Canadian Journal of Communication Vol 41 (2016) 503-519
©2016 Canadian Journal of Communication Corporation

Interality as a Key to Deciphering Guiguzi: A Challenge to Critics

Hui Wu
University of Texas at Tyler

C. Jan Swearingen
Texas A&M University

Hui Wu is Professor of English, University of Texas at Tyler, 3900 University Boulevard, Tyler, TX  75799. Email: . C. Jan Swearingen is Professor Emerita, Department of English, Texas A&M University, 349 LAAH Building, 4227 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843. Email: .

ABSTRACT  This article applies interality as a hermeneutic to a reassessment of Chinese rhetorical practice influenced by Guiguzi, China’s earliest treatise on the art of persuasion. Continuing controversy in Western studies and translations surrounds both Chinese rhetoric and the rhetorical value of Guiguzi. Using an ancient model for persuasion allegedly exemplifying the rhetorical principles in Guiguzi, this study proposes that Guigucian rhetoric requires critics to revise their understanding of relational rationality in several interalial interactions: among rhetorical contexts, as manifest in non-linear but nonetheless interrelated components of discourse, as reflected in an explicit awareness of change and space, and as an emphasis on human relationships in Master Guigu’s forms of logic and teaching of persuasion.

KEYWORDS  Chinese rhetoric; Guiguzi; Persuasion; Logic; Dao

RÉSUMÉ  Cet article utilise l’intéralité comme herméneutique pour la révision des pratiques rhétoriques chinoises influencées par Guiguzi, à savoir par le traité le plus ancient de la Chine sur l’art de persuader. La controverse est évidente dans les travaux de recherche occidentaux et les traductions qui accompagnent la rhétorique chinoise, en particulier celle de Guiguzi. Par l’utilisation d’un modèle de persuasion ancien similaire aux modèles rhétoriques du Guiguzi, cet article oblige la critique littéraire à reconsidérer son raisonnement au sein de plusieurs échanges interaliés: dans les contextes rhétoriques, dans les parties de discours non-linéaires mais cependant reliées, dans la conscience explicite du changement et de l’espace, et le côté humain apparent dans la formation de la logique par le Maître Guigu, ainsi que sa façon d’enseigner l’art de la persuasion.

MOTS CLÉS  Rhétorique chinoise; Guiguzi; Art de persuader (persuasion); Logique; Dao

Guiguzi is recognized as China’s earliest treatise devoted primarily to rhetoric. Compiled over many centuries, it comprises the teachings of Guiguzi (Master of the Ghost Valley), the first Chinese teacher specifically associated with the “art of persuasion” during the pre–Qin Warring States period (475–221 BCE) (P. Chen, 2005; Coyle, 1999; Xu, 2008). By some accounts, he taught about 500 students during the same period as Aristotle (384–322 BCE)1 (H. Liu & H. Liu, 1996; Xu, 2008; S. Zhang, 1990). His students, according to Shi Ji (史记 The Grand Scribe’s Records), include famous persuaders, or “Chinese sophists,” Su Qin and Zhang Yi (Crump, 1964; Forke, 1901; Ssu-Ma, 1994). While Guiguzi is well known in China, he has been widely rebuked by classical scholars within Confucian circles during and after the Warring States period. For this reason, the Guiguzi text is little known in the West. The few Western scholars who study Guiguzi rebuke Guiguzi’s rhetoric as an “anti-rhetoric,” emphasizing manipulation, and question whether it can be considered a model for valid logical reasoning (Gentz, 2015; Jullien, 2004). Guiguzi’s principles of rhetoric are said to be exemplified by Chu Long in the story of “Chu Long Persuaded the Dowager Queen of Zhao” (觸讋说趙太后 Chu Long Shui Zhao Taihou)2 in Zhan Guo Ce (戰國策), a historiography of warfare and strategies during the Warring States period (Gentz, 2015). Scholars in both China and the West have used this anecdote to explain Chinese rhetorical practice, yet for opposite reasons and purposes. In China, this tale teaches not only effective rhetorical strategies for persuading a difficult, almost resistant, superior in a one-on-one setting, but also moral principles of fairness in governance (“Chu Long Persuaded the Dowager Queen of Zhao” [hereafter “Chu Long”], n.d. Wu’s translation). In the West, however, the tale has been seized as “a brilliant illustration of Guiguzi’s principles” as “manipulative principles” (Gentz, 2015, p. 1012).

Continuing controversy presents the challenge of Guiguzi to critics, inviting a revised hermeneutic in order to reassess its alleged “dubious logic” (Gentz, 2015) and clarify its reasoning processes as exemplified by Chu Long. Only by examining Guiguzi on its own terms can we review the text and its rhetorical principles accurately, and thus better understand its significant impact on Chinese rhetoric and oral communication in antiquity and the present. To this end, Geling Shang’s (2015) and Peter Zhang’s (2015) theories of interality and interalogy are useful in expanding interpretative frameworks for comparative studies of rhetoric. Interality provides a new hermeneutic for understanding relational rationality in Chinese rhetoric and persuasive processes. It is particularly well suited to an exploration of Chu Long’s practice and Guiguzi’s teaching of rhetoric in relation to the inner-outer layers of “logic.” This article gives particular attention to the key points of Guiguzi’s teaching of building human connections, his teaching of non-confrontational, and silent, when needed, approaches to the audience’s sentiments, and his presentations of how surroundings affect the shaping of speech.

