From “Humble Things” to the “Great Dao

A Philosophical Reading of Ancient Chinese “Cricket Books” (Xishuai Pu 蟋蟀譜)


  • YANG Xiaobo Zhejiang Yuexiu University, Shaoxing, China



cricket, cricket-fighting, cricket books, Chinese cricket culture, Chinese philosophy


China’s distinctive cricket culture—related to the insect, not the game—has given rise to a unique genre of texts known as “cricket books” (xishuai pu 蟋蟀譜). These texts, serving as instructional manuals for cricket-fighting, fall under the branch of pulu (譜錄) in traditional Chinese bibliography. Beyond scientific and technological merits, this genre has profound aesthetic and philosophical significance. Nurtured by the highly developed urban leisure culture of the Song dynasty, it embodies a philosophy of leisure. During the Ming dynasty, cricket books ultimately attained the esteemed title of “Classics” (jing 經) due to their profound philosophical resonance and embodiment of Confucian values. This article undertakes a philosophical exploration of these texts, aiming to unveil the embedded interpretative framework of Dao-Qi (道-器) in their examination of the colouration (se 色) and physiognomy (xiang 相) of crickets. This framework represents a fusion between Confucianism and Daoism: while Daoism embarks on a journey of transcendence from the very bottom (the most minute and humble things under Heaven, or weiwu 微物) to the very top (the “Great Dao”), Confucianism strives to bridge these two extremes through the emotion (qing 情) inherent in human hearts. This fusion can be aptly characterized as a philosophy of “emotion towards things” (ai wu 愛物). Moreover, this article addresses the challenges posed by modern society to traditional Chinese cricket culture, articulating concerns about the survival and revival of these time-honoured traditions in today’s technology-driven world.


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6. 05. 2024

How to Cite

Yang, Xiaobo. 2024. “From “Humble Things” to the “Great Dao”: A Philosophical Reading of Ancient Chinese ‘Cricket Books’ (Xishuai Pu 蟋蟀譜)”. Asian Studies 12 (2): 171-91.

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