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  • cours - matière potentielle : practical solutions to common problems
(Practical Solutions – 10) 1 PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS TO COMMON PROBLEMS Lesson – 10 The Problem of Temptation INTRODUCTION: I. Mark Anthony was known as the silver-throated orator of Rome. A. He was also credited with being a brilliant man, a strong leader, and a courageous soldier. 1. But one thing he lacked was strength of character. a. On the outside, he was strong and impressive.
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Publié par
Nombre de lectures 26
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo


Symmetry in Chinese Arts

Done by:

Group 3

Lim Li Yan

Yip Lixia, Sabrina

Lee Weitian, Ivan

Zhong Shengmin

Goh Yoon Keong


• Introduction

• Symmetry in Chinese Literature

• Chinese Paper Cuttings

• Symmetry in Chinese buildings

• Chinese Music

• Conclusion

• Bibliography


“The use of the geometric principles of symmetry for the description and
understanding of decorated forms represents the union of two normally separate
disciplines – mathematics and design.” (Washburn et al., 1988)

Symmetry has been used in countless contexts, and with diverse shades of meaning.
Coming from the Greek symmetros, for "measured together," this word is most familiar to us as a
description of the similarity between the two halves of any form separated by a dividing line or
plane. The concept is not limited to science, of course. It has been, for example, a mainstay of
aesthetics from the beginning. Thus we speak of the symmetry of the human face, we can all
understand what it is and how it looks. Its influence in the arts is pervasive. In music, we hear the
symmetry of exposition and recapitulation in the so-called sonata form, where virtually the same
music is played and played again.

The creation of identities or equivalents is at the heart of the principle of symmetry in
music, as in the other arts. It is an emblem of the human predilection for just proportion in all
things, and the longing for rational comprehension of anything encountered. In the end,
somewhat subconsciously, the idea of symmetry is placed in opposition to chaos, and thereby to
ignorance as well.

Many studies have been done in this field; these have been outlined extensively in the
book, “Symmetries of Culture” by Washburn et al. (1988). The gist of it is that symmetry spans
spatial and temporal dimensions. In many cultures, it is used as an important factor in cultural
1acceptance. Authors such as Hanson (1985) have traced how the lack of symmetry in Maori
society has resulted in instable social relationships. In the book itself, it was briefly mentioned
that certain types of symmetry were adopted in certain periods such as the “Snaketown Phase”
and the “Colonial Period”.

1 Taken from Washburn et al., 1988.
3Extensive as the book may be, it leaves out study of a very significant culture – the
Chinese culture. Through our project, we hope to outline the different permeations of symmetry
in the different aspects of Chinese culture, namely in the Visual and Audio Arts. Symmetry in
Chinese literature is hard to spot for non-speakers of the language. Through a systematic
investigation of cultural order by using principles of linguistics as a model, it is hoped that we
can decode the structural systematic of various graphic systems. This is done in the analysis of
the structure of Chinese poems whereby words are replicated in such a unique manner that it
makes profound sense. For paper cut, we will illustrate how they use different forms of
symmetry-rotational and reflectional. In Chinese Architecture, we will show how bilateral
symmetry plays an important role in the construction of structures. Lastly, symmetry is shown to
be imperative in music through the tuning of instruments, the pentatonic scales and the structure
of the music itself.
4Symmetry in Chinese Literature

Symmetry has an important role in Chinese literature. Maybe this is due to the preference
for things to be in even numbers, nobody exactly knows why. Regardless of the reason Chinese
literature, especially poems, has a strong tendency to include symmetrical elements.

Example 1:


砌倍柔枝几朵花。 (唐。薛涛《春》)

Example 2:

愁深独倚楼。 (明。王元美《菩萨蛮。暮春》)

5Example 3:

2 (明。王元美《卷帘雁儿落》)
Note: Words in blue from Example 1-3 are the reverse portions.

Example 1 is a poem by Xue Tao of Tang dynasty. Examples 2 and 3 are known as
ci(词),composed by Wang Yuan Mei during Ming dynasty. Ci (词)is a major form of
literature, second to poem. It is actually lyrics that can be sung. But Ci (词)is much more
complicated than lyrics of a song. Many composers used it to express profound ideas and it is so
artistically expressed that ci(词)is labeled as a major form of Chinese literature.

The poem in example 1 can be read in reverse order and becomes another poem. In
example 2, every sentence is made up of 2 parts and the two parts are made up of same words.
The only difference is that the words in the second half of the sentences are in reverse order
compare to the first half of the sentences. Example 3 is made up of two parts. The words in
second part are the words in the first part arranged in reverse order. All three examples have a
mirror image structure.

