Waxing philosophical on xin1de2

[color=red]MODERATOR’s NOTE: Split from THIS THREAD asking the meanings of 心得 xin1de2 and 感想 gan3xiang3. – DB[/color]

That’d be interesting.

You’re not likely to find more direct terms in English. Every expression, every word is unique in each language. It has a history, the times it’s used, and a reason for being.

Chinese philology is something I’d like to get into someday. Anyone into it here?

Here’s a possible origin of the expression. It could be derived from this:

club.backchina.com/main/postmode … inear.html

Since the first expression most likely originated out of traditional ideas the Chinese have had about education, and probably Confucian history, you may want to word it with a suggestion.

It may have originated there, but that has little to do with what a “xinde” is today…usually a few hurriedly scrawled lines of utter conventionality. I would NOT worry about a note for a second. Save the notes for things that truly require explanations. Xiang tai duo le.

That’s coolio.

I bet everytime a Chinese hears xinde, they hear the methods of Chinese education they’ve seen. Same with us with any word. When we hear love, we hear our own experience of it.

When the students were asked of this after their class, there’s some question of how Confucian they have become, how filial are they, what do they think of education itself.

Maybe in one instance, but I’ve been in many situations where “xinde” were requested, and there was nothing even vaguely Confucian about the whole experience. They do it for training sessions, your time overseas, even company outings. Usually a cue for “how I grew as a person” or “teamwork and cooperation”, something like that.

:slight_smile: I don’t mean the author is giving the suggestion, it’s within the language.

Another way of puttingit, anytime someone uses the word democracy, is it possible to be not related to Plato or the invention or history of the idea?

[quote=“gary”]:slight_smile: I don’t mean the author is giving the suggestion, it’s within the language.

Another way of puttingit, anytime someone uses the word democracy, is it possible to be not related to Plato or the invention or history of the idea?[/quote]

I think it’s definitely possible. Words grow and change with time. Although democracy may have begun with the Greeks, I highly doubt that the average Joe thinks of Plato every time he hears the word in English. And to go one better, should the Chinese think of Plato each time they hear “minzhu zhuyi”? Or, every time someone says, “My new car is a real lemon”, do they have to think of the history of the citrus industry? :smiley: (Does the citrus industry have a history?? :unamused: )

I think a lot of folks get hung up over the morphology of Chinese. “Look, this phrase has “heart” and “obtain”, so it’s very psychological, and back in the XYZ Dynasty the first character meant this…” Maybe it’s some kind of weird bell curve…amount of thinking against time? Beginners sort of believe that every word/phrase in Chinese has one and only one equivalent in English, then after awhile they find out it’s more complicated and think a lot, then they get tired of thinking so much and just grunt or use “hei, hei…hei…anne…” like everyone around them in Taiwan? :smiley:

:slight_smile: I did not say when one uses the word democracy, they mean to suggest Plato and all that. I meant when one uses it, its it possible for the word democracy to mean something else than what it is, to have nothing to do with the history of this idea?

:slight_smile: I agree people don’t see the history of the language when they use it. But it’s there. Language is more than itself, it’s a marker of a culture and its expression. When people hear xinde, they may not think of it, but they do experience it as a sign of a Chinese education. When one hears xiaoxin, they may not think oh, filial piety but they feel it.

Maybe you know ironlady, any suggestions for sinologues? Any that don’t romanticize Chinese tradtion? I’d imagine most are like the followers who have edited the texts throught time; they are helping to keep the tradition. Any others? Michel Granet? If you do not know of Granet, he was taught by Durkheim.

Gary, you think too much. :laughing:

yeah I do.

Damn, DB, and I was going to point him in your direction for the sinology thing. :frowning:

I’ll check for references to democracy and Plato in the oracle bone records for him.


If you can read French, Granet is a good start. Being a student of one of the founders of sociology, he has many tools to unmask the the Chinese.

It sounds like I’d need to learn Chinese to find works where I can start looking for the origin of each character?

Sorry for the long post, here’s a sample of the richness of his work.

In concluding this book, I ought to attempt to define the essence of Chinese manners and customs. But is that possible, before having presented a sketch of the history of ideas? This definition will not find a suitable place until the volume which will complete this one is concluded. In the present volume, however, in which social history holds the largest place, it has been necessary to insist on that which is specially characteristic in the discipline of life peculiar to the Chinese. Its isolated presentation runs the risk of giving an impression which it is no doubt best to correct at once.