First, let us read Chu Long’s story:3

When the Dowager Queen of Zhao first took charge of state affairs, Qin launched a sudden attack. Zhao sent a request for aid to Qi, but Qi replied, “We will dispatch troops only if you send the Lord of Chang’an to us as a good-faith hostage.” The Queen flatly refused. Her ministers strongly remonstrated with her, but she told them in no uncertain terms, “I will spit in the face of the next person who tells me I must send the Lord of Chang’an as a hostage!”
The General of the Left, Chu Long, requested an audience with the Dowager Queen. She was sitting in a rage awaiting him as he entered the hall. Though he made an effort to hurry, he shuffled very slowly across to stand before her. “Your aged servant has an injured leg,” he apologized. “I cannot walk very quickly. That is why it has been very long since I have been able to come see you. From my own ills I felt a sense of empathy, and concerned that your majesty might also be suffering from some ailment. I have looked eagerly for an opportunity to visit your majesty.”4 The Queen replied, “I myself must depend upon a sedan chair to move about.” “May I trust that your majesty’s appetite remains healthy?” “I live entirely on gruel.” “I find that I am frequently without any appetite at all now,” said Chu Long, “and so I force myself to walk three or four li each day. It lets me find a little pleasure in my food, and it is good for my body.” “I could not manage as much,” said the Queen. Her fierce countenance had somewhat relaxed.
Chu Long said, “I have an offspring named Shuqi, my youngest son. He is a worthless youth, but in my dotage I love him dearly and wish that he could wear the black robes of the Palace Guard. And so your aged servant makes this request at the risk of his life!” “I am pleased to approve it,” said the Queen. “How old is he?” “Only fifteen,” replied Chu Long. “Very young indeed. But it has been my hope to see him well taken care of before I fall by the wayside.” “So men too dote upon their young sons?” asked the Queen. “More than women,” replied Chu Long. “Oh no,” laughed the Queen. “With mothers it is an extraordinary thing!” “And yet,” continued Chu Long, “if I may be so bold, it seems your majesty loves your daughter, the Queen of Yan, more than your son, the Lord of Chang’an.” “You are mistaken,” replied the Queen. “I am much fonder of the Lord of Chang’an.” “When parents love their children,” said Chu Long, “they plan for their futures with great care. When you sent off your daughter upon her marriage to the king of Yan, you clung to her heels and wept, bereft with grief that she was departing far away. But once she was gone, you prayed at every sacrifice saying, ‘Let her not return!’ It was not that you did not long for her, but that you were set on her future, and hoped that her sons and grandsons would one day sit upon the throne in Yan.” “Yes, that is so,” said the Queen.
[Chu Long said,] “Now, from the time that Zhao first became a state until three generations ago, was there any younger son of the royal family who held an estate as a marquis whose descendants still hold that title?” “No,” said the Queen. “And this is not only so in Zhao. In other states, are there any descendants of such younger sons still in possession of the ranks of their forbears?” “I have not heard of any.” “In some of those cases,” said Chu Long, “the younger son met disaster in his lifetimes; in other cases it was his sons or grandson who encountered misfortune. How could it be that every such younger son was unworthy? Misfortune came to them because they were granted high honors without having achieved any merit, awarded rich gifts of land without having worked for them, and bestowed great emblems of rank and office. Now your majesty has honored your son with the title Lord of Chang’an and given him an estate of rich and fertile lands, bestowing on him great emblems of rank and office. Yet to this day you have not allowed him to do anything to win merit for the state of Zhao. Should the unthinkable happen and your majesty suddenly pass from the scene, what support could he rely on in the state of Zhao? It is because it seemed to me that you had not planned very carefully for his future that I presumed you did not seem to care as much for him as for your daughter, the Queen of Yan.” “All right,” replied the Dowager Queen. “I leave it to you to arrange things as you see fit.”
Thereupon the Lord of Chang’an was provided an escort of a hundred chariots and sent off as a good-faith hostage, and the troops of Qi were quickly dispatched.

Chu Long’s persuasion, from a Western point of view, according to Gentz (2015), shows “very little rhetoric here. No brilliant speech, no refined literary forms, just a number of seemingly unrelated themes that are used to educe easy common sense commitments to certain values from the Dowager Queen and a number of very subtle questions following these commitments” (p. 1012). Not only is Chu Long’s logic dubious, but his advice is a “perfectly disguised” remonstrance and his practice exemplifies “the process of applying manipulative principles” in Guiguzi (pp. 1012–1013). For this reason, Guiguzi’s principles are dismissed as ethically and logically dubious, being “all about the counterpart and about keeping oneself hidden and silent so that the counterpart cannot see what one is doing and, ideally, is convinced that his decisions were made all by himself” (p. 1010). In other words, Guiguzi is read as teaching, in its “astonishing,” “absolute tone,” how to convince the audience to do what the persuader wants them to, but under the presumption that they act on their own behalf. For the persuader’s behavior of leading the single-person audience without being led by him to win power over him is not treated in the text as manipulation, “but as normal—even the ideal—course to follow … Even our own Machiavelli never envisaged such a state of affairs” (Jullien, 2004, pp. 156–157). It is claimed that in the Guiguzi, “the persuader is not a great stage performer” but a “Master of Disguise” (Gentz, 2015, p. 1010, emphasis in original). Therefore, Guiguzi is “a treatise on antirhetoric” that shows “little interest in the procedure of argumentation, the different parts of discourse, and the figures of rhetoric” (Jullien, 2004, pp. 154, 156). From a Western perspective, “Manipulation, not persuasion, is the Chinese way” (Jullien, 1995, p. 69).