The three examples are instances where the Chinese literati tried to express symmetry in
Chinese literature in an interesting and amusing way. The essence of symmetry in Chinese
literature is actually in the sentence structure. Chinese poems best illustrate this symmetry in
sentence structure. In Chinese poems, all sentences are required to have symmetry sentence
structures. The sentence structure of the first part of the sentence is symmetrical to the second
part. And in order for the poem to look symmetrical as well, there is a strict rule to the number of
words in a sentence of a poem. There can only be even numbers of sentences and all sentences in
a poem must have the same number of words.

2 Example 1-3 are extracted from lecture notes on Chinese Rhetoric, prepared by A/P Lee Cher Leng
6 The meaning of being symmetrical in sentence structure is as follow:
For example we have a 5-word poem. (A 5-word poem is a poem whereby there is a pause after
every five words. Two 5- word parts made up a sentence of the poem.) In the first part of a
sentence, the first two words is an adjective, third and fourth word is a noun, and the last word is
a verb. Then in the second part of the sentence, the first two words must be an adjective, third
and fourth word must be a noun, and the last word must be a verb. If this structure is broken, for
example in the second part of the sentence, the first word is a verb, the second and third word is
an adjective and last two words is a noun. Even if the sentences rhyme, it will still not be
considered as a poem.

Example 4:


Example 4 is part of a poem by Wang Wei, a poet during the Tang dynasty. The sentences
clearly illustrate the idea of symmetry in sentence structure.

Besides poem, this symmetrical sentence structure is also seen in many other parts of
Chinese literature. One of those which are most commonly seen is couplets. In the past, Chinese
families would have two scrolls of words, pasted on either sides of door. Nowadays in
Singapore, people lived in HDB flat and this is not practice. But at Chinese temples like Thian
Hock Keng Temple, you will still get to see couplets pasted at either side of the door. And during
Chinese New Year, some Chinese families will still paste couplets inside the house.

3 Example 4 is extracted from lecture notes on Chinese Rhetoric, prepared by A/P Lee Cher Leng
7Example 5:
Example 5 is one of those most commonly paste couplet during Chinese New Year. The
symmetry in sentence structure is clearly seen.

Sentences with mirror image structure are also frequently used in essays and novels. But
it is not totally mirror reflection of words, most of the time it is just mirror reflection of key
words. In such cases, it is normally used to expressed ideas like A is B, and B is A.

Example 6:
5信言不美,美言不信。 (老子《道德经》)

Example 7:
6 (曹雪芹《红楼梦》:82 回)

Example 8:

4 Example 5 is extracted from lecture notes on Chinese Rhetoric, prepared by A/P Lee Cher Leng
5 陈国庆, 张爱东注译,《道德经》:第八十一章,西安 : 三秦出版社, 1995(Complied by Chen Guo
Qing & Zhang Ai Dong , Dao De Jing :Chapter 81, Xi An: San Qin Publications, 1995)
6 曹雪芹,《红楼梦》:第八十二回,北京 : 人民文学出版社, 1985
(Cao Xue Qin, Dream of the Red Chamber: Chapter 82, Beijing: Peoples’ Literature Publications, 1985)
8Note: Words in blue from example 6-8 are the key words.

Example 6 is from Dao De Jing(道德经) of Lao Zi(老子), a philosopher during the pre-
Qin dynasty, commonly known to be the founder of Taoism. Example 7 is from Dream of the
Red Chamber(红楼梦), Chapter 82, written by Cao Xue Qin (曹雪芹)during the Qing
dynasty. Example 8 is from 《为学与做人》(Learning and Being a Person), written by
Liang Qi Chao (梁启超)during late Qing dynasty.

Symmetry can be seen in many parts of Chinese literature. One of the reasons of why is it
so could be because of the Chinese preference for even number objects. In Chinese literature,
mirror image symmetry is the symmetry that Chinese literati use. As a result of mirror image,
even numbers always results. Be it symmetry in meaning wise or structure wise, this symmetry
in Chinese literature produces the beauty of compare and contrast, and the beauty of balance.
Overall it enhances the beauty of Chinese literature.

7 Example 8 is extracted from lecture notes on Chinese Rhetoric, prepared by A/P Lee Cher Leng

Paper cut is one of the most popular and characteristic folk arts in China. Papers are
folded, cut and unfolded to reveal sophisticated patterns, often with symmetry in them. Paper
cuts have rosette patterns — either C , which has n-fold rotational symmetry and no reflection n
symmetry, or D , which has n-fold rotational symmetry and reflection symmetry. Ignoring the n
Chinese characters in the center of the patterns, paper cuts give rise to various types of rosette

C patterns: 1
There is 1-fold rotational symmetry and no reflection symmetry.

8 9

C patterns: 2
There is 2-fold rotational symmetry and no reflection symmetry.

10 11
C patterns: 3


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