Shengren – Chapter 3 – Archetypes of Wisdom

‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.
‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’[1]

– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

A parent naming his or her child is a proud moment. Ideally, that name should stay with the person forever. If that name is taken away by someone who has other plans with the child – that’s when things get confusing: In our world, people would do it all the time, if names were not legally protected, for example by family law. Inventors also name their inventions, their ‘brain-children’ so to speak. People would take away those names, too, all the time, if they had given the opportunity and if those names were not protected by civil law or intellectual property rights. There is, however, no protection for the ‘correct names’ of any culture or tradition.

The discoverer of such a foreign culture or tradition is a lawless creature. Sure, he must assume that law and some form of regulation will some time catch up with him, but until that happens he is free to roam about and re-name everything he sees after his own liking.

As with all markets—and the business of naming things is a business operating in a market that was not yet regulated, or are only minimally regulated or badly enforced—a sort of mafia-structure would soon emerge that offered protection and pseudo-legitimacy for the ‘family’. Such a ‘mafia-structure’ can take the form of an academic community, a Seilschaft (an old-boy school), a sect or Church, a school of missionaries, a group of publishers, and so. In the non-regulated global business of naming culture, or better: the re-naming of it, the total re-naming everything they observed in China, thus hiding the correct names to European readers, that may appear now legitimate in hindsight of 150 years German and European scholarship and its busy publishers who felt they held the mandate to rule over the East intellectually—De Groot: ‘China will not be China, and the Chinese will not be Chinese’—but to the Chinese it may look just like this: theft, denial of historical order, denial of triumph of what is right: names of your own.

[1] Carroll, 1865

Pattberg, Thorsten (2011), Shengren – Above Philosophy and Beyond Religion, LoD Press, New York