and the diffusion of the whole society.

It can be seen that if researchers do not focus on cultural genes, they will never even know why the cross is popular for Western necklaces, while the safety buckle is popular for Chinese necklaces.

China News Agency reporter: Why do you say that the "Chinese perspective" is the basic spirit of the current construction of new liberal arts?

Ye Shuxian:

The knowledge of various disciplines taught in Chinese higher education is basically airborne from foreign countries in the context of the eastward spread of Western learning.

The eastward spread of Western learning is an inevitable accompanying phenomenon in the colonial era with Western powers as the protagonists.

The development of the liberal arts today requires us to re-establish a cultural standpoint of post-colonial reconciliation and colonization. Only in this way can cultural awareness be realized and not just slogans.

The purpose of the new liberal arts is not only to update knowledge, but also to completely end the passive situation in which Chinese people are accustomed to not having their own theories.

There should be innovations and breakthroughs in the content and form of Chinese culture going out. Without its own theoretical construction and theoretical output, it will forever stagnate in the situation of working for others.


Interviewee Profile:

  Ye Shuxian, Doctor of Literature, Doctoral Supervisor, Zhiyuan Chair Professor of Shanghai Jiaotong University, one of the first batch of senior professors of humanities and social sciences, researcher of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, former Vice Chairman of the Chinese Folk Writers Association, currently President of the Chinese Society of Comparative Literature, Literary Human Honorary President of the Academic Research Branch.

He has served as a visiting professor at Yale University in the United States, visiting professor at the British Academy, Oxford University, Cambridge University, and the Royal Netherlands Academy.

In 1993, he was awarded the title of expert enjoying special national allowances. In 1996, he was selected as one of the first batch of national talents project of 10,000,000,000, and won the Huo Yingdong Young Teacher Research Award, the first, second and eighth National University Humanities and Social Sciences Research Outstanding Achievement Award.

His works are equal, and his research in comparative literature, cultural studies, literary anthropology, etc. is in a leading position in China. He has opened a personal column in such publications as "Chinese Comparative Literature", "Literature and Art Contest", "National Art", etc. To the leading role, the literary anthropology advocated has formed a new school with considerable momentum in China.

He has published more than 50 monographs, including "Literature and Anthropology", "Chinese Myth and Philosophy", "Illustrating the History of Chinese Civilization", and 7 translations; He has published more than 600 papers, such as "Review" and "Foreign Literature Review".