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Roman Jakobson, linguistica e poetica

 | 
Edoardo Esposito
, 
Stefania Sini
, 
Marina Castagneto

Il tempo grande di Roman Jakobson

One or Two? Two Kindred Poems by Qianlong and Goethe

Elmar Holenstein
Traduction de Donald Goodwin

Texte intégral

  • 1 Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Riga, Hartknoch, 1781/1787. A 19/B 33: «worauf alles De (...)

1Cognition begins with sense perception (Greek: aisthēsis), prototypically with visual perception. That is a philosophical commonplace. Less commonly known is how Immanuel Kant supplements this matter of course in the opening sentence of the Transcendental Aesthetics in his Critique of Pure Reason, namely with the claim that also that «at which all thought as a means is directed as its end, is perception».1 Sense perception is not only the basis of thought; it is its true goal as well.

2The twofold relatedness to perception that Kant attributes to thought (Greek: logos), with which his ‘Transcendental Logic’ is concerned, is of course already applicable to what logos primarily means speech. This can be observed most clearly, playfully and pleasingly in poetic speech. In poetry, the point is not only what is said, but also how something is said, that is, how saying is perceived. Poetry aims to say what it says by how it says it, and if it is written, also by how it is written. In China, poetry and calligraphy belong together. They influence each other. In Europe, the arrangement of verses in lines (one verse – one line) and in stanzas, which are kept apart by greater spacing, plays a role. Furthermore, where a poem is recited or written, in what setting it is perceived can be co-constitutive for its meaning. This is most conspicuous when a poem is written as an accompanying text to a picture.

  • 2 Wade-Giles spelling: Ch’ien-lung, meaning of the name: Heavenly Prosperity or Lasting Eminence, Be (...)

3I shall use two poems to illustrate how artfully logos and aisthēsis, the meaning of what is said and its phonetic as well as its syntactic expression, are harmonized with each other in poetry and are able to enhance each other: the inscription by the Chinese Emperor Qianlong 乾隆2 on his double portrait shi yi shi er 是 一 是 二‘One and/or Two’ (Fig. 1) and Goethe’s poem Gin(k)go biloba. Anyone who knows both poems will be reminded by the one of the other.

Fig. 1. Double portrait of Qianlong ‘One or Two’ (Mental Cultivation version), 18th century, Palace Museum, Beijing.

Fig. 1. Double portrait of Qianlong ‘One or Two’ (Mental Cultivation version), 18th century, Palace Museum, Beijing.

4Let me first present the poems, Qianlong’s in Chinese characters, pinyin transcription and in my rendering, Goethe’s poem in the original German and with an approximately literal rendering of each line (disregarding rhyme and, if necessary, also rhythm). The first part of the following essay will then consist in remarks on the aesthetic structure of the two poems, on the Emperor’s multiple personality and on the Ginkgo tree and its names. The second and main part will subsequently provide a comparative-contrastive interpretation of the two poems entrusted to us, one from the East, the other from the West.

Qianlong’s Inscription

是 一 是

shi YI shi ER

ONE and/or TWO

不 即 不 離

bu JI bu LI

not IDENTIC, not DIVIDED

儒 可 墨 可

RU ke MO ke

RUIAN maybe, MOIAN maybe

何 慮 何 思

he LÜ he SI

why REASON, why PONDER

Gin(k)go bilobaa

Dieses Baums Blatt, der von Osten


This tree’s leaf, from Eastward

Meinem Garten anvertraut,

Entrusted to my garden,

Gibt geheimen Sinn zu kosten,

Gives secret sense to savour,

Wie’s den Wissenden erbaut.

As it edifies him who knows.

Ist es Ein lebendig Wesen?

Is it one living Being?

Das sich in sich selbst getrennt,

Which as same itself divided.

Sind es zwei? die sich erlesen,

Are they two? that selected each other,

Dass man sie als Eines kennt.

So that people know them as one.

Solche Frage zu erwidern

To reply to such a question

Fand ich wohl den rechten Sinn;

I likely found the proper sense;

Fühlst du nicht an meinen Liedern,

Do you not feel in my songs,

Dass ich Eins und doppelt bin?

That I am one and double?

a. The German version of the poem adheres to Johann Wolfgang Goethe, West-oestlicher Divan., Stuttgart, Cotta, 1819, enlarged edition 1827; Sämtliche Werke (Frankfurter Ausgabe), volume 3, edited by Hendrik Birus, Frankfurt am Main, Bibliothek deutscher Klassiker, 1994, pp. 78f., with minor adjustments to present-day spelling. My English rendering is based on various translations that are available online. A name, John Whaley, is ascribed to only one of them: http://www.wisdomportal.com/​Poems2007/​Goethe-Ginkgo.html. I have modified almost all of the lines used, some slightly, some radically. None of the translations does justice to the root meaning of erlesen (shortened for auserlesen) in the second stanza. Both erlesen and my choice for the translation select are etymologically derived from words with the meaning to collect. If the myth of the primal androgynous being is associated with Goethe’s poem as suggested below, then the mutual selection of the lovers is a re-collection.

Part I: Structural and Historical Comments On the Aesthetic Structure of Qianlong’s Quatrain

  • 3 My text analyses of Qianlong’s poem are primarily based on those of Patricia Berger, Empire of Emp (...)

5Shi yī shi er has an architectural structure through and through.3 It is a compact composition of binary contrasts, symmetries and symmetry breaks. It consists of four brief verses, each composed of four equally brief, monosyllabic words: two words each in the focus of the individual verses designating what they are about (printed here in majuscules and referred to as ‘main words’), and two supplementary words (referred to as ‘concomitant words’) in a constative or deliberative and interrogative relationship to what is designated by the main words.

  • 4 There are four known versions. See the reproductions and descriptions in Kleutghen, op. cit.
  • 5 The Mental Cultivation version in the Palace Museum, Beijing, reproduced here as Fig. 1.
  • 6 Yang Xin Dian 养心殿 within Beijing’s Forbidden City (Kleutghen, op. cit., pp. 34ff.), provides the m (...)

6However, to begin with, a point that will be surprising for Europeans merits mention: The four verses do not coincide with the vertical lines on the extant versions4 of the double portrait. Non-coincidence of verses and lines is not uncommon in Chinese poetry. On the one most often exhibited and reproduced,5 there are five characters in the first column, in the following two four, and in the fourth three. The two last columns are translatable as: ‘Added by the Emperor in the Hall of Mental Cultivation’.6

7The structure of the poem can be visualized with a clear four-part diagram:

+a +N

+a -N

-a +Q

-a -Q

+S ~b

-S ~b

?b +P

?b +P

  • 7 Spontaneous word associations often occur within the same word category, especially between semant (...)
  • 8 At least on the Mental Cultivation version of the double portrait.
  • 9 Nota bene: The basic symmetry of the two parts of the verse, which is the prerequisite for (partia (...)

8The two main words in each verse belong to the same word category.7 In the first verse these are numerals (N), in the second qualifiers (Q), in the third names of philosophical schools (S), in the fourth verbs for a philosophical activity (P). They are in a polar relationship to each other in the first three verses: one – two, identic[al] – divided, Ruian – Moian (indicated in the diagram by plus and minus signs: +N-N/+Q-Q/+S-S). In the concluding fourth verse, the second main word, almost synonymous with the first, reinforces what the first means (+P+P). By contrast, the concomitant words of each line are completely identical. However, in each case Qianlong varies8 the second one by writing it not like the first one in regular, but rather in cursive script, playfully, but not arbitrarily. The result is a grammatical parallelism in each verse, with the second part of the parallelism systematically diverging from the first both in its written form and in meaning. Systematic symmetry breaking enhances the aesthetic effect of the parallel phrases.9

9The two concomitant words of the first verse are in a polar relationship to the concomitant words of the second verse. This is a relationship of genuine opposition (indicated in the diagram with plus and minus signs: +a+a / -a-a). By means of their opposition to each other, the affirmative shi and the negative bu link the first two verses.

  • 10 «[It] is one and/or [it] is two –» (Berger, op. cit., p. 51).
  • 11 Wu Hung renders the two first verses as follows: «One or two? / – My two faces never come together (...)
  • 12 Cf. the different translations of shi in the passage quoted below from the second chapter of the b (...)

10The first verse cannot be adequately rendered in English without compromising its symmetry with the second verse (and similarly with the following ones) or its many meanings. The result is an ordinary violation of symmetry that reduces the aesthetic appeal of the poem, not an artful violation, which would increase it. Chinese sentences require no subject: neither a semantic one like the personal pronoun nor a grammatical one like the English it nor connective words such as and or or. So, if we do not resort to ellipsis («One and/or two»), there are several possible translations of the first verse, for example «It is one and/or two»,10 «He is one and/or two» and «They are one. They are two». Depending on what we decide to use, that is, the choice of the subject for the first two verses, shi has to be translated with is or are. If we choose as the subject the emperor, it is is, if we select his two depicted faces,11 or, as philosophers, ‘reality and appearance/imagination’, it is are. According to context, the word shi can also be rendered with this or that, yes, indeed, affirm, true/right or something similar.12 Similarly, the two bu of the second verse, which I translate with not, can just as well be rendered with no or with a negation prefix (in or un) depending on what they are related to. Thus, for the first verse “Yes, one! Yes, two!” and “One, indeed! Two, indeed!” are also conceivable and for the second verse «unidentic, undivided».

  • 13 Berger, op. cit., p. 52. Depending on context, other translations of he are also appropriate: what(...)

11The affinity of the deliberative auxiliaries ke in the third verse and the interrogatives he in the fourth conveys a certain bonding force to these two verses (in the diagram: ~b~b / ?b?b). The addition of the ‘person radical’亻to the character 可 for ke (maybe) in the third verse transforms it in the fourth verse into the character 何 for the interrogative he (why).13 Note also that for grammatical reasons and in keeping with the deliberative cast of the verse, the two concomitant words in the third verse follow the main words instead of preceding them as in the other verses.

12All of these are structural facts that for sensitive readers become factors with a primarily subliminal effect. They are predominantly of aesthetic relevance, but secondarily they also have a substantive import in a subtle way typical of poetry. The formal structuration of the verses indicates that they are related with each other in meaning. Their semantic variation, the alteration of the writing style of the two auxiliaries, the change of position of the main and concomitant words in the third verse and the phonetic correspondences and variations are in a literal sense a ‘superficial’ allusion to the relationship of sameness and difference or unity and duality which is the ‘subject’ of the double portrait of the emperor. Both poem and painting have a manifold binary structure.

  • 14 I omit punctuation marks. They would annul the plurality of possible readings.

13Some supplementary remarks of a structural and historical nature may be helpful in reading Qianlong’s poem. As just mentioned, it is not only for the first verse, but for all four that multiple interpretations and thus different translations are possible. The first three verses can be read either as simple constatations – and even as exclamations! – or as pondering questions, whereas the fourth verse can be read as a real or, more appropriately, as a rhetorical question. In the second case the response is implicitly given with the exclamation of the question.14

14The negative wording of the second verse and even more so the dialectical conjunction of its two negative expressions (‘not identic – not divided’) are a characteristic of South and East Asian philosophical texts. Negative and dialectical phrasings have a certain aesthetic appeal. The prime ‘Asian’ example of a negative wording is ‘non-duality’ (meaning unity or mutual implication), which several commentators cite as the topic of Qianlong’s double portrait.

  • 15 Kongzi 551-479, Mozi 470-391 BCE.
  • 16 Compare Israelite and Abrahamitic (instead of Israelist and Abrahamistic), Jesuit and Jesuitic(al)(...)

15In the third verse, ru stands for rujia 儒家 or rujiao 儒教, Lineage (Family or House, i.e. School) or Teachings of the Learned, i.e. of the followers of Kongzi 孔子 (Master Kong, Confucius), and mo for mojia 墨家 or mojao 墨教, Lineage or Teachings of Mozi 墨子 (Master Mo).15 As far as possible, I use designations ending in ism, ist, and istic only for ideological movements, their adherents and doctrines. Hence, I write Moian instead of Mohist and for reasons of symmetry Ruian instead of Confucian, similarly Buddhaite and Buddhaic instead of Buddhist and Buddhistic and Daoite and Daoic instead of Daoist and Daoistic.16

16The fourth verse could also be translated: «Why logos? Why ratiocination?» or «Why logoi? Why words?» («Aisthesis is enough! Perception is enough»). An alternative paraphrase would be: «Why this thinking, considering, anxious musing, ruminating?» At any rate, the rhetorical character of the question is enhanced by doubling it.

  • 17 Intertextuality is a term that was introduced by Julia Kristeva in the 1960s for the literary tech (...)

17Shi yi shi er proves to be not only a condensed composition of brief words and sentences and, thanks to the underdetermined grammar of Chinese, a concentration of alternative readings wavering between questions and constatations. In line with the conciseness of its verbal composition it is also a masterpiece of intertextualty,17 as we shall see shortly, a concentration of quotations and textual associations matching each other. If there were interlingual prizes for poetic devices, the prizes for poetic terseness and intertextuality would very probably go East Asia.

The Aesthetic Structure of Goethe’s Poem in Comparison

18Goethe’s Gin(k)go biloba, too, has a clear architectural structure. There are several surprising correspondences to Qianlong’s poem. As already mentioned, the emperor’s poem consists of four verses each with four monosyllabic words, for a total of just sixteen words. These alternate with different meaning, weight and stress. The result is a repetitive binary structure of each verse with ‘light’, unstressed (u) words and ‘heavy’, stressed (ś) words.

19u ś u ś
u ś u ś
ś u ś u
u ś u ś

20Goethe’s poem consists of three stanzas, each of them (like Qianlong’s poem as a whole) with four verses. Moreover, the verses are written in four-foot trochees, that is, a total of twelve accentuations (‘heavy’, stressed syllables). Cross rhymes link the verses to each other: One verse rhymes with the next verse but one, the first with the third, the second with the fourth, and so on:

21ab ab // cd cd // ef ef

22The rhyme words end in alternation with an unstressed, “feminine” cadence or a stressed, “masculine” cadence. This results in a dichotomy of the four verses of each stanza, a division into two verse pairs:

23ś u ś u ś u ś u
ś u ś u ś u ś
ś u ś u ś u ś u
ś u ś u ś u ś

  • 18 Goethe, Faust, part 2, verse 11962: «geeinte Zwienatur».

24In the concatenation of the pairs and of the alternating verses closing with a ‘feminine’ or a ‘masculine’ cadence by means of cross rhyme, it is possible to see a symbolic expression of the ‘united twinature’18 of the lovers, which is what the poem is about. In both poems, how something is said reflects what is said.

25The tripartition of Goethe’s poem in stanzas and their bipartition by means of their metrical structure is repeated on the grammatical and semantic level. The first stanza states the occasion (tree from Eastward) and the reason (secret sense of its leaf) for the poem, the second poses the double-track question insinuated by the shape of the leaf, the third answers it. The first two lines of the first stanza contain the subject of the four-line sentence together with its specification, the following two lines contain the predicate. The second stanza is divided by the breakdown of the question into two parts, the third stanza by the introductory characterization of the response (using the pronoun I) and the rhetorical statement of the response (addressed to a you).

26In addition to the bipartition of Qianlong’s four verses, which are in many respects uniformly structured, and of Goethe’s stanzas, which are clearly uniform in structure at least as regards meter, the poems have another common feature: both close with a question which can be understood as a rhetorical question. However, whereas Qianlong puts his enigmas to rest with the rhetorical character of his question, deeming them to be ultimately irrelevant, Goethe uses this rhetorical character to express the obviousness of how his enigmatic question is to be answered. I shall return to this difference in the second part.

27Correspondingly, Qianlong’s poem has the air of a meditative monologue, whereas Goethe’s poem, with its somewhat throbbing trochaic meter and the ‘masculine’ cadence of every second verse, has a sermonizing or even lecturing tone. The use of the two personal pronouns I and you in the final stanza further enhances the lecture character.

28In contrast to its soundly structured basis, however, Goethe’s poem stands out at the same time as an exultant love poem. It is in keeping with this that the classically educated German poet conveys its content with an emblem, a symbolic image (the Ginkgo leaf), and otherwise simply with suggestions and allusions ‘for those who know’, and not with textual quotations as does the Chinese emperor, who is no less classically educated. ‘Exultant’ is not a predicate that would occur to anyone in view of the compact structure of Qianlong’s poem.

On Qianlong’s Multiple Personality

  • 19 On Qianlong as a person and on his government, cf. the biography by Mark Elliott, Emperor Qianlong (...)
  • 20 This is Elliott’s title of the 7th chapter of his biography.
  • 21 According to Elliott, Emperor Qianlong, cit, pp. 110ff. as well as many other authors. – Some of Q (...)

29Qianlong was an emperor with a well-rounded education, he was trained in history, in philosophy and in numerous aesthetic disciplines, above all calligraphy, poetry and painting, which he practiced himself, as well as in governance and warfare and in the tradition of the Manchu nobility as a horseman and hunter.19 He was not a polymath in the narrower sense of this term (remarkable activities in the natural sciences and mathematics are lacking), but he was a sort of ‘Renaissance Man’.20 In contrast to his calligraphy, which is generally admired, his pictures and the great majority of his 40,000 (!) poems, however, are deemed to be mediocre.21

  • 22 See the reproductions in Harold L. Kahn, Monarchy in the Emperor’s Eyes: Image and Reality in the (...)

30He was almost obsessively concerned with the duplicity, indeed multiplicity of his person. There are a number of depictions of him in various roles and costumes, among them more than one double portrait.22

  • 23 Wu Hung, Emperor’s Masquerade, cit. (figs. 1 & 4).
  • 24 Advocated by Kahn, op. cit., p. 77.
  • 25 Wu Hung, Emperor’s Masquerade, cit., p. 25. Cf. on this controversy on interpretations Berger’s co (...)
  • 26 One famous modern representation of a person together with herself at a later stage in life is the (...)

