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The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition
 0824833074, 9780824833077

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CHINESE PHILOSOPHY { CON T IN UED FROM FRON T FL A P }

LI ZEHOU was a key figure in the intellec-

MAIJA BELL SAMEI is an independent

scholar. She is the author of Gendered Persona and the Poetic Voice: The Abandoned Woman in Early Chinese Song Lyrics (2004) and holds a doctorate in Chinese literature from the University of Michigan.

A PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSLATION OF THE XIAOJING

OF RELATED INTEREST

Henry Rosemont, Jr., and Roger T. Ames 2008, 152 pages CLOTH: ISBN 978-0-8248-3284-1 PAPER: ISBN 978-0-8248-3348-0 In the Confucian tradition, human morality and the personal realization it inspires are grounded in the cultivation of family feeling. One may even go so far as to say that, for China, family reverence was a necessary condition for developing any of the other human qualities of excellence. On the basis of the present translation of the Xiaojing (Classic of Family Reverence) and supplemental passages found in other early philosophical writings, Professors Rosemont and Ames articulate a specifically Confucian conception of “role ethics” that, in its emphasis on a relational conception of the person, is markedly different from most early and contemporary dominant Western moral theories. This Confucian role ethics takes as its inspiration the perceived necessity of family feeling as the entry point in the development of moral competence and as a guide to the religious life as well. In the lengthy introduction, two senior scholars offer their perspective on the historical, philosophical, and religious dimensions of the Xiaojing. Together with this introduction, a lexicon of key terms presents a context for the Xiaojing and provides guidelines for interpreting the text historically in China as well as suggesting its contemporary significance for all societies. The inclusion of the Chinese text adds yet another dimension to this important study.

Ren Qingguo JACKET DESIGN: Julie Matsuo-Chun JACKET CALLIGRAPHY:

UNIVERSITY of HAWAI‘I PRESS HONOLULU, HAWAI‘I 96822-1888

ISBN 978-0-8248-3307-7

90000

9 780824 833077 www.uhpress.hawaii.edu

LI ZEHOU

tual foment of the 1980s. A philosopher of aesthetics and historian of Chinese thought, as well as China’s preeminent authority on Kant, Li is the author of The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics (1995), and Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View (with Jane Cauvel, 2006). A senior research fellow and retired professor of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Li has since 1991 resided in the United States, where he makes his home in Boulder, Colorado.

The Chinese Classic of Family Reverence

THE CHINE SE A E STHET I C T R A D I T I O N

thought. Among the examples he cites are early Confucian explanations of poetry as that which gives expression to intent; Zhuangzi’s artistic depictions of the ideal personality who discerns the natural way of things and lives according to it; and Chan Buddhist-inspired notions that nature and words can come together to yield insight and enlightenment. In this enduring and stimulating work, Li demonstrates conclusively the fundamental role of aesthetics in the development of the cultural and psychological structures in Chinese culture that define “humanity.”

LI ZEHOU (B. 1930) has been an

T H E CH I N E S E A E STHETI C T R A D IT IO N LI ZEHOU translated by Maija Bell Samei

influential thinker in China since the 1950s. Before moving to the U.S. in the wake of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Li published works on Kant and traditional and contemporary Chinese philosophy. The present volume is a translation of his Huaxia meixue (1989), which is considered to be one of Li’s most significant works. Apart from its value as an introduction to the philosophy of one of contemporary China’s foremost intellectuals, The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition fills an important gap in the literature of Chinese aesthetics in English. It presents Li’s synthesis of the entire trajectory of Chinese aesthetic thought, from ancient times to the early modern period, incorporating pre-Confucian and Confucian ideas, Daoism, Chan Buddhism, and the influence of Western philosophy during the lateimperial period. As one of China’s major contemporary philosophers and a preeminent authority on Kant, Li is uniquely positioned to observe this trajectory and make it intelligible to today’s readers. The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition touches on all areas of artistic activity, including poetry, painting, calligraphy, architecture, and the “art of living.” According to Li, right government, the ideal human being, and the path to spiritual transcendence all come under the provenance of aesthetic { CO N TIN UED O N B ACK FL A P }

The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition

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The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition Li Zehou translated by Maija Bell Samei

University of Hawai‘i Press Honolulu

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© 2010 University of Hawai‘i Press All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America 15╇ 14╇ 13╇ 12╇ 11╇ 10â•…â•… 6╇ 5╇ 4╇ 3╇ 2╇ 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Li, Zehou. â•… [Huaxia mei xue. English] â•… The Chinese aesthetic tradition / Li Zehou ; translated by Maija Bell Samei. â•…â•… p.â•… cm. â•… Includes bibliographical references and index. â•… ISBN-13: 978-0-8248-3307-7 (hardcover : alk. paper) â•… ISBN-10: 0-8248-3307-4 (hardcover : alk. paper) ╇ 1.╇ Aesthetics, Chinese—History.â•… I.╇ Samei, Maija Bell.â•… II.╇ Title. â•… BH221.C6L4913 2010 â•… 111'.850951—dc22 2009035820

The translated poem on p. 147 previously appeared in Maija Bell Samei, Gendered Per­ sona and Poetic Voice (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004), and in Zongqi Cai, ed., How to Read Chinese Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).

University of Hawai‘i Press books are printed on acid-free paper and meet the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Council on Library Resources.

Designed by the University of Hawai‘i Press Production Staff Printed by The Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group

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Contents

Preface to the First Edition

vii

Translator’s Introduction

ix

Chapter 1â•… The Rites and Music Tradition

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Society and Nature:╇ The Pre-Confucian Tradition╇ •â•‡ Feeling and Form in the Rites and Music Tradition╇ •â•‡ Politics and Art

Chapter 2â•… Confucian Humanism

39

Conscious Humanity in the Analects╇ •â•‡ The Perfection of Human Personality╇ •â•‡ Time, Emotion, and the Apprehension of Mortality╇ •â•‡ Morality and Vitality in Mencius╇ •â•‡ The Unity of Heaven and Humans in Xunzi and the Book of Changes

Chapter 3â•… The Daoist-Confucian Synthesis

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“Free and easy wandering”:╇ Zhuangzi’s Aesthetic View of Life╇ •â•‡ The Broadening of the Aesthetic Object╇ •â•‡ The Unconscious

Chapter 4â•… Beauty in Deep Emotion

117

A New Reflection on Mortality╇ •â•‡ Noumenal Inquiry and Experience╇ •â•‡ Imaginary Reality

Chapter 5â•… Metaphysical Pursuits

160

Eternity and Subtle Awakening╇ •â•‡ Lingering Flavor and Blandness╇ •â•‡ The Return to Confucianism and Daoism v

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vi

Contents

Chapter 6â•… Toward Modernity

194

From Desire to Innate Sensibility╇ •â•‡ The Influence of Western Aesthetics╇ •â•‡ Media and Categorization

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Epilogue

223

Notes

225

Index

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Preface to the First Edition

What I mean by “Chinese aesthetics” in this volume is Confucian-based traditional Chinese aesthetics. Because of the length and depth of its sociohistorical foundations, and due to its rich development through the continual absorption and assimilation of various other schools of thought, Confucianism has formed the mainstay of Chinese culture, as I have demonstrated elsewhere. This book considers the same phenomenon from the point of view of aesthetics. This work was completed at the Institute of East Asian Philosophies in Singapore. Earlier versions of Chapters 3, 4, and 5 were published in my book Zou wo ziji de lu but have been extensively rewritten and expanded here. I would like to thank here, for their assistance on numerous occasions, the Institute’s director, Professor Wu Deyao, and assistant director, Mrs. Jeannie Toong; fellow scholars Gu Zhengmei, PhD, and Mr. Li Zhonghua; and, in the library, Head Librarian Li Jinsheng, and Miss Pan Lilian. Alas! Green trees, red flowers, the Lion City like a painting; New acquaintances, old friends—amity rises to the clouds; The time of separation draws near—how can one not be reluctant to part? â•… —Li Zehou, Hunan, 1988

vii

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Translator’s Introduction

Contemporary Chinese philosopher Li Zehou (b. 1930) has been an influential thinker in China since the 1950s, but became a particularly important figure on the cultural scene during the “culture fever” of the 1980s. A member of the Institute of Philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Li left China for the United States after his works were banned in China following the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, as authorities feared their possible role in inspiring dissent against the leadership of the Communist Party. The present volume is a translation of Li’s Huaxia meixue (1989), a work he regards as one of his most important. Because it is beyond the realm of my expertise to attempt a comprehensive discussion of Li Zehou’s philosophical framework or of his significance to contemporary Chinese thought and society, I am glad to be able to refer the reader to the works listed below, under “Suggested Readings.” I will confine my discussion here to a few key terms in Li’s aesthetics, and to the broad contours of Li’s argument in this book. Quite apart from its value as an introduction to the philosophy of one of contemporary China’s foremost thinkers, an English translation of Li Zehou’s The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition fills an important gap in the literature on Chinese aesthetics in English, as works that address Chinese aesthetic theory have for the most part treated either literature or art but rarely both. This work preÂ� sents Li’s synthesis of the whole trajectory of Chinese aesthetic thought, from the earliest times through the beginning of the modern period, incorporating pre-Confucian and Confucian ideas, Daoism, Chan Buddhism, and the influence of Western thought beginning in the late imperial period. As one of China’s major aesthetic Marxists1 and China’s preeminent authority on Kant, Li is uniquely positioned to observe this trajectory and make it intelligible to contemporary readers, discussing the Chinese aesthetic tradition with reference to comparable trends in Western aesthetic thought. ix

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Chinese aesthetics goes beyond literature and art to encompass the “art of living.” Right government, the ideal human being, the path to spiritual transcendence—all these fall into the province of aesthetic thought. This was the case from early Confucian explanations of poetry as that which gives expression to the often political, always socially oriented intent; through Zhuangzi’s highly artistic depictions of the ideal person who can discern the natural way of things and live according to it; to Chan Buddhist-inspired notions that nature and words can come together in surprising ways to yield insight and enlightenment. Artistic and literary production in China has always been closely intertwined with political aspiration (through the orientation of the educational system toward qualification for civil service), social critique, and issues surrounding the lifestyle of the intellectual (such as the decision to withdraw from the political scene, or the designing of homes and gardens). For this reason, aesthetics has always played a key role in Chinese views of society and education, from the Confucian imperative to study the Book of Songs, to Western-influenced modernizers like Cai Yuanpei and other May Fourth intellectuals for whom literature and the arts were an indispensable ingredient of the intellectual and scientific enlightenment China required. Li Zehou is an inheritor of this tradition, and indeed consciously affirms the practical, humanistic rationality of the Confucian tradition, even as he sees in it part of the reason for China’s inability to modernize effectively. Li is also highly critical of Maoist voluntarism, seeing it as deeply rooted in Confucian and Daoist views of the power of a virtuous personality to effect good. Just as this view tended to inhibit modernization in China, it also explains, in Li’s view, Mao’s overly idealistic excesses (such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution). Li sees the fundamental importance of science, technology, and post-Enlightenment theories (including Marxism) in the West as an important corrective that China must more thoroughly comprehend and internalize as the basis of its further cultural, social, and material progress. In each chapter of The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition, Li demonstrates how the incorporation of a new idea or set of ideas took Chinese aesthetics further along the path of the accumulation or “sedimentation” (jidian) of what he calls the human “cultural-psychological formation” (wenhua xinli jiegou). The term “sedimentation” is one Li is credited with originating, and one that plays a crucial role in what he describes as his anthropological ontology.2 In the process of the accumulation of material cultural experience (beginning with the use of tools) and the accrual of aesthetic value into ritual activity, the slow process of building up the cultural and psychological structures that will come to define “humanity” begins. Subsequently, each new development in aesthetic thought adds a new level of “sediment” to this process. In Li’s own words: “I wanted to

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investigate the appearance of the rational in the sensuous, of the social in the individual, of the historical in the psychological. This is how I came up with the term, ‘sedimentation.’ The meaning of sedimentation is the accumulation and condensation of the social, rational, and historical to become something individualistic, sensuous, and intuitive. It happens in the process of the humanization of nature.”↜3 Although the term “sedimentation” may be somewhat awkward for English readers who are not familiar with its use in a philosophical context, it is of too great a significance to Li Zehou’s thought to translate with terms that might be more familiar to our philosophical discourse, such as “distillation” or “condensation.” Sedimentation occurs on at least three levels. First, as primitive society develops the use of tools, form begins to give birth to the notion of beauty. Second, this primitive sense of beauty is distilled in the artistic and aesthetic production that evolves from society’s ritual activity (such as shamanistic song and dance). And finally, the “social atmosphere” of any particular period sediments into its artistic production. In Li Zehou’s words, “If you infuse a work with social atmosphere, and are able to give your work a certain aesthetic tone, then life will have sedimented in art.”↜4 The first, primitive level of sedimentation is the subject of Chapter 1. Here, Li begins his argument by tracing the major themes of Chinese aesthetics (beauty and goodness, society and nature, feeling and form, art and politics) back to the pre-Confucian tradition of rites and music. He finds the roots of the Chinese aesthetic psyche in the nonhedonist but nonetheless strongly sensuous cultural tradition that grew out of primitive totemic ritual and dance. The lifeaffirming, this-worldly character of the Chinese aesthetic tradition has its basis in this pre-Confucian foundation. The key role of music here in shaping and socializing the natural human emotions was to exert a definitive influence on the trajectory of the subsequent development of the aesthetic tradition. Li notes, “precisely because it is a tradition rooted in music, Chinese art seeks to shape and mold humanized emotions directly, rather than to represent the visual world in order to call forth people’s recognition, and thus (indirectly) move their emotions.” Chapter 2 considers the emergence of Confucian humanism, including the development of a self-consciousness of humanity (the human nature that at once is determined by its biology and transcends it); the perfection of the human personality through the arts and music (attaining inner freedom through the mastery of technical skills and external natural laws); and the apprehension of mortality (which, importantly, leads to the “emotionalization of time” in the arts and literature). Progressing from Confucius through Mencius, Xunzi, and the Book of Changes, Li demonstrates how the Chinese tradition develops a sense

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of dynamic, moral (or virile) beauty, which functions similarly to the Sublime in the Western tradition. This beauty is embodied in the inner moral power of the sage, in whom heaven and humanity are unified. “The unity of heaven and humans, the intercommunication and resonance between heaven and humans, or the correspondence between heaven and humans, is a very widespread and long-lasting notion in Chinese aesthetics and artistic creation.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹From today’s perspective, however, this principle can be seen to be simply a roughhewn and roundabout expression of the idea of the ‘humanization of nature’ in Chinese philosophy and aesthetics.” In Li Zehou’s take on this Marxist concept, aesthetics plays a key role in the humanization of both internal and external nature. I quote from Zhao Shilin’s explanation: In the humanization of subjective (inner) nature, the product or expression of sedimentation is an aesthetic psychological structure. In the humanization of objective (external) nature, the product or expression of sedimentation is the aesthetic object. It is precisely the historical sedimentation occurring within the realm of the subject’s practical action—i.e., the creation of the aesthetic—that fundamentally alters the relation between humans and nature, bringing about the humanization of nature, and making humankind truly human.5

The complement of the humanization of nature is the “naturalization of humans,” which Li discusses in Chapter 3’s treatment of the contributions of Daoism (especially the Zhuangzi). “The former contends that a person’s naturalness must be conformed to and permeated with sociality in order to attain true humanity. The latter argues that to become truly human one must shed sociality, allowing one’s naturalness to remain unpolluted and to expand to achieve unity with the universe.” Clearly, this is a totally different concept of the unity of heaven and humans than what we see in Confucianism. Sharing with Confucianism a fundamentally positive view of sensuous life, Daoism would become a mainstay for the private and artistic lives of intellectuals who were fundamentally Confucian in public. Zhuangzi’s main contribution to the aesthetic tradition was in the broadening of the aesthetic object to encompass the ideal personality (characterized by transcendent freedom rather than moral greatness or strength, as in Mencius), and the beauty and greatness of objective nature. In Li’s words: “Any thing, regardless of appearance or form, could now become the object of aesthetic appreciation. This would come to includeâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹anything unusual, grotesque, or naïve.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹This constituted a tremendous liberation for Chinese

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art.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹By the same token, the clumsiness of great artistic genius became a much higher aesthetic standard than simple refinementâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹because what is appreciated is not the outward form but the ‘virtue’ that permeates it.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.” It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this “naturalization” to the Chinese tradition, whether in farmstead and nature poetry, landscape painting, or calligraphy. In addition to the naturalization of humans, Zhuangzi’s influence on the artistic tradition is also felt in his development of the role of the unconscious in artistic creation, or, in other words, the “aspect of all creative processes that cannot be captured in ordinary conceptual language or logical thought.” Here we see a clear example of sedimentation as the “accumulation and condensation of the social, rational, and historical to become something individualistic, sensuous, and intuitive,” for “the unconscious does not refer to ‘dormant’ animal instinct, but to a kind of nonconscious condensation or sedimentation achieved through conscious human effort.” Whereas Chapter 3 discussed Zhuangzi’s broadening of the aesthetic tradition to encompass nature and spiritual freedom, Chapter 4 shows how “the arts are freed from their service as a tool for spreading Confucian ethical thought,” as the Daoist and Confucian strains encounter the tradition surrounding the Songs of Chu and their purported author, Qu Yuan. Li Zehou demonstrates the importance of the “deep emotion” Qu Yuan experiences in his ruminations on mortality, through which “universal emotional form is freed to express uncontainable happiness and unbearable resentment.” This injection of emotional lifeblood would have a profound effect on Wei-Jin literati such as Ruan Ji and Ji Kang, and when paired with the value placed on nonconceptual insight in that period, would come to constitute the Wei-Jin style. The role of natural imagery in the Songs of Chu constitutes a significant development for Chinese aesthetics. No longer defined by its natural, rational associations or restricted to the symbolization of moral categories, imagery is freed to portray emotion in a direct, unmediated free association that paves the way for the development of the crucial practice of qing jing jiao rong (fusion of feeling and scene). Analogous to the Western notion of “empathy,” this practice “can be said to consist of the melding of the appreciating (or creating) self with the appreciated (or created) object. The appearance or action of the object calls forth my mental and emotional activity, which is subsequently dissolved in the full concentration of my faculties in the process of appreciation or creation, so that it is eventually replaced by the features and actions of the object, resulting in the unity of my own subjective emotions with the objective form.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹[I]n the artistic conception (yijing), in the fusion of feeling and scene, there is no need for a conceptual medium between emotion and object.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹[R]eason dissolves

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completely into the emotions and imagination, and loses its independent character, to become a sort of unconscious or nonconscious player.” This dissociation of natural imagery from Confucian ethical categories was an important precondition for the aesthetic influence of Chan Buddhism, the subject of Chapter 5. Li demonstrates how the Chan notion of sudden enlightenment (which often occurs through awakening to nature) leads to the enduring importance of transcendent states of mind and “lingering flavor” in Chinese aesthetics. In his own words: What Chan Buddhism aims for is neither the personality extraordinary for its imposing power (as in Confucianism), nor the personality extraordinary for its freedom (as in Zhuangzi); nor yet is it the intense emotional state of persistent sorrow or indignation (as in Qu Yuan). Instead, what Chan seeks is an inner state of spiritual realization.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹In Chan enlightenment, human attitudes find their expression in natural scenery, which in turn points to a certain spiritual state of mind. This leads to yet another version of the “humanization of nature” (which we saw in Confucianism) or the “naturalization of humans” (which we saw in Zhuangzi).

The nonconceptual insight that played such a key role in Wei-Jin metaphysics reappears here as well: The idea of “subtle awakening” brings with it a new round of instability and progress in people’s inner rational structure, in which nonconceptual understanding—the element of intuitive wisdom—overwhelms the imagination and the senses, and merges with the emotions and intentions in such a way as to direct and shape their development.

This effect on the construction of the psychological subject would prove to be the major element of Chan’s influence on the aesthetic tradition. Another major legacy of Chan would be the widespread and long-standing preference for the aesthetic characteristic summed up in the word “blandness” (dan), which Li describes as “something that is without taste, but at the same time full of flavor.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹[I]t consists of purposeful attempts to describe the most ordinary natural scenes, so as to portray the empty illusoriness of life and the spiritual realm in a way that arouses thought and deep feeling.” Despite the unmistakably profound influence on aesthetics of the two anticonventional schools of Daoism and Chan Buddhism, Li demonstrates in this chapter the continuing defining power of the Confucian ethical imperative in the public lives of even confirmed Daoist or Buddhist intellectuals. Even in

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artistic works, “the life-affirming, relational spirit of Confucianism and Daoism always made its way back, one way or another, into Chan-inspired art and literature.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The beauty of the natural scene always manages to shine through its illusory quality, a lively vitality through the desolate stillness. Chinese art that is informed by a Chan aesthetic often uses the natural scene to evoke a metaphysical realm, while on the other hand, the demonstration of this metaphysical realm draws people back toward real-life concerns.” Philosophically, the influence of Chan Buddhism makes itself felt in the neo-Confucians’ “unification of morality and art in the realm of life” and their expansion of the notion of “literature” to include every aspect of a person’s life and personality. Although neo-Confucian thinkers like Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi were in general disparaging toward the arts, their aesthetic casting of the moral realm paved the way for the elevation of the aesthetic to serve an almost religious function in the Chinese tradition. “[I]n returning to Confucianism by way of Chan Buddhism, [the neo-Confucians] greatly enriched their own thought by establishing this metaphysical noumenal realm in which aesthetics supersedes religion.” This religious function of the aesthetic would develop further with the addition of Western thought to this mixture, as we see in the discussion of Cai Yuanpei in Chapter 6. The aesthetic does not begin to truly diverge from the ethical realm of Confucianism until the Ming dynasty, when desire begins to emerge as an artistic subject in its own right. In Chapter 6, Li demonstrates the roots of this affirmation of desire in the contradictions inherent in Wang Yangming’s theory of Mind, in which the Dao Mind is inseparable from the Human Mind, and Principle becomes identified with desire. The individualistic strain that thus entered Chinese art and literature was an important element in setting the stage for the transition to modernity. This “return to the real flesh-and-blood individual and the sensual, worldly love between the sexes would end in the modern road to self-destruction for traditional aesthetics. Because from here the next step is the manifestation of individual independence and expressionâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹and in the process, the gradual denial or even repudiation” of the traditional aesthetics rooted in the rites and music tradition and Confucianism. “One need no longer avoid, but should actually pursue, the kind of shocking, vulgar, romantic, or startling effect” that previously would have been almost universally proscribed. This “modern” trend was interrupted, however, by the struggle for national salvation in the twentieth century, when individual desire and the arts in general once again submitted, Confucian-style, to the needs of society and the state. Western readers of traditional Chinese literary and art criticism often experience the difficulty of pinpointing the exact meaning of its critical terminology, reporting that Chinese criticism in general is impressionistic and

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imprecise. In Chapter 6, Li acknowledges the fact that Chinese aesthetics has yet to submit to the baptism of a thoroughly modern analysis. This may have to do with the general preference in traditional Chinese thought for the holistic over the particular, as well as its distaste for overly logical or purely abstract reasoning. There are probably numerous other explanations, including the role played by literature and the arts as gatekeepers to the elite echelons of society, and the heavy reliance on intertextuality and allusion in Chinese writing and painting. The need to define a term is obviated when one’s audience is familiar with its usage in the work of an admired writer in the past. Take, for example, Wang Guowei’s notion of the jingjie, or aesthetic realm, which Li Zehou discusses in Chapter 6. Despite the clear influence of Western thought on Wang’s critical framework (in his adoption of such notions as subjectivity and objectivity, for example), he himself explains this crucial term largely by citing lines of poems that either have or convey an aesthetic realm or do not, clearly relying on his audience’s shared knowledge of elite aesthetic values. Li defines this term that has been the subject of various interpretations over the years as follows: “[T]he aesthetic realm is the revelation of life through the relationship between feeling and scene, and the objectified realm of the artistic subject—in other words, it is a manifestation of the realm of human life.” The high level of embeddedness of terms such as this within their intertextual contexts also creates difficulties for the translator and demonstrates the impossibility of fitting Chinese aesthetic categories neatly into an English terminology that has evolved in the context of Western aesthetic systems. One area in which the attempt to match these disparate categories has created some confusion has been the question of expression and representation in Chinese aesthetics. It has been tempting for commentators to suggest that whereas Western aesthetic theories have been preoccupied with mimesis, Chinese theories have been preoccupied with expression.6 Li weighs in against this oversimplification, showing that in fact art and literature in China have always been expected to reflect, or actually to be an organic extension of, cosmic and natural realities, in a type of imitation that is conceived of in a much more organic fashion than Aristotelian mimesis. Correspondingly, traditional Chinese expressive theories were never framed in terms of the expression of individual emotion. Rather, art was seen as a vehicle for the expression of universal human emotional realities. To quote from section two of Chapter 1: [I]t is possible to state that Chinese art is “representational”; what it represents, however, is not discrete situations, things, or phenomena, but rather the natural universal law, order, and logic of the cosmos. At the same time, we can state that Chinese art is “expressive,” though what it expresses is not individ-

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ual subjective emotions or personality, but rather universalized emotions that must be able to objectively “harmonize with heaven and earth.”â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Clearly, it is not a question simply of either “representation” or “expression.” No such dualistic distinction exists in Chinese aesthetics or art.

Instead, Li frames the distinction between Chinese and Western approaches as follows: Generally speaking, Chinese art definitely differs from the type of precise representation of discrete, real situations that we find in the West, and the more “representational” of ancient Chinese stories also lack the kind of expressiveness we find in modern Western works characterized by the presentation of intensely individual feelings. Relatively speaking, individual feelings are not prominent in Chinese works.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹At the same time, Chinese representation of objective reality does not depart from the expression of emotion.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹So Chinese art, literature, and aesthetics cannot be said to be either representational or expressive; rather, Chinese art takes the molding of the emotions as its goal.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.

Because of the primacy of this goal, Chinese aesthetics submits realism to beauty and excludes “unrestrained desire, instinctive impulses, intense emotionâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹purgative distressâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹any objectionable emotional form (or art) that serves up the ugly, weird, evil, and so on.” This exclusion has to do with its fundamental preference for moderation, its life-affirming (rather than sin-oriented) view of humanity, as well as the perceived close relationship between humans and heaven or nature. The great strength of the Chinese aesthetic tradition, in Li’s view, is its holistic vision, its affirmation of life, humanity, and nature. In Chinese landscape art, humanity is not dwarfed before nature but is found living humbly in its place in the natural order. Humans do not try to conquer nature, but rather allow the emotions and inspiration aroused by nature and mortality to inform their artistic production and ultimately shape their personal and corporate way of life. Elite Chinese aesthetic thought and practice has been remarkably unconcerned with the divine, the hereafter, or the unseen. The ultimate reality, or noumenon, toward which Chinese art and letters strain is a thoroughly human and psychological one, deeply embedded in everyday reality, which is always seen as an extension of cosmic realities. As Li writes in Chapter 6: [T]he Confucian-dominated Chinese traditions of philosophy, aesthetics, art, and literature, as well as ethics and government, which from their beginnings in the rites and music and Confucian humaneness went on to

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incorporate the influences of Daoism, Qu Yuan, and Chan Buddhism, are all founded on a certain “psychologism”—one that took Confucius’ advice to Zai Wo, “Would you feel at ease?â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹If you really feel at ease, then do it,”↜7 as the root of all political ethics and ideological consciousness. This psychologism cannot be the object of empirical study; rather, it is a philosophical proposition that takes emotion as the noumenon. From its ethical origins to the “realm of life,” the entire stream of the history of Chinese thought has taken this type of sensuous psychology as the noumenon. The thing-in-itself is not, then, the spirit, nor is it a deity, nor morality or reason. Instead, it is the psychology of human nature in which emotion and rationality are blended.

It is, as Li puts it in the Epilogue, “humankind itself.” It is this human-centered, this-worldly vision that propels Li’s optimism about the Chinese tradition’s ability to support further development—in aesthetics, philosophy, and of course ultimately in society and politics—as it continues to incorporate new influences, just as it has done for thousands of years. Today, it is perhaps the Western scientific worldview and post-Enlightenment theories like Marxism that, like Daoism and Buddhism before them, are being “sedimented” into the latest incarnation of the Chinese people’s “culturalpsychological formation.” A note about my own contributions and interpolations. A work of this kind spans centuries—even millennia—of history and source material, and refers to numerous writers, artists, and literary and philosophical works. In the process of translation, I have attempted to aid nonspecialist readers by incorporating explanatory material into the text and by adding glosses in the notes. So as not to encumber the text, I have explicitly acknowledged my contributions only in cases where I have made more substantial comments that go beyond the simple explanation of a term or introduction of a person or text. At the same time, I have not wished to sacrifice the brevity and unity of Li Zehou’s text by turning it into a veritable encyclopedia of Chinese culture—such is the breadth and scope of material the work encompasses. I hope that I have struck the right balance here, and that specialist and nonspecialist readers alike will be able to follow the broad contours of Li’s argument without getting lost in the details. Suggested Readings Cauvel, Jane, and Zehou Li. Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006.

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Cheek, Timothy, ed. “Subjectality”: Li Zehou and His Critical Analysis of Chi­ nese Thought. A special issue of Philosophy East and West 49, no. 2 (April 1999). Chong, Woei Lien, ed. Li Zehou. A special issue of Contemporary Chinese Thought 31, no. 2 (Winter 1999–2000). Gu Xin. “Subjectivity, Modernity, and Chinese Hegelian Marxism: A Study of Li Zehou’s Philosophical Ideas from a Comparative Perspective.” Philoso­ phy East and West 46, no. 2 (April 1996). Liu Kang. Aesthetics and Marxism: Chinese Aesthetic Marxists and Their West­ ern Counterparts (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000).

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C h a pt e r 1

The Rites and Music Tradition

Music entails harmony. â•… —The Guoyu

Society and Nature: The Pre-Confucian Tradition The word “beautiful” (mei) is always appealing to the ear and without exception elicits a pleasurable response in those to whom it is applied. This is equally true of young ladies praised for their beauty as of artists or authors who gladly accept such praise for their works—to say nothing of its use for beautiful landscapes, residences, clothing, and so on. But whether in art criticism or in the language in general, the scope of the term is so broad, and the instances of its use so numerous, that any discussion of the history of Chinese aesthetics (which in Chinese means, literally, the “study of beauty”) does well to include an investigation of its original meaning.1 Unfortunately, however, there has to date been no clear explication of the origins and original meaning of the Chinese character for “beauty” or “beautiful,” 美 (mei). Most discussions rely on the pseudo-etymological definition offered by the late Han lexicographer Xu Shen (c. 55–c. 149) in his early dictionary, the Shuo wen jie zi. To explain the composition of this character that combines “ram” 羊 on top and “large” 大 on the bottom, Xu offers, “when a ram is large, it is beautiful.” This is presumably because a fatter ram is more delectable. As Xu Shen puts it: “Beautiful means delicious, combining the characters for ‘ram’ and ‘large.’ Of the Six Domestic Animals, the ram is chiefly raised for food.”↜2 It is true that, unlike dogs, horses, or cows, the sheep is primarily valued as a source of meat. The same connection is apparent in the dictionary’s definition of the character for “delicious” or “sweet” 甘 (gan): “Delicious means beautiful, combining the character for ‘mouth’ 口 with a single horizontal line.”↜3 That “delicious” and “beautiful” are synonymous has become almost a truism over the millennia. We find traces of this even in the present day, when in Chinese one will often remark of a very delicious dish, “Beautiful!” I shall return to this connection between taste and beauty. 1

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However, just following the first definition, the Shuo wen introduces another element of the definition of the character for beauty, namely, that of the “good,” shan 善. It reads, “↜‘beauty’ is synonymous with ‘good.’↜” This relates to another possible explanation of the etymology of mei, which Xu Shen does not mention but is supported by the earliest written evidence from oracle bones (used for divination) and bronzes. The lower element of the character mei, the character for “large,” originally depicted a man standing facing forward, and here suggests a priest or chieftain performing a totemic role, dance, or shamanistic ritual. As I have argued elsewhere, the original meaning of the character mei probably referred to a large man wearing a headdress in the shape of a ram or decorated with ram motifs. While carrying out various shamanistic rituals, he would wear the ram’s head or ram’s horn on his head as an expression of his mystical power and authority. The character for “beauty,” then, with the man on the bottom and the ram on top, is the manifestation in the written language of this type of animal role or shamanistic totem.4 (As for why the ram’s head should be used as opposed to that of other animals, this most likely had to do with the totemic practices of a specific tribe of the period. The Qiang tribe of northwest China, for example, continues to identify with the ram totem to this day.) How this connection with shamanistic ritual relates to “goodness” has to do with the crucial socializing role of these magical rites, and will become clear from the following discussion. Of course, this explanation is highly speculative, and awaits verification. The interest of the present work is not in an accurate etymology per se, but in the possibility of uniting the statement, “when a ram is large, it is beautiful” (equating beauty with the natural or sensuous), with the statement, implied in the above paragraph, that “man with ram is beautiful” (equating beauty with goodness). This section will demonstrate how this unity in early totemicâ•›/â•› shamanistic Chinese culture laid the foundation for the unity of sense and reason, nature and society, that would come to characterize the Chinese aesthetic tradition. For the beginning of this story we must look very far back. While such artifacts as cave paintings dating from the Paleolithic period have yet to be found in China, finds in Europe have already demonstrated that the earliest “art objects” of primitive peoples were pictures painted deep in the dark recesses of caves. These were not produced for the purpose of appreciation or enjoyment, as they could only be seen by the light of a torch or fires around which mystical shamanistic rituals and totemic activities were performed. Indeed, some were considered so mysterious and sacred that no person was allowed to view them. The activities surrounding the magical activities of the time were likely imbued with great fervor and solemnity, and accompanied by

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singing and dancing. Today the vivid depictions in primitive cave paintings of a stampede of wild beasts or a wild ox struck by an arrow appear “beautiful” to us. Actually they are vestiges of the magical ceremonial practices of ancient communities and represent the primitive cultural phenomena of those early forbears. It was precisely this primitive culture that allowed humanity gradually to develop self-consciousness and realize its uniqueness among the species of the natural world. On the one hand primitive culture, in the form of totemic shamanistic song and dance centered on sacrificial ritual, consolidated, organized, and reinforced primitive communities, arousing and unifying human consciousness, intention, and will. On the other hand, it also functioned to hone the individual skills and communal cooperation of early communities by committing to memory and rehearsing their processes of subsistence and livelihood. In short, primitive culture strictly regulated human behavior and endowed it with order, pattern, and direction. As Clifford Geertz has pointed out, “Undirected by culture patterns—organized systems of significant symbols—man’s behaviour would be virtually ungovernable, a mere chaos of pointless acts and exploding emotions, his experience virtually shapeless.”↜5 Culture gives symbolic form to human existence, life, and consciousness, ordering and shaping primitive, chaotic experience. In the beginning, culture was an amalgamation of religion, morality, science, politics, and art, in which there already existed an “aesthetic sense,” albeit nearly indiscernible. Because this aesthetic sense was still mingled with the shamanistic activities that enabled the existence of the community, it bore the rational character of the social collective, even if it appeared to have originally arisen from irrational forms. However, it also bore an element of individual emotion. For the fervid dancing and mystical ceremonies certainly stirred very intense feelings; and joyful singing, leaping, boisterous calls, and imprecations reflect a very strong instinctual outpouring. Because these activities involved the wholehearted mental and physical participation of individual members of the community, they also enabled the full mental and physical expression of their sensuous nature. In the animal kingdom, play is an instinctual method for strengthening the muscles and preserving existence. I would suggest that these early totemic dances and shamanistic rituals could be said to be a kind of human “play.” In terms of sociobiology, the two are virtually indistinguishable. But if we look at the question theoretically, from the point of view of practical philosophy, we notice two respects in which human play differs from that of animals. First of all, this human play has its basis in activities of material production that involve the use and manufacture of tools.6 Second, this human play is made up of

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systematized symbolic actions rather than conditioned responses. These kinds of symbolic cultural activities are also practical; that is to say, they involve the cooperative material (or physical) activity of the collective. But at the same time, their content is conceptual; unlike other activities related to material production (hunting, agriculture), which directly produce material objects, their main effect, objectively speaking, is on human thought and consciousness. In short, what they “produce” are products of the imagination (an imaginary hunter’s arrow or harvest of crops, for example). As a formal, ordered set of norms and associations, this type of collective activity causes the individual participants to gradually become organized into a civilized society that transcends biology. This organization first occurs at the level of consciousness and consequently appears in actuality. As a result, animalistic physical activity (such as play) and psychic forms (such as the emotions) take on a “social” content that transcends their counterparts in the animal world. In this way, human noumenal existence, whether that of humankind or that of individual humans, is definitively set apart from the animal kingdom. That is to say, based on the foundation of a sociotechnological structure characterized by the creation and use of tools, a “cultural-psychological formation” begins to take shape.7 The primitive culture of totemic song and dance and shamanistic ritual persists over a very long historical period. Many relics unearthed in archeological digs display some relationship to these activities, from the images of dancers on primitive pottery to the animal shapes found on the bronze tripods of the Shang–Zhou transition, such as the taotie (whose mouth holds a human head, demonstrating the connection between heaven and earth).8 Early written documents also bear witness to this culture in which early ritual is bound up with song and dance. Scholars have pointed out, for example, that the character wu for “dance” in the earliest documents is the same as the character wu for “shaman.” On the oracle bones, the two words were written with the same, more primitive character [resembling a man dancing].9 Other oracle bone inscriptions bear the characters for “Duolao dance”; historians believe that “Duolao” is the name of a shaman.10 There are also many materials among the oracle bone inscriptions that have to do with prayers for rain.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The Rites of Zhou (or Zhou li) records in the chapter entitled “Si wu” that when the country faced a great drought, the master shaman would be invited to perform a rain dance.11

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The Rites of Zhou contains a surprisingly large number of references to dance. To cite just one example, in the chapter “Chun guan zong bo” we find it said that: The sons of the state are instructed in music and dance; they are taught to dance the Yunmen, Daquan, Daxian, Daqing, Daxia, Dahu, and Dawu. With the six pitch standards, six bronze pitchpipes, five pitches, eight kinds of instruments, and six kinds of dance, a great concert is held to summon the spirits; to bring harmony to the states, concord to the people, calm to the sojourner; to appease distant tribes, and to set into motion the things of the phenomenal world. (3.21/41/12)12

The Book of Documents (Shangshu, or Shujing) contains such statements as “The various animals were led in dance to the beat of a stone drum”↜13 and “People dared to constantly dance in palace halls, and sing in a stupor in chambers. At the time, this was called the ‘shaman style.’↜”↜14 It is also recorded in Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals that, “In former times, the people of the Getian clan would dance in pairs [or threes] with oxtails in hand, stamping their feet and singing eight stanzas.” Although texts like the Rites of Zhou are likely of relatively late provenance, what they record can reliably be taken as long-standing historical fact.15 All of these texts affirm that communal totemic dance and magical ritual have an early origin, a long history, and display a variety of patterns, later even acquiring specialists (shamans or master dancers) to lead or instruct in such matters. “Shamans,” according to the Shuo wen dictionary, were “able to communicate with the formless, and bring down the spirits with their dances, as when people assemble for the rain dance.”↜16 The definition refers to organized, communal, primitive cultural activities that centered on sacrificial ritual. As for the content and form of these activities, their categories, concrete origins, and evolution, these fall within the scope of cultural anthropology and the sociology of art, and will not be addressed further here. Our interest, and that of philosophical aesthetics, lies in the following question: How does the animal instinct for play, in which the individual person participates directly and which is based in biology, become intermingled with and permeated by the kind of sociocultural consciousness and sensibility described above? Philosophical aesthetics is interested in the intermingling and interpenetration of the sensuous form of the individual person on the one hand with theoretical sociocultural content on the other—in short, the intermingling of the “natural” and the “social.” Schiller and others long ago discussed the

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sensuous person and the rational person, the sensuous and the formal drives, and so on.17 But the question is how to explain, historically and concretely, the unification of these disparate elements (the sensuous and the rational, the natural and the social, the individual and the communal). I believe that it is precisely in primitive totemic dance that the earliest form of the intersection of these elements becomes apparent. Primitive totemic dance took disparate individual sensuous existences and sensory activities and knit them consciously together, melding them into a whole. It aroused and nurtured the beginnings of a sense of the collective and of order in human action and thought. This also constituted the normalization of individual emotion, thought, and so on. All of these, in turn, were related to the ordering of the postulated spiritual world through the magical arts and the religious imaginary. They held the sprouts of intellectual activity, while at the same time allowing the expression of human instinctual emotion. Susanne Langer has commented that “[d]ance is, in fact, the most serious intellectual business of savage life; it is the envisagement of a world beyond the spot and the moment of one’s animal existence, the first conception of life as a whole—continuous, super-personal life, punctuated by birth and death, surrounded and fed by the rest of nature.”↜18 And again, “In the ecstasy of the dance man bridges the chasm between this and the other world, to the realm of demons, spirits and God.”↜19 Amid the intoxicating madness of the frenzied totemic dances, beneath the mystical mask of shamanistic ritual, the passionate overflow of the animal instinct for play, the natural senses, and the biological emotions begins to be intermixed with the demands, norms, and regulations of socialization in a mutually controlling interaction in which the disparate elements become indistinguishable. Here we see the expression and release of the natural and animalistic aspects of the individual person, and at the same time the beginnings of his/her “humanization.” With the infusion of sociocultural elements, the animal psyche is transformed into a human psyche. All kinds of human psychological functions—imagination, cognition, comprehension, and other intellectual activity—sprout and develop, all the while retaining their connection to and intermingling with basic animalistic psychological functions like perception and emotion. This happens much more intensely, completely, and self-consciously than in the activities of direct material production (hunting, gathering, and cultivation), for shamanistic totemic activities gave organization and structure to the disparate processes and elements of actual material production and everyday life. Thus, from the point of view of their nurture and development of human psychological functions, shamanistic ritual and totemic activities played a more direct and important role than did materially

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productive labor. Totemic dance and shamanistic ritual are the earliest forms of human spiritual civilization and symbolic production. Of course, as discussed above, this spiritual civilization, this symbolic production, was not purely aesthetic in character. However, it did have aesthetic elements and aspects—namely, the humanization of sensuous pleasure and emotional expression, and the socialization or civilization of animalistic pleasure (the pleasure of sensory experience and emotional release). Unlike the rational internalization of regulations of external behavior (in logical concepts, for example),20 or the rational condensation of communal demands and aims (from primitive taboos to moral dictates), aesthetics is the sedimentation of social entities (concepts, ideals, attitudes, and meanings) onto psychological functions, particularly the emotions and sensory cognition. This brings us right back to the meaning of “when a ram is large, it is beautiful,” the definition of “beauty” that equates it with the delectable or delicious. Perhaps it will be useful at this point to delve into the equation of beauty with taste in more detail.21 From the point of view of the historical development of human aesthetic consciousness, early experiences of beauty, whether based upon practical utility or moral goodness, were inseparable from the sensory pleasure associated with taste, sound, and color. Of these, although the pleasure associated with the sense of taste would in later generations not strictly be considered part of the sense of beauty, in the beginning it was closely connected with the development of human aesthetic consciousness. This is apparent from philology. The term Geschmack in German, for example, connotes aesthetic appreciation as well as flavor or taste. The same is true of the English word “taste.” We have already noted the etymological connection in Chinese between the word for beauty and the sense of taste. Many works of art criticism and theory dating from after the Western Han (206 B.C.–24 A.D.), also connect “taste” with artistic appreciation.22 It is not at all coincidental that “taste” should be so closely related to the early development of human aesthetic consciousness, or that this relationship should continue to be influential even to this day. The basic reason lies in the fact that the pleasure associated with taste already contains within itself the seed of the sense of beauty. This connection reveals some important characteristics of the aesthetic sense that differentiate it from both scientific knowledge and moral judgment. First of all, the pleasure associated with the sense of taste is directly apprehended, not a result of cognitive thought. Second, this pleasure transcends the utilitarian desire for food. And finally, it is closely related to individual preferences and interests. All these factors enabled humankind from the very beginning to experience something in the pleasure of taste that

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was quite different from scientific knowledge, physical satisfaction, or moral thought; thus “taste” became linked with “beauty.” When a person is famished, the flavor of food is meaningless to him or her; food becomes simply something with which to fill the stomach. It is only when biological need has been satisfied, and people can be particular about the flavor of their food—or similarly, only when they have the luxury of being concerned with the color and style of their clothing and ornaments rather than with covering themselves from the cold—that something else can begin to emerge from this foundation. Although this “something else” is still connected with natural, physiological needs, relatively speaking it betrays a greater influence of sociocultural consciousness. For example, it is said that primitive peoples preferred intense colors like red and yellow. This certainly might have had to do with the receptivity of their natural senses. But because these physiological perceptions were also bound up with a social consciousness in which blood and fire were of great significance to collective life, new content unconsciously began to accumulate or be sedimented upon the perceptions of primitive peoples, so that it was no longer a question of purely animal response. Some socially (or culturally) significant content began to penetrate the form of the natural perceptions. “Primitive humans used and wore red not out of an animal-like physiological reaction to it, but because the actions associated with its use had taken on a socially shared symbolic significance. In other words, human imagination had invested the colour with a unique symbolic, conceptual quality; consequently, what red produced in humans of that period was not just sensory pleasure but an imaginative and conceptual response.”↜23 From the point of view of the object, the natural form (the color red) was invested with social content. From the point of view of the subject, the sensuous response (the feeling of pleasure associated with the color red) was invested with conceptual imagination and understanding. It was in this way that all sorts of natural forms directly associated with the senses—colors, sounds, tastes (what Locke called the “secondary qualities” of things)—began to be “humanized.” The above explanation of the phrase, “man with ram is beautiful” as referring to totemic dance emphasizes the establishment of social norms and their penetration of the natural perceptions. Correspondingly, the explanation of the phrase, “when a ram is large, it is beautiful,” as referring to fine taste emphasizes, first, the molding of the natural, and second, its humanization. The former phrase refers to the accretion of rationality onto the irrational or sensuous; the latter phrase refers to the presence of something rational or supersensory in the senses. Both of these present the same truth from different angles, namely the notion of accretion or sedimentation, and specifically the idea of

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the humanization of people’s inner nature (the senses and the mind), through which what I call a human “cultural-psychological formation” is gradually taking shape. Clifford Geertz is extremely helpful in this regard. Geertz emphasizes the crucial role of cultural forms in the formation of humanity and so-called human nature. He gives attention to the intermingling of cultural and physiological elements. The cultural gives specific form to the physiological, accelerating its formation and development.24 Where I would differ with Geertz, however, is in my recognition of the foundational role of the use and creation of the tools of material production in the formation of humanity, culture, and human nature. But this issue falls outside the scope of this book. As mentioned, the “humanization” of the natural person and the shaping of the human cultural-psychological formation occur by way of a very long historical process. But it is not until quite late that this process becomes perceptible in historical documents and theoretical consciousness. In the Chinese historical sources, the many discussions of the “Five Flavors,” “Five Colors,” and “Five Tones” from the Spring and Autumn period (772–481 B.C.) can be seen as records of its theoretical maturation. The origins of Five Phases theory are apparently very early; there is evidence in the Shang oracle bone inscriptions for the Five Directions (north, south, east, west, and center), as well as for the expression “Five Vassals.” By the Spring and Autumn period, the notions of the Five Flavors (sour, bitter, sweet, hot, and salty), Five Colors (blue, red, yellow, white, and black), Five Tones (Jiao, Zhi, Gong, Shang, and Yu), Five Principles (heaven, earth, people, seasons, and spirits), Five Stars, Five Deities, and so on, were all widely accepted. People had by this time adopted the number five to regularize and systematize all manner of things. This included the realms of experience and observation, such as astronomy, geography, the calendar, weather, the body, life and death, hierarchy, and dress, and also encompassed things beyond the reach of observation and experience as well as society, politics, and the ideals and realities of individual existence. The universal scheme of the Five Phases contains within itself both rational and irrational elements. The fact that tastes, sounds, and colors are analyzed and divided into categories, and connections are drawn between these and various social contents and social elements, actually constitutes the theoretical establishment of the unity of reason with the perceptions, and of nature with society. This is of great philosophical significance. For aesthetics, the significance of this system in which the universe (heaven) is united with humanity lies in its emphasis on the intermingling of the enjoyment of natural sensory pleasures with sociocultural functionality—that is to

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say, the unity of the phrases “when a ram is large, it is beautiful” and “man with ram is beautiful.” The great Chinese philosophers Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi each routinely spoke of taste, color, and sound together in their discussions of human pleasure: When in the State of Qi, the Master heard the music of shao, and for three months did not know the taste of meat, saying he did not know music could attain such perfection. (Analects 7.14)25 All palates have the same preference in taste; all ears in sound; all eyes in beauty. (Mencius 4A.7)26 So it is that the mouth is fond of taste, but nothing is more beautiful than the aromas [enjoyed by the Emperor]; the ear is fond of sound, but nothing is grander than [his] music; the eye is fond of color, but nothing is more acclaimed than the assemblage of patterns or designs of utmost complexity, or of beautiful women [in his court]. (Xunzi 11.53.17)27

Even though there may be some confusion of ideas here (for example, the conflation of physiological desire, social consciousness, and aesthetic pleasure), one thing is very clear, namely, that for the ancient Chinese “beauty”—whether a beautiful object or aesthetic appreciation—is inseparable from perception. The ancients always focused attention on the fundamentally sensuous nature of beauty rather than attributing or subordinating it to purely abstract categories or rational concepts. In this respect, Chinese aesthetics, in its empiricism and its interest in perception, bears more resemblance to modern Western aesthetics than to the idealism of Plato. As these passages demonstrate, from the very beginning aesthetic consciousness in the Chinese tradition has never been ascetic. Far from forswearing sensory pleasures, it embraces, affirms, and celebrates them, whether the pleasures of taste, sound, or “color” (which in Chinese includes feminine beauty), calling these the “constants of human feeling,” or the “common tastes of all under heaven.” On the other hand, however, this affirmation of sensory pleasure is by no means Dionysian licentiousness or saturnalia. On the contrary, this pleasure was always led and regulated, channeled and structured, by society’s rituals, systems, and regulations. The Chinese aesthetic tradition emphasizes the moderation of violent sensuality, the rationality inherent in the perceptual senses, and the social inherent in the natural. The Confucian notion of “starting from emotion and halting at ritual and propriety”↜28 had its origins here, in this

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ancient tradition that sought to unify “when a ram is large, it is beautiful,” and “man with ram is beautiful”—to unify the senses and reason, nature and society. This notion would eventually become a fundamental concern of Confucian aesthetics, but it attained theoretical prominence only after primitive totemic shamanistic activities had evolved into the “rites” and “music.”

Feeling and Form in the Rites and Music Tradition The further development and specialization of ancient totemic dance and shamanistic ritual led to the so-called rites and music, the systematization of which was completed at around the time of the dynastic transition from the Shang to the Zhou (roughly the eleventh century B.C.). The tradition that “the Duke of Zhou established the rites and music” has some basis in history. Duke Dan of Zhou established a set of institutions that systematized and integrated the existing rites and music to which he was heir. Wang Guowei (1877–1927), in his work on Shang and Zhou institutions, emphasizes the importance of the transformations that occurred at the Shang–Zhou transition.29 Most important among these were the establishment by the Duke of Zhou of the patrilineal, feudal, and sacrificial systems as well as the systematization of rites and music. These developments were indeed of epoch-making significance in Chinese history. Many studies over the past three decades, however, have focused solely upon general social formation, ignoring the important historical phenomenon of the establishment of ritual institutions. The real reason that Confucius and his followers so extolled the Duke of Zhou, and that later generations would even regard the Duke of Zhou as Confucius’ equal, is precisely his systematization of the rites and music that Confucius so staunchly upheld. Both rites and music are closely related to aesthetics. From the earliest times, “rites” was probably a general term that encompassed rituals governing everything from the sacrificial system to military and political affairs to everyday life. In actuality, they comprised a sort of unwritten law, a set of behavioral regulations that the clans and tribes required their members to obey. Fundamentally, then, the rites were a coercive set of demands, restrictions, and rules imposed on the individual’s external conduct, actions, and demeanor. Through these restrictions on the individual, the order and stability of the collective could be protected and maintained. By the time of the dynastic transition from the Shang to the Zhou, the most important function of the rites had become the protection of the unifying hierarchical system, which Confucius later referred to in saying, “Let the lord be a lord, the vassal a vassal, the father a father, the son a son.” Every individual, by virtue of his or her respectful behavior and adherence to ceremony, symbolized and fulfilled a peculiar social position and function, with its concomitant rites and obligations.

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Today we may wonder at the complexity and elaboration of the Yi li [The Ceremonies and Rituals], which dates to the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.). The proper conduct and order of everything from ritual sacrifice, marriage, and mourning to the proper demeanor on meeting a member of the aristocracy, was very clearly stipulated in great detail, even down to the elevation of the hand and the placement of the feet. Although they may reflect the influence of some later idealistic elements, for the most part the three Han ritual classics (the Yi li, the Rites of Zhou, and the Book of Rites [Li ji]) preserve a large number of so-called ritual systems that had continued from antiquity through the Shang and Zhou. The concrete traces of these systems are visible in specific norms and institutions governing the totemic activities and shamanistic rituals that centered on sacrifice. If we consult the works of modern cultural anthropologists, it becomes clear that all primitive peoples at some point displayed a pattern of strictly regulated ceremonial practice similar to that found in the Yi li.30 The great volume of description and discussion of ritual in ancient documents attests in many ways to the fact that this was not an idealized system created out of nothing by Confucians, as some scholars have suggested, but rather a system of long historical standing. Confucians, beginning with Confucius himself, inherited, preserved, and interpreted this historical tradition. In this respect, Herbert Fingarette was correct when he emphasized that ritual was the central ideal of Confucianism. He argues that ritual was sacred ceremony, that it had a “magical” quality, that ritual at once cultivated and was the origin of human nature.31 Fingarette stresses that the starting point for Confucius was not the individual or the inner being, but rather a standard that both transcends the individual and helps to shape the individual—namely, the rites. “Life in accord with the Dao [the Way], life as ren [humaneness], are the supreme values, and not the individual’s existence as such,” he writes.32 The value of Fingarette’s argument is that it points out the historical reality of the origins of Confucian ideals in magical ceremony. Benjamin Schwartz disagrees with Fingarette, but still points out that, while the spirits were primary for the Shang, the rites were primary for the Zhou. Drawing a parallel with the evolution of Indian religions, he argues that the ceremonial forms developed for honoring spirits gradually usurped the importance of the spirits themselves.33 This implies that it is the very development of ritual that is of supreme importance; it is the rites that shape and cultivate humanity, and it is in them that people self-consciously rise above animals. So it is that the rites that govern everyday life take on sacred significance and come to occupy a preeminent position. Based on evidence from the primitive cultures of Java, Clifford Geertz remarked, “To be human is not just to breathe; it is to control one’s

