文以载道 – Chinese philosophy and culture

wén yǐ zài dào 文以载道

Literature Is the Vehicle of Ideas.

儒家关于文学与道关系的论述。“文”指的是文学创作及作品;“道”指的是作品中的思想内容,但古代文学家与理学家将“道”主要理解为儒家所倡导的思想和道德。中唐时期古文运动的领袖韩愈等人提出“文以明道”的观点,认为文章主旨应合乎并发挥圣人的经典。宋代理学家周敦颐进一步发展为“文以载道”,提出文学像“车”,“道”即是车上运载的货物,文学不过是用以传播儒家之“道”的手段和工具。这一命题的价值在于强调文学的社会功用,强调文学作品应该言之有物、有正确的思想内容。但它轻视文学自身的审美特性,故后来受到重视文学自身价值的思想家与文学家的反对。

This term is a Confucian statement about the relationship between literature and ideas. Wen (文) refers to literary creations and works, while dao (道) refers to the ideas conveyed by literary works. Writers and philosophers in ancient China explicated these ideas as Confucian thought and ethics. Han Yu (leader of the mid-Tang-dynasty movement advocating the prose style of the Qin and Han dynasties) and some others proposed that the purpose of writings should be in line with the classics of the ancient sages as well as promote them. Zhou Dunyi, a neo-Confucian philosopher of the Song Dynasty, expounded the principle of literature serving as a vehicle of ideas. He concluded that literature was like a vehicle while ideas were like goods loaded on it, and that literature was nothing but a means and a vehicle to convey Confucian ideas. This theory was valuable because it stressed the social role of literature and emphasized that writers should know what they were writing about to ensure that their works conveyed correct ideas. However, it underestimated the aesthetic value of literature and later met opposition from thinkers and writers who emphasized the value of literature per se.

引例 Citation:

◎文所以载道也。轮辕饰而人弗庸,徒饰也,况虚车乎?文辞,艺也;道德,实也。(周敦颐《通书·文辞》)

(文章是用来承载思想和道德的。车轮与车辕过度装饰而没人使用,白白装饰了,更何况那些派不上用场的车呢?文辞,只是一种技艺,而道德才是文章的实质。)

Writings are meant to convey ideas and ethics. When vehicles are not used, even if the wheels and shafts are excessively decorated, it is simply a waste. Fine language is only a means for writing, whereas ethics are the essence of writings. (Zhou Dunyi: The Gist of Confucian Thought)

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