This essay examines the Daoist metaphysical masters’ hermeneutic misreading of the Confucian classics during the Wei and Jin Dynasties. Applying the concept of misreading as the theoretical guideline, we will first analyze the three important supporting columns of Confucian literary theory: the importance of virtue/morality, the authority of literary sages and the ontology of the classics, and then we will examine the metaphysical masters’ subversion of the Confucian classics by misreading with their Daoist literary theory and concepts. In their hermeneutic misreading of the Confucian classics, the metaphysical masters in fact fused the original concepts of the Confucian classics with their contemporary Daoist hermeneutics, and the result of such a fusion is that the original meanings as the signified parted from the signifiers—the texts of the classics themselves, and were turned into repositories of contemporary Daoist meanings. In such a hermeneutic misreading, the Daoist theorists forced the Confucian theory and its ontology to gloomily withdraw from the cultural center, and gradually took the spotlight on the historical stage of the Wei and Jin Dynasties. In their open attitudes and flexible system, the metaphysical theorists constructed an age of enlightenment for the development of literary theory. With their hermeneutic misreading, the metaphysical literary theorists indeed broke through the world of Confucianism, won the right of expression, and voluntarily moved towards the self-fulfillment of their own system in the Wei and Jin Dynasties.
Fudan Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 9(4), p.1-16