Reading Traditional Chinese Poetics from the West: Three Exemplary Positions

Vol. 23 No. 3   12/1993   


Reading Traditional Chinese Poetics from the West: Three Exemplary Positions 


Chu Yiu Wai 









Key words

common poeticsDecenteringdialectical criticismDominantdiscourseErasureEthnocentrismEurocentrismFusion of horizonsGrand narrativeHermeneutical tradition


   Traditional Chinese poetics has long been considered as “impressionistic, ” lacking a systematic structure like that of the West. Consequently, critics of Chinese literature tend to share a common concern of systematizing Chinese critical discourse. The study of traditional Chinese poetics, however, often gives a false hope: through a meta-reading of traditional Chinese poetics, it is possible to formulate a set of hermeneutical rules on which the interpretation of almost every Chinese work can be based. In this paper I will try to show that such a reading will need to address the 

problem of reading between cultures. The center of the production of knowledge has recently been located in the West, and thus I think the reading of traditional Chinese poetics from the West will provide us with a new perspective to look at the problem of reading concerning Chinese critical discourse. Though the reading of the three critics, James Liu, Stephen Owen and Wai-lim Yip, it may be possible for us to open up new textual/political space and foreground the discurive predicament that the reading of traditional Chinese poetics may have to face I believe that without a radical challenge of this predicament, the reading of Chinese poetics may merely become a place for the Orientalist to colonize Chinese culture. The reading of the three critics’ reading will provide us with a sense of our reading position in the context of postcolonial discourse, leading us into the battlefield where we can critique the grand colonial narrative. Without mew discursive spaces opened up by the problematization of given 

discursive categories, “looking at China from the West” will merely be a simple extension of colonial domination, but not a genuine mew perspective to look at China. 



Author: Chu Yiu Wai
Genre: Article