文以意为主 – Chinese philosophy and culture

wén yǐ yì wéi zhǔ 文以意为主

The Message Matters More than the Rhetoric.

写文章要以立意为主导。“意”就是文章的思想内容。这是中国古代重要的文学理论命题,在宋、金、元、明文论中,多次被强调,并为后世学者所接受。这一理论认为,在立意与辞章文采两者中要把立意放在首要地位。这一观点与唐宋时人提出的“文以明道”说和“文以载道”说有密切的关联,是中国古代文学理论优良传统的一脉传承,但这里的“意”,远比“道”的内涵要宽泛。

Writing is done mainly to convey a meaning. Here, “meaning” refers to what an article is essentially about. This is an important theoretic notion in ancient Chinese literary theory. It was often emphasized in essays of the Song, Jin, Yuan and Ming dynasties and accepted by scholars of later generations. According to this theory, the meaning is weightier than the rhetoric; it should always be put first. The theory is closely associated with the ideas of “writing to illuminate Dao” and “writing to convey the truth” first raised by Tang and Song scholars. It continues the fine literary theoretical tradition of ancient China. However, the word “meaning” covers far wider implications than Dao or truth.

引例 Citations:

◎常谓情志所托,故当以意为主,以文传意。以意为主,则其旨必见;以文传意,则其词不流。(范晔《狱中与诸甥侄书》,见《宋书·范晔传》)

(我常常说文章寄寓着人的情感与志向,本应以思想内容为主,以文辞来传达思想内容。以思想内容为主,则文章的立意会得到很好的展现;以文辞来传达思想内容,则文辞就不会散乱无章法。)

I often say that a person’s feelings and aspiration dwell in his writing. Essays should focus much more on content and use rhetoric to better serve content. As long as an essay’s focus is on content, its message will be clearly conveyed. When rhetoric is used to convey the message, it will not fall into disarray. (Fan Ye: A Letter Written In Prison to My Nephews)

◎无论诗歌与长行文字,俱以意为主。意犹帅也,无帅之兵谓之乌合。(王夫之《姜斋诗话》卷二)

(无论是诗歌还是长篇幅的文字,都是以立意为主。立意就如同军队的主帅,没有主帅的士兵只能是乌合之众。)

Whether it is poetry or a longer piece of writing, the author’s main concern should be with its core message. A core message is like the commander-in-chief of an army. Without a commander-in-chief, soldiers will be reduced to a badlyorganized crowd. (Wang Fuzhi: Desultory Remarks on Poetry from Ginger Studio)

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