A SAGE Journal


The beginning of the Eastern truth: The cultural elucidation of the truth 真 zhen

Youngsam Ha 河永三

发布时间:2020-02-26    点击次数:


This article analyzes the etymology of the Chinese character 真 zhen and researches what truth was, and how truth appeared, to the ancient Chinese people. The concept of truth in mainstream Western philosophy is examined  fi rst, and I compare it with the Chinese notion of truth through the etymology of the Chinese character 真 zhen. Truth was not recognized by the dichotomy of ‘truth versus falsity’ in ancient China; nor did ancient Chinese people logically argue the correspondence of what was said and the state of affairs; nor did the truth have to be represented in accurate language. I argue that it was not after Shuowen Jiezi (说文解字) in the Han period when the Chinese character 真 zhen, which means ‘truth’, fi rst appeared; rather it appeared long before this in the bronze inscriptions of the Western Zhou period. Moreover, it appeared in the form of 贞 zhen in the oracle bone era in the 13th century BC.

In addition, 贞 zhen in the period of the oracle bone era, the original form of 真 zhen, composed of 卜 buˇ and 鼎 dǐng (changed into 贝 bèi later) describes the embodiment of the gods’ will through divination. This is no different from aletheia, meaning ‘truth’ in Greek – that is, unconcealment (unverborgenheit) revealing something concealed (letheia).

Therefore, the view that 真 zhe¯n and the meaning of truth first appeared after the Han Dynasty and that the concept of truth in China is different from that of the West should be rediscussed from different angles, and the denigration of the East based on this recognition leaves room for reconsideration.

【关键词】Etymology, logocentrism, Shuowen Jiezi《说文解字》, truth, zhen (真)

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