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breathing, by yogalike technique, so as to hear in inhalation and exhalation the literal voice of God pronouncing His own name.”↜34 Confucian ritual has just such a primitive origin, but reveals its sacred significance in the regulation of secular life. Since the rites comprise a complete system of ordered norms for behavior, they are also concerned with aspects of sensuous form such as appearance, movement, and pattern. It is in this respect that they have to do with “beauty.” The “practice of the rites” involves the establishment and maintenance of a whole range of perceptual norms concerning movement, behavior, expression, language, dress, and color. As Confucius is described in the Analects, “When among his townspeople, he appears deferential, as though unable to speak. When in the ancestral temple or at court, he speaks readily, though with circumspection. When speaking with junior officials at court, he is cordial; when speaking with senior officials, agreeable” (Analects 10.1).35 And again, “He does not stand in the doorway, nor step on the threshold” (Analects 10.4).36 Further, “the gentleman never uses azure or violet in his adornments, nor purple or red in his plain clothes” (Analects 10.6), and so on. All of these actions were considered proper “ritual,” part of that “sacred ceremony.” The social function of this type of ritual is to maintain a unifying social hierarchy. Its cultural form is reflected in the strict ordering of the individual’s sensuous behavior, movement, language, and emotions, not unlike the controlled breathing Geertz describes in certain primitive societies. This is what is referred to as “knowing the rites.” In the Zuo zhuan [Zuo Commentary] we read, “he who is able to bend or straighten himself in service of the rites can be called a complete man” (B10.25.3/387/15).37 And again in the Analects it is said, “establish yourself in the rites” (8.8). All of these texts point to the necessity of being trained by the rites, for only through the rites can one become a complete person and achieve a genuinely human nature. This “human nature” was actually none other than the socialization that the primitive collective, clan, and tribe had historically demanded of its members. When the ancients said, “Act in accordance with the rites” and “If it is against the rites, do not look; if it is against the rites, do not listen; if it is against the rites, do not speak; if it is against the rites, do not act,” these things had very serious and even sacred significance in their contemporary context. These texts show that the rites required the direct restriction, direction, and control of the individual’s sensuous behavior, activity, and speech, as well as his or her sensory experiences. The important thing to note here is that at the same time that the “sacred” function of the rites was exercising control over the individual’s external physical behavior, movement, language, and appearance, it was also acting significantly on people’s inner psyche (their emotions, understanding, imagination,

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and ideas). This is demonstrated in the very well-known passage from the Zuo zhuan concerning the rites, which I will quote here at length: Zi Taishu met with Zhao Jianzi. Jianzi asked him about the rites of bowing and yielding, and shifting between positions. Taishu responded, “This is decorum, not the rites.” Jianzi asked, “Dare I ask, what are the rites?” Taishu answered, “I heard from the late grandee Zi Chan, ‘The rites are the standard of heaven, the proper conduct of the earth, and the practice of the people.’ Heaven and earth have their standard, and the people take this as their model. They model themselves on the luminance of heaven and accord with the nature of the earth, producing the six pneumas (qi), and applying the five phases. The pneumas become the five flavors, are expressed in the five colors, and manifested in the five tones. If these are in excess, all becomes a great confusion, and the people lose their nature. Therefore the rites were made to provide for their nature. The six domesticated animals, the five types of game, and the three types of sacrificial animals were made to provide for the five flavors; the nine forms of patterning, the six hues, and the five tints, to provide for the five colors; the nine songs, the eight airs, the seven notes, and the six pitch standards to provide for the five tones. The distinction between sovereign and vassal, superior and inferior, was made to conform to the proper conduct of the earth; the categories of husband and wife and internal and external to order opposites; the categories of father and son, older and younger brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and nephews, marriage and in-laws to resemble the luminance of heaven. Affairs of state, corvée labor, and the conducting of business were made to follow along with the four seasons; penalty and punishment and the terror of prison to resemble the deadly force of [lightning and thunder’s] shudder and flash; warmth, benevolence, grace, and harmony to imitate heaven’s life-giving fertility and nurture. The people have likes, loathings, happiness, anger, grief, and joy, which are produced by the six pneumas. Therefore one carefully models himself on the proper category so as to control the six intentions. For grief there are weeping and sobbing, for joy there are singing and dancing, for happiness there is gift giving, and for anger there is warfare and fighting. Joy stems from likes and anger from loathings. Hence we must be careful in our actions and trustworthy in regard to our orders, [doling out] fortune and misfortune, and rewards and punishments so as to control man’s fate. Life is the thing men like, death the thing men loathe. What men like, they enjoy, what men loathe, they grieve over. If a man is not amiss in either joy or grief, he is in harmony with the nature of heaven and earth, and by such means can he endure long.” Jianzi said, “Extreme

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indeed is the greatness of the rites!” [Zi Taishu] replied, “The rites are the guidelines for those above and below, the warp and woof of heaven and earth, and that upon which people’s lives depend. On account of this our ancestral kings esteemed the rites. Thus he who is able to bend or straighten himself in service of the rites is a complete man. Is not the greatness [of the rites] appropriate?” Jianzi said, “I wish to hold fast to these words for my whole life.” (B10.25.3/387/3–16)

As this passage demonstrates, the rites are not simply a matter of decorum. Rather, as mentioned above, they are the institutions, orders, and norms that developed from primitive magical ritual and that unite the universe (heaven) with society (people). They include emotional norms governing human joy and grief in the face of life and death. Du Yu (222–284), in his commentary on the Zuo zhuan, says, “The rites were made to control the six intentions— love and hate, joy and rage, grief and happiness—so that none of them would exceed moderation.”↜38 Kong Yingda’s subcommentary explains that “these six intentions were called the six emotions in the Li ji. Within the self, they are emotions; when emotions are stirred, they become intentions [zhi]. Intentions and emotions are one and the same.”↜39 The Doctrine of the Mean,40 similarly, says that “joy and anger, grief and happiness—when unexpressed, this is called the Mean; when expressed in accordance with moderation, this is called harmony.”↜41 Like Du Yu’s notion of “not exceeding moderation,” this suggests that the entire human emotional psyche must be ordered, regulated, and molded by the rites. The Doctrine of the Mean takes the notion of moderation in the expression of one’s emotional psyche and exalts it to a philosophical height far beyond the normal explication of the rites; it emphasizes the fundamental nature of people’s inner being and the cultivation of the individual. The Doc­ trine of the Mean is entirely centered on conscious human self-cultivation; it is a metaphysical exploration of the spiritual nature of human beings. It outlines how the establishment and maintenance of the external social hierarchy governing ruler and minister, father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brothers, and friends (the Five-fold Eminent Way), depends on the subjective, self-conscious cultivation of the inner qualities of “knowledge, humaneness, and courage” (the Three Eminent Virtues). Like Confucius, who himself had held that the rites were foundational to humaneness, later Confucians explicitly developed the important relationship between the rites and the inner psyche, emphasizing that the latter is the root and foundation of the former. Although this view of the role of the rites in human self-cultivation may not accord with historical reality, it was a creative breakthrough that would have great theoretical significance, as the next chapter will demonstrate.

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Modern New Confucians42 Liang Shuming (1893–1988) and Feng Youlan (1895–1990) also gave attention to the function and value of the rites arising from their relationship with the human psychological emotions. Feng Youlan points out that the “rites” extolled by Confucians were actually “poetry” and “art” that expressed subjective emotion. “The Confucian theory of sacrifice is also thoroughly grounded in subjective emotion. The original meaning of sacrifice, according to this Confucian viewpoint, is none other than the pursuit of emotional consolation.”↜43 Again, he argues that “the funerary and sacrificial rites propagated by the Confucians are poetic and artistic, rather than religious.”↜44 Feng demonstrated that funerary and sacrificial rituals, the most important of the rites, are related to the expression and satisfaction of human emotions and serve the existence of humankind as an organic collective. Therefore, they do not belong to religion, with its emphasis on spiritual transcendence, but rather to “art,” which is intimately connected with sensate human existence. Liang Shuming argued that what makes humans so far superior to animals is not their ability to reason so much as their richness of emotion. Emotions arise from inner feelings and take shape externally; this is the origin of rites and music, manners and cultural refinement, and constitutes their content and essence. The fact that Confucians so strongly emphasize rites, music, and ceremonial life is presumably because of their ability to guide and nurture the emotions from the outside in. The emotions must be honest, sincere, profound, and judicious; they must be expressed in an orderly fashion and in moderation; joy and grief, anger and happiness must not depart from a harmonious mean. Only then will human life attain a certain continuity and natural stability.45

Although none of these statements constitute real historical explanations, they do accurately bring out the important relationship between the rites and the psychological emotions. But however you look at them, the rites are still norms that regulate and restrain people externally. Actually, their relationship with the individual’s nature as a flesh-and-blood human being is often one of confrontation, since the molding and influence that the rites exert on the human heart are externally imposed. They constitute a sort of compulsory regulation and systematization not necessarily directly linked to people’s natural sensuous experience or to the expression of their desires. Especially as the content of the rites is gradually extended to form a fixed set of laws or institutions, while formally being reduced more and more to pure externals and decorum, their relationship with

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the inner emotions becomes more attenuated, and even broken. In primitive shamanistic and totemic activity, reason and sociality blended with sensuousness and naturalness. Once these activities developed into various fixed ritual systems, this amalgamation had to be carried on by “music,” which paralleled the rites. Therefore, while on the one hand the definition of the “rites” remains all-inclusive, as illustrated in the Zuo zhuan passage above, on the other hand the parallel between the rites and music demonstrates that there was actually a division of labor between the two. The original character for yue (music) in the oracle bone inscriptions, according to the most recent research, probably referred to the maturing of an ear of grain and was related to the joyous celebration of agricultural harvests. Later it came to be applied to the emotions of joy and enthusiasm.46 The definition in the Shuo wen dictionary reads: “Music is the general term referring to the five tones and eight notes. [The character] resembles drums and a wooden bell stand.”↜47 In later generations it was also popular to explain the character as representing a musical instrument. From an evolutionary standpoint, it is apparent that musical instruments arose very early in China. Archeological materials attest to the surprisingly well-developed musical instruments of ancient China. A set of bells, unearthed in 1978 at the tomb of Yi, Marquis of Zeng, in Sui County of Hubei Province, dates back 2,400 years, yet can be used to produce complex melodies. And there are more ancient traditions about music preserved in the early documents. One example reads, “Thus the origins of music are very remote; it is not the creation of a single age.”↜48 Or again: “In the past, there was the music of the Getian clan;â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹in the past, the Yinkang clanâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹made a dance to disseminate and guide the path [of the yin]. Long ago, the Yellow Emperor ordered Ling Lun to make the pitch standardsâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹and Emperor Ku ordered Xianhei to compose songs like the ‘Sheng [or Kang]’ songs, ‘The Nine Summons,’ ‘The Six Exemplars,’ and ‘The Six Blossoms.’↜”↜49 The Rites of Zhou contains many records such as the following: “The ‘Yellow Bell’ was struck, the ‘Great Platform’ was sung, and the ‘Cloud Gate’ was danced in order to offer sacrifice to the gods of heaven; while for sacrifices to the earth they struck the ‘Taicu,’ sang ‘Welcoming the Gods,’ and danced the ‘Xianchi.’↜”↜50 All these records in the Rites of Zhou demonstrate that the core purpose and the central content of music, song, and dance together was sacrifice to the spirits of ancestors. The same was originally true of the rites. “Establishing the rites and creating music” originally were carried out simultaneously. But the parallel discussions of “rites and music” do demonstrate that the two were both unified and distinct, that they at once worked together and had a division of labor. This

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becomes very clear in some later documents. The “Record of Music” in the Book of Rites (echoed closely by Xunzi’s chapter, “On Music”)51 contains the following statements: Music comes from within, the rites are accomplished from without. (Li ji 19.1/99/10)52 Music unites what is the same, the rites distinguish what is different. (19.20/102/7) Music is the harmonization of heaven and earth; the rites order heaven and earth. When there is harmony, the myriad living things are in accord; when there is order, all things are differentiated. (19.4/99/23) When the rites and propriety are established, noble and base are made equal; when music and refinement are brought together, high and low are harmonized. (19.1/99/8) Music is the ultimate harmonization, the rites the ultimate orderliness; the inner being is harmonized, while the external is ordered. (19.26/104/11) Music is that which the emotions cannot alter; the rites, that which reason cannot change. (19.20/102/6) Devote yourself to music in order to govern the heart. (19.26/104/7) Administer the rites in order to govern your body. (19.26/104/9)

These passages make it exceptionally clear that, in contrast to the rites, which regulate external aspects, it is only by its direct appeal to the inner “heart” and “emotions” that music can supplement and complement the rites. Furthermore, music is characterized by “harmony”; thus the expression, “music entails harmony.” Why should music “entail harmony”? Because the fundamental objectives of music and the rites are one and the same: to safeguard and strengthen the harmony and stability of the fixed communal order. Thus when the former kings established the rites and music, it was not for the purpose of satisfying the desires of our mouths and stomachs, eyes and ears, but in order to teach the people to even out their likes and loathings, and to return them to the rectitude of the Way of humankind. (Li ji 19.1/99/4)

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[Music] sets up the values of higher and lower pitches, and arranges beginning and end in order, in such a way as to resemble the way things are; thus it is that the principles of intimate and distant, noble and base, elder and younger, male and female, all are apparent in music. (19.12/101/3)

Or more concretely: For this reason, when there is music in the ancestral temple, both ruler and minister, superior and inferior listen to it together, and none fails to be harmonious and respectful. When there is music among the clan elders and townspeople, elder and younger listen to it together, and none fails to be harmonious and orderly. When it is played within the gate and doorways of a house, father and son, older and younger brother together listen to it, and none fails to be harmonious and intimate. Thus it is musicâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹that unites father and son, ruler and minister; it is music that creates familial bonds among a myriad of peoples. This is the method behind the former kings’ establishment of music. (19.28/104/24)

This is the first level of meaning of the phrase “Music entails harmony.” At this level, music and the rites are one and the same. But at a second level of meaning, music and the rites differ, in that music uses the communication, coordination, and harmonization of collective emotions in order to achieve the above-mentioned goals. Thus, it is not an external, coercive institution, but an internal guide. It is not the opponent of nature or the senses, nor is it an externally imposed reason or sociality that governs or reins in the sensuous or natural. Instead, it is precisely within the sensuous and natural that music establishes reason and sociality. From the standpoint of the “humanization of nature,” then, music is more direct and of more crucial importance than the rites. By molding the temperament and shaping the emotions, music establishes human nature internally, and thus works along with the rites to achieve a harmonious order that binds society together. At a third level, the phrase “Music entails harmony” implies that music seeks not only the harmony of human relations that orders superior and inferior, elder and younger, noble and base (the harmony of superior and inferior), but also the “harmony” between the gods and spirits of the universe and the human world (harmony between heaven and earth). Since music originated with the sacrifices, and also has an effect on human relationships, it follows that its goals would include this harmonious unity between heaven and humankind as well as that among humans themselves. And both of these types of “harmony”—among humans and between heaven and humans—are achieved

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through the “harmonization” (or happiness) of the emotional faculties of the individual psyche (because music directly affects the senses and emotions). But how is this achieved? How can music effect this harmony among persons and between heaven and humankind implied by these second and third levels of meaning? Leaving aside the mystical explanations that are so ubiquitous in ancient times, the key was to establish a unifying system of correspondences in which (1) the cadence of music (including dance and song), (2) the activity of the natural world, and (3) the emotions of the human person, found their counterparts in rhythm and meter. As was mentioned above, from the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods through the Han dynasty, when the worldview centered on the Five Phases was widespread, taste, color, and sound were each divided into “five,” in order to construct a structured system of correspondences between human relations and the universe as a whole. Within this system, first of all, “Harmony begets things; identity produces nothing.” And, “If sound is singular, it finds no audience; if things are singular, there is no pattern; if flavors are singular, they have no effect.”↜53 This is to say, singularity cannot produce harmony; harmony is by necessity the unification of plurality. Second, this unity tends particularly to manifest itself as the “mutual complementarity” of opposing elements. In the Zuo zhuan we read: When the former kings matched the five flavors and harmonized the five sounds, it was in order to quiet their hearts and perfect their administration. Sounds are like flavorsâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹clear and turbid, small and great, short and long, fast and slow, mournful and joyful, sharp and gentle, ritardando and accelerando, high and low, emergent and entering, close and distant. These pairs are mutually complementary. When the gentleman hears it, his heart is quieted; when the heart is quieted, moral power is in harmony. (B10.20.8/375/25)

From this it is apparent that what we call “harmony” is chiefly manifested in the intermingling of plural elements or as the mutual complementarity of opposing elements. The world as a whole, all things, society and human emotions—all of these are unities of diverse and contradictory elements, and so it follows that music should also be this way. It is only because musical harmony is similar in structure to the harmony of human relationships or the universe as a whole that it can function as a corollary with these realms. This is why musical harmony could be acclaimed as being able to cause “the pneumas to be without obstruction of the yin or dissipation of the yang, so that yin and yang are ordered, and wind and rain arrive in due season, the excellent is born

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and blessings multiply, and the people are in harmony and reap benefitsâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹the spirits are thereby appeased, and the people thereby made to heed.”↜54 It is true that this claim bears the vestiges of the totemic, magical viewpoint according to which spirits and humans are connected; however, at the same time it also expresses the important idea that music should essentially mirror the regularity of the universe as a whole and of human relationships. This is what is referred to by the statements, “Government resembles music, music entails harmony, and harmony entails peace”;55 “When a thing attains its constancy, this is called a ‘pole’ of music; the collection of such ‘poles’ is called sound; when sounds resound and uphold each other, this is called harmony; when neither the tiny nor the great exceed their bounds, this is called peace.”↜56 What music seeks to accomplish is no less than the interconnection and harmonious coexistence of the social order, the individual human person, and the cosmos and all it contains. What is meant by “harmony” and “peace” is the operation of these three elements, each participating to an appropriate degree (neither the tiny nor the great exceeding their bounds), in mutual regulation, cooperation, intercommunication, and balance. As music directly emanates from the inner being and originates in the emotions (the emotions having been aroused by external things), then the harmony sought by music must be connected with the concrete examination of the emotions. This is true because the so-called molding or shaping of the temperament and emotions really refers to giving form to the emotions. The form of inner emotions is invisible; what can be seen are the artistic forms corresponding to these emotions. Therefore, our investigation into the meaning of “music entails harmony” and so forth, comes down to the pursuit of emotional form. Susanne Langer once defined art as “feeling in form.” She points out that this artistic form is not the expression of individual emotion, but rather a type of generalized life rhythm; hence it is a type of nondeductive or emotional “logic.”↜57 Music, “by virtue of its dynamic structure, can express the forms of vital experience which language is particularly unfit to convey. Feeling, life, motion and emotion constitute its import.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹[T]he special theory of musicâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹may, I believe, be generalized to yield a theory of art as such.”↜58 Music, and indeed all of art, is more than individual emotional self-expression; it is a type of universal emotional form. This basic notion is relatively close to the tradition of ancient Chinese aesthetic thought. The ancient Chinese tradition of rites and music produced some surprisingly concrete, if still primitive, inquiries into universal emotional form. As an example, let us look at several texts from the “Record of Music” in the Book of Rites:

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When one has a feeling of grief, its sound will be hurried and diminished; when one has a feeling of happiness, its sound will be leisurely and unhurried. When one has a feeling of joy, its sound will be exclamatory and diffuse; when one has a feeling of anger, its sound will be coarse and rigorous. When one has a feeling of respect, its sound will be frank and upright; when one has a feeling of love, its sound will be harmonious and gentle. (Li ji 19.1/98/14) Thus, when music is played that is slight and weak or hurried and diminished, the people’s thoughts will be angst-ridden. When music is played that is leisurely and harmonious, slow and calm, the people will be placid and happy. When music is played that is coarse and rigorous, beginning violently and ending in a spasm, expansive and exciting, the people will be firm and resolute. When music is played that is straightforward and upstanding, firm and upright, the people will be serious and respectful. When music is played that is vast and plenteous, full-formed and pleasing, completed in an orderly manner and harmonized in its motions, the people will be benevolent and caring. When music is played that is unconstrained and decadent, deviant and scattered, completed in haste, the people will be made lascivious and immoral. (Li ji 19.11/100/27) For those who are magnanimous and tranquil, gentle and upright, it is appropriate to sing from the “Hymns.”↜59 For those who are broad-minded and big-hearted, and yet are tranquil, who are clear and open-minded, and yet trustworthy, it is appropriate to sing from the “Greater Odes.” For those who are considerate, reverent, and frugal, and are fond of the rites, it is appropriate to sing from the “Lesser Odes.” For those who are upright and upstanding and yet tranquil, and who are incorruptible but unassuming, it is appropriate to sing from the “Airs of the States.” For those who are correct and upright, and yet benevolent and caring, it is appropriate to sing from the [dynastic hymns of the] Shang. For those who are mild-tempered and good-hearted, and yet capable of being decisive, it is appropriate to sing from the [songs of] Qi. (Li ji 19.29/105/4, 2)

All of these passages point out the connections between specific sounds, musical performances, dances, songs, and poems, and particular human emotions and dispositions. In these connections it is possible to discern certain patterns at work. They all share a common universal form. Through the artistic form of each particular musical performance, dance, song, or poem, various specific emotions can be called forth, expressed, or brought to bear. In this

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sense, the whole variety of genres, styles, and conventions of music, dance, song, and poetry are simply different emotional forms. The molding and shaping of emotions, then, finds its concrete manifestation in the attention to artistic form—to how various artistic forms are reflected in, brought to bear upon, or appropriate to different emotional sensibilities. While artistic forms have intelligible and determinate physical shells (sound, posture, language, rhythm), to this day emotions remain difficult to grasp concretely. But what sort of standard should be applied to the concrete expression in artistic form of this harmony—whether between mind and body, among people, or between heaven and humankind—emphasized by the phrase, “music entails harmony”? The following passage from the Zuo zhuan provides an answer: This is indeed the ultimate! Upright but not haughty, bowing but not servile; it is near but does not encroach, distant and yet does not grow estranged. It is melancholy but not despondent, joyous but not overindulgent. It is put to use but not depleted, broad-minded and yet does not make an exhibition. It shows favor but does not waste, acquires but does not covet. It stands fast but does not grind to a halt, moves but does not run unchecked. The five tones are in harmony, the eight winds at peace; the rhythm is in proper measure, its observance orderly; this is what abundant moral power adheres to. (B9.29.13/303/12)

This is the “A, but not more or less than A” standard of the Doctrine of the Mean. It is to be “joyous but not depraved, mournful but not melancholy, plaintive but not enraged,” as well as “gentle and sincere.”↜60 This standard requires that inner emotions like joy, grief, anger, and happiness not be excessive, for their excess will harm, not only the individual’s mind and body, but also the stability of society. The value and function of music and other art forms lie in their ability to construct this type of universalized and harmonious emotional form. Therefore, on the one hand it is said that “music is happiness; it is indispensable to human emotion. Happiness by necessity issues forth in sound, and takes form in movement. This is the way of humankind,â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹and thus people cannot be without music” (Li ji 19.26/104/16). This passage draws on the fact that, in Chinese, the same character is used for “music” (today pronounced yue) and for “happiness” or “joy” (today pronounced le). It states that music is the way of humankind—indeed, it is human nature. On the other hand, “if it is full and without decrease, it will overflow; if it is heavy but without support, it will topple. In general, making music is the means to moderate happiness.”↜61 One commentary on the last word in this passage explains, “it is pronounced le

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[referring to happiness], and [thus the passage] speaks of not enjoying things to the point of wanton depravity.”↜62 In other words, yue (both happiness and music) is necessary for humankind, but must not be overdone. “Now if things are allowed to move people without obstruction, and people’s likes and loathings are without proper measure, then things will become supreme and people become like them. For people to become like things destroys heaven’s endowment and exhausts human desires;â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹this is the way of great chaos. For this reason, when the former kings made the rites and music, they became a moderating measure for people” (Li ji 19.1/99/1, 4). More concretely, “to make what is bent straight, what is intricate spare, what is angled rounded, the rhythm of music should be just sufficient to move the goodness in people’s hearts, but should not make people let go to the point that evil essences can find a place in them. This is the former kings’ strategy for music” (Li ji 19.27/104/21). In sum, then, “If one governs the desires with the Way (dao), then there will be happiness without it leading to disorder; if one forgets the Way in favor of desire, then there will be confusion and not happiness” (Li ji 19.14/101/18). This is to say that both the art form (the musical composition) and the emotion (happiness) must maintain the basic standard of “harmony.” This “harmony” satisfies the need for happiness, which is indispensable to humankind, and at the same time moderates and governs this happiness. The two (the art form and the emotion) are united in that, through the standard of harmony, they both shape and mold human emotions. It is for this reason that Chinese aesthetics from the very beginning has eschewed any form of overpowering grief, anger, sadness, or joy, as well as any irrational expression of desire, and has no room for the almost religious type of emotional cleansing found in Aristotle’s theory of catharsis. What the ancient Chinese sought was for emotion to accord with physical and mental realities and to serve the harmonious cooperation of the community. They rejected any emotion (happiness) or art form (music) that departed from or destroyed this standard. The purpose of music is to shape internally this type of universalized emotional form. This is the basic aesthetic principle expressed by the phrase “music entails harmony.” Despite the fact that the “Record of Music” is a Confucian classic, its treatment of these requirements for music reflects the more ancient tradition of rites and music. Based on her investigation of certain primitive tribes, Ruth Benedict asserts that, from their start, cultures can be distinguished as either Dionysian or Apollonian.63 Primitive cultures of the Apollonian type value moderation, sobriety, and reason, and do not seek mind-altering experience. In Dionysian cultures, on the other hand, we find wild frenzies, masochism, terror, and immoderation. Each type has its own forms of expressing emotion, which with

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the passage of time become ensconced in tradition. Whether this view is accurate or not, it has great value for understanding the ancient Chinese tradition of rites and music. Clearly, even if we do not call the tradition of rites and music Apollonian, it most certainly is not Dionysian.64 In his commentary on the Book of Songs (Shijing), Song neo-Confucian synthesizer Zhu Xi (1130–1200) remarked: Take the poem, “Xishuai [Cicada],” for example. Its time was characterized by diligence and thrift. The people would work hard all year long, without taking the slightest rest. At year’s end, they might at long last reward themselves with feasting and music, but at the same time would warn one another that “for everything there is a season,” and that they should not exceed the bounds of what was healthy. Isn’t this why we say today that, though people cannot be without musicâ•›/â•›pleasure, they must not take it too far? This is how far-reaching and profound their insights were.65

Zhu Xi’s statement is quite typical. Nowadays, people often remark that the Chinese people are characterized by a so-called worrying mentality. The “Xici zhuan” commentary on the Book of Changes (Yijing) remarks that “the authors of the Yijing seemed to have had anxieties and troubles” (66/84/4).66 Judging from all the “Six Classics” (the Books of Songs, Documents, Rites, Music, Changes, and the Spring and Autumn Annals), this non-Dionysian cultural character, with its preference for calm consideration and self-control over sensual revelry, was a very early phenomenon indeed, predating even Confucianism itself. This cultural character has advantages and disadvantages, not only in theory, but also in its concrete manifestations in history and tradition. Therefore, our response cannot be a simple affirmation or denial; we cannot simply decide whether to preserve or discard it. Rather, we must begin by consciously recognizing it, and making a new attempt to explain it. At the risk of great oversimplification, the advantage of this cultural character is that it consciously and firmly rejects and resists the spread of all kinds of instinctual animal desires, so that the humanized and socialized aspects of natural desire are allowed to emerge very strongly. Desire is transformed into the collective emotion embodied in human relations, while sensation is transformed into subtle social experience full of interpersonal consideration. It is in this way that subtle delicacy and profound reserve of emotion and experience become the trademarks of Chinese art, characterized as it is by the phrases “One sings, three join in and harmonize [yi chang san tan]” and “The overflow of meaning is inexhaustible [yu yi bu jin].” According to Zhu Xi’s explication of the first phrase, which

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originates in the “Record of Music,”↜67 to “harmonize” means to sing in chorus;68 “one person sings, three join in with him, as in the funeral dirges of today, for example.”↜69 (We will come back to funeral dirges in Chapter 4.) In sum, then, “music” (and recall that for the ancients music and poetry were inseparable) caused the natural human emotions to become socialized. The “Record of Music” says: “Music comes from within, the rites are performed without. Because music comes from within, it produces quietude; because the rites are performed without, they result in cultivation” (Li ji 19.1/98/10). The text advocates the use of “quietude” and “cultivation” to restrain people’s instinctual animal impulses, in order to regulate their emotions and actions. Sigmund Freud once pointed out that a necessary condition for the advancement of civilization is the triumph of the reality principle over the pleasure principle. The fact that Chinese civilization reached maturity so early probably has to do with this characteristic of the tradition of rites and music. On the other hand, however, the scope of this humanization was still narrow. The triumph of the reality principle over the pleasure principle, and the consequent premature powerful emergence of the “superego,” places the vitality of the individual under long-term restraint, so that it cannot fully emerge and develop. Even in art this is the case. Unrestrained desire, instinctive impulses, intense emotion (unrestrained anger and lamentation, wild joy, despairing suffering), purgative distress, mistreatment, destruction, tragedy—any objectionable emotional form (or art) that serves up the ugly, weird, evil, and so on—all these are totally excluded. Emotions are forged and confined within relatively quiet and harmonious forms. Even if the Chinese tradition has its so-called straightforward and uninhibited, bold and unconstrained, dull and heavy, and natural and unrestrained styles, none of these can avoid circumscription within the emotional form in which “music entails harmony.” It is no wonder a contemporary scholar has remarked, “To a Western ear, Chinese music seems not to reach complete expression of emotion; regardless of whether it is joy or sorrow, neither is fully displayed.”↜70 And again, “To the present day, most Chinese folk songs still use the five-tone scale, which lacks half-tones.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹According to some psychologists of music, half-tones produce anxiety, and require the resolution of that anxiety; while music that lacks half-tones promotes relaxation and calm.”↜71 And further, “Songs have a fundamentally melancholy air, perhaps epitomized in the homesickness of a traveler separated from a lover. These sentiments generally are not expressed in despairing, plaintive sounds, but rather in a kind of ‘half-unspoken,’ ‘hesitant’ way. Generally speaking, Chinese music involves the transformation from melancholy feelings to resignation, harmony, and self-contentment. The same trait is also found in Chinese painting and lyric poetry.”↜72

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It must be said that this characteristic of Chinese art and aesthetics had a very early start, both in theory and practice: it originated in the tradition of rites and music. And precisely because it is a tradition rooted in music, Chinese art seeks to directly shape and mold humanized emotions rather than to represent the visual world in order to call forth people’s recognition and thus (indirectly) move their emotions. For this reason, Chinese art and aesthetics emphasize the mastery of artistic form and vigorously oppose any kind of naturalism. One of the fundamental requirements of music itself is strict formal regulation—of rhythm, melody, movement, and structure. Furthermore, music always includes repetition. In the Analects of Confucius it is said that “when the Master was with a man who sang well, he would always have the song repeated, and then he would join in” (Analects 7.32). In song there is also the principle of repetition expressed in the phrase, “one sings, three join in and harmonize.” Later, in any and all artistic genres, Chinese aesthetics would advocate formal regulation and emphasize traditional conventions and models, tending toward stylization and categorization, and aiming for the order and continued consolidation of formal structure. All this is for the sake of abstracting the pure form of beauty in order to directly shape human emotions. The prominent rational emphasis on the harmonization of the emotions is evident in the requirements of meter, tone, and rhyme in literature, the strong emphasis in calligraphy and painting on the “ink and brush” (the weight and speed of the brush, the thickness and wetness of the ink, and so on), formal requirements as to how to paint mountains and how to paint water, and requirements for architecture set out in the Rites of Zhou (such as the use of the symmetrical pattern of composition based on the character jing [well]). Even in the romantic landscape architecture of later generations we still find standards such as “paths should be winding, hills both low and high,” “brooks should be meandering,” and so on. The stylization, categorization, and affectation of Chinese drama are even more well known. Why is it we never tire of hearing the same familiar arias? Why, after thousands of years, do people still enjoy writing regulated verse and quatrains in seven-character lines? How is it that the art of calligraphy has persisted continuously for several thousand years? Because these are highly refined forms of beauty. They are forms of natural emotion that have been successfully humanized. It is for the sake of establishing these forms that the tradition of rites and music exists. Philosophically, these forms can be said to endow people with an inner sense of their noumenal existence, in which they recognize their universal membership in a race that has transcended its animal origins. Precisely because artistic form is both the object of artistic creation and the standard of its judgment, subjects that faithfully describe reality are relegated

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to a subordinate position. Even realistic subjects are subject to formal beautification. For example, in Peking opera, the gait of a drunkard and the ragged clothes of a beggar must be beautiful. Further, many overly stimulating or repellent objects or situations, which would directly arouse sensual feelings (bloody injuries, corpses and skeletons, the terror of war, rape and murder, the reality of suffering), are routinely excluded or avoided. This is characteristic both of the national (non-Dionysian) spirit and of artistic features (aesthetics). The cultural tendency of Chinese art and the Chinese people to seek beauty is deep-seated indeed. It is important to point out the need for extreme caution in applying the Western aesthetic concepts of “representation” and “expression” to Chinese art and aesthetics. Today, many theorists practically parrot the truism that Western art emphasizes “representation” (mimesis), while Chinese art stresses “expression.” This is actually quite inaccurate. As explained, the purpose of “music” in ancient China was not to express the inner, subjective emotions of the individual. On the contrary, it was to present the universal laws of the external world (from heaven and earth, and yin and yang, to politics and human events), in the process drawing on and reflecting the emotions. The goal of music was an ordered universe and harmony in the human world, while at the same time it provided form, order, and logic to human emotions. In addition to the treatises on music already discussed, other Chinese documents have similar emphases. The Wenxin diaolong, an important Six Dynasties aesthetic work, remarks that “sun and moon are successive disks of jade, showing to those below images that cleave to Heaven. Rivers and mountains are glittering finery, unrolling forms that give order (li) to Earth. These are the patterns of the Way.”↜73 And again, “For is not pattern in words ‘the mind of Heaven and Earth’?!”↜74 Chinese theorists of painting have also stressed that “painting is not merely the practice of an art form; rather, when perfected, it should be as one with the Changes and the Images.” And, “With a single brush, one can simulate the entire universe; from the tiny light of the pupil one can discern the form of the human body.”↜75 Or finally, “[it is through painting that one is able] to grasp the virtue of heaven and earth, and to symbolize the nature of all things.”↜76 Thus, it is possible to state that Chinese art is “representational”; what it represents, however, is not discrete situations, things, or phenomena, but rather the natural universal law, order, and logic of the cosmos. At the same time, we can state that Chinese art is “expressive,” though what it expresses is not individual subjective emotions or personality, but rather universalized emotions that must be able to objectively “harmonize with heaven and earth.” Even

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landscape architecture, “though man-made,â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹will look like something naturally created”↜77—it is to both “imitate” and “express” nature. Crucial to this type of imitation or representation, however, is the endowment of the scene with emotion, in order to create an yijing, a mood or artistic idea. Clearly, it is not a question simply of either “representation” or “expression.” No such dualistic distinction exists in Chinese aesthetics or art. Generally speaking, Chinese art definitely differs from the type of precise representation of discrete, real situations that we find in the West, and the more “representational” of ancient Chinese stories also lack the kind of expressiveness we find in modern Western works characterized by the presentation of intensely individual feelings. Relatively speaking, individual feelings are not prominent in Chinese works. Most conform to the norm of “starting from emotion and halting at ritual and propriety,” and in their expression of emotion tend toward more objective and imagistic content representing nature and society. At the same time, Chinese representation of objective reality does not depart from the expression of emotion. The two are usually so intertwined as to be indistinguishable. So Chinese art, literature, and aesthetics cannot be said to be either representational or expressive; rather, Chinese art takes the molding of the emotions as its goal, having its origins in the ancient tradition founded on the standard that “music entails harmony.”

Politics and Art From the above discussion it is apparent that the tradition of rites and music, which formed the institutional structure of ancient China, reflected the evolution of primitive shamanistic rituals and totemic dances into a non-Dionysian cultural form. Rejecting the intense, fevered emotional expression and sensual pleasure of its predecessors, and instead emphasizing harmony, equanimity, moderation, and temperance, the tradition of rites and music both conformed to and served the contemporary social order—that is, the politics of the time. Rites and music are thus directly related to and intimately connected with politics. As the “Record of Music” of the Li ji puts it, “If these four—rites, music, law and administration—are implemented without fail, then the kingly Way will be complete” (Li ji 19.1/99/6). A very prominent feature of the aesthetic theory of “music entails harmony,” therefore, is that it intimately links art (music) with politics by means of molding the emotions. The main reason music is needed is because it can “improve people’s minds, move people deeply, cause customs to change; it is for this reason that the former kings taught it” (Li ji 19.10/100/25). This view suggests, on the one hand, that different types of music reflect different political

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attitudes and social moods. Quoting again from the “Record of Music”: “When the world is well-ruled, its music is peaceful and joyous, and its government harmonious; when the world is in chaos, its music is plaintive and indignant, and its government perverse; the music of a lost state is mournful and nostalgic, and its people weary. The Way of music is one with that of government” (Li ji 19.1/98/19). On the other hand, different types of music, or even the sounds of different musical instruments, can also arouse varieties of political consciousness, as another passage from the “Record of Music” will illustrate: Bells produce a clanging sound, the clanging acts as a signal, the signal arouses all and produces martial feelings; when the ruler hears bells, he thinks of his ministers of war. The chime-stones produce a ringing sound that is moving, and may move one to think of death; when the ruler hears chime-stones, he thinks of his officers who have died defending his borders. Stringed instruments produce a mournful sound, mourning arouses purity, and purity awakens the intent; when the ruler hears the sound of zither and lute, he thinks of his ministers committed to uprightness. Wind instruments produce a sound like flowing waters, which suggests an assembly and can draw multitudes; when the ruler hears flutes and pipes, he thinks of his officials who are able to lead the multitudes. The sound of drums and tambourines is joyful, and arouses one to action, as the advancing of the armies; when the ruler hears it, he thinks of generals and commanders. Thus when the ruler listens to music, he hears more than just their sounds, but also what is associated with them. (Li ji 19.25/103/9)

This simplistic insistence on the direct connection between art (here music) and politics confuses a number of different issues. Because of its intimate relationship with the emotions, music can reflect variations in the life of the people as well as in the sociopolitical situation; in a certain sense this goes without saying. That different musical instruments can arouse different emotional responses or types of ethical consciousness is also true. But to so concretely connect music and musical sounds with specific political content, political requirements, and political concepts is obviously to go too far. In ancient Chinese aesthetics, this exaggeration of the political content and function of art has a long history. Just as in Aristotle we can find similarities with the Chinese notion of the “mean,” so ancient Greek thought also drew direct connections between music and morality. Aristotle thought that music was similar to morality in both its rhythm and its combination of high and low tones. Every tune was accorded an

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ethical, moral character; every tune was either gentle, courageous, mournful, or indolent and could arouse the corresponding response or character in its hearers.78 This is quite close to the Chinese theory discussed above. But in China, this view prevailed over a long period of time. Confucians fixed this notion and made it part of their fundamental doctrine. Even more important, since it formed a part of the already long-standing historical phenomenon of the tradition of rites and music, it was not just another theory or concept, but acquired the continuing force of habit. According to the rites and music tradition, music, along with the rites, was a tool for the consolidation of the sociopolitical order and had a political function and character at its very heart. Even later, when different types of art were distinguished, this traditional quality was always a basic requirement of all of them. The expectations of music, of literature, even later of painting, were that they “perfect education and serve human relationships.” The government of China is a government of ethics, in which the unity or identity of the good and the beautiful is a perennial feature. In the ancient documents of many peoples, the interchangeable use of the words “beauty” and “goodness” is quite a common phenomenon. But in China, this phenomenon persists to the present day, for example in the so-called Five Essentials of Behavior, and Four Points of Beauty.79 Relatively speaking, Chinese aesthetics places a remarkable emphasis on this connection. Western philosophers (for example, Plato) also have emphasized the close relationship between beauty and goodness, but its conspicuousness in China is due to the same long-standing historical tradition of rites and music. How does this play out in different artistic genres? If we compare the “Record of Music” with the “Great Preface” to the Book of Songs, we find that the theory in the former which requires “music” to serve ethical education is carried on and plainly evident in the “Great Preface”: Poetry is where the intent arrives. In the heart it is intent; when expressed in words it is a poem. The emotions are moved within, and take shape in words. Where words are inadequate, one sighs; where sighs are inadequate, one sings; where song is inadequate, unconsciously one begins to clap, dance, and tap the feet. Feelings are expressed in sound, and sound, when patterned, is called music. The music of a well-governed world is peaceful, rejoicing in its harmonious administration; the music of a chaotic world is plaintive, reflecting dissatisfaction with its perverse administration; the music of a lost state is mournful, meditating on the difficulties of its people. Thus, in setting right achievements and failures, moving heaven and earth, and influencing the spiritual world, poetry has no equal.80

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Although the “Great Preface” appeared quite late,81 the fact that its language and thought are nearly identical to that of the Li ji demonstrates that the two texts are products of roughly the same period, or that one is slightly later. The concept that “poetry gives voice to the intent” first appeared in the Book of Documents (2/3/18); it is the earliest and most well-known definition of poetry. The “Preface” is simply an explanation or exposition of the ancient statement. It has sometimes been thought to be the work of Confucius or his disciple, Zi Xia; I prefer to view it as a product of the Mencian school;82 but in any case it certainly reflects Confucian aesthetics. But what is the actual meaning of “poetry gives voice to the intent”? There are always a variety of explanations. Some say that the “intent” in question is that of the author. Others hold that “poetry gives voice to the intent” refers to the expression of the intent through the poem, that the “intent” is neither that of the author nor that of the original poem, but that of the reader (or the one using or quoting the poem). For example, many citations of the Book of Songs in the Analects, Zuo zhuan, and Mencius demonstrate that “poetry” was used to “give voice to the intent” of diplomatic speech, in which it was common practice to buttress one’s argument by apposite quotation from this classic. This view is supported by such statements from the Analects as “unless one has studied the Songs, one has nothing to say” (Analects 16.13) and “when sent as an envoy, one will not have the apposite response” (Analects 13.5). Others believe that the phrase refers to individual interests and feelings. Still others think that “intent” refers to the achievements, instructions, history, or requirements of the community—in other words, that the phrase refers to the passing on of philosophical or ethical principles. As far as the origin or original meaning of the term is concerned, I would advocate the last interpretation, particularly if we keep in mind the interconnectedness of shi (poetry) and yue (music). The word “poetry” probably first referred to the incantations of shamans and was intimately connected with sacrificial activities. Later, it would gradually develop into the eulogizing of ancestors and the recording of tribal history, military victories, and sacrificial ritual. This is most likely the earliest implication of zhi (intent). Of course, this “intent” is very difficult to divorce from politics. The historical traces inherent in the notion of “expressing intent” are apparent in many examples from the Odes and Hymns sections of the Book of Songs.83 The close connection to governmental ethics is also found in the (probably later) practice of “collecting ballads,” which included “the laborer singing of his work, the hungry of his food” and aimed to “correct” the “wrongs” of the government. This essentially mirrors the function of music discussed above. Even the Tang

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dynasty commentator Kong Yingda remarks, in his commentary on the Book of Songs: What one expresses in a poem is but one’s own personal heart; yet this “personal” heart is actually the heart of the whole people. The poet encompasses the opinion of the whole people within his own, so that the affairs of the people can be voiced by this one person.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹This is why they are called Airs [feng].â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹In what he expresses, the poet unites the hearts of all under heaven, and the ways of the four corners of the earth.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹This is why they are called Odes [ya].84

Thus, the phrase “poetry gives voice to the intent” referred to a national, political intent that included the “hearts of all under heaven” and the “ways of the four corners of the earth.” But the most remarkable thing is the way in which Han Confucians used poetry as a means of “beautiful criticism,” or veiled satire. This is the concretization of the idea put forward in the Great Preface of “setting right achievements and failuresâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹enriching human relations,85 improving moral education, and reforming customs.”↜86 This view of poetry requires it to be a sort of tool for gently satirizing or admonishing the emperor in order to fulfill its purely political function. The ideal of “gentleness and sincerity” (wenrou dunhou) follows the same aesthetic principle. This tradition, fundamental to orthodox Confucian aesthetics, continues unbroken through Bo Juyi’s (772–846) time (in his famous statement that “an essay should conform to the times, and a poem should address current affairs”) and through the Ming and Qing dynasties, all the way up to the modern period. It is a kind of political literature, or political literary interpretation. According to this school of interpretation, “the music of a wellgoverned world is gentle and easy, as its government is peaceful; the music of a chaotic world is mournful and plaintive, as its government is perverse. The way of poetry is the same.”↜87 Clearly, this is the same view as is expressed in the “Record of Music,” and also has its origins in the rites and music tradition. This was the basis for the Han Confucian practice of using politico-moral education to explicate poetry, insisting, for example, on reading the first poem of the Book of Songs, “Guan ju” (The Ospreys), as extolling the virtues of the imperial consort, and so forth. In its context, there are clear historical reasons for this practice. Many sources suggest that poetry was originally indistinguishable from music, and that it originated in sacrificial and ceremonial contexts. The so-called poems of antiquity were originally the historical, political, or religious documents of the clan, tribe, or state, and in no sense the expressions of

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individuals. The stretching of meanings by Han Confucian scholars, therefore, actually unconsciously mirrored the important historical process by which primitive songs had progressed from religious or political expressions of the shamanistic culture to become lyric poems of a literary character. Originally, the phrase “poetry gives voice to the intent” reflected poetry’s moral function (to lead people into the Way) and its historical function (to record events).88 It is therefore quite inaccurate to view the original meaning of “poetry gives voice to the intent” as referring to something like the present-day expressionism in which the individual’s aspirations and feelings are given voice. Ancient painting similarly took as its subject historical events and mythical content from shamanistic religion in a continuation of primitive cave art, which likewise served the purposes of politico-moral education. A clear example is how the poet Qu Yuan (340?–278 B.C.), in his (attributed) “Questioning Heaven,” “sees the temples to the ancestral kings and high officials, and paints heaven and earth, mountains and rivers, spirits and ghosts, magnificent treasures, strange phenomena, and the deeds of ancient sages and monsters.”↜89 Dance, music, poetry, and painting are all the outpourings of the same tradition. “Music entails harmony” and “Poetry gives voice to the intent” are actually one and the same. But with the passage of time the huge contradictions inherent within the rites and music tradition, with its emphasis on the fusion of politico-moral education with individual thoughts and feelings, gradually rose to the surface. For the demands of rational society and politico-moral education could not always be completely reconciled with individual emotions in this “feeling in form” that is art. Particularly with the development of social life, the proliferation of material goods, and the expansion of demand for consumption, the rules of traditional society with its ethical demands and political institutions often became an unhappy limitation on the fulfillment of individual aspirations. In the “Record of Music” and other pre-Qin classics, we can see a whole array of differences of opinion implicit in such phrases as “the music of the ancients,” “the music of today,” “elegant music,” and “serious music.” It could be said that the progress of social life caused people to demand that their personal feelings and desires be liberated from the bonds of traditional political ethics. Thus it is that politics and art, the regulations of politico-moral instruction, and the logical form of emotion itself came to share a complex coexistence in which could be found both conformity and discrepancy, both unity and opposition. At different times and for various reasons, these surfaced in aesthetic theory in the form of debates and contradictions between ornament and substance, beauty and good, expressing emotion and being a “vehicle for the Way,”

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“musical education” (emphasizing emotional form) and “poetic education” (emphasizing political content). The situation is thus very complex and calls for a very concrete analysis. The moment we generalize, it is easy to oversimplify and miss the truth. At the same time, some simplification is unavoidable. I believe there is some merit in looking at these issues from the perspective of the development and differentiation of various artistic genres. Because the tradition of rites and music emphasizes the universality of emotional form in art, expression (even if it is not the expression of individual feelings) plays a very important role in literature. The fact that epic poetry developed so little—indeed almost not at all—in ancient China, probably has to do with this tradition. The Odes (ya) and Hymns (song) occupy only a small portion of the Book of Songs, the greater portion consisting of the Airs (feng), which can have a very strongly expressive character. Thus it was that “poetry gives voice to the intent” was gradually interpreted by later generations as referring to emotional expression, and even to the expression of individual aspirations and feelings. By the Wei-Jin period (220–420), the phrase “poetry has its origin in feeling” (shi yuan qing) finally became as important in aesthetic theory as “poetry gives voice to the intent.” But expression, even the more individualistic expression of later years, is still inseparable from politico-moral instruction. In the context of China’s ever-developing bureaucratic system, in which literati and intellectuals were always the foundation and mainstay of ethical politics, the above-mentioned contradictions would take on an even more interesting cast. Does art ultimately arise for the purpose of the expression of emotions and aspirations? Or for the purpose of propagating ethical education? Is it a “vehicle for the Way”? Does it “give voice to the intent” or “originate in feelings”? This question, which originally seemed limited to the ruminations of Confucian aestheticians, would remain a persistent, fundamental problem of Chinese artistic creation and aesthetic theory. As the once fashionable ancient musical arts gradually fell into decline, these contradictions and debates came to center more around literature (poetry and prose) and calligraphy. During the Six Dynasties period (222–589), a distinction arose between literature (wen) and writing (bi). It was said, “If it rhymes, it is literature; if not, it is writing.” Because rhyming literature had a more musical character and more easily touched the emotions, it emphasized expression and was more concerned with form. The Wei-Jin period (220–420) saw literature achieve a self-conscious, independent character, of which Cao Pi’s (187–226) “Discourse

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on Literature” [Dian lun lun wen] and Lu Ji’s “Rhapsody on Literature” [Wen Fu] are the theoretical manifestations. “Writing,” on the other hand, referred to the recording of events, normally for the purpose of being a “vehicle for the Way.” But among various genres of literature, the lyric poem (shi) is the most strongly characterized by rhyme, and the most expressive. Thus it is that at this point there also begins to be a differentiation between poetry (shi) and prose (wen). This distinction becomes even more obvious after the Ancient Prose movement of the Tang and Song. Han Yu (768–824), the proponent of essay writing and the popularization of new forms that sought readability and fluency, emphasized that prose must serve the Way. His brilliant essays, including “Inquiry into the Way,” “Inquiry into Slander,” and “Inquiry into Humanity,”↜90 vigorously advocated his brand of politico-moral education. But at the same time, Han Yu is the author of a large number of poems in which he expresses his personal feelings. Furthermore, he was generous in praise for the expressiveness of Zhang Xu’s (fl. 714–742) grass-style calligraphy and even advocated his own expressive theory, according to which things must perfect their nature (da qi qingxing), for “when things do not attain equilibrium they cry out.”↜91 Thus it was that poetry gradually became the realm of personal expression, and prose the tool of political instruction. Later generations would describe this division of labor by the statement “poetry is largely for expressing feelings, prose is largely for discussing the Way.”↜92 But poetry was still ruled by the authoritative, classical theory from the “Great Preface,” which no one dared to contradict, and which continued to insist, in theory, that poetry must serve the needs of politico-moral instruction. This necessitated the further division of labor between shi (lyric poetry) and ci (the song lyric), and between lyric poetry and painting. The song lyric (ci) arose in the Five Dynasties (roughly ninth and tenth centuries) and Song periods. The subject matter of the song lyric largely revolves around women and love, and is difficult to construe as a “vehicle for the Way.” It is hard to find examples of song lyrics that make political statements even in the oeuvre of orthodox theoreticians, who do not appear to have expected the genre to serve the Way, given its trifling character. But lyric poetry was a different story; writing shi was a more serious undertaking. When the song lyric reached its height during the Song dynasty, the degree of political commentary in the lyric poem became correspondingly great. Whether consciously or unconsciously, a division of labor between the song lyric and the lyric poem had clearly taken place. At this point we can attempt an answer to Qian Zhongshu’s question of why the more impressionistic “Southern” school should have become the orthodox school in painting, while the correspondingly impressionistic Wang-

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Meng school of poetry (associated with Wang Wei and Meng Haoran) could never unseat the Tang masters Li Bo (701–762) and Du Fu (712–770). Even such theoreticians as clearly favorable to the Wang-Meng school as Sikong Tu (837–908) and Yan Yu (fl. 1200) still ranked the robust, vigorous style of Li Bo and Du Fu as the highest standard in poetry. This stands in marked contrast to late Ming critic Dong Qichang and others who categorically advocated the orthodoxy of the so-called Southern school of painting. Why? I believe it has to do with the tradition discussed above. Even though generations of literati and intellectuals had fervently endorsed politico-moral education, and for the most part advocated putting literature in the service of the Way, with the development of social life, ethical politics could no longer control the demands and variability of emotions. In consequence, artistic forms less closely related to the transmission of the Way, such as the song lyric, landscape painting, and light writing [bi mo yi qu] became new havens for emotional release, beyond the reach of political ethics. Unlike shi poetry and letters, painting is an art form that arose with the emergence of the artisan class, and for that reason enjoyed a somewhat lower status. It was therefore able to free itself more easily from the imperative to “perfect education and serve human relationships,” and become an art form genuinely expressive of individual emotion. It should be clear, then, that the distinctive features and enduring conflicts of Chinese aesthetics are largely unrelated to imitation or representation. They do not surround questions of beauty and truth, but rather center on the conflict between emotional form (art) and the demands of ethical education (politics)—in other words, the problem of the unity of beauty with the good.93 They play out, against the historical backdrop of the tradition of rites and music, the various elements of the pseudo-etymologies, “man with ram is beautiful” and “when a ram is large, it is beautiful.” Only when viewed in this light do we appreciate the long-standing and profound character of these conflicts in Chinese aesthetics, and how they relate to questions of the structure and characteristics of China’s cultural psyche. Why is it important to discuss the tradition of rites and music before moving on to Confucian aesthetics? First, because in this account we see that Confucian aesthetics grew from enduring and powerful historical roots: it carried on and developed the rites and music tradition. Second, this account makes it clear that what were to become the foundational positions, categories, conflicts, and contradictions over the past two thousand years of largely Confucian aesthetic philosophy were already latent in its origins in this tradition. How to handle questions of society and nature, feeling and form, art and politics; how to construe the relation of humanity to heaven, the humanization of nature, and so on—these are the everyday problems of general aesthetics and the core

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questions of a particularly Chinese aesthetics. Finally, we have seen that the influence of this non-Dionysian tradition of rites and music is still felt among the Chinese people, where it has solidified into a fixture of the cultural psyche. This is precisely what gives Confucian aesthetics, as the self-conscious successor to and propagator of the rites and music tradition, its enduring force, and sets it up as the mainstay of Chinese aesthetics.

