History as Parable
Indirect Persuasion in the Lüshi Chunqiu
Keywords:Lüshi chunqiu, yuyan, anecdote, parable, fable
The paper presents an analysis of the persuasive use of the narrative in the Lüshi Chunqiu using approaches of rhetoric narratology and rhetorical criticism. Twenty-one narratives are identified as vehicles of indirect persuasion and put on the mimetic and thematic scales to show how their relation to reality and history corresponds to their rhetorical use in discourse. Three of those narratives, exhibiting typical traits of historical anecdotes, are analysed in detail in their original context, to prove their parabolic function. The author argues that parabolic use of the narrative, including fables and parables, but also anecdotes and historical anecdotes, forms an important part of the Warring States period tradition of political and philosophical discourse. The author further proposes to use the term “parabolic narrative” to describe all such instances of using narratives in indirect persuasion. These can be found not only in the Lüshi Chunqiu, but also in other important works of the period, such as Zhuangzi, Zhanguoce, or Han Feizi.
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