Chinese artistry in verbal communication
Hui-Ching Chang |
Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago
This ethnographic study explores how people in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, engage words as cultural performance, whether they are spoken, written, or manifest themselves as cultural artifacts. Informed by their depth philosophical contemplation about the boundary between the universe and language, and made possible through their unique linguistic constructions, many Chinese treat various forms of expression as art and signs of wisdom, whether for expressions of solemnity, playfulness, or humor. Through poems, common sayings, matched couplets, chengyu, and so on, words entertain and enrich social life, help relieve human suffering, connect one life to another, and instill modern everyday encounters with a dash of traditional cultural ethos. This artistic endeavor also offers explanations for Chinese indirectness, as shades of meanings are seen as displays of varying degrees of engagement to cultural performances. Interview accounts and data collected through participant observation during several field trips conducted in Taiwan were analyzed to show how words participate in and give meaning to the construction of Taiwanese interpersonal life.