Commentary and Proposal
In ancient times, commentaries and proposals were submitted by officials to emperors to discuss state affairs and offer solutions. The term yi (议commentary) refers to an official discussion and analysis of state affairs with the emperor to air one’s views, often different from that held by the emperor and other officials, and propose solutions. The term dui (对 proposal) refers to the act of proposing strategies and answering the emperor’s questions. These two terms are discussed together in the “Commentary and Proposal” section of The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons. The general term “commentary and proposal” encompasses all types of official writing. According to Liu Xie (465?-520) of the Southern Dynasties, to produce a good piece of official writing, one should have a good knowledge of ancient and current institutions as well as codes of law and major examples, identify problems, objectively and logically analyze them, and propose feasible solutions. Such writing should not be pompous in style or ignore facts. Liu Xie stressed that commentaries and proposals should be based on solid facts and result-oriented and that one who wrote them should have vision and talent. He admired those who were knowledgeable and persuasive and could solve difficult problems. His views on writing official documents are still of value today when it comes to writing government documents, academic papers and commentaries.
It is mentioned in The Book of Songs that “discussions are carried out by many different parties.” Such activities, also known as “commentaries” (yi), should aim to handle matters properly. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
A piece of writing which is concise and clear, not pompous and oblique is to be commended. An analysis of an issue, to be deemed admirable and illuminating, should be made in a clear and reliable way, and it should not be ambiguous and abstruse. This is a key requirement for writing a commentary. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)