Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1877-7031
  • E-ISSN: 1877-8798
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This paper is based on an investigation of the Five Phases (五行, ) in traditional Chinese thought within a cognitive linguistic framework. In analyzing three of the five concepts in the scheme, namely WOOD (木, ), EARTH (土, ) and METAL (金, ), as recorded in ancient and modern Chinese, we attempt to find out (1) the conceptual metonymies and metaphors they have developed, (2) the similarities and differences between the three concepts in ancient and modern Chinese, and (3) the possible reasons for those similarities and differences and the implications they have for ancient and modern Chinese ways of cognizing the world. Our comparative analysis shows that while the semantic networks of the three concepts remain largely consistent from ancient to modern Chinese, those conceptual metaphors which are closely tied to the scheme are much less active in modern Chinese. On the whole it can be claimed that the ancient Chinese believed in the unity of Heaven and human and constructed the world based on three fundamental conceptual metaphors: “nature operates in accordance with ”, “THE HUMAN BODY OPERATES IN ACCORDANCE WITH ” and “SOCIETY OPERATES IN ACCORDANCE WITH ”. Yet it seems that this belief in the unity of Heaven and human has weakened in the modern Chinese mind and modern Chinese people no longer rely on the scheme to understand the world.


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