This thesis is intended to be a comparative approach to Chinese theories of the\ud literary symbolic by way of a comprehensive investigation of the term xing [Chinese symbol].\ud The xing has a long history of over two thousand years, is capable of protean\ud meanings and generally considered very confusing. In the Introduction of the\ud present work, a historical review of the study of the xing provides a map of the\ud terrain in this area. Following this, a discussion of methodology is unfolded and\ud suggestions are made that the general aim of this thesis is not to search for a\ud "true" or "essential" meaning of the xing, but to examine how the word has\ud actually been used in Chinese literary studies and to explore as much as possible\ud its explicit and potential meanings. The ideal way of approaching an issue of this\ud nature, the thesis suggests, would be a four-fold one, namely, the historical,\ud descriptive, analytical and comparative approach. In this study, comparative\ud approach is in the predominant position.\ud The first part is designed to reveal the meanings of the xing and a number of\ud other relevant terms. Through a descriptive analysis of the statements by major\ud critics in various historical periods and by invoking Western theories of\ud literature, the thesis discusses the multiple meanings of the xing, the intrinsic\ud relationship between these meanings and the nature of poetic creation which\ud underlies them.\ud In the second part, a contour is drawn to demonstrate the mainstreams of\ud Western theories of symbolism from Romanticism to Modernism. A number of\ud important critics, such as Goethe, Coleridge, Carlyle, Mallarme and T. S. Eliot,\ud are discussed and analysed, thus preparing the ground for an all-round\ud comparison. The comparative study in this work is conducted in two ways: 1)\ud Western theories of symbolism are applied to the interpretation of Chinese\ud concepts and 2) Examples are presented to demonstrate the amazing similarities\ud in the way Chinese and Western critics deal with the issue of the literary\ud symbolic, so as to attain a better understanding of both.\ud The xing not only has multiple meanings but its meanings also work on different\ud levels. Hence, the comparison has to be a three dimensional one: xing is\ud compared and contrasted with fu and bi, and these three terms are compared\ud with parallel Western notions of sign, allegory and symbol; moreover, these\ud comparisons are made on four levels - as rhetorical devices, as modes of\ud writing, as aesthetic tendencies and as modes of interpretation.\ud In the concluding chapter, a summary is given highlighting several major points\ud at which the East and the West come closest and an attempt is made to reveal\ud the underlying theoretical reasons
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