A comparison of Greek and Chinese rhetoric and their influence on later rhetoric



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Texas Tech University


At the turn of the twenty-first century, some western scholars still hold that no classical rhetoric exists except classical Greek rhetoric. This paper demonstrates that classical Chinese rhetoric is not only a natural practice but also a study of effective discourse, like classical Greek rhetoric. In addition, the factors that contribute to the differences between these two rhetorics are explored. Moreover, subsequent rhetorics that were influenced by classical rhetorics are discussed and compared.

Chapter 1 explains why this study must be done and introduces what will be addressed in the following chapters. Chapter II describes the Greek geographical features that led to liberal types of politics, economy, and rhetoric. The emergence of the Greek sophists followed the development of the democratic system. Aristotle's Rhetoric is used as a model to compare with Chinese rhetoric, as discussed in the third chapter. Rhetoric after the classical period is summarized so that the influence of classical Greek rhetoric on later western rhetoric can be understood. Chapter III explicates the Chinese geographical features that gave rise to conservative politics, economy, and rhetoric. This chapter emphasizes classical Chinese rhetoric that arose in the period of Spring-Autumn and Warring States (eighth to third centuries B.C.). The classical Chinese thinkers whose speeches and theories influenced later generations are introduced one by one. Rhetoric after the unification of the Chin (Qin) dynasty (221 B.C.) is also summarized in order to show the influence of classical Chinese rhetoric on later Chinese rhetoric. Chapter IV deals with a contrastive study between these two ancient countries from geographical, political, economical, social, and rhetorical perspectives. The reasons western rhetoric and Chinese rhetoric after the classical periods had their own emphases is also explained. Chapter V summarizes this study, explains the reasons for the evolution of these two rhetorics, and proposes a methodology from both a historical approach and the use of Aristotelian terms.