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Confucian Humanism

If one is human, but not humane, how can there be music? â•… —The Analects

Conscious Humanity in the Analects Confucius said of himself, “I transmit, I do not create” (Analects 7.1).1 This statement is partly true, for Confucius’ ambitions, actions, and achievements all were directed toward the preservation and restoration of the rituals of the Zhou, the same tradition of rites and music discussed in the previous chapter. Legend has it that Confucius preserved, popularized, and gave legitimacy to the ancient classics, rites, and traditional culture in general. He is said to have “revised the Book of Songs and the Book of Documents,” and to have “fixed the rites and music,” in addition to taking on disciples and traveling throughout the various states. Although he may not have succeeded as an official, his influence on society and particularly in intellectual circles was considerable. Neither his detractors nor his advocates, be they Mohists, Daoists, or Legalists, could avoid citing him in their works. Even at the nadir of his popularity, whether during his lifetime or in later generations, his stature as a teacher has never been questioned. And he was never without disciples, even in his most awkward predicaments, as when he met with difficulty in the state of Chen (see Analects 15.2). During the Cultural Revolution, when he was held up to criticism along with Lin Biao, Confucius was still recognized as an important educator. The meaning of “education,” in his case, referred precisely to the process of making the culture of rites and music self-conscious and “transmitting” it to the younger generation. We need only open the Analects to see clearly displayed how Confucius acted as the propagator and preserver of this tradition. Confucius constantly cites the examples of the Duke of Zhou and the emperors Yao and Shun. And there are 39

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abundant statements about him such as, “when he entered the ancestral temple, he would ask questions about everything” (Analects 3.15) and “I have had an insatiable desire to learn, and a tireless zeal for teaching” (Analects 7.2). But this is only half the story, and it is the other half that is more important. For Confucius’ work of preservation and transmission was built on the foundation of the new, self-conscious explanation he provided for the tradition of rites and music. This self-conscious explanation is found in his discourse on “humaneness” (ren),2 which constitutes Confucius’ greatest contribution to the history of thought.3 There are over a hundred passages concerning “humaneness” in the Ana­ lects, encompassing an infinite variety. Some scholarly trends suggest that the term was actually an aesthetic one, because of its polysemous, flexible, and copious usage.4 This viewpoint is both original and profound, suggesting that, for Confucius, the highest realm of human life was the aesthetic. But this is a separate question and will have to be dealt with later. As for the word, “humaneness” (ren), it bears further analysis. In an earlier work,5 I argued that clan blood relations constitute the concrete social origin of Confucian humanism, while filial piety and fraternal duty are the direct, unmediated expression of that origin. (“Filial piety and fraternal duty—are these not the very root of humanity?” [Analects 1.2]. “The gentleman is generous with his kin, and the people are incited to humaneness” [Analects 8.2].) Both the possibility of filiality and its indispensability are rooted in human psychological emotion. In the context of a discussion of the three-year mourning period prescribed for one’s parents by ritual, Confucius said, “How unhumane Yu is! When a child is born, for three years it does not leave the embrace of its parents.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Yu also received three years of his parents’ love” (Analects 17.21). Confucius does not appeal here to the gods, but to human beings; not to external regulations, but to internal emotions. The fact that he looks to a human psychological emotion—the love between parent and child—for the ultimate basis of humaneness, is a simple yet significant observation. For, fundamentally, humaneness is a consciousness of one’s human nature—a nature that is fundamentally biological or animalistic (as expressed in the parent–child relation), and yet distinct from the animal (as expressed in filiality). In this view, these emotions of our human nature are both the ultimate reality and the very essence of what it means to be human. This is the starting point of Confucius’ humanism, and indeed of all Confucian humanitarianism, as well as of its theory of human nature. Confucius said: “Nowadays, those who are able to nurture their parents are reckoned as filial. But the same is true even of dogs and horses. Without reverence, what is the difference?” (Analects 2.7) There are a number of possible readings of this statement about “dogs and horses.” One explanation is

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that, since even dogs and horses can give subsistence to their parents, there should be some way in which human “nurture” differs from that of these animals. Another explanation is that, since people are able to feed their dogs and horses, their treatment of their parents should differ from this in some respect. Yet another reading suggests that even dogs and horses can give subsistence to humans, so that the nurture one gives one’s parents should somehow differ from the subsistence provided by dogs and horses. These various readings notwithstanding, Confucius’ emphasis here is on what is called “reverence” (jing), the attitude of heart expressed in a certain type of courteous demeanor. In a word, this is the inner principle behind filiality and humaneness. For Confucius, reverence is the human emotion, the “human nature” that is trained and cultivated by the rites and music. It is this human “way” that distinguishes us from dogs and horses, or from the treatment people accord to dogs and horses. Although humaneness must have this natural, physiological origin as its basis, the important thing is that the biological relationship has been humanized by the rites and music, so that it is no longer the same as that found among “dogs and horses.” “Reverence” is an inner attitude and emotion of fear and respect that must inevitably and necessarily result from the ceremonial processes of the rites and music. In the early Zhou we find references to “reverence for virtue” and “reverence for heaven”; these arise from the rites and music, and from “sacred ritual.” But when we get to Confucius, we find that reverence has become even more important than the “sacred ritual” itself. Confucius has put the inner, psychological attitude first, believing that it is here we find essential human nature and self-conscious humanity. He points out that without this conscious humanity even the sacred tradition of rites and music becomes a dried-up shell, a worthless heap of regulations. Confucius said, “If one is human, but not humane, how can there be rites? If one is human, but not humane, how can there be music?” (Analects 3.3). And, “Ritual, ritual! Does it mean no more than presents of jade and silk? Music, music! Does it mean no more than bells and drums?” (Analects 17.11).6 Or, “As for ritual, thrift is to be preferred over extravagance; as for mourning, real grief is to be preferred over formalities” (Analects 3.4). It is clear that, if one lacks the inner emotion of humaneness, then however clear and resounding the bells and drums, however smooth the jade or gorgeous the silks, none are of any value. The truth and sincerity of the inner emotion is more important than scrupulous external ritual deportment. What is important here, then, is not only the socialization of the animal relation between parent and child, but also the psychologization, the making emotional, of the concrete institutions (rites and music) that embody this socialized relation. What is crucial is that this socialized relation comes to be regarded as the ultimate human reality, the ultimate essence of what it means to be human.

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As mentioned in the previous chapter’s discussion of the rites and music, the relationship of music with this emotion (humaneness) is more immediate and unmediated than that of the rites. As the “Record of Music” puts it, “Humaneness is near to music; ceremony is near to the rites” (Li ji 19.6/100/2).7 Since music can directly mold and shape people’s inner emotions in order to preserve interpersonal and societal relations, part of the burden for realizing the humanistic demands and ideals that Confucius sought (“loving people” [Analects 12.22], “loving everyone” [Analects 1.6], “easing the elderly, being trustworthy to the friend, nurturing the young” [Analects 5.26]) should be shouldered by music (or more generally, by art). When Confucius went to Wucheng, he heard the sound of stringed instruments and singing. The Master smiled, and said, “To kill a chicken, does one use an ox cleaver?” Ziyou replied, saying, “I remember hearing you say in the past that the gentleman who has studied the Way loves people, while the petty man who has studied the Way will be easier to employ.” Confucius said, “Children, Ziyou is right. What I said before was just in fun.” (Analects 17.4)8

It is clear from this passage that “the sound of stringed instruments” is connected with the Way, and in particular the Way of government (politics). This reinforces what was said in the discussion of the “Record of Music” in the previous chapter: Music is pleasure.9 The gentleman takes pleasure in the Way, the petty man in his desire. If the Way governs desire, there will be pleasure, and not chaos. If desire causes the Way to be forgotten, then there will be confusion and not pleasure. For this reason, the gentleman declines to indulge his feelings in order to adhere to his intent, and propagates music in order to implement his teachings. (Li ji 19.14/101/17–21)

This passage demonstrates music’s usefulness in educating the common people. But by the Spring and Autumn period, when Confucius was active, the age in which the rites and music could be used to “govern the world” was long gone. Even then, the idea of using music to guide the common people and bring peace to the various states was already a pipe dream, to say nothing of later generations, which were increasingly characterized by violence and contention. Confucius’ humanistic theory proved impracticable as a political strategy for “governing the state and pacifying all under heaven.” What deeply

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influenced later generations and what they did put into practice were, instead, his ideas about conscious humanity, the part of his philosophy that expected people to develop in themselves this emotional psyche that distinguished them from animals. Furthermore, since he so closely connected this consciousness with securing peace and stability for the country, and educating the society, this conscious humanity took on a sense of transcendent religious mission and a metaphysical sense of historical responsibility. That is to say, this spirit of “love for people” (humaneness), this self-consciousness of human nature with its emotional basis, had a profound and vital motivating force. It was not the emotions characteristic of “individual liberation,” then, but the communal emotions of interpersonal caring (humanitarianism) that became the serious motivating force behind the life and existence of Confucian officials and scholars throughout the ages. A sincere concern for others, a deep compassion for the masses, a profound experience of suffering—it is these that will come to characterize the work of numerous artists over the history of Chinese art and literature. As has been widely recognized over the years, the Tang poet Du Fu is probably the most prominent and exemplary representative of this phenomenon, as these quotations from his work will illustrate: Four or five elderly fathers Inquire about my travels afar; Each brings something in his hand, And pours out brew thick or clear. “If you find our wine’s flavor thin, It’s that there’s no one to plow the millet fields, There’s no end to the soldiering, Our sons campaigning in the east.” Let me sing a song for you fathers, Your kindness in hardship shames me. Song done, I look toward heaven and sigh— The faces around me are streaked with tears. —(From “Jiang Cun”)

If I could have ten thousand mansions, And all the shivering masses of the world could wear happy faces, Unmoved, like the mountains, by wind or rain— Alas! When would this hut appear before my eyes? I’d be content to freeze to death alone ’neath my ruined thatch. —(From “Mao wu wei qiu feng suo po ge”)10

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These are just a couple of examples of Du Fu’s depth of feeling and humanitarian sincerity. Always among the people and firmly anchored in reality, so that in his works we find no trace of the pursuit of individual liberation or favor in the next life, Du Fu steeps himself in feelings of concern for suffering people, in mutual compassion and consolation. He deemed this the ultimate significance of life and the purpose of artistic creation. This is actually the same humanistic spirit of Chinese aesthetics found beginning in the Jian’an period (196–220) and permeating numerous great poems since. It is the product of the Confucian internalization of the ancient tradition of rites and music to create a conscious humanity and of the psychological manifestation of that internalized consciousness. Let us consider two other samples of this humanistic spirit in Chinese poetry: Out of doors there is nothing to see But the white bones that cover the plain. In the road is a hungry woman Her babe-in-arms she casts into the grass. On hearing its sobs she looks around She wipes her tears but does not turn back. “I don’t know where I myself will die, How can I keep him with me to the end?” I turn my steed away and go Unable to bear these words. Heading South to the Baling ridge I turn my head to look at Chang’an. Understanding that poet of the “Lower Springs,” I heave a sigh of heartfelt agony. —Wang Can (177–217), from “Qi ai shi”↜11

A poor family had a son, who though poor was pampered; Flesh and blood so greatly loved—how can it be abandoned? Starving, freezing, their life and death were uncertain, As if cutting out their own guts, they sold their son into slavery. Now, knowing once parted they may never see each other again, They grasp their son to themselves, caressing his face. “If fate allows in a better year we’ll come and redeem our son, But if fate doesn’t allow, in the next world we’ll make our endless lament. Oh son, don’t miss your parents too badly—

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If you become sick from longing, who will look after you?” Holding their heads, stamping their feet, the sound of their weeping is great As a sad wind sighs under the vast sky. —Ma Liuquan “Mai zi tan”↜12

The subject of these poems is basically the same: in one, the son is abandoned; in the other, he is sold. The first poem is very famous, the second quite unknown; the first dates from an early period, the second is relatively late (Ming dynasty). But the same spirit links the two poems, and both are very moving. The poets themselves have not sold or abandoned their sons, but their description is so sincere and true to life, that when we read the lines about the parents separating from their children, a deep feeling of parental love is aroused in us. This emotional consciousness recalls Confucius’ statement that “Yu also received three years of love from his parents.” Everyone has parents, everyone has children. The deep feeling of grief in these poems moves all of us. This is not the transmission of conceptual knowledge but the molding of emotions. The basic human emotion of filial affection is being shaped and expanded to become the essentially human sentiment that “all men are brothers.” As these emotions penetrated the collective unconscious, they became a prototypical motif that appears continually in Chinese art and literature. Even if the writers of these poems had had personal aspirations and ideals like those of Bo Juyi (“I only sing of the travails of the people, so that perhaps they will get the emperor’s ear”↜13), or Du Fu (“Perhaps I am a fool to compare myself with the likes of Hou Ji and Xie”↜14), they would have failed at literary creation if their work had remained at this level. They would have failed if their work did not cause the elevation of the humanistic feelings I have discussed and their sedimentation in the unconscious. They would have failed if their work did not cause these feelings to become, in their own right, a manifestation of the noumenon. This may be why the satirical poems of Bo Juyi do not really succeed. His “Xin yuefu” (New Music-Bureau Poems), which he wrote in order to “express his intent,” always intellectualize the subject matter, and while this also violates aesthetic principles, the more important fault is that it robs the humanistic consciousness and psychological emotions of complete noumenal formation. This conscious humanity, this emotional essence that constitutes the extension of filial affection to the “love for all men,” is the aesthetic legacy of the humanism of Confucius and his successors. This is also the reason why Confucius, as the one who both “transmitted” and “created,” both preserved and developed the tradition of rites and music, was able to found an entire school of thought and himself become the symbol of Chinese culture.

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Because the Chinese tradition concentrates on guiding the emotions toward real interpersonal relations, it is not the relationship of humans with the gods or the environment, nor the struggle of humans against nature, that informs its artistic creation. Rather, the best-loved subjects in Chinese arts and letters are the human affections (between parent and child, minister and ruler, husband and wife, older and younger brother, and among friends, clan relations, or countrymen), along with the life circumstances those relationships inevitably entail (separation and death, nostalgia, marriage, funerals, mourning, congratulation, national disaster, and domestic calamity, as well as the events of history). In these works, the whole variety of social emotions are deepened and extended. If we wish to explain the deeply humanistic character of Chinese culture, it is difficult to ignore this function of the arts and aesthetics, in which the Confucian tradition, always based in the emotions, finds its full expression. The socialization of emotion brings with it the preference for humane attachments and this-worldly affection. Ancient Chinese arts and letters for the most part eschewed the kinds of abominable characters and negative emotions that we find attributed even to gods and heroes in Greek mythology and epic poetry. There is very little unbridled desire, undisciplined behavior, greed, cruelty, violence, viciousness, barbarism, cunning, cheating, lasciviousness, and so on. Even Goethe, in his discussion of Chinese fiction that had already begun to relate such evil situations, remarked, “all they do is more clear, pure, and decorous, than with us. With them all is orderly, citizenlike, without great passion or poetic flight.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹It is by this severe moderation in everything that the Chinese Empire has sustained itself for thousands of years, and will endure hereafter.”↜15 As explained in the previous chapter, this aspect of Chinese culture is both a weakness and a strength. It is at once a feature of Chinese arts and aesthetics and a feature of the taste and even of the personality of the Chinese people. Both of these can be traced back to the Confucian tradition and to Confucian humanism. Some scholars have suggested that in the Western tradition it is rationality that separates man from the animals, while in China it is “moral understanding” that makes the distinction.16 This so-called moral understanding is actually none other than the above-mentioned non-Dionysian tradition of rites and music that molds and regulates human nature from the outside, now internalized by Confucius and the Confucians to become the proper pursuit of conscious humanity and humanistic emotion. It stresses the internally motivated, conscious establishment of a kind of consummate subjective personality. Although this establishment must be accomplished through everyday secular life and real human relationships, at the same time the arts have a very important role to play in it.

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The Perfection of Human Personality Confucius said, “Set your intention upon the Way, rely on its Virtue, lean on humaneness, wander in the arts” (Analects 7.6). Elsewhere he said, “Be awakened by poetry [or the Songs], be established by ritual, be perfected in music” (Analects 8.8). According to the first passage, the Way is the purpose, its Virtue (or power) is the foundation, humaneness is the pillar, and the arts are free play. “The arts” include the so-called Six Arts—ritual, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics. As for why ritual would have been considered an “art,” ritual practice included, among other things, ceremonial rites, the arrangement of ritual vessels, and clothing, along with a whole set of meticulous regulations of social manners and movements. To become well-versed in these required special training. Music is also included in this list because it requires the mastery of a material skill (such as playing an instrument). In the other four “arts,” the technical mastery required is more obvious. When Confucius spoke of “wandering in the arts,” even if what he referred to was not exactly what later generations would call “art,” it can be said to encompass both the arts of the time and those of the future. What is emphasized in this passage is the mastery of a particular material skill or technique. The fact that Confucius ranks “wandering in the arts” alongside the gentleman’s relation to the Way, Virtue, and humaneness, suggests that the gentleman was expected to gain mastery in the practice of all kinds of material skills. This technical mastery included the understanding and ability to make use of nature’s lawfulness (its obedience to natural laws). It was on this basis of mastery that freedom (as suggested by the term “wandering”) could be experienced. This sense of freedom is directly related to artistic creativity and to the experience of creativity in other endeavors. It is essentially an experience of that aesthetic freedom in which purposiveness is united with lawfulness. Clearly, unlike some later Confucian scholars who stressed only ethical morality, Confucius in this passage puts forward the requirement that people achieve a multifaceted development through the material mastery of the objective world and asserts that it is in the process of mastering the objective world that people can experience and attain inner freedom. At the same time, the passage demonstrates the importance to Confucius of technical mastery in the process of achieving the ideal personality. These skills are not mere ornaments, but are directly related to the system of government and to the ability to “administer the states and pacify the world.” This is the first point. The second, and related, point is that, in this passage, “wandering in the arts” comes after setting one’s intention upon the Way, relying on its Virtue, and

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leaning on humaneness. It is beyond the scope of the present work to discuss the complex relationships among these four elements, but even a surface reading shows that “wandering in the arts” both is supplementary to the first three and constitutes their completion. Having only the first three, the personality would remain fundamentally internal, static, and unrealized. With the addition of the fourth element, it becomes a realized, materialized, true personality. Why? Because this type of personality manifests freedom and a sense of liberty in everyday life. Not only does it display a material, practical mastery and facility with objective techniques and principles, but it also demonstrates the pragmatic power of the perfected human personality that results from the freedom gained through the mastery of natural laws. This is what Confucius described as “following the desires of the heart without overstepping the bounds of right” (Analects 2.4).17 This famous phrase describing the result of a lifetime of self-cultivation suggests the harmony, conformity, and unity of subjective goals with objective principles. Although the phrase “wandering in the arts” appears to concern only technical mastery, while “following the desires of the heart” appears to concern only inner desire, from the point of view of their uniting of lawfulness and purposiveness, they form an interconnected system and share a common spirit. Only when one can “wander in the arts” in practice can one’s personality achieve the ability to “follow the desires of the heart without overstepping the bounds of right.” Here, “the bounds of right” refers not just to moral rules but to a kind of vital human freedom. “Wandering in the arts” is a mastery of external techniques, whereas “following the desires of the heart” refers to the perfection or completion of the inner personality. But in Confucianism, the two are deeply interconnected. When Xunzi spoke of how learning when accumulated becomes practice,18 and of “grasping the mandate of heaven and making use of it” (Xunzi 17.82.15), he was taking this to another level theoretically. “Learning” here actually is not limited to self-cultivation, but has to do with the tendency of the entire human race to make use of external things, to create things in order to attain one’s goals. In Xunzi’s usage, “learning” and “doing” both attain noumenal significance.19 In later generations, Yan Yuan (1635–1704) and others would emphasize the material practicality of the Six Arts. These demonstrate that in Confucianism in general, the realization of the personality of the “sage” and the material, practical mastery of the Six Arts are interrelated. It is only with the orthodox idealists of the Song and Ming dynasties that we find an excessive inner emphasis, so that the Six Arts are reduced to a quite unimportant addendum, are largely confined to the so-called pure arts of literature, painting, and calligraphy, and lose their original, rich reference to the material and practical arts. Actually,