However, the Chinese reading of Chu Long’s dialogue is that

the art of persuasion in ‘Chu Long Persuaded the Dowager Queen of Zhao’ is part of the legacy recorded in Zhan Guo Ce. … The persuaders were eloquent and good at reasoning to demonstrate the principles. Their speeches are rich in content and enlightening to the mind; their discourse patterns are brilliant to appeal to emotions and reasons. … They remain the brightest art forms today. (“Chu Long,” n.d., pp. 4–6)

Largely invisible to a Western mind are interalities threading several “unrelated themes” (Gentz, 2015) in Chu Long’s interlocution with Dowager Queen Zhao. Western critics’ criticism of Chu Long for “manipulating” her has much to do with the questions of sequence or substance in the reasoning process. Without filling in the interalities, or the jian (間) that stands for the emptiness around, within, and between objects (Shang, 2015; P. Zhang, 2015), it is difficult to see the interplay of the themes in Chu Long’s interlocution with the Dowager Queen. Although it may not follow the so-called linear sequence in what Western critics believe as logical, its themes comprise the substance of Chu Long’s persuasion but also leave much emptiness for the audience to fill in to see their relations and the rationality behind them. In other words, Chu Long’s locution requires an eye for an interalogy to understand its relational rationality. The difference between Chinese and Western critics is the sensitivity to and the capability for filling in the interalities among the three major themes in Chu Long’s interlocution with the Dowager Queen of Zhao.

As Chinese scholars explain, Chu Long’s “art of speech” (shuohua de yishu 說話的艺術) employs nine strategies (“Chu Long,” n.d.). Six of them aim to make connections with the audience. They are evading confrontations (bi qi fengmang 避其锋芒); expressing care and greetings (guanxin wenhou 关心問候); relaxing tensions (huanhe qifen 缓和氣氛); talking extensively about daily lives (dahua jiachang 大話家常); shortening the distance (lajin jüli 拉近距离); and catering to the favourite (tou qi suohao 投其所好) (“Chu Long,” n.d., pp. 3–6). They are all accomplished through Chu Long’s slow walk and greetings (qing an 请安) to the Dowager Queen in the beginning, which exemplify Guiguzi’s teaching of building human connections. To Guiguzi, persuasion is not only an art of convincing the audience, but also an art of building human relations. For instance, persuaders “should follow the will of others to hold their footing against different opinions” (Guiguzi, in press, I.1.2 [hereafter Guiguzi]). To this end, they must

[c]arefully examine what people on the other side hold to know truths and untruths about them. Learn about their wishes and desires to understand their ambition and intent. Subtly critique their statements to make them open up with disagreement and seek the true meaning behind it to benefit from their point of view. (Guiguzi, I.1.2)

Chu Long’s process of reasoning requires the understanding of interality between his observation of the Dowager Queen’s sentiments and his rhetorical strategies, an interality essential to Guiguzi’s teaching, as follows: “[P]raise those who are keen on learning the arts and crafts and promote their reputation. Test them and show fascinations about their amazement to tie their heart. Learn from them for proven evidence. Study their background and put their past experiences in order. This is the way to win their heart” (Guiguzi, III.3.6). Chu Long’s slow walk may have allowed him to observe the mood of the Dowager Queen, and his qing an also allows him not only to show respect to her as the new ruler but also to shorten their distance. In doing so, Chu Long, indeed, practices Guiguzi’s teaching:

Try to remain calm and silent in order to hear what the other person says and examine his activities. You can discuss myriad phenomena; you can make distinctions between male and female. Although things under discussion may be of little value, the trivial helps you understand their genera (jian wei zhi lei 見微知纇). … Respond with this principle of the Dao, and you will never miss a target (fu ying bu shi 符應不失). (Guiguzi, I.2.4)

Besides these six, the other three strategies—leading the audience into the urn [intended topic] (qing jun ruweng 請君入瓮), demonstrating scruples or principles (xiao zhi yi li 皢之以理), providing guidance and advisement step by step (xünxün youdao 循循誘导)—constitute the interalities of the three major themes: qing an, Chu Long’s request of his son’s court appointment, and his comparison of the Dowager Queen’s love for her daughter and her son. They are tied interalogically to his goal of demonstrating the principle of fair governance to the Dowager Queen. Faced with the resistant audience overpowering him and with his life at risk, Chu Long cannot perform the Western style of rhetoric to demonstrate what is wrong with the Dowager Queen’s refusal to sending her son as the hostage. His only options are guiding her to the principles of the Dao, the right way to govern the state, and letting her make the decision on her own. In this regard, the goal of persuasion is, on the one hand, building human connections and, on the other, safeguarding interests of the state through the word, because “Language results in losses or gains. A small loss or gain leads to a difficult or easy relationship; a big loss or gain leads to a state’s loss or win of a war. This is an important point” (“Chu Long,” n.d., p. 3). The ethics of the art of persuasion are to help a sensible audience realize core principles and scruples that their decision involves. Adherence to the common good of the state constitutes the principle of the matter, the Dao, in Chu Long’s case. As Guiguzi explains:

