Chinese chengyu idioms from Stratagems of the Warring States (Zhanguo ce). From allegoric narrations (yuyan) to modern use.
The paper provides an analysis of eight well-known chengyu (成语) idioms used in modern Chinese, which originate from the Warring States Period (475–221 BC) compilation of historical anecdotes Zhanguo ce (战国策). The chosen chengyus all derive from ‘allegoric narrations’ (yuyan, 寓言), a particular mode of discourse widely used in pre-Qin (pre 221 BC) political and philosophical writings. The author identifi es yuyan as a tool of persuasion, rather than a separate literary genre, and draws certain parallels between Chinese yuyan, European fables and New Testament parables. The paper explores original historical context, and actual effect of each of the Chinese yuyan used by diplomats and strategists, as recorded in the Zhanguo ce. The source text and the modern chengyus are juxtaposed to show continuity and change in the meaning and connotation of idiomatic expressions found in Modern Chinese which can be traced to pre-Qin period.