Beijing Olympics and Beijing opera: A multimodal metaphor in a CCTV Olympics commercial

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This paper is a cognitive semantic analysis of a CCTV educational commercial, which is one of a series designed and produced in preparation for, and in celebration of, the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Called the "Beijing Opera Episode", this TV commercial converges on the theme: "To mount the stage of the world, and to put on a show of China". That is, China sees her hosting of the 2008 Olympics by Beijing as a great opportunity for her to step onto the international stage to perform a show of China. This theme, which alludes to China's globalization and retention of cultural identity, is conceptualized and expressed in terms of a central metaphor of theatrical performance: HOSTING THE BEIJING OLYMPICS IS PERFORMING BEIJING OPERA ON AN INTERNATIONAL STAGE. This study first analyzes in detail how this central metaphor is manifested multimodally through visual and aural as well as verbal discourse, thus examining it as a multimodal metaphor. The study then applies a decompositional approach, based on the distinction between primary and complex metaphors, to analyzing the central metaphor as a metaphorical compound with its internal structures and components, which is nevertheless built on a more general cognitive foundation. The study also offers a linguistic perspective on a cultural model underlying the central metaphor, which is arguably a Chinese cultural model for understanding various aspects and events of life in general. At the core of this cultural model is the widespread LIFE IS A STAGE metaphor, which however has a specific manifestation within the Chinese cultural context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-628
Number of pages34
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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