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The article aims at verification of one of one of the hypotheses of the literary interpretation of the traditional concept of “wen” (“elegance”) in early medieval Chinese literature. Treatise “Wen xin diao long” (“The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons”) by Liu Xie (ca. 460‒522) occupies an exceptional place among the sources for studies of traditional Chinese literature typology and, in particular, its early medieval period. It is generally accepted that in 20 chapters of the treatise Liu Xie described contemporary literature as an ordered system of genres based on aesthetic principles of elegance (“wen”) and plainness (“bi”) that could be consequently interpreted in terms of their form. The translation of the two chapters was made to verify this thesis, and the descriptions of the two dialogue genres in “Wen xin diao long” were compared. They are “duiwen” (answer to a question) in Chapter XIV “Za wen” (“Mixed Works”) presumably from the category of “the fine literature” (“wen”) and “dui” (examination answer to the question posed in a special imperial decree) in Chapter XXIV “Yi dui” (“Meeting and answer”) from the ordinary, or plain literature (bi) category. To identify features of the genres, historical material and preserved texts were used. The analysis revealed that stylistic features of the works (rhyme, parallel phrases) were not essential for their attribution to one or another genre. Other significant genre features have been indicated. The author of the article notes the shortcomings of the modern interpretation of some passages from the text of Liu Xie, which either indicate the inconsistency of his approach, or the imperfection of existing translations into modern languages.
The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons (Wen Xin Diao Long) by Liu Xie (465/466– 520/522) overcomes other similar treaties of that time by its size (about 40 thousand characters), by the complexity of the structure, and as well by the depth of working out the issues of literary theory and practice. That’s why the Liu Xie’s literary concept is usually considered as a kind of quintessence of Chinese literary mind of the early Middle Ages. This article is an attempt to challenge this thesis and demonstrate that Liu Xie was far ahead of his time. Analyzing the Liu Xie’s genre concept, the author focuses on two major points. The first is the connection of the genre with categories of a higher or general order, with the notions of traditional Chinese literary types or modes of wen and bi and with the form of artistic speech. The second is the hierarchy of genres specified by the order of their description in the treatise. The author rebuts the idea that Liu Xie divided the literature into wen and bi on the basis of rhyme only. She argues that he considered the сontent of a literary work to be more important than its form for defining its genre.