23rd Biennial Conference of the European Association for Chinese Studies

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Talke; "How ling is ling? Ling 靈 as an exanimate classifier relating to a conceptual religious realm (Panel: “A Historical Semantics Perspective on Ling 靈 – Between ‘Efficacy’ and ‘Spirituality' (I): Traditional Uses”)"

In early Chinese texts, the term ling has manifold meanings. The HYDCD lists 20 meanings of the term. Yet, if the meanings of the term are reconstructed in their respective contexts then a particular function rather than a meaning of the term seem to dominate the usage of the graph in early Chinese texts. Ling in most cases takes on a classificatory function as a label that qualifies something as belonging to a spiritual realm that is not defined in more specific detail. While thus acknowledging some general kind of spiritual quality it avoids to commit itself to any specifity. In early Chinese texts ling therefore appears mainly as an alienated term, a term in quotation marks, a categoriser, an indicator of an exanimate conceptual space that assigns a quasi religious quality to something without determining the exact mode of its usage. The usage of ling can be metaphorical, allegorical, ritual, aesthetic or, indeed, religious in some indistinct way. It can, in a loose associative sense, refer to aspects of spiritual qualities such as goodness, power, superiority or auspiciousness. It can also de-secularise something in a very general sense and for various reasons. The paper will provide an analysis of textual examples from early Chinese texts to further support the hypothesis that ling is best understood as a graph with a classificatory function rather than a term with a range of lexical meanings.
Period24 Aug 202128 Aug 2021
Event typeConference
LocationLeipzig, Germany, ThuringiaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational