|[a] Round-square/east-west/never-twain RF|
Ideal and Reality
In the course of wintering in the common house, the husbandmen, by dint of
|[b] Real/ideal 1907 RF|
of rival brotherhoods presupposes a center whose organization is no longer
founded on simple bipartition [as found in earlier forms of Chinese society].
Now, according to the most ancient Chinese conceptions which are known to
us, the Universe (the Universe is not distinguishable from Society) is made up
of sections whose Virtues are in opposition and alternation. These Virtues are
materialized under the likeness of Winds. The Eight Winds correspond not only
to divisions of the human and natural world, but also to magic powers. Everything
is divided in the domain of the Eight Winds but together they preside over music
and dancing. It is the function of dancing and music to tame the world and
subdue nature for men’s profit.
|[c] Ether-real RF|
Toward that end, he employs the fundamental ideas of opposition and alternation in early Chinese thought with the divine winds, all of which are brought together in singing and dancing, whose function it was “to tame the world and subdue nature for men’s profit.” Granet is certainly not a hard-headed “realist,” impatient with any but “practical explanations.” His desire to articulate real social changes in early China, however, show him to be anything but a fuzzy thinker, chasing after symbolic permutations far beyond the practical world.
commemorated, beings with the traits of dynastic ancestors or heraldic beasts,
are represented as ruling a section of the world, and these, in many cases,
appear in the form of Winds. We have then the right to suppose that a division
into marshaled groups was substituted for, or rather superimposed upon, the
twofold organization of society, each being appointed to one department of the
Universe and all working in concert—dancing, playing games, rivaling each other
in prestige—for the upholding of a single order. From these rivalries and these
games, sprang a new order of society, a hierarchical order founded upon prestige.
|[d] Ideal (International Plaza) RF|
Granet, in just the first few pages of a chapter analyzing the important theme of brotherhoods in China (so important that they have figured prominently in even the recent history of China), he mixes a set of of unapologetically mythical themes with sociological analysis that represents a mix of Durkheimian social theory and Granet’s personal study of Chinese kinship. Patiently explaining the mythological themes and articulating the sociological issues relevant to his case, he mixes them with dancing, music, and wind—voilà, there are rival brotherhoods where a simple kind of social solidarity once stood.
It is, at once, rigorous and sensitive to the Chinese sources and cultural traditions. It is also a kind of scholarship that many readers have found unusual, perplexing, or both. Those readers not confounded by the details of sociological theory or the abstractions found in Chinese sources are likely to wonder what is “real” and what is “imaginative” in Granet’s accounts. That is the whole point of this series of posts—to make sense of the messy world where "real" and "ideal" cohere, and of the work of one of the twentieth centuries most interesting figures.
 The passage, was indeed, the first to which I turned when I opened Granet’s La civilisation chinois when writing this section.