The Pheasant Cap Master (He guan zi)

A Rhetorical Reading

By Carine Defoort

Subjects: Religion
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791430743, 376 pages, November 1996
Hardcover : 9780791430736, 376 pages, November 1996

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Table of contents

Note on Citations

1. Pheasant Cap Master and the Paradox of Unity


1.1. Expectations of Unity
1.2. A Celebration of Fragments


Part One: The Pheasant Cap Master as a Fragmented Text

2. Biographical Evidence and Expectations Concerning Unity of Authorship


2.1. Place of Origin in Biographical and Bibliographical Notices
2.2. He guan zi's Place of Origin and Dates
2.3. Further Considerations Concerning Authorship


3. Bibliographical Evidence and Expectations Concerning Unity of Length and Filiation


3.1. The Length of the Pheasant Cap Master
3.2. The Filiation of the Pheasant Cap Master
3.3. The Conflation Hypothesis
3.4. Further Discussion Concerning Filiation


4. Commentarial Evidence and Expectations Concerning Stylistic Unity

4.1. Comments on a Work of Poor Style
4.2. Commentaries on the Pheasant Cap Master
4.3. From Poor Style to Plagiarism

5. Textual Evidence and Expectations Concerning Textual Unity


5.1. A Corrupt Text
5.2. From Textual Corruption to Commentarial Interpolation
5.3. Indirect Evidence
5.4. Direct Evidence


Part Two: The Pheasant Cap Master as a Rhetorical Text

6. A Work of Positive Rhetoric


6.1. Rhetoric, Politics, and Frustration
6.2. Admonishment of the Ruler
6.3. The Ruler and the Sage
6.4. Explaining Political Failure


7. Rhetorical Use of Language


7.1. With the Power of Words
7.2. Redefinitions as Arguments
7.3. Further Instances of the Power of Language


8. Political Views on Language


8.1. Discussions about Names
8.2. The Source of Names
8.3. Norms for Naming


9. Beyond Names


9.1. Laws of Nature
9.2. The Unnamed Source of Names
9.3. Naming from the Unnamed


Appendix 1. Taboos: the Distribution of zheng and duan in the He guan zi
Appendix 2. The Distribution of Names in the He guan zi
Appendix 3. Bibliographical Evidence in Sources from the Han through the Yuan
Appendix 4. Indirect Evidence in Sources Predating the First Extant Complete Edition
Appendix 5. The Chapters of the He guan zi



Original Text of The Pheasant Cap Master



This first book-length study in English explores the long neglected ancient Chinese treatise: the Pheasant Cap Master or He guan zi (3rd century B.C.).

Carine Defoort is Associate Professor in the Department of Oriental Studies, Sinology at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.


"This is an exceptionally thorough, clear, and well-structured account of an important early Chinese text that has been largely overlooked by most scholars because of doubts about its authenticity and difficulties with its textual integrity—issues now largely clarified by this study.

"The author's approach is particularly interesting and illuminating; the focusThere is not only on what the He guan zi says, but how things are said, and how language is used in argumentation." — John S. Major, author of Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought

"The He guan zi is of considerable importance in ascertaining the nature of the intellectual world of the late Warring States period, but it has been greatly under studied and under appreciated because of its unclear intellectual filiation, its textual complexities, and its questionable authenticity. Defoort's book makes great strides toward clearing up these various confusions that have stood in the way of fully appreciating this text for centuries. " — H. D. Roth, Brown University

"Defoort's analysis of the text is very sophisticated, making a convincing argument that we have inappropriate expectations in approaching a Chinese text. That is, in a tradition such as our own, there is tension between philosophy and rhetoric that has, with few exceptions, been resolved in favor of the philosophical. This being the case, we approach a text with logical rather than rhetorical expectations, and find a text 'incoherent' if it does not satisfy these demands. Without the philosophical/rhetorical tension, a Chinese text must be entertained in a very different way." — Roger T. Ames, University of Hawaii