Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Defending the Intelligence of Animals: Song Dynasty Writings on Human-Animal Communication

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Rudraksha, Lower Ground Floor

In the Song Dynasty, many literati repeatedly criticized the killing of animals, opposing the growing confrontation between consumer society and nature due to accelerated urbanization and expanded deforestation. Arguing against what they saw to be a common belief that animals were unintelligent and unable to speak, these literati often emphasized animal intelligence and insisted that animals’ inability to speak was only limited to the corporeal world. In dreams and the afterlife, animals were able to communicate quite well. In the essay “Humans and Animals are the Same,” Yu Wei (1047-1125) criticized the slaughter and consumption of animals for just these reasons, citing examples of human-animal communication in dreams. Kong Wuzhong (1042-1097), who lived in the same period as Yu, defended his reluctance to use rat poison, explaining that he feared the rats would appeal to the gods after their deaths. This article examines these and numerous other discussions concerning the intelligence and communication skills of animals in Song Dynasty essays, exposing the changing perspectives on animals that appeared during a time of accelerated environmental change.

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