Zuozhuan (ca. fourth century BC) records many instances of statesmen who recite or chant odes ( fushi), mostly from the extant Shijing, to convey their political vision, policy recommendation, or diplomatic finesse. This essay examines the implications of this confluence of poetry and diplomacy. Scholars have focused on fushi as seamless political communication, the celebration of a common cultural heritage, and the formalization of ritual judgment. I discuss how the practice of fushi negotiates political and cultural differences. How does it bear on the distinction of “Chinese” and “barbarians”? How does it define the struggle for supremacy, push for political advantage, and cover up weakness? Does the manipulation of meanings and interpretations indicate anxieties about the power of ritual propriety to correct political failures?

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