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December 08, 2008

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Thanks for sharing this and the other excerpt Peony. Unfortunately, it's rather disappointing. It's quite speculative and dated. I first came across his name in Donald Munro's The Concept of Man in Early China (1969) which has probably the best explanation of the early meaning of De. (Munro also was well-read in the works of Kaizuka Shigeki.)

"The character was written as a large "eye" with a decorative head-gear signifying the magical power (mystical force) of the early shaman kings who had the power to control earth." -- Please don't believe a word of this!

Hi there! I am not sure and this is really not my area! For example, I won't believe a word about the big eye with the helmet if you would give an example of what I should believe! Same with de. How did Munro present it?

I don't have any idea about the oracle bone script. However, if you look at the kanji in its present form-- yeah, "straight plus heart" and if you include 行 as a samantic element (that was Shirakawa's big thing, right?) then-- quoting the Sheik-- Shazaam! "Moving straight from the heart" This ties in very well, in fact with Shirakawa's overall idea that "de" is a naturally inherent rational moral sense that is *collectively expressed* (I have somewhere around here the most interesting presentation of 革命 talking about how the concept differs from english revolution) I will try and dig it out.

In any case, I cannot really argue with you if you tell me not to believe something but don't tell me what to believe... How does Munro present de? And how then can we understand the chacater in its oracle bone script form?

And what do you think of the passage we have been talking about?
"It is a rare man.."

And, how's the weather there? here the plums are just blossoming.

Hi Peony,
The best thing for me to do is send you a PDF of part of my study on De. There are oracle-bone and bronze script characters in it that I can't put here. Let me know if you'd like to read it. Munro has over 40 pages on De in his book. Here's one excerpt:

"The term De denoted a consistent attitude toward the Heaven-decreed norms, which, in the case of ideal De, displayed itself in regularly appearing action in accordance with the norms. This attitude served to establish communion between the individual and Heaven; hence De was religious in nature [where their 'religion' was Ancestor Worship]. Eventually, in the Zhou period, De developed the extended sense of a bestowal of bounties by a ruler (or more simply, 'kindness') because this activity was believed to accord with one of Heaven’s major decrees. De in this sense would automatically produce affection and loyalty in the hearts of the people, and would attract them to the person practicing it."

As for "character etymology," as I call it, (i.e., analysis of the components of the graph), you should know I place much less importance on this kind of analysis than many people do. "True" etymology, even of Chinese, is based on phonology. Still, one should not ignore character etymology altogether. The PDF I'm offering to send you is basically on character etymology, however!

While De in the Zhou period had numerous senses/meaning, I disagree that De is an "inherent rational moral sense." And the whole connection with shamanistic magical power is the figment of (many) scholar's imaginations, as there is not one shred of evidence. If you like, when I'm finished my study of the evolution of De, I can share it with you. But I'm not sure when that will be, as I've been working on it for years. It SHOULD be in the next couple months.

As for that passage in the Lunyu, I don't think there's enough information to be sure what he meant. I think it could be "sex" as many interpret it, including Paul Goldin (who has done a book length study of sex in ancient China), but it also could pointing to vanity, appearances, etc. So, I don't know really.

The weather here is pretty good for February. It's -6C right now. We had a ton of snow until last week when the temperatures climbed to about +10C and most of it melted.

Good health and happiness,
Bao Pu

Hi Bao Pu,

You know I would love to read anything you have written! I'll send you an email after this in case you lost my email. You probably have already noticed that I tend to have a certain "faith" in the Japanese scholars. This is based only on the following reasons and I will be up front to tell you that I am only talking about "betting odds!" This means that I am NOT saying that Japanese scholars are always correct, but rather that if I were betting, I would place my bets on their side (because I think they just are better positioned to get things right)

Afterall, they have been doing this for 1000 years; they are extraordinarily detail-oriented and perfectionistic when it comes to scholarship and they share so much cultural and linguistic background that they are better (and closer) positioned to getting things right. Shirakawa is a giant. He wrote about meeting the current descendent of Kongzi when he visited Japan as of course Shirakawa would be sent to represent the nation!

This is not my area-- so I am limited to how I can respond-- I will just say that Shirakawa's approach is linking de with tian. According to Shirakawa, Tian is connected with these ancient shamanistic practices-- not de. This is a significant point, I think. Shirakawa does not take the step to link de with the shamanistic practices. However, he does discuss the earliest instances of the character in the oracle bone script. It would be the same if he made the point that right and left were written in oracle bone script representing ritual objects that were held in each hand. This is not to say that our hands only had shamanistic ritual significance. He just does not take that step and I am sorry if my lousy summary made it seem like that :)

His point is mainly (and simply) that "de" grew out of tian-- specifically out of the concepts of 天命・革命 (and I cannot find that essay on 革命 anywhere-- but you must admit this is highly unique in world history).

I'm going to email you now.

Hi Peony,

re: "You probably have already noticed that I tend to have a certain "faith" in the Japanese scholars. This is based only on the following reasons and I will be up front to tell you that I am only talking about "betting odds!" This means that I am NOT saying that Japanese scholars are always correct, but rather that if I were betting, I would place my bets on their side (because I think they just are better positioned to get things right). Afterall, they have been doing this for 1000 years; they are extraordinarily detail-oriented and perfectionistic when it comes to scholarship and they share so much cultural and linguistic background that they are better (and closer) positioned to getting things right. Shirakawa is a giant. He wrote about meeting the current descendent of Kongzi when he visited Japan as of course Shirakawa would be sent to represent the nation!"