31Two show him as a youth encountering himself as an adult.23 This interpretation,24 however, is understandably controversial. Wu Hung25 calls it simply fantastic. According to Wu, they instead present encounters of the young prince Hongli (Qianlong’s name before his accession to the throne) with his father, the Yongzheng Emperor. That someone should encounter himself in another stage of life is indeed just as fantastic (or surrealistic26) as that a person should look down from a hanging scroll on himself sitting on a couch. The fact that the Emperor had himself depicted in this way must at least be taken into consideration as an argument for the view that the two controversial pictures also display self-encounters. Transculturally, it is an indication of maturity when someone is capable of looking at himself from outside, from a standpoint at which one can imagine oneself, just as another person can see us from his standpoint. The distance from which one looks at oneself can be a spatial or a temporal distance. As a youth one can prospectively imagine how one will be as an adult, and conversely, as an adult retrospectively how one was in young years, and finally as an adult also how in young years one imagined oneself as an adult.

  • 27 Wu Hung, Emperor’s Masquerade, cit., fig. 14; Wu Hung, The Double Screen, cit. fig. 165. According (...)
  • 28 Lachman, op. cit., pp. 740f.

32On the double portrait with the inscription quoted, Qianlong is depicted in the vestment of a scholar-official from the Han period. Since the picture is an imitation of an older double portrait27 in his collection of art works, the Emperor may well have seen himself not simply as a (proto)typical man of letters, but identified at the same time with a certain scholar-poet of the past.28 No-one should think that it was only under European influence that Qianlong had the idea of self-reflection and portrayals in various roles and costumes.

  • 29 Berger, op. cit., p. 38. – How well did he speak these languages, one might ask. He had a total of (...)
  • 30 For him, cruel methods of persecution of ethnic separatists and Chinese opponents of the Qings’ fo (...)

33The Qianlong Emperor reigned over a multicultural empire. He prided himself that he hold audiences in five languages without relying on an interpreter, in addition to Chinese and his native Manchu, in Mongol, Tibetan and Uyghur,29 thus expressing his idea of ‘conquering by kindness’.30

  • 31 Yuzhi: ‘made by Imperial order’, wu: ‘five’, ti: ‘bodies’ (here in the sense of ‘script types’ or (...)

34During his reign a Pentaglot Dictionary was completed (Fig. 2). Its Chinese title Yuzhi Wu Ti Qing Wen Jian 御製五體清文鑑 might be rendered as “Imperial Mirror of the Qing Language in Five Incarnations”.31

Fig. 2. Imperial Pentaglot Dictionary, Beijing, 18th century

Fig. 2. Imperial Pentaglot Dictionary, Beijing, 18th century

35It contains more than 18,000 lemmas listed in vertical columns, at the top in Manju gisun (Manchu language), then in Bod skad (Tibetan), Monggol kele and Uyghur tili, finally, at the bottom, in Hanwen (Chinese written language). Tibetan was written three times, in the Tibetan (Uchen) script and twice in Manchu transcription, the first one being a transliteration of the Tibetan abugida (alphasyllabic) letters into the corresponding alphabetic Manchu letters, the second a phonetic transcription, rendering the contemporary pronunciation of the words; Uyghur was written twice, in the Arabic script used for this Turkic language (Uyghur Ereb Yëziqi) and in Manchu transcription: ‘the same word’ repeated on various levels differently (in script, in pronunciation and, invisibly, in the meaning intension and extension) and yet the same in its basic meaning. Shi yi shi wu 是一是五. Is it one? Is it five? Or, with the transcriptions, eight, or with the added synonyms in Tibetan and Mongol even more?

  • 32 The Manchu title indeed reads: Han=i ara.ha, sunja hacin=i hergen kamci.ha Manju gisun=i buleku bi (...)
  • 33 Berger, op. cit., 37.

36The title already contains an identity conundrum: Besides the quoted title Mirror of the Qing Language in Five Incarnations one can find several others in the net. One replaces Qing Language by Manchu Language.32 Berger33 paraphrases Pentaglot mirror of Qing languages, that is, Manchu, Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese, and Chagatay. So, is there one Qing language or are there five? Is Manchu the Qing language (embodied in additional languages) or is the Qing language a kind of heavenly or so to speak ‘noumenal’ language incarnated in five concrete spoken and written languages, in the first place in Manchu?A fourth translation avoids the metaphor bodies and the more vivid incarnations by rendering them in plain speech: Five-script mirror of Qing language. Wikipedia translates: Imperially-Published Five-Script Textual Mirror of Qing. The next one reads: Five-Fold Mirror to the National Language. Finally, an informal seventh variant also avoids the metaphor mirror: Imperial vocabulary in five scripts.

  • 34 Cf. Elmar Holenstein, Human Equality and Intra- as well as Inter-Cultural Diversity, «The Monist», (...)

37The Qing Emperors did not only reign over a multilingual realm, but also over a territory with numerous religions. With respect to them, they adhered to the view common in traditional societies that all religions are but one. In Europe, Nicolaus Cusanus (1401–64) coined for this the formula una religio in rituum varietate: ‘One religion in a diversity of rites’.34 The following admonition by Qianlong’s father, the Yongzheng Emperor, addressed in 1727 to a countryman who had converted to Christianity, has been handed down:

  • 35 The designation for God adopted by the Jesuit missionaries in China.
  • 36 Mark Elliott, The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China, Stanfo (...)

The Lord of Heaven35 is Heaven itself [...] We Manchus have our own particular rites for honoring Heaven; the Mongols, Chinese, Russians, and Europeans also have their own particular rites for honoring [the same] Heaven.36

  • 37 Some conjecture monocausally that this was for strategic reasons. But people are complex enough to (...)
  • 38 Also insinuated by the phonetic association Manju (Manchu) – Manjushri.
  • 39 Cf. Berger, op. cit., p. 55.
  • 40 Cf. Elliott, The Manchu Way, cit.
  • 41 Moreover, he «used to boast of his descent from Genghis Khan». (Barrow, op. cit., p. 185).

38In view of Qianlong’s multireligiosity, multilinguality, multiculturality and above all multiethnicity, it is possible to conceive alternative wordings in the third verse of his poem: instead of ru ke mo ke 儒可墨可«Ruian maybe, Moian maybe» ru ke fo ke 儒 可 佛 可«Ruian maybe, Foian (Buddhaite) maybe» and han ke man ke 漢可滿可«Chinese maybe, Manchu maybe». On the first alternative: For Qianlong, Rujiao and Fojiao were the two leading sets of convictions, Rujiao especially with respect to his office as Emperor of China, Fojiao with respect to his belonging to the Manchu people, which by way of Mongolian contact had converted to Tibetan ‘Lamaism’. He practised Tibetan-Buddhaic rites with fervour.37 He even identified himself as an emanation of the bodhisattva of wisdom Manjushri38 as his forebears had, and had himself depicted as such and venerated in temples.39 On the second alternative: Qianlong was just as proud of his ethnic origin as he was of his classical Chinese culture, and naturally of his status as emperor of China. He was increasingly and seriously concerned about the observance of the ‘Manchu way’ by his fellow Manchu, who lived scattered around China.40 Through his maternal line of descent, he also had Chinese ancestors.41

  • 42 Lee, op. cit., pp. 573f.

39But these would be anachronistic ideas. For Qianlong it would most probably have been impolitic to speak in public of these two identities, above all the second, as being problematical. Moreover, his choice ‚Ruian maybe, Moian maybe‘ has the advantage that it weighs two classical philosophical schools in the balance, thus underpinning the genuinely philosophical character of his identity problem as illustrated with his double portrait.42

  • 43 San jiao he yi 三教合一 «Three teachings harmoniously as one».

40However, it must not be disregarded that Qianlong’s life-long preoccupation with his identity was hardly rooted in the tension between the poles of China’s great philosophical systems of belief (according to a common view, the three dominant ones, Dao Jiao, Ru Jiao and Fo Jiao, were deemed to be harmoniously compatible43), nor in the problem of the ‘non-duality’ of all being, which was discussed at a high level by Buddhaic and neo-Confucian thinkers, but rather in the tension between his ethnic origin and his Chinese culture and his office as Chinese emperor. In his case, this office involved the pronounced awareness that he was ruler over a multiethnic, multilingual, and multireligious realm, and in conjunction with this, a sense of responsibility that he felt just as acutely. There are good reasons to assume that his most intimate identity problem did not refer to the relationship between himself as a physical person and his depictions and mental images of himself. That may well have been the ostensible problem, the only one to be explicitly considered, when he viewed portraits of himself. However, his real identity problem was probably the multiculturalism, multilinguality and multireligiosity that he lived and that he deliberately practiced as emperor. The relationship between the languages that he spoke (and that were visibly listed in the Pentaglot) is not a relationship between ‘reality and representation/appearance/illusion/maya’, but rather one of different ‘realizations’, ‘incarnations’ or ‘embodiments’ of something that does not exist realiter detached from and independently of them. If there is anything that is purely ideal, that is unimaginable in any other way than as illusory (in other words, a theoretical construct, even though one of great psychological effect), then it is ‘the (heavenly, ideal, universal) language’, of which philosophers believe that it comes to expression in particular human languages. Something similar applies to the particular rites of the various peoples. These, too, are ‘manners of realization’ of religion, and not ‘mere forms of appearance’. Qianlong’s real problem of identity, one can assume, is less a ‘prototypically Indian’ one, the relationship between ‘reality and appearance/illusion/maya’, which is so impressively illustrated by his double portrait, than a ‘prototypically Chinese’ one, even more so a ‘prototypically Manchurian’, or, in more general terms, an ‘ethnophilosophical’ problem of concurrently or alternately practised ways of life.