The absence of intimacy is the dominant feature of family organization. This was a significant feature at first in the relations between husbands and wives, and between fathers and sons. It appears to have become the rule for all family relations. Dominated by ideas of respect, domestic morality seems in the end to become mixed up with a ceremonial of family life. On the other hand, the relations of society, animated first by the spirit of contest, or the passion for prestige, end, it seems, by being governed by an exclusive taste for decorum. Civic morality, having gravitated towards an ideal of strained politeness, seems to tend solely to organizing among men, a regulated system of relations, in which the actions befitting each age are fixed by edict, as are also those for each sex, each social condition and each actual situation. Finally, in political life, where the stage is reached of advocating the principle of government by history, it appears that it is claimed as sufficient for everything to follow solely the virtues of a traditionalist conformity. So, at the moment when, towards the beginning of the imperial era, Chinese civilization seems to arrive at a point of maturity, everything co-operates to bring to light the reign of formalism.

But what is the real bearing of this system of conventions, tending to re-establish the archaic, by the aid of which it was claimed to direct the entire life of the nation? Is it true, as it may be tempting to think, that it contributed to the impoverishment and drying up of the whole moral life of the Chinese? Is it even certain that its effects were such for the official class, deliberately devoted to the cult of conformity as to the only discipline capable of forming the honest man? Ought we, on this point, to fix our opinion after reading only propagandist works and the biographies of famous men? In spite of the knowledge that these are derived from the funeral eulogies, and that it would be an excess of confidence to take the tone of a sermon for a just verdict, it is difficult to escape from the feeling that the evolution of morals in China went on by way of progressive drying up, and that, in the moral life, under the increasing weight of a conventional etiquette, spontaneity saw its part reduced to nothing. The history of thought alone may lead to the conviction that, on the contrary, the acceptance by the honest people of an attitude of conformity has, in part, as its reason the hope of preserving for the life of the spirit, a sort of sheltered independence and a deep-seated plasticity.

But we can now indicate some facts which will suffice to mark the limits of the formalist ideal. We have already pointed out the part played by mysticism in court circles. Its part among the masses of the people is no less important. If this is scarcely apparent, it is because the dynastic Annals only interest themselves in the life of the court and in persons of high station. The great mystical crisis of the year 3 B.C. (noted by accident on the occasion of an episode of court life) was certainly not an isolated crisis; we only have a few details of it, but they all show that, in peasant circles, certain mystical ideals, going far back in the ages, were preserved with perfect freshness. On the other hand, during the troubled period of the Three Kingdoms, the old feudal spirit seems suddenly to recover all its strength; we may assume that, in the great rural domains created under the Han, habits of life and a discipline of morals were maintained that were less remote, no doubt, from the ancient feudal morality, which was the archaic ideal brought into favour by the orthodox teaching. History, however, refused to register the facts, and we know nothing of the permanence of the feudal elements of the social life. History, in short, hardly gives any information on the evolution of morals and manners in the new urban atmosphere (except among the official classes); in this atmosphere, however, there was created a morality peculiar to traders, characterized, it seems, by the spirit of association and the liking for equitable agreements. We may assume that its influence on the whole of Chinese life was not negligible; yet, for the ancient period, we know hardly anything of the real life of the industrial classes, of the part played by the villages in the general economy, of the juridical and moral evolution of the urban areas. It would be extraordinary if they did not elaborate active ideals, and if their activity was reduced to the practice of the orthodox etiquette. The action of the official classes must not be underestimated; but it is fitting, in closing this book, to emphasize that history, in consequence of an aristocratic tradition, neglected to register the movements among the masses. With the imperial era, which closes the history of ancient China, Chinese civilization certainly arrives at maturity, but although, by defining with increasing strictness its traditional ideals, the believers in orthodoxy wished to adorn it with a static dignity, it remains rich in youthful forces.

I strongly agree with Ironlady. If you unearth some Confucian meaning in the term, you will be needlessly obscuring and mystifying a perfectly ordinary word.

All it means is what you got out of the class.

That’s cool. I guess there isn’t anything to philology. :slight_smile:

Where do words and ideas come from? Maybe there is no history. It’s just magic. :slight_smile:

Philology is very useful for answering questions about what characters are actually phonetic loans bronzes or trying to tease out what parts of the Lunyu were written hundreds of years after the death of Confucius.

It is decidedly less useful for understanding how native speakers today use a given term like ‘xinde’. Indeed, too much attention to the history of words is a real danger in studying Chinese because it leads to so many misunderstandings about what words mean now. While history is important, words are also defined by contemporary usage.

I think that many of us who studied Chinese in the west before coming to Taiwan are greatly burdened by the pieties of Sinology. Chinese studies tends to attract people who are interested in history and culture. That’s a problem when we try to understand Taiwan or China because it causes some people to always search for a kind of hidden Confucianism or reference to the past in words or social phenomena.