You have a valid point. But I think it's important to remember a few things. 1) Many or most Western scholars are quite familiar with Chinese scholarship and some with Japanese scholarship. So, they are not necessarily out-of-touch with their Asian counterparts. Munro, for example, seems to have been quite familiar with Japanese scholarship, for he mentions Shirakawa, Kaizuka Shigeki, Kanaya Osamu, Ito Michiharu, Ikeda Suetoshi, Masubuti (Masubuchi?) Tatsuo, Ogura Toshihiko, Shima Kunio, etc. and whole bunch of Chinese scholars too. 2) Knowledge progresses. Stuff written 50 years ago may be discredited or improved upon (including Munro's work) by now.

Re: "I will just say that Shirakawa's approach is linking de with tian. According to Shirakawa, Tian is connected with these ancient shamanistic practices-- not de."

I guess I'd have to read exacctly what he says, since the earliest occurances of De are in Western Zhou bronze inscriptions and it is never mentioned in connection with Tian. It is always associated with deceased ancestors, (which just might be residing in Tian). As for shamanism, this label is notoriously not well-defined. I've read everything I can regarding shamanism in the Shang and I've found the theories are very weak.

Re: "he does discuss the earliest instances of the character in the oracle bone script."

Munro may have mentioned this, but many (most?) oracle-bone scholars don't think that De is found in the oracle bone inscriptions. That is, the related characters we find on the oracle bones do not represent the same word/concept as De in the Zhou literature.

Re: "I'm going to email you now."

I haven't gotten your email, but don't worry, I have your email address and I'll send my short PDF to you.

Health and Harmony,
抱樸

Hi 抱樸,

Did you say -6c? Well, the snow sounds very beautiful. It hasn't snowed even once here this year and my son says he forgets what snow is...Anyway, I am so glad you sent me the file. Not only was it a surprisingly visually pleasing pdf file (!) but it was really interesting. Thank you.

Regarding the Japanese: Your statement, "1) Many or most Western scholars are quite familiar with Chinese scholarship and some with Japanese scholarship. So, they are not necessarily out-of-touch with their Asian counterparts" kind of makes the point, doesn't it? If you are working in that field, you would need to be thoroughly grounded in the language of tha field, don't you think (not just "quite familar")? I have a friend in Chinese philosophy who once mentioned, "you would be surprised at the lack of language ability"... and well, I am not in the field, so I am in no place to say. However, as a general impression-- especially until very recent times, I think you probably could claim that the English language scholars were not as "familiar" with the language as the Japanese...

Another friend who left the field mentioned that he himself always relied on the Japanese sources as many of the Chinese sources (including dictionaries) have been revised in a heavy-handed manner during recent times and he said he never felt like he could trust them in the way he could the more conservative jpse sources. My own personal experience is very, very limited in this regard, but-- when we were looking at the translations of ddj #60, I was actually rather baffled by some of the english translations; also because I do so much Chinese-content related translation, whenever I am in a pinch I will ask my translation-related question in 2 places: with scholar aquaintances and with my fellow Japanese translators-- guess what? I have only ever received answers from the translators (2 translator friends in particular have an extremely strong background in Chinese, including classical experience). More than philosophy, it has been in Chinese history that I have really wondered about a lack of language skills. I could be wrong though, and again these are just rather vague personal impressions-- please ingest with a huge dose of salt!

Also, of course Jpanese scholarship progresses as well! And since I would argue they start at a better position in the first place to look at these texts, I stand by my claim that it a stronger tradition to work from.

Anyway, my oracle bone script dictionary arrived! :)

And it looks like Shirakawa did revise the eye with a helmet interpretation (that wikipedia article had no citations so I have no idea which of Shirakawa's books that came from).

I am going to go through the long entry for 徳 and if there is new information that I think you might find of interest, I will re-write the above post and then email you. In the meantime, however, Iwanted to clarify one point regarding my reading of Shirakawa on this: the notion of 徳 is not related to 天 but rather the *concept* 徳 later grew out of the idea of 天命。

Talk to you soon!

Hi Peony,

I just accidentally discovered this reply of yours. Since I don't get "reply notification" emails, I don't know when you've replied. So, if I miss something in the future, send me off a quick email with a link.

What you say above is true, but what I said was that the Western scholars are quite familiar with Chinese and Japanese scholarship, which means, that they have benefited from reading the Chinese (and Japanese) studies. I take some comfort in this. Of course, many are the Western scholars who have based their understanding on Chinese scholarship which has turned out to be wrong too. But perhaps even more important, the Chinese (and Japanese I assume) do not all agree with each other. So ...

In your other post you said that Shirakawa believed De was composed of 行(to go) +省(to look; to inspect; to visit) +心 (heart).. But that translation (?) by Christoph Schmitz has: "As in the case of 蔑 or 省, the 目 (including the strokes above) which is seen in horizontal position in the right upper part of the character shows curse decoration. 省 means to show military power towards a region or country. Its upper part and the upper right part of 徳 has the common origin of patrolling with eyes that have curse power." From this it seems that Shirakawa wasn't claiming that De contained Xing 省, but rather Mu 目, which it has in common with Xing.

This is better, imo. But you both might be translating different things?

I gott run...

take care

Some time ago, I came across some posts on Kanji etymology from Christoph Schmitz http://nippon-kichi.jp/article_list.do?kwd=3203&ml_lang=en

Do you know if he's published any books on this subject?


Hi M, I saw the same posts a long time ago and thought they were really helpful. I also wondered if he had ever published. I don't think so...

If you have time and interest, I just posted something else on Shirakawa's work at 3Quarks Daily here;
http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2013/06/playing-around-%E0%A4%B2%E0%A5%80%E0%A4%B2%E0%A4%BE-.html

cheers

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