Notes on the Ginkgo Tree and its Names44

  • 44 The notes are based on a comparative consultation of plurilingual dictionaries of Chinese characte (...)

41A fair copy in Goethe’s own hand of his poem was found in 1965; it is famous mainly for the fact that two Ginkgo leaves are attached to the paper (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Fair copy of Goethe’s poem Ginkgo biloba in his own hand, September 15, 1815

Fig. 3. Fair copy of Goethe’s poem Ginkgo biloba in his own hand, September 15, 1815
  • 45 Present-day spelling: hégire.
  • 46 See Birus’ commentary in Goethe, op. cit., p. 883.

42The title on it is spelled correctly according to Linné as Ginkgo biloba; in the printed versions of Goethe’s Divan of 1819 and 1827, however, it is spelled Gingo biloba. The change might be explainable much the same way as Goethe’s use of the French spelling hegire45 to replace what to his ears sounded ‘barbaric’, the German Hedschre for Arabic hijra (the emigration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina).46 Inasmuch as they avoid consonant clusters, hegire and Gingo are more euphonious and result in a more gracious appearance in writing and print.

  • 47 See Wolfgang Michel, On Engelbert Kaempfer’s Ginkgo, Research Notes, Fukuoka, Kyushu University, 2 (...)
  • 48 Or also silver almond. The nutshells and the slightly sweet fruit of the tree both gleam in silver
  • 49 Two-lobed, derived from Latin lobus.
  • 50 Carl Linnaeus, Mantissa Plantarum Altera, Holm, Laurentius Salvius, 1771, p. 313.

43The spelling Ginkgo stems from the German physician, botanist and ethnographer Engelbert Kaempfer, who worked for the Dutch East India Company in Nagasaki from 1790 to 1792. Probably due to momentary inattention, he transcribed the name of Chinese origin that was then customary in Japan, ginkyō, as Ginkgo.47 Ginkyō 銀杏 (pinyin transcription of the modern standard Chinese pronunciation of the characters used: yinxing) means silver apricot.48 In Kaempfer’s misspelling, together with the epithet biloba,49 Linnaeus integrated it into his binomial nomenclature of plants.50

  • 51 Hangzhou was the Imperial capital during a period of flourishing in China from 1123 to 1278.

44Since around 1300 Zen monks brought the tree from the region of Hangzhou,51 south of present-day Shanghai, to Japan as a temple tree. Starting mainly from the old Botanic Garden of the University of Utrecht in the middle of the 18th century, the time of Goethe’s birth, it was propagated through Europe as an ornamental tree. Historians conjecture that it was first planted in Germany in Rödelheim northwest of (now in) Frankfurt, the city in which Goethe was born.

  • 52 Apart from yinxing 銀杏 (silver apricot) the commonest present-day name for the tree in China is bai (...)
  • 53 Ginkgo leaves occur in two forms. In addition to the well-known leaves with a cleavage in the midd (...)

45The tree has and has had several other names.52 The oldest documented designation, which, like ‘Ginkgo biloba’, makes reference to the form of the leaves,53 seems to be ‘duck-foot tree’, yajiao shu 鴨脚樹. Its vividly imagined meaning does not do justice to the graceful tree and its leaves. Goethe would hardly have been inspired to his love poem if he and his young lady friend had known the tree by this name. A name can block an aesthetic perception. Borrowing on Ludwig Klages’s book title and slogan The Spirit as Adversary of the Soul, we could feel inclined to say, logos antidikos tēs psychēs aisthētikēs.

  • 54 Quoted in note 53.

46A wide-spread name, but only in European languages, is ‘maidenhair tree’. It, too, can be traced back to Kaempfer, to his comparison of the tree’s leaf with those of the maidenhair fern,54 also called ‘Venus-hair fern’! This delightful name would perhaps have inspired Goethe to a love poem, but certainly to a different one than the present.

Part II. Comparative-Contrastive Interpretation of the Poems Identities

47Qianlong’s and Goethe’s poems deal with the enigma of identity in the awareness of their own doubling. However, the unity and duplicity about which the poems ask patently refer to different things. Goethe’s conundrum is how a love pair feels itself ‘one and double’, Qianlong’s the doubling of an ‘individual’ looking at two pictures of himself.

  • 55 To which Norbert Mecklenburg again guided me.

48On more careful reading,55 it will be noticed that nonetheless Goethe, too, imagines an identity with an image, not with a portrait of himself, but rather with the Ginkgo leaf as a pictorial symbol of the biunity of two lovers. For Goethe, a symbol is more than a verbal metaphor. With the perception of the Ginkgo leaf as a symbol, a relatedness between the love pair and the Ginkgo leaf comes to light that one could be inclined to compare with totemic relationships. For Goethe as a philosopher of nature, the same universal energy and laws really generate both the morphological polarity of the two parts of the Ginkgo leaf and the togetherness of lovers.

49A botanic leaf is suited in a charming way to symbolize identity. A real Ginkgo leaf can regarded as a token of its type and as a visualisation of its own morphological structure, and be stuck to a sheet of paper as a symbol of the biunity of the lovers. Naturally, as documented by the fair copy of his poem, Goethe did not miss this point.

Undecidedness in China, Certainty in Europe?

50The first verse in Qianlong’s quatrain can, as mentioned, be read in Chinese either as a question or as a statement. In English it has to be formulated unequivocally as a question or assertion if we do not wish to contract it to ‘one or two’. In Chinese, it remains in suspense how it is to be read, which is possible in English for the two following verses. For Qianlong it remains undecided or even undecidable, above all unimportant how it ultimately is. If the verse is read as a double question, then both answers can indeed be right, in analogy to Goethe’s double question.

  • 56 See Birus’s commentary in: Goethe (1819/1994: 1194).
  • 57 189c–193d.

51Goethe is in contrast to Qianlong simply certain of being one and two. He almost reproaches his lady friend: «Do you not feel that I am one and double?» When on seeing a Ginkgo leaf by chance in 1815 he started to muse about its bilobate form, the only point that was questionable for him was whether it is one that divides itself in two, or two that unite to one.56 In the poem he then formulates the question poetically: «Ist es Ein lebendig Wesen? Das sich in sich selbst getrennt, Sind es zwei? die sich erlesen, Dass man sie als Eines kennt.» The wording will remind classically educated Europeans of the fabulous explanation of love in Plato’s Symposium.57 There, Aristophanes recounts the myth of the original androgynous globular form of human beings who were split in two by Zeus (as punishment for their mischief). This, he claimed, explains why lovers strive to unite. An unnatural division is to be overcome. Goethe’s solution of the enigma is in keeping with his conciliatory mind, at once recognizing and uniting contraries, which makes him so attractive for East Asians.

More Than a Question of Identity: a Question of Knowledge

  • 58 It is once more Norbert Mecklenburg, a Goethe expert, to whom I am indebted for this potential int (...)

52If it is read looking at the double portrait and/or if the reader is aware of the text associations that it arouses, Qianlong’s enigma more clearly has two dimensions than does Goethe’s, specifically in addition to the obvious ontological dimension, an epistemological one. Naturally, the epistemic dimension of Goethe’s experience of identity does not remain unspoken in his poem. The tree’s leaf «gives secret sense to savour» to «him who knows». The loved one is asked if she does not sense what is the case. Although it is not explicitly pronounced, Goethe’s poem displays an epistemological dimension in an even stricter sense than Qianlong’s inscription if epistemology is understood not merely as an alternative, learned word for the theory of knowledge, but rather as a technical term for the doctrine of the justification of knowledge. When in the middle stanza the question is raised as to whether the two lovers have selected each other «so that people know them as one», in accordance with the tendency to terseness in Goethe’s style in later years it may be that in the German verb kennen (know) there is an echo of erkennen (recognize) and anerkennen (acknowledge) and thus also the wishful imagination of the legitimation of the natural love relationship.58

  • 59 Cf. Lachman, op. cit., p. 742.

53With an exclusively European cultural background, one will read Qianlong’s quatrain simply as an enigma of identity. Are the two identical, or are they two separate beings? Someone with an East or South Asian erudition, by contrast, will think just as spontaneously of the epistemological status of what is being asked about.59 Are the unity and duality that we think we perceive real or illusions? Do imagination and reality belong together, or are they phenomena that must be kept strictly apart? Is what we automatically hold to be real merely imagined? Is what the Ruians claim right, or, as the Moians counter, false; and the other way round, what the Moians purport to be right wrong, as the Ruians teach? Or is it, as so many Asian thinkers seem to proclaim, undecidable, indeed a question void of sense which of the two schools is right?

  • 60 In neo-Confucian literature, the question is for the most part posed with reference to ti and yong(...)
  • 61 Berger, op. cit., p. 51.

54The first two verses of Qianlong’s inscription are familiar to every well-read Chinese. Especially the question or assertion of the first verse, «One and/or two», can be found in innumerable Buddhaic texts, and under their influence later also in neo-Confucian treatises, above all with reference to the relation of (concealed) essence and (manifest) appearance, inside and outside, reality and imagination, knowing and doing, a principle and its application.60 Qianlong quotes the first verse several times, even on other portraits of himself.61

  • 62 Yuanjue jing 圓覺經, traditional European title: Sutra of the Perfect Enlightenment, chapter 3. I am (...)
  • 63 Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā, probably written in the decades about the year 200 in the region around th (...)
  • 64 Treatise of the Middle Zhong Lun 中論. Kumarajiva, born in Kuqa on the Silk Road in the Taklamakan d (...)
  • 65 In Sanskrit: anekārtham anānārtham. Various other translations are possible, e.g.: ‘not one, not m (...)

55The locus classicus for the saying in the second verse («not identic[al], not divided») is the Sutra of the complete awakening.62 Moreover, it coincides in sense, though not word for word, with two of the ‘eight negations’ ba bu 八不 that the Buddhaic philosopher Nagarjuna sets forth in his classical Verses on the Middle Way,63 indeed at the very beginning of it, in the dedication to Buddha. In Kumarajiva’s ingenious Chinese verse translation64 they read bù yī bù yì 不一不異 ‘not identity, not difference’ or ‘not identic[al], not different’.65

  • 66 I have not found corroboration in the literature for this association. It may well be that it does (...)

56There is more to come! It is not Qianlong’s second verse alone that is reminiscent of Nagarjuna, but also it together with the multiple readings of the first verse. A variant of Nagarjuna’s much discussed tetralemmas can be discerned in these verses if the first verse is read as two assertions and additionally as their conjunction, the second as their negative formulation:66

1st verse, 1st sentence:

shi yi

x & y are 1

identic(al)

1st verse, 2nd sentence:

shi er

x & y are 2

divided

1st verse, conjunction of the sentences:

shi yi shi er

x & y are [ both] 1 & 2 identic(al) & divided

2nd verse, negation of both sentences:

bu ji bu li

x & y are not 1 & not 2 not identic(al)

(or fei yi fei er or bu yi bu er)

& not divideda

a. The four sentences can be read with a simple or with a double subject: ‘x is 1’ or ‘x and y are 1’, etc. On the variations of the fourth proposition see the preceeding note 67.
  • 67 Cf. Nagarjuna, Die Lehre von der Mitte: (Mula-madhyamaka-karika) Zhong Lun, Chinesisch – Deutsch. (...)

57Contrary to an opinion that has widespread acceptance, Nagarjuna does not affirm the sentences in the tetralemmas he quotes. Nor does he deny them. Rather, he advises against yielding to them. They are scholastic theses that in his view assert something unconceivable and are therefore senseless.67

  • 68 In the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy from the fifth to the third century BCE, the Moians were d (...)
  • 69 Graham’s translation.
  • 70 Legge’s translation.
  • 71 In Graham’s much-quoted translation of 1981.

58The two names Ru and Mo in Qianlong’s third verse stand for philosophical schools that profess contrary doctrines.68 In the view of thinkers intent on reconciliation and also in the opinion of Zhuangzi 莊子, of whose book experts in classical Chinese literature will be reminded by this and the following fourth verse, they are only false when they are absolutized and are not regarded in perspective. A passage corresponding to the third verse can be found in the second Inner Chapter of the book Zhuangzi. It has a title that is also eloquently significant in our context, Qi Wu 齊物, which can be translated as ‘The sorting which evens things out’69 or ‘The adjustment of controversies’.70 The passage reads:71

  • 72 In addition to the characters 儒ru andmo, which stand for the schools of the Ruians and the Moians (...)

We have the ‘That’s it, that’s not’ of Confucians and Mohists, by which what is it for one of them for the other is not, what is not for one of them for the other is.
If you wish to affirm what they deny and deny what they affirm, the best means is Illumination.
故有儒墨之是非, 以是其所非, 而非其所是.
欲是其所非而非其所是, 則莫若以明.72

  • 73 «Is it a scholar, or is it just ink?» (Lachman, op. cit., p. 741).
  • 74 Kleutghen, op. cit., p. 34.

59Interpreters of Qianlong’s poem who did not notice the allusions to the book Zhuangzi in the third and fourth verse wondered about the name mo in the third verse. In the eighteenth century, Mozi had no followers any longer, at least none of note, and Qianlong seems never to have referred to him elsewhere. The fact that the just quoted passage from the book Zhuangzi did not come to mind had the positive side-effect that another interpretation was sought and consideration was given to one that is appealing and worthy of mention at least as a connotation. Good poetry is characterized by potential polysemy. The commonest meaning of the character 墨 is ink. Charles Lachman translated it exclusively in this sense,73 and Kristina Kleutghen, pointing out Qianlong’s enjoyment of word-plays and the primacy of ink in the portraits, accommodated both possible readings: «Perhaps Confucian, perhaps Mohist – perhaps a scholar, perhaps just ink».74

  • 75 1795, quoted by Barrow, op. cit., p. 14.

60Although I cannot lay claim to a professional knowledge of history, it seems to me to be conceivable that as a philo-Buddhaite and similarly as an ethnic Manchu, thus belonging to a people that in the eyes of many Chinese is ‘barbaric’, Qianlong might have found Mozi’s teaching appealing because of its principle of ‘impartial love’ jian ai 兼愛 and the requirement to care for all people equally. In his letter To the King of Holland75 he wrote:

I consider my own happy empire, and other kingdoms, as one and the same family; the princes and the people are, in my eye, the same men.

  • 76 I am indebted to Fabian Heubel and JeeLoo Liu for the reference to the passage quoted.
  • 77 The Great Appendix (III), Section II, Chapter V.31. I take the reference to this passage from Kleu (...)
  • 78 At least in comparison with the standard editions of the two books.

61Qianlong’s fourth verse is a direct quotation from the 22nd chapter of the same book Zhuangzi76 and/or from the Appended Phrases77 to the Book of Changes Yi Jing 易經, traditionally attributed to Kongzi. It merely exchanges the order of the almost synonymous verbs and si.78

62In the 22nd chapter of Zhuangzi with a title that is also eloquent and significant in our context, Zhi Bei You 知北遊 Knowledge Rambling in the North, the person allegorically named Knowledge Zhi 知 poses the question:

What should one reason about, what should one ponder about in order to know the Way?79
he si he lü ze zhi dao 何 思 何 慮 則 知 道

63The final answer is given by the ‘Yellow Emperor’ Huang Di 黃帝:

Without reasoning and without pondering one will come to know the Way.
wu si wu lü shi zhi dao 無思無慮始知道

  • 80 Wang Fuzhi 王夫之, a Confucian critical of tradition, elucidates the passage quoted from the second b (...)

64There is controversy in the commentaries about whether the author or authors of Zhuangzi simply repudiate the contradictory doctrines or admit a relative, perspective-related justification. As a ruler with a comprehensive education both in the traditions of his Chinese empire and in those of his Manchu dynasty, Qianlong can be expected to hold the view that in analogy to the great philosophical teachings, all languages and religions are ultimately equivalent and harmoniously compatible with each other. They have the same goal80. With his tendency to conciliatoriness and syncretism, it is not the various teachings from which Qianlong as emperor would dissociate himself, but only the simple classificatory assignment of his person to one school.

  • 81 Quoted by Kleutghen, op. cit., pp. 34ff.

65The passage81 in the Appended Phrases to the Yi Jing is directly compatible with this:

  • 82 Legge’s translation, slightly modified by Kleutghen. Here, the master (Confucius) even declaims th (...)

66The Master said: “In all (the processes taking place) under heaven, what is there to thinking? What is there to anxious scheming? They all come to the same end, though by different paths; there is one result, though there might be a hundred anxious schemes. What is there to thinking? What is there to anxious scheming?82

Zi yue: “tian xia he si he lü!?
tian xia tong gui er shu, yi zhi er bai lü.
tian xia he si he lü!?”
子曰:「天下何思何慮!? 天下同歸而殊塗, 一致而百慮. 天下何思何慮!?」

  • 83 See Wu Hung, Emperor’s Masquerade, cit., figs. 6c, 10 & 11.

67For Kleutghen and according to her, for Qianlong both Buddhism and Confucianism are in agreement that any dualities and multiplicities that are perceived to be irreconcilable are only the result of the mind’s limitation (and we may well be justified to add that the Daoite Zhuangzi would have concurred). Kongzi and Zhuangzi and with them Qianlong use rhetorical questions to dissociate themselves from a scholastic preoccupation with them. In the third and the fourth verses of his inscription Qianlong reveals himself not only to be a follower of Kongzi, which no-one finds surprising, but also of Zhuangzi, and even of Huang Di, the ‘Yellow Emperor’. Since none of the interpreters points this fact out, let us recall that Qianlong, like his father Yongzheng before him, had himself depicted not only in Confucian and Buddhaic dress, but also in Daoic and with typical Daoic symbols.83

Reasoning in China, Mythology and Imagery in Europa? or Logos versus Mythos

68The geographically and historically wide-ranging quotations and allusions enhance the content, import and horizon of Qianlong’s identity enigma. They indicate the eminently philosophical character of his problem. After pondering on his identity with highly abstract, ontological reflections, Qianlong dissociates himself from them in the end with his quotations from Kongzi and Zhuangzi.

69It is conspicuous that in Goethe’s poem, as can be expected, there is also no lack of geographically and historically far-reaching allusions. I have already mentioned one of them, the myth of the androgynous primal human being. A second allusion is only accessible to those familiar with poems of Hafez-e Shirazi (1320–90) and people who read commentaries to Goethe’s poem. Its last line is reminiscent of verses by the Persian poet, whom he held in great reverence:

  • 84 A quotation from the Quran.
  • 85 Ghazal Ta 77, known to Goethe in the translation by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (Hafez-e Shirazi, (...)

And from my Spirit I breathed a breath of life to Adam
This verse84 explains to me how I and he is only one.85

70However, the dominant poetic resource that Goethe deploys in his poem to deepen and widen the significance is not textual associations, but rather symbolic images. Already in the first stanza he points out that perceived things can have a hidden meaning. The myth of the androgynous primal human being, too, is more than just a literary association. It describes something that we can vividly imagine.

  • 86 Lee, op. cit., pp. 574f.
  • 87 See Fig. 2.

71Goethe evokes the image of the bilobate leaf that brought him to compose his poem by musing on it. Qianlong links his verses with the picture he is looking at by inscribing it with the reflections to which it prompted him. His double portrait and the poetic and calligraphic rendering of his reflections are visually co-present. His inscription thus «coproduces and amplifies the artwork’s theme».86 At least on the sheet of paper with Goethe’s fair copy of his poem, it and the Ginkgo leaf to which it refers are also visible together.87

72But for Goethe not only the two-lobed form of the leaf reveals a ‘secret sense’. The tree ‘from Eastward’ also indicates one. Lovers are always also ‘knowers’. They intuitively sense what Goethe is alluding to. It is not by chance that people in love and newly wed couples like to travel to countries that from a distance are reminiscent of the Garden of Eden.

73This association, too, does not yet exhaust the poem’s potential for meaning. By including it in the Book of Zuleika, Goethe confirmed what it surely is, a love poem. Inclusion in the West-Eastern Divan makes it open for an additional meaning, one that is not at all cryptic. It can now also be read as a symbolization of the relationship between Orient and Occident. Orient and Occident were initially and for long periods of their early history one. Later it was not Zeus who divided them because of their mischief, but rather, to allude to Schiller’s famous words, it was ‘custom’ that for no sufficient reason ‘strictly parted’ them.

Conclusions

74It will not be particularly surprising that in the contrast between the manners of knowing and deliberating, the property of undecidedness can be attributed to the Chinese ‘poet-scholar’, the property of certainty to the German ‘poet and thinker’. But it will run contrary to many people’s cliché ideas that a Manchu on the Chinese imperial throne concerns himself with abstract ontological questions, whereas a West European intellectual illustrates his identity problem with an image of a plant’s leaf and an allusion to a myth. Especially in Germany, the course of the history of ideas from Asia to Europe was characterized in the past century as a path ‘from mythos to logos’, from perceptual narrations to logical analyses and rational explanations. These roles are reversed in the two poems. Qianlong proves to be a self-critical thinker, Goethe a mystagogue appealing to feeling. Naturally, the objection is ready at hand that the poet Goethe is not a typical European thinker. But it is more important to dispense with the delusion that complex civilizations and their most outstanding representatives can be adequately described with the exclusive attribution of only one concept from such popular pairs as mythos and logos, visual illustration and logical investigation, or even emotion and reason.

  • 88 Part 2, verses 1204f.: «Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis».

75After this first conclusion let me return to the Kantian claim that not only the basis but also the true end of all thought is sensory perception, prototypically visual perception, in Kant’s German: Anschaung. Though the standard English translation of Anschauung with intuition is linguistically correct, it is also misleading. In the original sense of the word intuition does indeed mean visual awareness or, like German Anschauung, looking at, but today it is predominantly used in the sense of ‘immediate mental insight’ or even simply as a synonym for ‘hunch’. Now, however, we learn that Qianlong in the end regarded intuition in the common contemporary sense of ‘mental awareness’ as decisively superior to thinking and that for Goethe intuition, indeed feeling is not only the end of thought but also an end of perception. The visual world «gives secret sense to savour», or, as the Chorus mysticus proclaims in his Faust: «Everything transient is but a simile».88 With such splendid words, too, it is—cross-culturally—better to keep one’s distance both from overgeneralizations and overdifferentiations between whole civilizations. For East Asian thinkers as for the poet Goethe, sense perception and its so-called ‘esoteric sense’, although ‘not identic’, are under ideal circumstances ‘not divided’. The Latin word intuitio and the Greek aisthēsis mean both sensory and intellectual experience. Combined with them, sensory pleasure and true happiness, hēdonē and eudaimōnia, too, might, with a little luck, be undivided.

Notes

1 Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Riga, Hartknoch, 1781/1787. A 19/B 33: «worauf alles Denken als Mittel abzweckt, [ist] die Anschauung».

2 Wade-Giles spelling: Ch’ien-lung, meaning of the name: Heavenly Prosperity or Lasting Eminence, Beijing 1711-99. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Frankfurt am Main 1749 - Weimar 1832, was a contemporary of his four decades younger.

3 My text analyses of Qianlong’s poem are primarily based on those of Patricia Berger, Empire of Emptiness: Buddhist Art and Political Authority in Qing China, Honolulu, University of Hawai‘i Press, 2003, pp. 51-53 and Den-nin D. Lee, Chinese Painting: Image-Text-Object, in A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture, edited by Rebecca M. Brown & Deborah S. Hutton, Oxford, Blackwell, 2011, pp. 563-579: 572-575. In the points in which I deviate from their reading and interpretation and go beyond them, I have been able to rely on advice from Wolfgang Behr (UZH Zurich), Fabian Heubel (SA Taipei), Kwan Tze-wan (CU Hong Kong), JeeLoo Liu (CSU Fullerton, CA), Sven Osterkamp (RU Bochum), Rafael Suter (UZH Zurich), Tsunekawa Takao (Meidai Tokyo), and Franz Martin Wimmer (UW Vienna). In the structural analysis of the poem, I adhere to Roman Jakobson’s linguistic poetics, which will be obvious to any poetologist. It was only after the presentation of a first version of this essay at the Chinese University of Hongkong in July 2012 that Kristina Kleutghen kindly provided me with a preprint of her essay One or Two, Repictured (Kristina Kleutghen, One or Two, Repictured, «Archives of Asian Art», 62, 2012, pp. 25-46). She is the only author of whom I am aware who explicitly refers to and explores the textual allusions and quotations in Qianlong’s poem. At the appropriate places I shall indicate what I am particularly indebted to her for.

For the analysis of the picture, which, like its inscription, has a complex composition, I refer to the descriptions of Charles Lachman, Blindness and Oversight: Some Comments on a Double Portrait of Qianlong and the New Sinology, «Journal of the American Oriental Society», 116/4, 1996, pp. 736-744; Wu Hung, The Double Screen: Medium and Representation in Chinese Painting, University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp. 231-236, Berger, op. cit.; Lee, op. cit. and Kleutghen, op. cit. Kleutghen draws on the earlier descriptions with the exception of Lee’s, which was only published in 2011, and herself presents the most judicious analysis both of the inscription and of the picture.

Let me, however, draw attention to at least four remarkable aspects of the picture:

(a) For Qianlong, who could look at the picture on a standing screen in his rooms in the Forbidden City, he himself was present threefold, as the beholder of the picture and as the person depicted twice in the picture. With his inscription and the added signature he was even present four times. In China, calligraphic writings are deemed to be more precious representations of a person than painted portraits.

(b) Like the poem, the picture has a manifold binary structure. The pairs of correspondences that are most worthy of mention with reference to the poem are distributed on the left and right side of the picture. They flank the emperor sitting in the middle. One pair is constituted by the iconic portrait of the emperor on the hanging scroll on the left above him and its indexical representation by the inscription from his hand on the right above him (on this point see Lee, op. cit., pp. 572f.), the other by two especially prominent objects among the many collector’s items belonging to the emperor that are also depicted (on this point see Kleutghen, op. cit., pp. 29f.). A bronze vessel that an earlier emperor commissioned as the standard of measure to his right (from his point of view) identifies the Qianlong Emperor as the legitimate sovereign of measures. To his left, a porcelain jar with Buddhaic invocations in Sanskrit seed syllables painted on it is emblematic of the emperor’s intimate relationship to Buddha’s teaching.

(c) The fact that a picture is painted on a picture and that on both the same person is shown is nothing special. For someone from the ‘West’ it may only be surprising and pleasing that in China a painted hanging scroll can be depicted on a real hanging scroll or, as in the case of Qianlong’s double portrait, on a standing screen.

(d) It is, however, extraordinary that it is not the Qianlong depicted sitting on a wooden couch who looks up to his portrait, but the other way round, the Qianlong portrayed on the hanging scroll looks down to the one sitting at the table, and indeed does so in axial symmetry in the same angle as the latter looks as a mirror image in the opposite direction to the table at which a servant is pouring him a drink. In the literature accessible to me there is not much enlightenment to be found on this. After the second presentation of an earlier version of this paper in Kyoto, Norbert Mecklenburg expressed his dissatisfaction that I, too, failed to reflect further on this seemingly surrealist inversion of the relationship between the ‘real’ person sitting on a couch and his pictorial representation. Mecklenburg was reminded of Magritte’s and Escher’s picture puzzles. Does the surprising inversion perhaps give a ‘secret sense to savour’? With its illusionism, the painting could insinuate that everything is just a phantasm: what we naively perceive as real just as well as what critical realists think they have to assume as the genuine reality behind treacherous visual appearances. Or does the inversion perhaps express the view that a person can transport herself into a picture of herself and ‘realize’ what her image (in this case her mirror image) seems to be doing, namely, observing herself from a place where she imagines herself to be. This second possible interpretation is for me the one more worth thinking about with regard to Qianlong. I shall pick it up in the section On Qianlong’s Multiple Personality.

