Metaphor and Meaning

Thinking Through Early China with Sarah Allan

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Table of contents

Foreword: Appreciation of Professor Sarah Allan's Scholarly Contributions



1. A Fluid Cosmos: Cosmologies of Creative Flow in Early China
Erica Brindley

2. Water as Homology in the Construction of Classical Chinese Medicine
Vivienne Lo and Gu Man

3. Destruction of Temples and Arresting Spirits: Metaphors of War, Illness, and Health in Daoist Conversion Narratives
Gil Raz

4. Patterns in Stone: The Third Metaphor of Chinese Philosophy
Edmund Ryden

5. Humans Can Broaden the Way, Sages Can Continue and Carry Out the Workings of Tian: 人能弘道, 聖人能繼天立極
Roger T. Ames

6. Exorcism and the Spirit Turtle
Constance A. Cook

7. Transcription Notes on the "Mind as Ruler" Section in the Tsinghua Bamboo Manuscript The Heart Is Called the Center (Xin shi wei zhong 心是謂中)
Chen Wei

8. Texts, Historicity, and Metaphors in Early China: Reading Tang Resides Near the Mound of Tang (Tang chuyu Tangqiu 湯處於湯丘) in the Tsinghua Collection of Warring States Bamboo Manuscripts
Shirley Chan

9. Some Remarks on the Value and Inner Meaning of the Way of Archery
Cheung Kwong-yue

10. The Meaning of the Graph and Word ge 革 in the Huayuanzhuang East Oracle Bone Corpus and Related Questions
Han Yujiao

11. Notes on a Cornerstone of Early Chinese Argumentative Rhetoric: The Function Word gù 故
Rudolf G. Wagner

List of Contributors

Examines questions of cosmos, society, and self through the metaphors and language of ancient Chinese texts and artifacts.


In Metaphor and Meaning, scholars from China, the United States, and Europe draw on Sarah Allan's groundbreaking application of conceptual metaphor theory to the study of early Chinese philosophy and material culture. Conceptual metaphor theory treats metaphors not just as linguistic expressions but as fundamental structures of thought that define one's conceptual system and perception of reality. To understand another culture's worldview, then, hinges upon identifying the right metaphors, through which it then becomes possible to navigate between shared and unshared experiences. The contributors pursue lines of argument that complement, enhance, or challenge Allan's prior investigations into these root metaphors of early Chinese philosophy, whether by explicitly engaging with conceptual metaphor theory or, more indirectly, by addressing meaning construction in a broader sense. Like Allan's interpretative works, Metaphor and Meaning interrogates both transmitted traditions and newly unearthed archaeological finds to understand how people in early China thought about the cosmos, society, and themselves.

Constance A. Cook is Professor of Chinese at Lehigh University, Christopher J. Foster is an independent scholar, and Susan Blader is Associate Professor Emerita of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures at Dartmouth College. Together they are also the coeditors of Myth and the Making of History: Narrating Early China with Sarah Allan and Bone, Bronze, and Bamboo: Unearthing Early China with Sarah Allan, both published by SUNY Press.


"Metaphor and Meaning speaks to important issues regarding the nature of religious belief, political philosophy, food and ritual, and other issues that are of high importance in understanding the history of early China. While the essays address different aspects of thought and culture from Chinese sources, they share a common interest in uncovering early worldviews, and use complementary methodologies in interpreting early sources. Their placement in a single volume offers the reader a rare opportunity to see in proximity important examples of research that speak to a common set of questions as well as diverse but complementary research approaches." — Shana J. Brown, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa