China & Inner Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer and Chair: Hung Wu, University of Chicago
Discussant: David N. Keightley, University of California, Berkeley
This panel examines the nature and role of tudiagrams, charts, cosmographs, omen catalogues, etc.drawings which were often given extraordinary significance in traditional China. Tu revealed the structure or hidden meaning of heaven, earth and man, and were employed in scientific learning, magico-religious practices, classical scholarship, historiography, and political propaganda. A tu is neither a text nor a picture but has a close relationship with both. This ambiguous status may explain why tu has never been treated as an independent subject in modern scholarship. Although archaeological discoveries of many kinds of tu have increasingly attracted attention, whenever a tu is discussed, it has generally served specific purposes for scholars in different fields.
The study of tu as a distinct system of knowledge must thus break down conventional disciplinary boundaries (between art, philosophy, history, religion, and science). This panel intends to be the first step towards a larger project on tu by addressing the basic questionwhat are tu?through an analysis of three historical cases. Donald Harper discusses the magico-religious concept of tu in the Warring States, Qin, and Han. Hung Wu focuses on two complementary semiotic systems used to diagram or depict the universe during the Han. Eugene Wang discusses the concept of tu in Tang dynasty politics. Underlying each papers specific arguments are some large questions: What are the essential characteristics of a particular type of tu? How is it related to particular ritual, religious, or intellectual traditions? What function or symbolism did it embody? How did it develop or change over time?
Donald Harper, University of Arizona
Archaeological examples of tu (diagrams) and occurrences of tu and related words in archaeologically excavated manuscripts provide significant new evidence for research on the conception of tu during the Warring States, Qin, and Han periods. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the form, function, and meaning of diagrams in the early magico-religious and occult tradition. Several features of tu are examined, including: the use of tu (either depictions or schematic plans) to crystallize a particular religious or cosmological view of the world, and the active employment of such diagrams in magico-religious and occult practice; the creation of tu as essential records of phenomena; and the combination of tu with written texts both to address the limitations of language and to schematize the wisdom recorded in texts. A study of tu in magico-religious thought sheds light on the role of tu in the intellectual tradition, culminating in the Han with the emergence of the "canonical" omenology of the chenwei (prophecies and weft-texts).
Hung Wu, University of Chicago
This paper reconstructs two fundamental semiotic systems used to represent the universe during the Han. One system, embodied by the "Mingtang Yin Yang" ("the yin-yang principles of the Bright Hall") tradition, developed an abstract vocabulary of geometric shapes, directions, colors, and numerology. The other system, closely associated with history and mythology, employed a pictorial language of figures, icons, allusions, and narrative. Neither system aimed at mimesis but the essential characteristics of the universe they intended to reveal also differed. They are therefore actually two systems of knowledge and technology, with their own respective means, goals, logic, and history. These two complementary systems are defined in this paper as tu and hua, the former referring to a diagram or the act of diagramming, the latter, a picture or picturing. I will trace these two kinds of signs and practices, as well as their connections with divergent intellectual traditions and social groups. Two Han dynasty monumentsWang Mangs Bright Hall and Wu Liangs memorial shrinewill serve to demonstrate the importance of these two systems in Han art and architecture.
Eugene Y. Wang, Harvard University
The notion of tu in medieval China is explicated in Zhang Yanyuans locus classicus in a tripartite fashion: abstract principles in eight-trigrams, cognitive values in characters, and visual forms in paintings. The first sense is related to the tradition of the River Chart (hetu) which was exploited in the imperial culture as portents and prophesies for political legitimation. But in what way are the first and second senses (trigrams and words) reconciled with the third (pictures)? Did the abstract and diagrammic senses of tu have any bearing on the pictorial medium beyond the markings of trigrams? The paper addresses these issues by examining a few cases in the context of Wu Zetians "Revolution." The empress validated the hetu (River Chart) and appropriated the Great Cloud Sutra commentary as tu chen (omen and prophecy) which led to the mushrooming of Great Cloud Temples throughout China. A few surviving material evidences from various regions in China are either immediately or obliquely related to Wus legitimation campaign: e.g., a stela bearing Parinirvana Scenes in Shanxi and a pictorial tableau illustrating the Treasure Rain Sutra at Dunhuang. These monuments responded to the idea of tu in different ways, thereby revealing the volatility of the idea of tu as it floated in local communities. They also show how the traditional schematic concept of tu clashed with the medieval interest in the optical thaumaturgy of bian transformation and metamorphosis).
Michael Lackner, University of Goettingen
This paper presents a Confucian way of visualizing key sentences of the Chinese Classics and the early Tao-hsueh masters by means of diagrams (12th14th centuries). First, an overview of several visualizing techniques which could have served as antecedents for this particular kind of diagram (e.g. genealogies, Buddhist ko-wen texts having served as a model for Chu Hsis Jen-shuo, etc.) shall be given. In the diagrams of the Sheng-men shih-yeh tu (by Li Yuangang), we are confronted with an "intuitionist," non-analytical form of iconic discourse intended for meditation, whereas the Yen-chi tu (by Wang Po and his disciples), and the works by Cheng Fu-hsin represent highly sophisticated tools of textual, sometimes even "proto-grammatical," analysis. However, both are to be considered as two different forms of hsin-fa methods of intellectual and emotional adaptation of sacred wisdom. In both forms, the quest for semantical issues (i.e. the understanding of the intrinsic meaning of a given sentence) prevails over the interest for syntactical issues (i.e. the formal grammatical analysis). A detailed introduction into the visualizing techniques as interpretive tools shall be given.