Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Forgotten Archipelagoes: 革 -Of the character 'ge', the Yiijing, ancient military texts and moral concepts

Etymology of Chinese concepts is a way to mine deeply into the culture, to find the resonance and connotaitons of a phrase.  The phrase "gai ge kai fang" 改革开放 reform and opening was the watchword of Deng Xiaoping's stunning departurefrom the straitjacket of Maoist ideology.  Flora Sapio does a brilliant job of exploring the metaphor behind the slogan.  You don't need to know Chinese to appreciate the elegance of her etymology. - gwc
Forgotten Archipelagoes: 革 -Of the character 'ge', the Yiijing, ancient military texts and moral concepts
by Flora Sapio
This is the sequel to an earlier post on 'gaige kaifang', in which I start to examine 'gaige kaifang' by focussing on the character 革 (ge).

My choice to begin the analysis of a concept  from a single character was inspired by various earlier discussions, ranging from attempts to findpossible, different interpretations of on-going trends in Chinese law, to more abstract discussions about the 'friend/enemy divide', attempts to construct an effective reading technique for Chinese texts, and so on. 

It may be argued that 'gaige kaifang', as a concept, is outdated because it is not at the centre of current policy debates, and therefore plays a largely rhetorical, or else a ceremonial function. Ceremonies and rituals, whether they be political ceremonies and rituals or ceremonies and rituals of the civil variety, however, play a lasting and important role in marking the passage through different stages of an organization, and in shaping its identity.

In this post I am focussing on the literal meaning of 革, to avoid constructing an individual interpretation, and then projecting it onto one of the fundamental (and overlooked) structures of Chinese political and legal thought. While examining ge within composites such as geming 革命 is a possibility, I believe that such an examination would separate 革 from the context of gaige kaifang, reform and opening up. ......[read more]

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