4 There are four known versions. See the reproductions and descriptions in Kleutghen, op. cit.

5 The Mental Cultivation version in the Palace Museum, Beijing, reproduced here as Fig. 1.

6 Yang Xin Dian 养心殿 within Beijing’s Forbidden City (Kleutghen, op. cit., pp. 34ff.), provides the most detailed and convincing discussion of these additions, which serve to localize the painting.

7 Spontaneous word associations often occur within the same word category, especially between semantically related words.

8 At least on the Mental Cultivation version of the double portrait.

9 Nota bene: The basic symmetry of the two parts of the verse, which is the prerequisite for (partial) symmetry breaking, is lost when in all translations of which I am aware the two occurrences of bu in the second verse, which are in such conspicuous contrast to the two occurrences of the affirmative shi in the first verse, are not rendered just as repetitively with not-not, but rather prosaically with neither-nor. They also miss the poetic effect of anaphora, the repetition of words.

10 «[It] is one and/or [it] is two –» (Berger, op. cit., p. 51).

11 Wu Hung renders the two first verses as follows: «One or two? / – My two faces never come together yet are never separate» (Wu Hung, The Double Screen, cit., p. 235).

12 Cf. the different translations of shi in the passage quoted below from the second chapter of the book Zhuangzi.

13 Berger, op. cit., p. 52. Depending on context, other translations of he are also appropriate: what, where, how etc.

14 I omit punctuation marks. They would annul the plurality of possible readings.

15 Kongzi 551-479, Mozi 470-391 BCE.

16 Compare Israelite and Abrahamitic (instead of Israelist and Abrahamistic), Jesuit and Jesuitic(al) (instead of Jesuist and Jesuistical).

17 Intertextuality is a term that was introduced by Julia Kristeva in the 1960s for the literary technique of making various texts together with their contexts take effect on each other by means of quotations. The idea is that in a manner similar to people who ‘intersubjectively’ communicate, the texts interact with each other and thus transform each other.

18 Goethe, Faust, part 2, verse 11962: «geeinte Zwienatur».

19 On Qianlong as a person and on his government, cf. the biography by Mark Elliott, Emperor Qianlong: Son of Heaven, Man of the World, New York, Longman, 2009; on Qianlong as a poet, cf. Martin Gimm, Kaiser Qianlong (1711–1799) also Poet, Stuttgart, Steiner, 1993. The report by a European contemporary, John Barrow, Travels in China, London, Cadell & Davies, 1804, a member of the first British embassy to China 1792-94, who was intent on a judicious and balanced assessment, is also worth reading.

20 This is Elliott’s title of the 7th chapter of his biography.

21 According to Elliott, Emperor Qianlong, cit, pp. 110ff. as well as many other authors. – Some of Qianlong’s poems were already known in Europe during his lifetime. The judgements about them are totally contradictory. See the quotations in Gimm, op. cit., pp. 50ff. For a long time, Voltaire was full of admiration. He wrote to Frederick the Great, «Sire, you and the king of China are at present the only monarchs who are philosophers and poets». By contrast, Frederick was not much impressed by the poetry «de notre confrère le Chinois».

22 See the reproductions in Harold L. Kahn, Monarchy in the Emperor’s Eyes: Image and Reality in the Ch’ien-lung Reign, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1971, pp. 77-83 and 182-188 and the even more fantastic pluricultural ‘masquerades’ of his father, the emperor Yongzheng (obviously under European influence, among others as a Persian warrior, Turkish prince [?] and European monarch with a wig), reproduced in Wu Hung, Emperor’s Masquerade: Costume Portraits of Yongzheng and Qianlong, in «Orientations», 26/7, 1995, pp. 25-42, (figs. 6a–k & 8).

23 Wu Hung, Emperor’s Masquerade, cit. (figs. 1 & 4).

24 Advocated by Kahn, op. cit., p. 77.

25 Wu Hung, Emperor’s Masquerade, cit., p. 25. Cf. on this controversy on interpretations Berger’s commentary (Berger, op. cit., pp. 54f).

26 One famous modern representation of a person together with herself at a later stage in life is the Double Portrait of the Artist in Time (1935) by Helen Lundeberg, which is deemed to be ‘post-Surrealist’. It displays the artist as a child in the foreground, and as an adult in a portrait on the wall in the background (and not the other way round, the artist together with a photograph from her youth): web, last access: march 4th 2018, http://americanart.si.edu/collections/search/artwork/?id=15255.

27 Wu Hung, Emperor’s Masquerade, cit., fig. 14; Wu Hung, The Double Screen, cit. fig. 165. According to recent estimates, the older portrait dates either from around 1200 (Nan Song dynasty) or from around 1500 (early Ming dynasty). Cf. Lachman, op. cit., p. 740 and Kleutghen, op. cit. pp. 30ff.

28 Lachman, op. cit., pp. 740f.

29 Berger, op. cit., p. 38. – How well did he speak these languages, one might ask. He had a total of 40 consorts and concubines from three of the major ethnic groups of his empire (Elliott, Emperor Qianlong, cit., p. 39), from the Uyghurs, however, just one, and none from Tibet. After the untimely death of the Uyghurian consort Rong Fei in 1788 Qianlong had her interred in a stone coffin adorned with Quran verses in Arabic. Was it out of respect that as a devout Buddhaite he did not have Tibetan consorts and concubines? Or because the political leaders of Tibet, as distinct from the other ethnic groups, were primarily monks? His spiritual counsellor, the Lama Rölpe Dorje, although of Mongolian descent, came from the Tibetan region Amdo (today a part of Qinghai province).

30 For him, cruel methods of persecution of ethnic separatists and Chinese opponents of the Qings’ foreign rule were compatible with this sublime maxim.

31 Yuzhi: ‘made by Imperial order’, wu: ‘five’, ti: ‘bodies’ (here in the sense of ‘script types’ or ‘script styles’), Qing wen: ‘script (or language) of the Qing (empire)’, jian: ‘mirror’ (here in the sense of ‘book of scripts’ or ‘dictionary’). Today most human scientists would use the fashionable word embodiments instead of the iridescent expression incarnations.

32 The Manchu title indeed reads: Han=i ara.ha, sunja hacin=i hergen kamci.ha Manju gisun=i buleku bithe, approximately translatable as «Mirror book, authored by the emperor, of the Manchu language in which five scripts are collated».

33 Berger, op. cit., 37.

34 Cf. Elmar Holenstein, Human Equality and Intra- as well as Inter-Cultural Diversity, «The Monist», 78, pp. 65-79.

35 The designation for God adopted by the Jesuit missionaries in China.

36 Mark Elliott, The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China, Stanford, University Press, 2001, pp. 241 and 447, note 38. For the Qing rulers, cultural identity was bound to ethnicity, and not at the free disposal of the individual. According to Yongzheng each person had to adhere to the religious rites of his people: «I have never said that he [Urcen, a Manchu, who had converted to Christianity] could not honor Heaven but that everyone has his way of doing it. As a Manchu, Urcen should do it like us». By contrast, John Barrow admired the individual religious freedom of the Chinese, as had other proponents of the Enlightenment before him: «In China, every one was allowed to think as he pleased, and to choose his own religion». (Barrow, op. cit., p. 29) As his father had thought with regard to religions, Qianlong thought of languages (and of ways of life in general). As the ruler over ‘all under heaven’ (tianxia 天下), it was a matter of course for him to have a command of several languages and to be able to communicate with his subjects in their own language. Cf. Berger, op. cit., pp. 34ff.

37 Some conjecture monocausally that this was for strategic reasons. But people are complex enough to unite strategic ulterior motives with deeply felt religiosity.

38 Also insinuated by the phonetic association Manju (Manchu) – Manjushri.

39 Cf. Berger, op. cit., p. 55.

40 Cf. Elliott, The Manchu Way, cit.

41 Moreover, he «used to boast of his descent from Genghis Khan». (Barrow, op. cit., p. 185).

42 Lee, op. cit., pp. 573f.

43 San jiao he yi 三教合一 «Three teachings harmoniously as one».

44 The notes are based on a comparative consultation of plurilingual dictionaries of Chinese characters and various online publications on the Ginkgo tree. For initial orientation, in addition to the pertinent Wikipedia articles Cor Kwant, The Ginkgo Pages, web, last access: March 5, 2018, http://kwanten.home.xs4all.nl/ might be helpful. On the natural and cultural history of the tree see Ginkgo Biloba: A Global Treasure from Biology to Medicine, edited by Terumitsu Hori, Tokyo, Springer, 1997 and Peter Crane, Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2013.

45 Present-day spelling: hégire.

46 See Birus’ commentary in Goethe, op. cit., p. 883.

47 See Wolfgang Michel, On Engelbert Kaempfer’s Ginkgo, Research Notes, Fukuoka, Kyushu University, 2005, revised May 6, 2011. Web, last access: March 5, 2018, http://wolfgangmichel.web.fc2.com/serv/ek/amoenitates/ginkgo/ginkgo.html, but also Shihomi and Terumitsu Hori, A Cultural History of Ginkgo biloba in Japan and the Generic Name Ginkgo, in Ginkgo Biloba, op. cit., pp. 385-412: 400f. and Crane, op. cit., 204ff..

48 Or also silver almond. The nutshells and the slightly sweet fruit of the tree both gleam in silver.

49 Two-lobed, derived from Latin lobus.

50 Carl Linnaeus, Mantissa Plantarum Altera, Holm, Laurentius Salvius, 1771, p. 313.

51 Hangzhou was the Imperial capital during a period of flourishing in China from 1123 to 1278.

52 Apart from yinxing 銀杏 (silver apricot) the commonest present-day name for the tree in China is baiguo 白果 (white fruit). In Japan the common names today are ichō for the tree and ginnan (also silver apricot) for its fruit. Both of them were already in use in Kaempfer’s day. His entry in Engelbert Kaempfer, Amoenitatum exoticarum politico-physico-medicarum fasciculi V, Lemgo, Meyer, 1712, p. 1811 reads: «杏銀 [to be read from right to left] Ginkgo, vel Gín an, vulgò Itsjò. Arbor nucifera folio Adiantino». The supplement means: ‘Nut-bearing tree with maidenhair-ferny leaf’. In today’s usage, the two words ichō and ginnan distinguish between the tree and the nut respectively, and are normally written only in syllabary without use of Chinese characters. Nowadays, only philologists are aware of the etymological derivation of ichō from Chinese yajiao 鴨脚 (duck foot). Also only philologists know to reconstruct the genetic relationship between Chinese yingxing and Japanese ginkyō.

53 Ginkgo leaves occur in two forms. In addition to the well-known leaves with a cleavage in the middle, there are fan-shaped, non-bilobate leaves that can more readily be associated with duck’s feet.

54 Quoted in note 53.

55 To which Norbert Mecklenburg again guided me.

56 See Birus’s commentary in: Goethe (1819/1994: 1194).

57 189c–193d.

58 It is once more Norbert Mecklenburg, a Goethe expert, to whom I am indebted for this potential interpretation of the second stanza. – There is an anonymous translation that can be found at several sites on the Internet in which the last verse of the second stanza is justly rendered with ‘To be recognized as one’. Sometimes something is won in translation.

59 Cf. Lachman, op. cit., p. 742.

60 In neo-Confucian literature, the question is for the most part posed with reference to ti and yong 體用 (literally body and use/operate). The standard translation is ‘substance and function’, in practical and moral contexts ‘knowing and doing’ and ‘principle and application’. With this pair of concepts, too, the contraries ‘latent and patent’, ‘interior and exterior’ and ‘real and illusionary’ play an explicit or implicit role. The dominant teaching is that ti and yong (whatever is meant by them in the particular context) intrinsically belong together, that they need, complement and promote each other. The one cannot exist without the other, at least not enduringly. The first is not temporally prior to the second. But it is also not reducible to the second, for example a being to nothing other than ‘operating’ or ‘acting’. What a moral principle means is only grasped completely when it is lived. ‘European thought’ is sometimes accused by East Asians of declaring the two to be divisible, in contrast to ‘Asian thought’. Only exceptional thinkers, among whom Goethe is counted, are said to think in accordance with ‘Asian insight’ (namely that everything is mutually dependent on each other).

61 Berger, op. cit., p. 51.

62 Yuanjue jing 圓覺經, traditional European title: Sutra of the Perfect Enlightenment, chapter 3. I am indebted to Kwan Tze-wan for the reference to this passage and to the verse bu yī bu yì in the Chinese translation of Nagarjuna’s Treatise of the Middle [Way], of which it is reminiscent. Kleutghen quotes these two classical texts more extensively (Kleutghen, op. cit., pp. 33f.).

63 Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā, probably written in the decades about the year 200 in the region around the lower course of the River Krishna in modern Andhra Pradesh in the northeast of South India.

64 Treatise of the Middle Zhong Lun 中論. Kumarajiva, born in Kuqa on the Silk Road in the Taklamakan desert 344, died in Chang’an (now Xi’an) 413.

65 In Sanskrit: anekārtham anānārtham. Various other translations are possible, e.g.: ‘not one, not many’, ‘no unity, no manifoldness’.

66 I have not found corroboration in the literature for this association. It may well be that it does not correspond to Qianlong’s ‘authorial intention’, but is rather a ‘reader’s intuition’ of my own. However, I gather from Berger’s exposition on Qianlong (Berger, op. cit., pp. 16f., 22, 51) that he had studied Nagarjuna’s doctrine of the Middle Way with his spiritual teacher, the Mongolo-Tibetan Lama Rölpe Dorje (tib. rol pa’i rdo rje, 1717–86), and that in his inscriptions he at times shifted from ‘Are they 1 or 2’ to the double negation ‘not 1, not 2’ fei yi fei er 非一非二.

67 Cf. Nagarjuna, Die Lehre von der Mitte: (Mula-madhyamaka-karika) Zhong Lun, Chinesisch – Deutsch. Translated and commented by Lutz Geldsetzer, Hamburg, Meiner, 2010, p. 146.

68 In the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy from the fifth to the third century BCE, the Moians were deemed to be the main opponents of the Ruians.

69 Graham’s translation.

70 Legge’s translation.

71 In Graham’s much-quoted translation of 1981.

72 In addition to the characters 儒 ru and mo, which stand for the schools of the Ruians and the Moians as they do for Qianlong, this short quotation includes no fewer than five times the character 是 shi, which Qianlong uses twice in his verse, and the character 非 fei, which he occasionally uses as an alternative to the character 不 bu in the second verse. Here, Graham translates shi with ‘is’ and ‘affirm’, fei with ‘not’ and ‘deny’.

73 «Is it a scholar, or is it just ink?» (Lachman, op. cit., p. 741).

74 Kleutghen, op. cit., p. 34.

75 1795, quoted by Barrow, op. cit., p. 14.

76 I am indebted to Fabian Heubel and JeeLoo Liu for the reference to the passage quoted.

77 The Great Appendix (III), Section II, Chapter V.31. I take the reference to this passage from Kleutghen, op. cit., pp. 34f.

78 At least in comparison with the standard editions of the two books.

79 Translation based on Nina Correa’s: web, last access: March 5, 2018 http://www.daoisopen.com/ZhuangziTranslation.html.

80 Wang Fuzhi 王夫之, a Confucian critical of tradition, elucidates the passage quoted from the second book in his Commentary of Zhuangzi Zhuangzi Jie 莊子解 in context in a manner that should be taken into consideration for the interpretation of Qianlong’s third and fourth verses: 天之靜而不受人之損不者, 儒聽其為儒, 墨聽其為墨, 不然大明, 自生自死於其中, 而奚假辨焉 – «The sound of Heaven is silence and it cannot be diminished or augmented by humans. The Confucians listen to it and claim it to be Confucian [truth]; the Mohists listen to it and take it to be Mohist [truth]. Seeing this, I am enlightened. I live and die by nature, and why is there any need to rely on discerning who has got the truth?» Kwan Tze-wan pointed this passage out to me and the Wang Fuzhi expert JeeLoo Liu was so kind as to paraphrase and elucidate it. The text in quotation marks is hers. Wang Fuzhi, an obstinate opponent of the Qing dynasty, spent most of his life (1619-92) in seclusion at the foot of the Chuan Shan, a part of the Daoic Nan Heng Shan in Hengyang county, Hunan. It is not likely that Qianlong knew his commentary. His interpretation, however, was certainly not alien to him.

It is not only that Heaven does not speak (also according to Mengzi 3A4); a dictum from the 22nd chapter of Zhuangzi, which was just quoted, applies to people: «One who knows doesn’t speak and one who speaks doesn’t know, a sage teaches without using words».

81 Quoted by Kleutghen, op. cit., pp. 34ff.

82 Legge’s translation, slightly modified by Kleutghen. Here, the master (Confucius) even declaims the rhetorical question he si he lü? twice in succession!

83 See Wu Hung, Emperor’s Masquerade, cit., figs. 6c, 10 & 11.

84 A quotation from the Quran.

85 Ghazal Ta 77, known to Goethe in the translation by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (Hafez-e Shirazi, Der Diwan von Mohammed Schemsed-din Hafis, translated by Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall, Stuttgart & Tübingen, Cotta 1812, p. 164).

86 Lee, op. cit., pp. 574f.

87 See Fig. 2.

88 Part 2, verses 1204f.: «Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis».

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Double portrait of Qianlong ‘One or Two’ (Mental Cultivation version), 18th century, Palace Museum, Beijing.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ledizioni/docannexe/image/4582/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 275k
Titre Fig. 2. Imperial Pentaglot Dictionary, Beijing, 18th century
URL http://books.openedition.org/ledizioni/docannexe/image/4582/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 63k
Titre Fig. 3. Fair copy of Goethe’s poem Ginkgo biloba in his own hand, September 15, 1815
URL http://books.openedition.org/ledizioni/docannexe/image/4582/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 367k

Auteur

former ETH Zurich: elholenstein[at]gess.ethz.ch

Donald Goodwin (Traducteur)