不平则鸣 – Chinese philosophy and culture

bùpíngzémíng 不平则鸣

Cry Out Against Injustice

本义是物体没有放平就容易发出声响,引申为人受到了不公正的对待就要发出不满的声音。唐代著名文学家韩愈(768—824)意在说明文学作品的创作是因为作者受到外界的激发,心中产生“不平之气”,这种不平之气推动作者用文学语言表达出来。这一理论是对孔子(前551—前479)“诗可以怨”和司马迁(前145或前135?—?)“发愤著书”说的继承与发展,北宋欧阳修(1007—1072)进一步提出了“诗穷而后工”的见解,认为诗人在困厄艰险的环境中,幽愤郁积于心,才能写出精美的诗歌作品。

This expression originally denotes an observation that when objects lose their balance, they make sounds. Figuratively, it means that an ill-treated person will make sounds of protest and complaint. Han Yu (768-824), a famous writer in the Tang Dynasty, used the phrase to point out that writers will be driven to write when the outside world invokes in them feelings of injustice. Feelings like this compel writers to expose injustices through literature. This theory is a continuation and development of Confucius’ (551-479 BC) “Poetry can address grievance” and the Grand Historian Sima Qian’s (145 or 135? -? BC) “Write to give vent to indignation.” Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072) in the Northern Song Dynasty further proposes “A good poem is the product of pent-up emotions.” He believes that only when a poet is trapped in a difficult and even perilous position with pent-up anger and frustration will he be able to compose quality poems.

引例 Citations:

◎大凡物不得其平则鸣。(韩愈《送孟东野序》)

(一般来说,物体因为放置不平就容易发出声响。)

Generally speaking, when things lose their balance, they make sounds. (Han Yu: Farewell to Meng Dongye)

◎太史公曰:《说难》《孤愤》,贤圣发愤之所作也。由此观之,古之贤圣,不愤则不作矣。不愤而作,譬如不寒而颤,不病而呻吟也,虽作,何观乎?(李贽《〈忠义水浒传〉序》)

(司马迁说:《说难》《孤愤》,是圣贤之人为抒发愤懑而写的作品。这样看来,古代的圣贤之人,没有愤懑的情绪是不会写作的。没有愤懑情绪的写作,就如同不寒冷却打寒颤,没生病却痛苦呻吟,即使写出来,又有什么值得看的呢?)

The Grand Historian Sima Qian said: “On Difficulty” and “Solitary Anger” are two pieces of writing by sages to give vent to their anger and frustration. Thus, it seems that ancient sages would not write if they were not angry and frustrated. To write without such emotions is to shiver without feeling cold, or to moan without being sick. Who would want to read such things even though they have been written? (Li Zhi: Preface to The Outlaws of the Marsh)

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