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Different Rhetorical Practices
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These kinds of engagements enable us not only to reflect on their respective differences and even contradictions, but also to interrogate and transform those conditions that have given rise to different rhetorical practices and their interrelatedness within and across the borders of the nation state. Equally important, they will help us open up new avenues for dialogue and discovery, so that we stop painting ourselves into a corner where we represent Chinese rhetoric either as a counter example to the Western rhetorical tradition (creating a false dichotomy) or as next of kin to Western feminist rhetoric or to other ethnic rhetoric in the West.
Let me now briefly return to where it all began that is, to "the Way" in the tide of this Juicy Couture Watch introduction in order to further harness the tensions between the what's and the where's, and to better enable our search for the most felicitous approaches to the study of Chinese rhetoric. While the Chinese dao is almost invariably translated into a substantive in English, as in "way" or "padi" or "pathway" or "effective method or approach," its basic or primary meaning is actually more verb-like and dynamic, conveying die idea of "moving ahead in the world," of "forging a way forward," or of "road building". In the Daodejing, searching for dao is not about finding the "One behind the many," nor about determining who are we. Rather, it is about finding out what we do, about making our way in the connected world as individuals through wuivei (performing "actionless action," or acting naturally without privileging social norms and rituals and without adhering to one's own desired end; also see Lyon in this special issue). So we are told at the outset in die Daodejing that the dao that can be put into words is not the ultimate dao. Or as Confucius reminds us in the Analects, it is the human being that can broaden the Way, but not the Way that can broaden the human being.
While this creative and proconsul dimension is central to the meanings of dao, the social and political reality has also engendered a persistent need to codify them and to turn them into the single great Way. For example, during the Warring States era and through the emergence of a centralized Han empire in the subsequent four hundred years or so, politicians, counselors, and other masters of thought were far more interested in elevating their dao to the status of the one and only Way. They further argued that they knew how to translate their dao into effecting a good life and a prosperous state.
This kind of political persuasion proved irresistible to their rulers and patrons, gaining them immediate credibility and trust. At the same time, they were likely to disparage and discredit the many differing but equally valuable Ways found in the teachings of diverse masters. This collective move, driven by the rhetorical exigencies of the time and spurred on by political Juicy Couture ambition, led dao to be associated "with the new unified, centralized empire and its foundations in the cosmic order" (Lloyd and Sivin 201). This need to stake an exclusive claim for the one and only Way in fact became an indispensable part of all succeeding dynasties because it represented the Mandate of Heaven. And it came as no surprise in our own times when President Hu Jintao of China recently issued a call to build "a harmonious society" as his way to rally the Chinese people around the one and the only dao, and to talk down and even silence difference and dissent.
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