Tropes of entanglement and strange loops in the Nine Avowals of the Chuci

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1 Scopus citations


The literary form and rhetorical structure of ancient Chinese poems have not been sufficiently studied. The Jiu zhang (Nine Avowals) attributed to Qu Yuan contain distinctive formal features which are highly suggestive for interpretations of Qu Yuan's life and works. At the level of rhetoric, the protagonist frequently describes his own mental state using metaphors of knots and entanglement. At the level of form, the internal structure of the poems, and Chou si (Unravelled Yearnings) in particular, involves series of overlapping, cross-referencing units that recall the strange loop discussed by Douglas Hofstadter as a model of human consciousness. Reading these poems is not just a matter of reconstructing their historical contexts but also of understanding their intended effects on the reader, who is effectively transported into a simulation of Qu Yuan's mind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-300
Number of pages24
JournalBulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Ancient Chinese poetry
  • Chuci
  • Nine Avowals
  • Strange loops
  • Tropes of entanglement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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