The Sounds of <i>Zhèngmíng</i>: Setting Names Straight in Early Chinese Texts

Jane Geaney

in Ethics in Early China

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9789888028931
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9789882209800 | DOI:
The Sounds of Zhèngmíng: Setting Names Straight in Early Chinese Texts

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In early Chinese texts, straightness often indicates correctness, hence many things are said to be zhèng. But among them, only zhèngmíng emerged as a rhetorical slogan promising the production of order and the elimination of human confusion and fakeness. In scholarship on Chinese ethics, the slogan is usually understood as working toward these goals by making behavior accord with names or by making names accord with behavior. By contrast, uses of the term “míng” (name/title/fame) involved what something is called or what is heard about it. This chapter focuses on interpreting zhèngmíng in light of ideas about speech, music, tones, and sound in general. It considers zhèngmíng as part of a textual tradition wherein recurring poetic “sound effects” appear in a variety of genres. In respect of this context, the chapter argues that the power of the sovereign's zhèngmíng stems from participating in such effects.

Keywords: zhèng; zhèngmíng; Chinese ethics; Míng; sound effects

Chapter.  7676 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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