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Though applicable in many Western historical-cultural settings, the Aristotelian model of ethos is not universal. As early Chinese rhetoric shows in the example of cheng-yan or “ethos of sincereness,” inspiring trust does not necessarily involve a process of character-based self-projection. In the Aristotelian model, the rhetor stands as a signifier of ethos, with an ideology of individualism privileged, whereas Chinese rhetoric assumes a collectivist model in which ethos belongs, not to an individual or a text, but rather to culture and cultural tradition. This essay will be concentrating on the concept of Heaven, central to the cultural and institutional systems of early Chinese society, in an attempt to explore collective ethos as a function of cultural heritage. Heaven, it shall be argued, plays a key role in the creation of Chinese ethos. This essay will also contrast the logocentrism of Western rhetorical tradition with the ethnocentrism of Chinese tradition. The significance of Heaven in its role as a defining attribute of Chinese ethos is reflective of a unique cultural heritage shaped by a collective human desire in seeking a consciousness of unity with the universe. Just as there are historical, cultural, and philosophical reasons behind logocentrism in the West, so the ethnocentric turn of Chinese rhetoric should be appreciated in light of a cultural tradition that carries its own historical complexities and philosophical intricacies.


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