|[a] Remonstrance (35724) RL|
Remonstrance 4 Remonstrance 5 Remonstrance 6
Remonstrance 7 Remonstrance 8 Remonstrance 9
Let's look at some definitions in a great dictionary of the Chinese language, Tetsuji Morohashi's Daikanwa jiten 大漢和辞典. I will devote an entire "Beginnings" post to this formidable and delightful work, but we will mine it today as we examine entry number 35724—, "remonstrance." If you knew the full story behind the dictionary, you would bow down, weeping with gratitude for the skillful author, even if you don't read Chinese and Japanese. It is that impressive as a work of scholarly virtuosity.
Remonstrance—from "bundle" (and) from "eight."
(And various etymological matters).
I will go further in a moment, but what we have here is a "picking and choosing," indeed, a culling of words (揀). For those who do not read Chinese, just look at the element on the left of the character:
This curling (culling) image may not be as much of a "reach" as it first appears. The Daikanwa jiten gives a number of key ideas that contribute to the smooth flowing and functioning of remonstrance, at least in its more idealized forms. For example, the entry (#35724) begins with the following phrases:
Straight words—ritual and decorum used to correct a person's mistakes.
A few more straightforward definitions should set the tone nicely:
The remonstrator uses ritual and decorum to correct (a person)
The "insider" critiques his superior's mistakes.
Remonstrance—(it is a kind of) stopping
All of these definitions lead me to think of remonstrance in an East Asian context as much more rigorously connected to social structure and power issues than one sees in most English definitions. The East Asian definitions give much more context for criticism than their English dictionary counterparts, which tend to stress mere "reproach."
Remonstrance, remonstrance-admonishment—straight words with which to awaken a person.
Taken together, these definitions give us a rich array of interpretive possibilities. They are much more than mere "protest" or "criticism." They are richly engaged with social status, hierarchy, and social action. They are part of a deep pattern of ritual ties that bind senior (先輩) and junior (後輩) in the social hierarchy. Above all, they tap into a shared tradition of knowledge that goes far beyond the individualized interpretation of a single minister of government or rebuking son. They are part of a shared body of knowledge that, at least in principle, all participants understand.
(remonstrance + stop):
(remonstrance + death):
to risk one’s life in remonstrance
(remonstrance + government official):
(remonstrance + government minister):
(remonstrance + aristocratic status):
(remonstrance + plank):
remonstrance board; “criticism tablet”
(remonstrance + drum)
Well, get ready for surprises. The remonstrance ideal is alive today in China, just as it was three thousand years ago. Does that mean that people beat remonstrance drums in their cities and counties when injustice is done? Well, yes...and not exactly. Remonstrance has always been an ideal, and has always been underplayed and overplayed by various protestors in a complicated hierarchical political system (be that a family or the state itself). It is a concept that will require a great deal of philosophical, historical, and, indeed, anthropological work.
It will be fun. Stay tuned.