Metaphor and culture


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


The first part of this paper revisits Qian Zhongshu’s theory of vehicular diversity and multivalency in an attempt to question the plausibility and necessity of postulating conceptual metaphors that have dominated so much of our contemporary discussions of metaphor. Using examples from both Chinese and English, it tries to show that conceptual metaphors are nothing more than linguists’ meta-metaphorical constructs whose number could proliferate towards infinity due to the polysemic nature of figurative expressions. It also argues that lower-level semantic associations between the vehicle and the tenor are sufficient for explaining the existence or the emergence of a metaphor. The second part of this paper goes on to demonstrate the inseparable relationship between metaphor and culture and, by analyzing the Chinese folk custom of well-wishing and Chinese scholars’ penchant for certain kinds of plants in decorating their homes and offices, to reveal two predominant metaphorical patterns that lie behind what seems to be a kaleidoscope of symbols.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-69
Number of pages23
JournalAsian Social Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • Chinese symbolism
  • Qian Zhongshu
  • Theory of metaphor
  • Umberto Eco


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