Analytical Thinking in Ancient Chinese Literary Criticism

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.12, 2020


Analytical Thinking in Ancient Chinese Literary Criticism



Sha Hongbing


In the frame of reference for comparing China and the West, “intuitive perception” has become one of the labels that summarizes the methods and characteristics of ancient Chinese literary criticism. In fact, ancient literary criticism is not lacking in or separable from analytical thinking. This kind of analytical thinking does not take the form of the pure knowledge or theory of the Western scientific-philosophical tradition; rather, it is deeply rooted in ancient society and its historical environment, being holistically related to traditional philosophy and cultural thought and having its own diversified exploration and forms of expression. Originating in the combination of “extending (tui )” and “stopping (zhi )” of the pre-Qin philosophers, it had a profound influence on ancient literary criticism. The Wei, Jin and Southern dynasties period saw the appearance of the recognition and extraction of literary categories in a relatively pure sense. The flourishing of the parallel literary form known as pianwen used lavish analysis to push lateral analytical thinking to extremes. With the Tang and Song dynasties, ancient prose became popular, and analytical linear thinking also developed. Analytical thinking also played a role in the systematic construction of a literary criticism in which systems existed in a potential or open state. Such thinking also played a part in the imagining and understanding of the literary realm, where it co-existed with intuitive perception.