The Chinese traditional culture is the root and soul of the Chinese nation. We shall treat the excellent Chinese traditional culture with scientific approach, make clear the unique creation and the distinct feature of it, to enhance cultural confidence (Readers of Important Speeches by General Secretary Jinping Xi). The winner of the Nobel Prize for literature Eliot pointed out that "Poetry has a stronger nationality than any kind of art". Chinese poetry, especially classical poetry represented by Chinese metrical poems of the Tang Dynasty, has a typical prosodic feature, which differs from Indo-European poetry and has become one of the most basic cultural gene of the Chinese nation. However, how do Chinese people read poems? What kind of interactive mechanism works between the appearance (prosodic feature) and spirit (poetic flavour) of classic Chinese poems? And what kind of scientific relation is there between the cultural gene accumulated from classical poetry and the unique reading expectation of antithesis and rhyme of Chinese? Problems like these still lack experimental evidence in modern cognitive science and theoretical interpretation based on these evidence.
Since 2012, NNU "100 youth leading talents" (2015), SOP Qingrong Chen's research group has been working under the direction of the main founder of neurolinguistics in China Professor Yiming Yang (Changjiang-Scholars Distinguished Professor, Professor at School of Linguistic Sciences and Institute for Advanced Linguistic Study, Jiangsu Normal University, Professor at Collaborative Innovation Center for Language Ability, Jiangsu, Postdoctoral Tutor at School of Chinese Language and Cultures, NNU) and the world- famous psychologist Professor Michael K. Tanenhaus (Dean of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Professor at Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Linguistics, University of Rochester, NNU Chair Professor). The group used eye movement tracking, event-related potentials (ERP) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the cognitive and neural mechanism of rhyme scheme and semantic congruency in the process of classic Chinese poems reading, so as to reveal and give scientific answers to the rhyme scheme of Chinese poems and its relation to Chinese traditional reading or writing expectations. Recently,through amendment for about two years and a large number of auxiliary experiments, the research group published original papers about the cognitive and neural mechanism of rhyme scheme and semantic congruency in the process of reading classic Chinese poems, in the SSCI journal "Cognition", which is the internationally leading journal in cognitive science and has a powerful academic reputation in many fields (psychology, linguistics and brain and cognitive sciences). During the experiment, the participants were asked to read 148 Chinese seven-character poems of the Tang Dynasty then deduce the rhyme scheme and semantics of them. The study found that top-down rhyme scheme expectation influences early phonological coding of the character, then elicits a P200 effect before lexical-semantic processing. These findings, for the first time, provide very clear and distinct evidence for early effects of top-down sound-based expectations in early visual word recognition, shed light on the interplay between top-down expectation and bottom-up processes in pre-lexical time windows, and open the door to a new class of questions about the role of prosodic expectations in silent reading. Rhyme scheme congruence also produced a right-lateralized N400-like effect, modulated the perception of semantic congruence in the N400 and P600 time window. This result suggests that modulating expectations using different language genres (like classic Chinese poems) may be a fruitful approach for exploring both novel and more classic issues in language processing.
The important correspondence author Professor Yiming Yang pointed out that "The experimental paradigm, the cognitive science techniques they adopted and the experience gathered from a series of studies on the cognitive mechanism of classic Chinese poems reading, could provide the preliminary paradigm for improving scientific studies and the "Gene" exploration project on Chinese excellent traditional culture. The scientific discovery can also be used as scientific evidence for implementing the central policies about developing Chinese excellent traditional culture." Besides, this study is also a successful practice of cooperation between colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences in NNU such as SOP, School of Chinese Language and Cultures and School of Foreign Language and Cultures, to explore mechanisms of language comprehension. In the end, this work was supported by grants from the Major State Basic Research Development Program of China (973 Program, 2014CB340502), the Major Program of the Social Science Foundation of China (10&ZD126), the Natural Science Foundation of China (31100814, 31271196, and 31300929), the Postdoctoral Science Foundation of China (2014M560433), the Postdoctoral Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province of China(1401061B), NIH grants HD 27206 and HD 073890.