Archery Metaphor and Ritual in Early Confucian Texts explores the significance of archery as ritual practice and image source in classical Confucian texts. Archery was one of the six traditional arts of China, the foremost military skill, a tool for education, and above all, an important custom of the rulers and aristocrats of the early dynasties. Rina Marie Camus analyzes passages inspired by archery in the texts of the Analects, Mencius, and Xunzi in relation to the shifting social and historical conditions of the late Zhou dynasty, the troubled times of early followers of the ruist master Confucius. Camus posits that archery imagery is recurrent and touches on fundamental themes of literature; ritual archers in the Analects, sharp shooters in Mencius, and the fashioning of exquisite bows and arrows in Xunzi represent the gentleman, pursuit of ren, and self-cultivation. Furthermore, Camus argues that not only is archery an important Confucian metaphor, it also proves the cognitive value of literary metaphors—more than linguistic ornamentation, metaphoric utterances have features and resonances that disclose their speakers’ saliencies of thought.
Rina Marie Camus teaches philosophy and experiential pedagogies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Abbreviation & Illustrations
Literary Metaphor, A Package Deal
Chapter 1: Bow-wielding Aristocrats of Zhou
The Bow in Warfare and Sports
The Bow in Zhou Ritual Tradition
Bow Narratives & Poetry
Chapter 2: Ritual Archers in the Analects
Confucius and the Bow
The Competition of Gentlemen (An 3.7)
Hitting the Target is not the Main Thing (An 3.16)
Straight as an Arrow (An 15.16)
Chapter 3: Sharp Shooters in Mencius
Mencius and Archery in Early Warring States
The Gentleman as Sharp Shooter (M 2A.7 & 5B.1)
Teaching the Way as Archery Training (M 6A.20 & 7A.41)
Moral Failure as Faulty Aiming (M 6A.9)
Chapter 4: Fine Bows and Distant Targets in Xunzi
Xunzi and Archery in Late Warring States
Transforming Nature: Fashioning Bows from Twisted Wood
Paragons of Learning: Undividedness and Not Missing a Shot
Visions of Government: The State Needs Scholars as Much as Archers
About the Author
Archery Metaphor and Ritual in Early Confucian Texts is the first comprehensive study of archery as a literary metaphor in classical Confucian texts. It offers an introduction and overview of archery in early Chinese culture, exploring its role in military, athletic, ritual, political, and social settings, and argues, convincingly, that it was developed and deployed by early Confucian philosophers as a central and guiding metaphor in their ethical and political theories. At various points, the author illustrates the value the archery metaphor has for broader comparative studies, both within and beyond China, and its potential as a resource for contemporary philosophy.
While archery is now a minor art, Rina Camus shows that in early China it pervaded all aspects of life. Noting that China’s earliest dictionary defines the word “bow” as an implement that “uses what is near to reach the distant,” Camus begins with the practical uses of the bow and arrow in hunting and warfare, but then moves on to show how archery served philosophers and political theorists as a foundational metaphor. More than that, just as a reflex bow relied on reversal, her book also serves to use the distant to reach what is near. While Confucius’s statement that “The gentleman has nothing to do with competition. If need be, perhaps there would be archery. Saluting at the beginning and offering a toast at the end, such is his competition” may seem antiquated to modern concerns, how could anyone miss the contemporary relevance of Xunzi’s admonition “If the ruler wishes to obtain expert archers able to shoot a small, distant target, then he must offer noble ranks and generous rewards to recruit them. He must not favor his own relatives, nor disregard strangers.” Archery Metaphor and Ritual in Early Confucian Texts very much hits the target.