As for guarding justice, it means to uphold the principles of humanity and explore the heart of others to connect with them. Deep exploration into the heart reveals what rules it. Manage the inside from the outside to discover the cause behind a matter for success. … Dishonorable persons are not capable of protecting families according to justice; nor are they capable of defending their states according to the Dao. The sages esteem the subtlety and miracles of the Dao because it enables them to transform perils to safety and to rescue the ravaged and help them survive. (Guiguzi, III.3.7)

For these reasons, Chu Long has set a model not only for the art of persuasion but also for an honourable, virtuous advisor who upholds the Dao and is thus capable of protecting families and the state, a sage that exemplifies Guiguzi’s teaching of rhetoric that weaves rationality with topics and themes, or the substance, through “relations, connections, interactions in and as interality” (Shang, 2015, p. 72). He practises what Guiguzi recommends:

Follow the doctrines on the Dao and virtues, compassion and loyalty, rites and rituals of entertainment, and sincerity and integrity for plans and strategies. … [D]eliberate on advantages and disadvantages to discuss what should be adopted and what should not. … Make plans with flawless strategies to establish accomplishments and virtues. … When high offices are irresponsible in governance and subordinates become disorderly and conscienceless as a result, fortify approaches to effect changes. (Guiguzi, I.3.3)

Accordingly, the process of persuasion cannot be rigidly set by a certain sequence, as in a rhetorical syllogism, but remains fluid and flexible, changing with space, time, mood, circumstances, and yin-yang energies. Chu Long represents the sage of rhetoric in Guiguzi who balances yin and yang “to understand the human heart and ways of thinking” and to speak or remain quiet (Guiguzi, I.1.1). According to Guiguzi, the sage of rhetoric is a master of Dao, who understands the world and observes the yin and yang dynamics (Guiguzi, I.1.1). He upholds truths against untruths (Guiguzi, III.1.1, III.1.6), according to the open and shut of yin and yang (Guiguzi, I.1.1). Effective rhetoric means that “the approaches, tactics, and timing must dovetail together perfectly. A successful persuader can be heard only by those who hold the same feelings. Only those who hold the same sentiment listen” (Guiguzi, II.8.4). In other words, the rhetor is mainly concerned with the interality, or resonance, among the topics or themes and his/her relationship with the audience rather than with the linear arrangement of the topics. The “seemingly random themes” connected through interality are “arranged to have a designated place in spacetime” (Shang, 2015, p. 73) to guide the audience to the principle of the matter, the Dao. Guigucian rhetoric, exemplified by Chu Long’s practice, is strikingly different from the singular linear, and in many cases, oppositional, mode of argumentation typical of the Western pattern. Instead, we find a rhetoric that is multiple in its topics and threads of reasoning, non-linear, relational, and in many cases, intimately friendly. As Guiguzi says, “Eloquent speakers (neng yan zhe 能言者) are associated with virtuous friends to offer generous charity. Those who promulgate virtues follow the Dao” (Guiguzi, III.3.1).

Jullien and Gentz illustrate not only misreadings but also contradictory judgments that result from trying to fit the Guiguzi into the Western hermeneutic framework, with little acknowledgement that Chinese rhetoric is not built on the Greek tradition. While deemed “anti-rhetoric,” compared to Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric as an ability to see the available means of persuasion, the Guiguzi is also considered “certainly a book that teaches rhetoric” (Gentz, 2015, p. 1016); using Burke’s definition of rhetoric as “a means to resolve conflicts through identification” to measure the Guiguzi, it seems that “the method of checking and exploring other people’s characters aims at constructing a common ground of ‘identical kinds’ (tonglei 同類) to affect their feelings and exert control over them. In this very basic sense the Guiguzi does not differ from Western rhetoric” (Gentz, 2015, p. 1016). Again, from a Western point of view, the ethics of the Guiguzi and many of the early Chinese travelling persuaders are said to “belong to the side of consequentialism” (Gentz, 2015, p. 1017, emphasis added). It is believed that “the originality of the Chinese lies in their indifference to any notion of a telos, a final end for things, for they sought to interpret reality solely on the basis of itself, from the perspective of a single logic inherent in the actual processes in motion” (Jullien, 1995, p. 17). Paradoxical as they are, these rhetorical and ethical comparisons are, clearly, hyperboles at best. Finding such Westernized assessments of Guiguzi difficult to follow, Garret Olberding responds to Jullien, sarcastically, “Were one to define persuasion as simply the verbal art of transforming the doxastic commitments of another, surely no one could insist that persuasion could only flourish in an arena resembling the Greek agora, or would even simply be more frequently present within such” (2002, p. 9).5

The examples of Gentz and Jullien illustrate the inadvisability of looking at Chinese rhetoric through Western lenses. Just as there is no counterpart to our concepts of “substance” as static metaphysical “truth” (Shang, 2015; P. Zhang, 2015), there are few matching concepts of public speech, interactive debate, or persuasion. Western readings using a Greco-Roman rhetorical model as the sole template in comparative methodology result in overlooking the one-on-one rhetorical setting and the single-person audience in the Chinese rhetorical tradition. Ancient Chinese persuaders practised rhetoric primarily in a private setting, most often talking to a one-person audience, who was often assumed to be a ruler, or a superior (Garrett, 1993a; Lu, 1998; You, 2010). From this context developed rhetorical concepts, such as ming (to name or define), bian (to argue or dispute), yan (to speak or narrate), shui (to discuss or persuade), and shuo (to explain or discuss) (Garrett, 1993b; Lu, 1998). Chinese scholars’ recent attention to the rhetorical genre of yu (語) in Guo Yu (國語 The Argument about the State), a collection of arguments and interlocutions about state affairs near the end of the Spring and Autumn period (776–470 BCE), demonstrates that ancient China established a rhetorical tradition of its own early on (C. Chen, 2014; T. Chen, 2015; Li, 2015; Shi, 2013). Yu (語) stands for an argument about a critical, or difficult, issue in the decision-making process, while yan (言) for a straightforward, mostly narrative, speech (Li, 2015). Just as argumentative discourse in Guo Yu differs from that in the Greco-Roman tradition, Guiguzi’s teaching of persuasion differs from Aristotle’s. However, they agree on the definition of rhetoric as an ability to see the available means of persuasion. Both teach how to identify common ground and how to use an unuttered premise in what Aristotle names the rhetorical syllogism, the enthymeme, in persuasion. From this perspective, in spite of the different forms of logical reasoning and means of persuasion, Guiguzi is a treatise on rhetoric.

Although “logic” has been translated into Chinese through a phonetic counterpart (luo ji 逻辑), it represents Western styles and forms of logic more than indigenous ideas (L. Liu, 2009). Adapted for textbooks during the 1930s and after, luo ji imported a Western concept and term with few Chinese equivalents. However, as much recent scholarship emphasizes, this does not mean Chinese rhetoric is illogical, “dubious,” elliptical, or otherwise weak (Kirkpatrick, 1995; Kirkpatrick & Xu, 2012; L. Liu, 2009; Matalene, 1985). These are all negative terms in English; other European encounters with Chinese rhetoric and logic as early as the sixteenth century found the speech and speaking manners of the Chinese “effeminate” (Spence, 1994, p. 43). Interality helps us rethink these encounters between East and West in the arenas of logic, rhetoric, and persuasion. What is missing when these misunderstandings occur? What damage has been done by the habit of seeing Guiguzi’s rhetoric as “manipulative” and “of dubious logic”? What are the differences between indigenous Chinese and more recent Western critics of Guigucian rhetoric?

Interalogy illuminates a central rhetorical concept that does not easily translate across languages and cultures: persuasion and its “logical” development. The early “debaters” or “persuaders” of the Zong-Heng school are named in English translations with words that have long had negative connotations, much like their counterparts in Chinese (Gentz, 2015; Lu, 1998; Wu, 2016a, p. 11). It is of particular interest therefore to look at and unpack the double layers of negative representations of “persuasion” in Chinese rhetoric. Interalogy assists in discovering interalities in the rhetorical practices of early Chinese thinkers. Well before philosophy became identified as a separate field, much less rhetoric, these teacher-thinkers were practising at the boundaries of several cultural domains.

Heidegger and Derrida are frequently invoked to deconstruct early Greek thinkers who began the long tradition of logocentrism favouring truth and substance over flux and contingency (Derrida, 1976). Recall in this context that when Gorgias portrayed the dangers of rhetoric, the term rhetorike had not yet been invented. When it was invented by Plato, it was at the onset a term of rebuke. Gorgias uses the term logos to denote this kind of “speech,” an interesting variation among the many alternating meanings of logos. It can mean true utterance, true statement, argument, reasoned argument, carefully explained precept, and hundreds of other things. Both Empedocles and Parmenides begin many of their teachings with an injunction to “listen to the true order (logos) of my words.”6 Heraclitus refers to the logos of the cosmos as a law ordering the universe as well as correct or true speech. It is clear that something about arrangement or sequence is at play in these phrasings, a something that invites us to think about the relationship between sequence and substance, between arrangement and meaning. Is something that is “out of order” untrue? From its very beginnings logic denotes a variety of combinations of correct sequence and truth. When Heidegger favours Becoming over Being, he returns to Heraclitus and other pre-Socratics who embraced a harmonic duality between is and is not, permanence and change, the world of the mind and the world of sense, touch, and feeling.

However, in both Parmenides and Plato, whom Heidegger deems the great dogmatists of Being, Logos, and Truth, there is more give-and-take than is usually acknowledged. Plato writes dialogues, none of which ever concludes. Statements are made and definitions put forward that Socrates often dismantles but without ever giving a final answer. Despite all the discussions of Truth and Justice, among other substances, Plato provides no conclusion. The parallels to the practices of dialogic inconclusiveness in Guiguzi and Confucius are significant. In Plato, as in Guiguzi, any single statement or group of statements by one interlocutor may seem a “final” truth: “Plato’s theory of forms.” But that is an incomplete rendering, for it is Socrates who advances the theory of forms to many interlocutors who question him. This interalial process is misrepresented or even ignored by later philosophical accounts seeking the One True Plato. Plato’s dialogues represent exchanges among interlocutors of different status and maturity. Several of these—the Phaedrus, the Gorgias, and the Symposium—are about rhetoric, defined as proper and effective forms of speaking. The Phaedrus emphasizes that because speech is written “on the soul of the hearer,” it must be very carefully composed and delivered in a spirit of love and with the purpose of conveying truth. True rhetoric is defined as dialectic, an ongoing search for truth among interlocutors. The Symposium also emphasizes speech as loving truth-telling, and it includes the proposal that speech not spoken and received in love can have no meaning or truth. The Gorgias provides a synopsis of the major definitions of and arguments about rhetoric, and it includes a portrayal of Gorgias as an honourable statesman and elegant speaker. It is clear that later portraits of these early Greek figures have reduced them to far less than the sum of their parts. Among these parts were many developing lines of thinking about rhetoric, including the memory of earlier thinkers’ teachings about language, logos, persuasion, logic, and truth.

Guiguzi presents several points of comparison to early Greek rhetorical thought—and several contrasts as well. The interalities within his work as well as in comparison with and contrast to Greek rhetoric illuminate several key themes common to rhetorical thought and practice past and present, East and West. Earlier Greek practitioners of what came to be called rhetoric, including Plato, exploit numerous interalities within and among their speeches. The rhetorical taxonomy is not yet there, but the practices are. As much as he praises the “way of truth” and denounces the “way of opinion,” Parmenides preserves the discussion of each “way” in a dialectical fashion, a representation that is perhaps the larger truth, or teaching of logos. There is also much in Heraclitus, the great teacher of flux and change, much beloved of Heidegger, that is pronounced in absolute truth statements, including denunciations of the “poets’ lies.” The “poets” he refers to are the earlier sages and songwriters such as Hesiod, Homer, and Sappho, whose representations of reality he regards as deluded and deluding, a false version of history. Although he extols the ever-changing cosmos, he does not embrace the fluidity of changing views of history and the cosmos. An implicit interality links the arguments of the pre-Socratics and those they rebuke.

Consider the degrees of narrative in these earliest teachings. Older stories that include speeches, like the Homeric epics, are being excerpted, sometimes as narratives, sometimes as religious or philosophical teachings. Early Chinese writings suggest a similar pattern. The Zhan Guo Ce (戰國策 Legends of the Warring States) is excerpted, or perhaps parts were lost, so that only shorter individual speeches and teachings survive (Crump, 1998). Guiguzi’s portraits of speakers who teach different ways of speaking to different audiences include numerous temperaments and practices described without a clear recommendation of which is to be preferred. This teaching by the implicit is a distinctive feature of Guiguzi. He seems to let the student or interlocutor finish the thought or make the assessment, use the characterizations at their own discretion. Like Aristotle, and unlike Plato, Guiguzi records a number of types of speech and a number of types of audience in a neutral fashion. Similarly, Aristotle’s collected examples include numerous Homeric and later political speeches, and they give special attention to the “oriental” excesses of Gorgias’ style. The interalities within Guiguzi’s work as well as in comparison or contrast with Aristotle’s illuminate several key themes common to rhetorical thought and practice past and present. How is logic defined? As a substance or as a sequence, or both? What is its relationship to argumentation? What spectrums of meaning are given to each of these terms? Similarly, how are persuasion and debate named, conceived, and practised? Are these adversarial models or collaborative practices? In these definitions and practices, what are the roles played by emotion, the heart, and reason, the mind?

Like Aristotle’s, Guiguzi’s work survives through what very probably were student notes of orally transmitted teachings comprising different interlocutory relationships: sage or advisor to ruler, sage or advisor to other advisors, sage as teacher to students. The interlocutors are rarely named or identified; the teaching has become a condensed synopsis, a monologue teaching method. While examples of different kinds of speech are presented, it is unclear at many points whether the sagely teacher is recommending or simply describing practices that work or do not work. At other times the examples of speech type or audience type are assessed as effective or ineffective, as promoting trust or undermining it. Guiguzi’s discussions of silence and understatement are particularly interesting in this regard. Aristotle’s discussions of the enthymeme and of irony bear comparison to Guiguzi’s treatments of silence. The enthymeme is sometimes defined as a rhetorical syllogism with a missing or unstated premise. However, its second definition is a syllogism that begins with a commonly held opinion rather than a general truth. In political rhetoric, Aristotle observes, it is often convenient to suppress the unstated premise if it would cause offence or undermine the argument. Irony is a tone or style with similar purposes. Aristotle notes that men speak in candour to their equals but in irony to those below them. Dissembling, understatement, and an incompleteness that can readily be misread—and that is the intention—are the three related elements of irony.

Guiguzi recommends uses of silence and understatement based on the careful observations of others, saying:

A person good at reflecting on what he hears acts like a ghost or phantom to capture the feelings of others. He makes adjustments to collect information and examine it. Collecting information without examining it ends in clouded intelligence. Clouded intelligence ends in shaky interpretation. Alternating images in analogies can inspire the other person to respond in words to which you must listen. If you want to hear others’ utterances, remain quiet; if you want others to open up, shut down. If you want to reach high, lower yourself first. If you want to take, give first. If you want others to display their feelings, use images as analogies to encourage them to speak up. Things of the same genus echo one another in the same sound. The same reasons are derived from the same truths. (Guiguzi, I.2.3)

Several different elements form an interplay with each other here: listening, observing the external deportment and speech of others to discern their inner feelings, and using analogies and other indirect or incomplete statements to draw out the other’s speech. These practices allow the speaker to match the thinking and temperament of the addressee, to change shape like a ghost in order to capture the feelings of the other. The outer reveals the inner. Discerning inner feelings is important because in Chinese thought these inner feelings and emotions, qing, are controlled by the heart, xin, which decides how to express feelings (Wu, in press[a]). The matching practices Guiguzi describes are significantly different from the openly adversarial and unequal speaker-auditor relationships that Greek rhetoric often emphasizes. Although in the end the Guigucian rhetor may indeed seek to “persuade” or alter the auditor’s views, he does so through appearing to be a listener and inquirer, and a lesser.

Another element in Guiguzi’s account is epistemological and psychological, a view of the relationship between emotion and reason that is strikingly different from most Western models—most, that is, with the exception of the early Greek psyche, the word for mind/spirit/soul that is cognate with the German Geist. In psyche as in Geist, reason and “emotion” have not yet been segregated as separate and even opposed faculties. In classical Chinese, xin denoted “heart” as the faculty that determines, chooses, and controls thinking, feeling, and spirit (Wu, in press[b]). Thus, for Guiguzi the “art of the heart”—xin shu (心術)—was a central undertaking of the rhetor. The elements in Guiguzi’s presentations of “persuasion” suggest how difficult it is to align it with Western models of adversarial debate and persuasion. The focus is consistently on complementarity and establishing common grounds through observing and matching the interlocutor’s feelings and speech. It would be highly reductive and inaccurate to consider this an “appeal to emotions.” Likewise, the seemingly rationalist affirmation “The same reasons are derived from the same truths” amplifies another kind of alliance-making. People who share the same views are more likely to work together companionably. By drawing out the views of the interlocutor, the speaker can match his views and move forward with and through those views. “Logic” and “persuasion” are difficult to distinguish or even see in Guiguzi’s portraits of successful rhetorical interplay.

An early Greek version of persuasion more compatible with Guiguzi’s model is that of Peitho, who in her earliest Greek appearances is a goddess, Aphrodite’s daughter, who “beguiles our mortal hearts” (Sappho). Slightly later, the noun peitho (persuasion) and the verb pisteuein (to persuade, to convince) were used to denote a wide range of rhetorical interactions that included religious incantations, prayers, and songs. These early terms for persuasion had few negative connotations until they were invoked by early critics of rhetoric to denounce the manipulation some saw in the new art of public political speechmaking. In their earliest uses, the Greek words for “persuasion” affirmed the powers of speech to touch the heart and move the mind to conviction. The goal of pisteuein was to instill belief, pistis. For this reason, the Greek New Testament uses pistis to denote religious faith and belief. And pisteuein is the art not only of political and other secular rhetorical speakers, but of religious leaders as well. Within four centuries peitho and pistis completed a circuit from largely positive religious meanings concerning belief, to largely negative civic meanings concerning “mere opinion” and “commonplaces,” back to positive religious meanings in the New Testament Greek of the first century BCE.

The above comparison shows that we may be looking for persuasion in all the wrong places when we look for practices in Chinese rhetoric that resemble the more negative Western views of rhetoric as manipulation and as a base appeal to emotions. Perhaps we can amplify our vocabulary to include verbs such as “inspiration,” “conviction,” “change of heart” in talking about the purposes and effects of different kinds of rhetoric. If persuasion and its many variants are interactive processes, how are they related to logic and argumentation, which are most often presented as sequences of statements and ideas? Argumentation may be the middle stage, for unlike logic, it implies an audience, the presence of someone or something that merits change, demonstration, amplification. Several questions must be addressed in examining Chinese concepts of and words for “logic.” Whether it is regarded as a substance or a sequence, there is no close counterpart in classical Chinese. The “dubious” logic alleged of Guiguzi is dubious only by Western measures. What, then, would be a fruitful approach to logic in Guiguzi and other Chinese rhetorical traditions? The narrow sense of logic as formal logic has no counterpart in Chinese thought (Garrett, 1993b; L. Liu, 2009; Matalene, 1985). Informal logic has been used in modern Chinese composition and rhetoric pedagogy; and a discussion of dialectical logic as a valuable practice emerged in the 1930s, deepening the Chinese encounter with Marxism. Recent studies of this recent pedagogical history have provided valuable warnings about indigenous versus Western understandings of logic in China (L. Liu, 2009; You, 2010). The limitations of reasoning by itself are paramount in Guiguzi’s teachings. He nearly always emphasizes the value of the speech, its intention, and the virtue of the speaker and listener, or lack thereof. While certain signs and sounds are effective because they resemble one another or are familiar to the listener, they are only part of a larger whole, an irreducibly interactive exchange that cannot be judged by the “content” of the statements alone. For this reason the search for logic in Guiguzi, or the judgment that it is dubious, might well be abandoned.

