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Shvoong Home>Social Sciences>Comments on Wang Li's Argument Concerning "Geng & Tang" Summary

Comments on Wang Li's Argument Concerning "Geng & Tang"

Article Summary   by:TsingHua     Original Author: Journal of Zhejiang University(Humanities and Social Sciences)
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Wang Li argues that in early ancient times, geng (羹) was a kind of meat with juice, but not vegetable ″soup″. In the Tang dynasty, the meaning of geng turned into vegetable soup, and the character tang(汤)also got the meaning of ″soup″. Wang's argument was based on A Bride, a Tang poem by Wang Jian, in which ″羹汤″ (geng tang) were found. So far, Wang's definitions of the said characters have been followed in all kinds of monographs on ancient Chinese vocabulary and all kinds of Chinese dictionaries with the same illustrative example. In fact, however, Wang's argument cannot hold water. Methodologically, he failed to identify the characteristics of the said words before giving critical interpretation of their meaning, while by using the above example he reached the conclusion that the connected use of words A and B (geng + tang) contained the new meaning which appeared afterwards. In fact, his conclusion, based on the circular argument, is erroneous. Geng in early ancient times is neither vegetable soup, nor can it be explained one-sidedly as a kind of meat or vegetable with juice.
By analyzing its nature and characteristics, geng in early ancient times was a kind of thick soup or paste prepared with seasoning and rice noodle, which was a main food. The geng at that time didn't ever mean vegetable soup at all. It was during the Yuan Dynasty that the thick soup (one of the two meanings of geng) began to mean tang not geng any longer. Occasionally in the Tang Dynasty and quite often in the Song Dynasty, geng tang was a geng made of tang, in other words, thick soup made of hot water. Since then geng tang has remained known as geng instead of tang (soup). Tang itself means hot water, or medicinal decoction by extension and health decoction later. This meaning extended to vegetable soup, mostly thick soup. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties it became the popular name for vegetable soup, which, replacing geng, (″upgraded″) to a kind of main food.
Published: January 10, 2005   
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