In the popular consciousness, manipulative speech pervades politicized discourse, and the eloquence of politicians is seen as invariably rooted in cunning and prevarication. Rhetorical flourishes are thus judged corruptive of the substance of political discourse because they lead to distortion and confusion. Yet the papers in Facing the Monarch suggest that separating style from content is practically impossible. Focused on the era between the Spring and Autumn period and the later Han dynasty, this volume examines the dynamic between early Chinese ministers and monarchs at a time when ministers employed manifold innovative rhetorical tactics. The contributors analyze discrete excerpts from classical Chinese works and explore topics of censorship, irony, and dissidence highly relevant for a climate in which ruse and misinformation were the norm. What emerges are original and illuminating perspectives on how the early Chinese political circumstance shaped and phrased—and prohibited—modes of expression.
Garret P. S. Olberding is Associate Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma.