top of the losers. In modern society, social status and power are closely related. The more the power is, the higher the social status will be. Hence, higher social status is shang (上) and lower social status is xia (下). If the ancient officials in China want to go to the halls, he needs to climb a lot of stairs. These halls represent the higher social status and absolute power of the emperor. Hence, the halls are built far above the ground level. In the prize?awarding ceremonies of sports meeting, the champion always stands on the highest stage, the runner-up is on the higher stage while the third place winner on the lowest stage. And the national flags are arranged in turn as well. Moreover, in the name lists, the names of the VIPs always keep at the top of the page. In ancient China, people who believe in Buddhism and Taoism hope that there is a higher world where life is much better than the physical world. In ancient China, the throne of the emperor was always situated at a place several steps higher than the seats for his inferior officials. In addition, the seat for the patriarch was also placed in a higher place in common family. Common people practice kowtow to show their humbleness in front of officials. And the rebel was forced to kneel down to repent of their sin. Constructional changes of Chinese shang (上) and xia (下) are closely connected with the culture, politics and people’s beliefs. These factors can prompt for the new construction and result in constructionalzation.

3.4. Time Constructionalziation of Chinese Shang (上) and Xia (下)

The metaphorical extensions for this target domain are reflected that an earlier time is shang (上) and a later time is xia (下), as is shown in (13) and (14):

(13) 上届运动会 The last sports meeting

(14) 接下来的几个月The next few months

It can be easily seen that the two metaphors and some examples above fit into the large system of time-as- space metaphor. With the two metaphors, the image schematic structures of shang (上) and xia (下) are mapped onto the domain of time, giving the two metaphors a vertical axis. In the history of human thought, the definition of space and time was figured mainly among the most fundamental notions of philosophy. People had noticed the interconnections between the two concepts long before Einstein’s relativism was put forward. However, space and time do not seem to have a completely equal start point from a conceptual perspective. The definitions of space and time are as follows: space is regarded as something that is around us and above us, and time as something that flows on forever. In this definition, space is defined in its own terms involving around and above, while time is defined by resorting to a spatial metaphor. The two metaphors are analyzed as follows: time passing is motion along vertical axis. Times are fixed locations which are arranged along a vertical line. An earlier time is above a later time, as is shown in (15) and (16):

(15)上一代 the older generation

(16)下一代 the younger generation

Human beings are moving downwards along the vertical line towards future. Future is down and past is up, as is shown in (17) and (18):

(17) 沿着历史的长河逆流而上To go up stream against the river of history

(18) 一代代传下来 To pass down generation to generation

The two special cases are consistent with each other because both entails that an earlier time is shang (上) and a later time is xia (下).

Firstly, time is expressed as motion or location in space metaphor, corresponding with our physiological structure (Xu, 2010). Human beings build the concept of time through motion and locations in their optical systems. Therefore, time should be perceived in terms of motion and location of objects. Secondly, the perception of spatial relations appears much earlier than that of temporal relations. Temporal relations do not begin to arrange events in the human mind until 13th century. At that time, time was understood to a great degree according to spatial expression. Thirdly, the perception of spatial relation is acquired earlier than those of temporal relations. The calendar is a vivid embodiment of the time as space metaphor in our life. An earlier time is always put on or above a later time. Life experiences about the death are one of prominent feature in ancient Chinese culture. Until now, many families keep a memorial tablet for worship ancestors. Analogization and neoanalysis are two main mechanisms of the expressive integration of spatial relations and temporal relations.

4. Conclusion

This research reviews the main ideas of constructionalization and constructional changes, explores the spatial expressions of Chinese shang (上) and xia (下) and investigates the constructionalization of Chinese shang (上) and xia (下) from constructionalization perspective. This paper proposes that the expressions of metaphor are main motivations of constructionalization of Chinese shang (上) and xia (下).


This paper is financed by the Project of Doctoral Candidates’ Scientific Research Innovation from Chongqing Education Commission. NO. CYB14063.

Cite this paper

YangXu, (2015) A Constructionalization Approach to Chinese Shang (上) and Xia (下) Spatial Metaphor. Chinese Studies,04,83-88. doi: 10.4236/chnstd.2015.43013


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