I don’t necessarily speak of the history of philology. In the west, there have been philologists who have unconvered very interesting things about our beliefs. Without it, we may have never known what it means to be noble.

Certainly, philology is one of many sciences for uncovering culture. There are many others.

cultural anthropology
this question, what is, that belongs to philosophy
even the act of poetry

These are a few of the ways to begin understanding humanity. That is what I am after.

As for understanding Taiwan or China, would you say history or language is of no use to understanding Chinese? Of course not. :slight_smile:

And semiotics. Is there yet Chinese semiotician of significance?

I am looking for the mystery of tradition. Would you say that no longer exists among the Chinese or their language? :slight_smile:

I think that many of us who studied Chinese in the west before coming to Taiwan are greatly burdened by the pieties of Sinology. Chinese studies tends to attract people who are interested in history and culture. That’s a problem when we try to understand Taiwan or China because it causes some people to always search for a kind of hidden Confucianism or reference to the past in words or social phenomena.[/quote]

Chinese philology and studies so far, as it has existed among the Chinese, is infantile. Continuing to go back to childhood helps us see with new eyes. Yet these studies grown up, not once.

In the west, we have the gift of so many brilliant thinkers, people who invented new sciences. Among Chinese, sadly that’s missing. The Chinese haven’t invented many ways, or maybe any at all, to understand culture. Is there any science like sociology, or anything, that came out of China? What are their disciplines? It’s seems Chinese thought has been a miss; So much has been done to uphold tradition. What do they have to understand it?

In a thread on the simple, modern usage of 心得 and 感想? :loco: :laughing:
Time to split a thread, methinks.
[color=red](Done – okay Gary, you have your own thread in which to wax philosophical to your heart’s content. Enjoy! :slight_smile: )[/color]

PS - [quote=“gary”]It sounds like I’d need to learn Chinese to find works where I can start looking for the origin of each character?[/quote]

To be able to look up a broad variety at will, and get something better than a fairy tale for an answer, yes. You’d need to learn Chinese to a fairly advanced level.

Here are a couple of sources with reasonably reliable content which are in English, however:

Wú, Teresa L. (1990). The Origin and Dissemination of Chinese Characters (中國文字只起源與繁衍). Caves Books, Taipei ISBN 957-606-002-8 (unfortunately out of print).

謝光輝 Xìe Guānghuī Ed., (1997). The Composition of Common Chinese Characters: An Illustrated Account, Peking (sic) University Press. ISBN 7-301-03329-x. A large softcover book with 652 pp., each showing the evolution of one character, with single, representative OB, bronze, and seal forms, accompanied by a brief paragraph of explanation in English and Mandarin (simplified characters), with illustrations and cartoons. Available at Schoenhof’s online; or in Australia, chinabooks.com.au.

For a good background, you might also read Woon, Wee Lee (1987). Chinese Writing: Its Origin and Evolution. Explores in depth the early pottery inscriptions, from the Neolithic Banpo to the excavations at the last Shāng Dyn. capital at Xiaotun (Anyang, Henan Province) in light of OB (oracle bone) and bronze forms. Discusses at length the processes involved in the formation and evolution of characters, with copious oracle bone and bronze examples, some obsolete. Originally publ. by the Univ. of East Asia, Macau (no ISBN); now available through Joint Publishing, fax: 852-28104201; email: jpchk@jointpublishing.com (attn: Edith Ho kit-sheung). Note: the Joint Publishing staff can’t seem to handle English titles well; be sure to send the author and title in Chinese by fax to get the right book: 作者: 雲惟利, 書名: 漢字的原始和演變.

Please [color=red]avoid[/color] the following, though, as the content is in large part crap:
Harbaugh, Rick (1998). Chinese Characters: a Genealogy and Dictionary ( Zhongwen.com )

李乐毅 Lĭ Lèyì, Tracing the Roots of Chinese Characters: 500 Cases

Peng, Tan Huay (1980). Fun with Chinese Characters

Wáng Hóngyuán (1993).The Origins of Chinese Characters

Wieger, (1927) Chinese Characters: Their Origin, Etymology, History, Classification and Signification.

Wilder, G.D. & Ingram, J.H. Analysis of Chinese Characters. (rehashing Wieger)

Anything by the embarrassment to Taiwan’s academic community named 許進雄 Xu3 Jìnxióng (*James Chin-hsiung Hsu)

It’s like unearthing the Buddhist meaning in 緣分 (“yuan2 fen4”, “karmic bond”), messing up a term that is generally used for romantic love (in Buddhism it can also describe a karmic bond between a culprit and a victim).

So, what is it about this 許進雄 guy? My curiosity is piqued!