The story of Chu Long exemplifies the practices of Guigucian rhetoric as well as the difficulty of accounting for them in Western terms. The claims of “elliptical” or “dubious” logic ignore the contextual givens that the Chinese reader would fill in. Like Aristotle’s enthymeme, or Toulmin’s warrant, a missing assumption is either so familiar as to need no mention or problematic if mentioned. The structure of analogical and associative rhetoric, and that of similes and metaphors, and allusions to literary touchstones is a well-recognized logic even in Western rhetorics and should not be discounted in Guiguzi. The overall emphasis on value and virtue continues to be emphasized in Chinese rhetorics. While lou ji was derived phonetically from the English word “logic,” the study of logic was first translated as “a study of debate” (bian xue 辯学), then “a study of naming” (ming xue 名学), afterwards “a study of argument on reasoning/ principles” (lunli xue 論理学), and, finally “a study of logic” (luoji xue 逻辑学) (Ci Hai, 1974, p. 1058). When Chen Wangdao and Zhang Zhigong adapted traditional Chinese rhetoric to the goals of Marxist dialectic, they explained dialectic, as opposed to formal logic, as compatible with familiar Chinese rhetoric: “Meanwhile faced with complicated things and phenomena, we should take note of dialectical logic, namely the unity of opposites and transformation of the two sides of a contradiction into each other” (Z. Zhang, quoted in L. Liu, 2009, p. W100). This non-oppositional logic in which opposites are combined and reconciled is very unlike the adversarial logic of Western debate and very unlike the propositional structure of formal logic. It is an ongoing process, ever changing with the contexts that surround it and specifically styled to address those contexts. To illuminate Guigucian rhetoric practiced by Chu Long, the charted synthesis of Figure 1 may help.

Figure 1

Chu Long exemplifies both the ancient and modern practices of Chinese rhetoric that have been influenced by Guiguzi’s theory. Instead of relying on guile and manipulation, he upholds ethics and principles, a common ground shared by a sensible audience who can be led to see the right and wrong before making a crucial decision. His success lies in his ability to demonstrate the right principle and scruples in governance by making a moral appeal to the Dowager Queen through the talk about parental love (“Chu Long,” n.d., p. 4). Immediately after the story is a comment on morals by Zi Yi (Tzu-yi 子义, 166–206 CE), a general for the East Han Dynasty famous for his accurate arrow shooting and skilful horse riding. The passage reads: “Tzu-yi, upon hearing this, remarked, ‘Sons of rulers are but the flesh of the ruler’s flesh. If it is be so that they must not be trusted with favor for no merit, honored without effort given in exchange, or granted great wealth, does this not apply even more to the rulers’ ministers?’ ” (Crump, 1998, p. 114).7 Chu Long’s reason for sending the Dowager Queen’s son to State Qi as the hostage is grounded on the right principle, which she realizes benefits her position as the new state ruler and her son, the future king, in the long run. Today’s Chinese believe in similar morals in raising children, saying, “[i]f parents love their children, they should take into consideration children’s future and develop their abilities and life skills. Parents should not allow children to depend on them and their powerful connections” (“Chu Long,” n.d., p. 4). The story currently serves as a chapter in the 10th-grade Chinese-language textbook as a model for morals and communication (“Chu Long,” n.d.). This is the ethical value of Guigucian rhetoric and the sage of rhetoric in Guiguzi’s teaching. He challenges any Western interpretive framework that is grounded solely on Greco-Roman rhetoric, and indeed calls for a renewed hermeneutics of interalogy to clarify the relational rationality of “logical reasoning” in Chinese rhetorical traditions and practices.


  1. Guiguzi’s years of birth and death remain a mystery (Xu, 2008). No accurate record exists. His teaching years have been calculated according to the chronology in The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 b.c. (Loewe & Shaughnessy, 1999).
  2. Chu Long’s story is included in the chapter titled “The Dowager Queen of Zhao as the New Ruler” (趙太后新用事 Zhao Tai Hou Xin Yong Shi). But most Chinese refer to it as “Chu Long Persuaded the Dowager Queen of Zhao” instead of the chapter title. For story sources, please see the next note.
  3. For a consistent reference, the story is adopted from Gentz (2015), who uses a 2010 translation by Robert Eno. When proper, a cross-reference to Crump’s translation is provided. The passage is divided into paragraphs in reference to a Chinese version of Zhan Guo Ce (X. Liu, 2005).
  4. James Crump (1998) translated the sentence as “But while I was excusing my absence for this reason, it occurred to me that perhaps Your Majesty’s own comfort might be similarly impaired, which is why I asked [for an] audience” (p. 112).
  5. The date of Olberding’s essay was provided by the author via private communication.
  6. There are many such phrasings among the pre-Socratic teachings cited here. All are taken from Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers (1948).
  7. This passage is missing from the story in Gentz’s quotation (2015, p. 1012).


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