Publication details

Correct naming in early medieval China



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description In this paper I explore the problem of correct naming (i.e. “attaching names to realities”) in three texts written in the 3rd-4th centuries AD: Xu Gan’s Balanced Discourses, Wang Bi’s Commentary on the Laozi and Guo Xiang’s Commentary on the Zhuangzi. In the first part, the paper demonstrates that all three texts share a general framework concerning the dichotomy between names and corresponding realities. The texts stress the importance of a person’s inner reality, out of which the corresponding name (or fame) is supposed to stem naturally (instead of attaching the name on the basis of outwardly manifested signs, which the texts refuse in unison). In the second part, the paper addresses the problem of differences between these texts. It is firstly argued the differences can be read as a development in social and cultural environment in which these texts were written. Secondly, the paper argues that the differences between Wang Bi’s and Guo Xiang’s commentaries (commonly approached as differences between their philosophies), are grasped more aptly if understood primarily from the nature of the commented texts (Laozi and Zhuangzi). The paper argues that the philosophies of Wang Bi and Guo Xiang may in fact be very close and the differences between their commentaries are informed mainly by the content and cultural status of the commented texts.
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