DOI: 10.5176/2251-3566_L313.125

Authors: Ke Tang

Abstract: 
The butterfly, as a viable sign vehicle, undergoes continuous variations of signification in literary texts of ancient China. The two anecdotes about the butterfly that are most widely-known are Sage Zhuangzi’s dream of his transformation into a butterfly and the romance of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, where the unfulfilled lovers are resurrected as butterflies after death. In my exposition, the author shall attempt to deal with coding of information where a living animal—butterfly, is the transcoder between Nature and Culture. She will analyze the compatibility and divergences of the textualized interaction of human / animal in the dream of Zhuangzi and Liang and Zhu's love story regarding the roles played by the butterfly, and will also discuss the correlation and contradiction between their Umwelten encoded in the literary discourse. She argues that the motif of “transformation / reincarnation into butterfly” has become a literary allusion since Zhuangzi, the implications of which carry such a powerful impact as to perform the poetic function tremendously in the text of Liangzhu. And it is probably due to this reason, the episode of the transmigration is introduced in as the summit of the plot. Furthermore, through the text of Liangzhu, one can envisage formation of an image equitable with its model in the context of Chinese philosophy and culture, and the two stories concerning butterfly exhibit explicitly the reformulation of “Nature” by Culture. It can be seen that the
butterfly functions as a prototype after accomplishing the processes of symbolizing, and its particular Umwelt is reproduced of components / relations by the reconstruction of the topological domain each time it realizes as a network. The author also posits that biosemiotics, including zoosemiotics, is a science at the intersection of Nature and Culture. The animals depicted and portrayed in the literary texts can be reexamined as transcoders in an intertextual relationship which concerns the coding network of message in the biological aspect as well as the whole progress of semiosis.

Keywords: 
transcode, butterfly, Umwelt, nature, culture

LinkOut:    RMIT University, Melbourne, AU

Price: $4.99

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