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“wandering in the arts” (the “free play” in ritual, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics) is by no means simply a question of purely technical mastery. Rather, it refers to the overall maturity of the human personality that, through the complete mastery and use of objective laws, can realize human freedom and fully “set [his or her] intention upon the Way, rely on its Virtue, and lean on humaneness.” This is the crux of the matter. Corresponding to “wandering in the arts” is Confucius’ admonition to “Be awakened by poetry, be established by ritual, be perfected in music.” Like “wandering in the arts,” being “perfected in music” here occupies the last place. If we say that “wandering in the arts” refers mostly to the experience of freedom that comes from the mastery of objective laws, then “being perfected in music” refers more directly to the shaping of an inner freedom. Both describe the realization of the human personality. Moreover, just as “wandering in the arts” is superior to setting one’s intention upon the Way, relying on its Virtue, and leaning on humaneness, being perfected in music is superior to being awakened by poetry and established by ritual, in its role in the perfection of human personality. What does it mean to “be perfected in music”? Confucius himself gives an explanation: “Zilu asked about the complete person. Confucius said, ‘If one has the wisdom of Zang Wuzhong, the contentment of Meng Gongchuo, the courage of Bian Zhuangzi, the artistry of Ranyou, and if one adds to this the refinement of the rites and music, one might be regarded as a complete person’↜” (Analects 14.12). Kong Anguo’s (156?–74? B.C.) commentary on this passage says that “refinement is completion.”↜20 That is to say, if the self-cultivation of the gentleman does not include the study of rites and music, it is impossible for him to become a complete person. Clearly, being “perfected in music” must refer to the molding, through music, of a complete person, for it is music that directly affects, nurtures, and molds the human temperament and spirit. “Music is that with which to perfect one’s nature,” Kong comments.21 Or, as Liu Baonan explains, “Music is useful in governing one’s nature, and therefore can perfect one’s nature; perfecting one’s nature refers to self-cultivation.”↜22 Let us consider first why being “perfected in music” should be subsequent to being “awakened by poetry” (recalling that the study of “poetry” included the mastery of ancient texts, ethics, history, politics, language, and all kinds of knowledge, as well as the inspiration evoked by simile and metaphor) and being “established by ritual” (the self-conscious training by and mastery of ceremonial rules). If poetry “awakens” a person largely by using the wisdom of language to inspire and enlighten, and ritual “establishes” a person by nurture and training through external regulations, then music completes the inner spirit or soul of a person. The first two have to do with establishing the structure of the intellect (the internalization of rationality) and the will (the concentration of

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rationality). The latter, on the other hand, has to do with the emergence of aesthetic structure (the “sedimentation” of rationality). Whether it is the intellect and language of “poetry” (wisdom is usually transmitted through language), or the morality and behavior of “ritual” (morality is usually expressed and adopted through behavioral models and standards), neither of these reflects the ultimate perfection or supreme realization of the human personality. For in both of these we find at least traces of an external rational standard. Ultimate human maturity can only be achieved within an aesthetic structure. For the aesthetic is purely sensuous but at the same time comprehends a history of rational sedimentation; it is natural but at the same time incorporates the accumulated achievements of society. It consists of physiological emotions and senses but is permeated with the wisdom and morality of humanity. The aesthetic is not the kind of “pure transcendence” emphasized by Imamichi Tomonobu in his discussion of Confucius.23 Rather, it is a superior entity that transcends language, intellect, morality, and ceremony. This entity is none other than human sensuosity—free sensuosity and sensuous freedom. From the point of view of the perfection of the individual, this is noumenal humanity. In contrast to “wandering in the arts,” in which the pleasure of freedom is achieved through the mastery of objective laws, the pleasure of freedom achieved by being “perfected in music” is directly related to inner spiritual principles (emotion and desire). Confucius’ description of his arrival at the height of human perfection, when he was able to “follow the desires of the heart without overstepping the bounds of right,” is the mark of ultimate spiritual maturity. At this stage, natural individual feelings, emotions, and desires have been completely socialized, and therefore do not “overstep the bounds of right.” But at the same time they are not restrained; the mature person can still “follow the desires of the heart.” When Confucius said, “To know something is not as good as to esteem it, and to esteem it is not as good as to take joy in it” (Analects 6.20), he was referring to the same thing; in fact, these three (knowledge, esteem, and joy) can be said to correspond to poetry, ritual, and music. The notion from the rites and music tradition that “music is pleasure” in Confucius begins to self-consciously imply the formation of the complete human personality. Not only does music bring people pleasure and cause people’s feelings, emotions, and desires to be fulfilled and expressed in conformity with social strictures and requirements; music also causes this pleasure itself to become the highest ideal of human life and the ultimate expression of the human personality. Unlike many other religious leaders and philosophers, for Confucius the essence of existence and the ultimate perfection of humanity are found in this-worldly emotional pleasure.

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The ideal human personality for Confucians is the “sage-saint.” The sage is not a hero; he is not the magnificent god or valiant knight of Greek mythology or Homer’s epics. Nor is he a religious leader. He is neither a god nor an omnipotent superman with the power to save humanity. The Confucian sage is secular and shares the emotions, desires, and needs of ordinary people, including the natural, animal aspects of their humanity. What makes him a “sage” is his moral power; what makes him a “saint” is that he has transcended even morality and attained unity with universal, objective natural laws. In terms of external achievements, he is able to “benefit the people through his instructions” (Analects 6.30); in terms of inner personality, he is characterized by the (now familiar) ability to “follow the desires of the heart without overstepping the bounds of right.” In effect, he is “perfected in music” and “wanders in the arts.” When Zigong is asked, “Is your master a sage? How versatile he is” (Ana­ lects 9.6), this referred to his “wandering in the arts.” One of the marks of a sage is his mastery of objective laws and his broad abilities, in which can be seen the unity of lawfulness and purposiveness. When later generations used terms like “painter-sage,” or “calligrapher-sage,” and so on, these were meant to indicate the ability to accomplish one’s artistic object as well as the freedom to “follow the desires of the heart without overstepping the bounds of right.” This freedom did not end with practical or technical mastery, but served the further attainment of the realm of life in which that freedom is realized and in which pleasure is found. Confucius referred to this pleasure on many occasions: To study and frequently review what one has learned, is this not happiness? To have a friend arrive from afar, is this not pleasure? (Analects 1.1) Let me have plain food and water to drink, and my bent arm for a pillow, and I will find pleasure in them. To be rich and high in rank, yet unrighteous, for me doesn’t amount to any more than a floating cloud. (Ana­ lects 7.15) The Duke of She asked Zilu about Confucius, but Zilu did not answer. The master said, “Why didn’t you say, ‘This is the kind of man he is—so enthusiastic he forgets to eat, so joyful he forgets his sorrow, and totally unaware that old age is coming.’↜” (Analects 7.18)

There is also, of course, the famous story of how Zeng Xi preferred to “bathe in the Yi River and catch the breezes at the rain dance” (Analects 11.26), but this

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will be a part of the next chapter’s discussion of the complementarity of Daoism and Confucianism. To summarize these passages, the pleasure of which Confucius spoke is both that of “studying and often reviewing,” and that of “having a friend come from afar.” It is both the freedom that comes from a practical mastery of the external world and the concern for humanism, human nature, and the perfection of the human personality. This pleasure is at once a natural human psychological emotion and far removed from the pleasure of the animal senses. It is a spiritual realization and a freedom to live, in which human wisdom and virtuous behavior are sedimented and transformed into a psychological noumenon that transcends the foundation of wisdom and morality upon which it is built. Having attained this pleasure, a person can scorn riches and be content with poverty, can defy brute force, and can behave freely and naturally toward others. It is about life, but also about aesthetics. And it also constitutes the highest level of “humaneness.” If the previous section had to do with finding self-conscious humanity in external human relations and interpersonal caring, then this section has had to do with finding this psychological noumenon by means of internal training of the personality and the perfection of one’s nature. In sum, Confucianism took the totemic song and dance and shamanistic ritual (the “rites and music”) that had united clan society and transformed it, first, into a self-conscious humanity, and second, into this psychological noumenon. This is the single most profound and significant characteristic of Confucian philosophy and aesthetics.

Time, Emotion, and the Apprehension of Mortality Hegel scoffed at the notion that Confucian thought could be considered philosophy, since it contains no reflection on metaphysical substance and never transcends the limits of secularity. Imamichi Tomonobu, on the other hand, asserts that “being perfected in music” refers to the transcendence of space and time, so as to attain Being. Actually, both of these views are incorrect. While both metaphysical reflection and the pursuit of transcendence can be found in Confucian thought, they are not presented in abstract conceptual arguments, but in the language of poetry and aesthetic appreciation. And the transcendence Confucius sought is not transcendence of the perceptual world, or of space and time; on the contrary, it is to be attained precisely within this perceptual realm of space and time. It is not Being, but rather Becoming. “Being perfected in music,” as it concerns the completion of individual human personality, is intimately connected with issues of life, death, and immortality, and thus is precisely a question of time. Time is a persistent enigma in philosophy. What is time? What does time mean? Apart from humans, is

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there such a thing as time? Parmenides put forward the idea of unchanging Oneness and sought to venerate timelessness. The famous paradox of Zeno of Elea demonstrates the impossibility of time. Kant called time an inner human sense; while Hegel, for his part, said that “the imperishable mountains are not superior to the quickly dismantled rose,â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹for time belongs to the living.”↜24 Other Western thinkers, such as Henri Bergson and Martin Heidegger, have also devoted much discussion to the question of time. Chinese literature records numerous lamentations on time: “Lifting the winecup I can’t help singingâ•›/â•›Of how life is short” (Cao Cao [155–220], from “Duan ge xing”). “If trees are thus affected [by the passage of time],â•›/â•›How is a person to bear it?”↜25 And consider these lines from Zhang Ruoxu’s (660–720) “Chunjiang hua yue ye”: Who was it first saw the moon from on the river’s bank? What year was it the river’s moon first shone on someone? Life goes on, from generation to generation, without end; The river’s moon, from year to year, is always the same. I wonder for whom the river’s moon waits— And see only the Yangtze, sending off the flowing water.

The melancholy theme of the impermanence of human life endured in Chinese literature and art even into the twentieth century, where it appears in the poems of Mao Zedong himself.26 In the Chinese consciousness, time is first and foremost associated with mortality. Things undergo change, life flows on, and in the midst of these, human life is extremely limited and short. Given this reality, can time be transcended? If so, how? By creating an unchanging conceptual world? By believing in God and in an eternal soul? Does one transcend the limits of life, the world, and space and time by trusting in God’s grace and believing in the incorruptibility of the spirit? Does this type of transcendent, limitless, a priori substance exist? On these questions, Chinese philosophers have always been skeptical. PreQin Confucian theorists, having emerged from shamanism and religion, advocated a realistic pragmatic rationalism that rejected abstract speculation and did not inspire intense beliefs. This rationalism directly served feudal political and social relations, seeking to harmonize interpersonal relationships and to shore up the social order. Confucius and his successors sought neither an eternity outside of time, nor an Idea that has shed individuality, nor a God that transcends flesh and blood. Confucian thinkers brought eternity and transcendence into the here and now, then brought God and ideal form into the realm of flesh-and-blood individual sense experience. The “existence” of “Oneness”

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would have been incomprehensible to these thinkers, for all things exist in the midst of transformation, the only “unchanging” thing (the only eternal noumenon) being the world itself, in which these transformations take place. In this philosophical environment, questions of individual life and death were quite naturally absorbed into considerations of time-bound interpersonal relations and human emotion. In this respect, Confucianism is both similar to and the opposite of modern-day existentialism, which regards the inevitability of death as the source of self-conscious life and the individual’s grasp of death as the source of his or her consciousness of life. In Confucianism, the meaning of death is built upon life’s value, and the individual consciousness of death becomes the source of the collective drive to live. According to this view, only when one understands life can one understand death, and only then can one comprehend existence through the consciousness of death. The reason why people become painfully conscious of their existence when faced with death is precisely that the value of existence derives from the meaning of life. And life’s significance, in turn, is itself a process, a historical becoming, that cannot be achieved apart from a relationship to the collective. This “becoming,” therefore, is anthropological; that is, it is connected to the interpersonal solicitude that has its basis in the emotions. Thus, in Confucianism, “death” and “existence” are neither hollow mystical generalities nor instinctive animalistic fears, but rather reflect the individual’s direct experience of a noumenal, anthropological becoming. Because they are bound up with individual sensory experience, they are not a matter of generalized abstract knowledge. And because they involve a kind of anthropological, historical experience, they are not a matter of animalistic terror. The reason that humans treat death differently than animals do is not because of their moral nature, but because they transcend morality. Confucius said, “If one hears of the Way in the morning, one will be ready to die in the evening” (Analects 4.8) and, “He will never seek life to the detriment of humaneness, but may be called upon to accept the death of the body in order to achieve humaneness” (Analects 15.9). Elsewhere he also said, “If one does not know life, how can one know death?” and “If one cannot serve men, how will one serve the spirits?” (Analects 11.12). What Confucius is speaking of here, more than the consciousness of death, is the consciousness of life. Because life has value and significance, one can be unconcerned and even disdainful toward death. Although the Chinese people have volumes of laments about life, including such deep sorrow as the renowned calligrapher Wang Xizhi (ca. 303–361) expresses with his words, “↜‘Life and death are the greatest of matters, indeed!’ Isn’t this reason enough to be sad?”↜27 these are overshadowed by sentiments like those of Zhang Zai, a Confucian scholar of the Northern Song:

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“If I am to live, I will yield to things as they are; if I am to die, I am at peace.”↜28 The knowledge that life has significance and value allows the individual to face the end of life naturally and without terror or distress; this is the ideal attitude toward life and death for which Confucian thinkers strove. What one grieves is not so much death as the brevity of life—time passes quickly, and there is so little time to grasp the value and significance of one’s life. As life’s significance emerges only in the context of interpersonal relationships within real-world society, it is unnecessary and indeed impossible to seek either individual spiritual immortality or the transcendence or renunciation of perceptual space and time in order to enter the embrace of an infinite god. Even the existence of such an infinite substance is, in this view, highly doubtful. One thing only is certain: since individual sensuous existence is the true “becoming” and not mere illusion, it follows that the only existential theme worth pursuing is the attempt to accord meaning to an individual’s brief life span, the attempt to achieve some sort of eternal significance within the fleeting space of an individual’s sensuous reality. Therefore, in the Confucian tradition, we find on the one hand this deep lamentation over the brevity and transience of life, and on the other hand a serious sense of history and an intense sense of mission. Beginning in the Analects we see this reflected in such idealistic statements as “He does what he knows to be impossible” (Analects 14.38), and “I cannot flock with birds or herd with beasts; if I am not to be one of my fellow men, with whom shall I associate?” (Analects 18.6) paired with the real suffering of running out of provisions in Chen (Analects 15.2) and being hard-pressed by Huan Tui.29 In all of these, the aim is to apprehend and perceive existence and eternity within the struggles of human affairs, taking the lessons of the past with one into the future. Transcendence and immortality are not achieved in heaven or in a future life, nor are they to be found in an infinite substance that has shed sensuosity. Rather, they are achieved within this sensuous human world. In this view, time takes on a particular significance in the consciousness. It is indeed an inner human sense, but this inner sense is less epistemological (as in Kant) than aesthetic. For this inner sense is a historically perceived noumenal emotion; that is to say, through human history, time accumulates an emotional, experiential significance. This is the difference between time as an inner human sense and the idea of a general, objective, and spatialized time. Time becomes deeply entangled in the sensuous emotions of nostalgia, yearning for life, and attachment to existence. Emotionalized time is a fundamental characteristic of Chinese art and Confucian aesthetics. It constitutes the highest level of internalization of the world. This characteristic can be traced back to Confucius himself, who said, “Ah, time’s passage is like this running water, never ceasing either day or night”

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(Analects 9.17). This is at once a deep sigh of regret and a great gasp of admiration. What is expressed here is an attachment to life, an apprehension of existence, an experience of becoming; but it is expressed, not through reason or revelation, but through the overflowing of human emotion. Time here is no subjective rational concept, nor is it an objective material attribute, nor even the epistemological intuition of an a priori perception. Instead, time here is emotional. Whether it stretches on and on or seems to stop, whether it exists or vanishes, time is inextricably linked with the emotions. Without the emotions, time is just a mechanistic framework, or an unchanging expanse of blankness. Without time, the emotions are nothing but meaningless animal instinct. Only emotionalized time, which unites expectation (of the future), state of mind (vis-à-vis the present), and memory (of the past), constitutes truly vital human life. In Chinese art and literature, it is the emotionalization of time that gives weight to the experience of mortality and the consciousness of humanity. This can be seen in the epicurean sentiments of the anonymous Han dynasty “Nineteen Old Poems”: Man’s life does not reach a hundred years But contains a thousand years of cares. The day is short, the bitter night long— Why not take a candle and go wandering? —(From “Xi men xing”)

as well as in the exhortation to serve others and make one’s life count in Yue Fei’s (1103–1142) lyric set to the tune “Man jiang hong”: Don’t wait Until you’ve frittered away your youth And are left with vain regret.

The emotionalization of time can also be seen in Chinese architecture and painting, in which space is made to represent time, and in Chinese theater, in which time is entirely governed by and constructed of emotional truths. Art and literature do not—indeed cannot—resolve the problem of mortality; instead, they continually face up to this problem and appreciate it. This is what is behind the truism that “if you are able to evoke the vicissitudes of life, your writing will be meaningful.” Ultimately, then, the philosophy of existence is not found in speculation, faith, or divine grace, but in the fluid and changing emotions themselves, humanized, as it were, and carrying with them the accumulated achievements

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of history. These emotions themselves become a noumenal force that stimulates interpersonal becoming. Confucius’ deep lamentation over running water is representative of the Chinese philosophy and aesthetics he and his disciples inaugurated, in which aesthetic appreciation takes the place of religion, and in which transcendence is placed squarely within the realm of human relations and the perceptual world. In the realm of the emotions (as opposed to everyday life, material production, or conceptual language), the past, present, and future can be completely melded together to create an independent artistic entity. Chinese art is an art of time and an art of the emotions. We have already discussed this at length with regard to “music.” Poetry and prose, for their part, are often characterized by emotionalized time or by the direct description of the emotions within time. Correspondingly, the “line” is time unfolded in space. Whether in calligraphy, painting, poetry, prose, sculpture, landscape gardening, or architecture, the flow of emotion-filled time is apparent in the music and dance of the line continuously moving on paper, cloth, or other object. This movement produces rhythm and rhyme, figures and scenes, stories, ornaments, themes, and so on, all of which flow and change as they move forward, be it ponderously or with ease. The line is free and yet regular, abandoned and yet controlled. At once external (sensuous) and internal, it expresses a transcendence that breaks through finitude, but a transcendence that is at the same time contained within this emotionalized time. Can you imagine the movement of this music—this line—this emotion? It is the very spirit of Chinese art and literature—the enigma of time that becomes eternal in the emotions or eternity fixed in the emotions, as captured in our Analects quotation, “Time’s passage is like this running water, never ceasing either day or night.” Because what this tradition seeks is an emotional eternity, things like the realistic portrayal of finite reality, the concrete depiction of light and shadow, or lifelike imitation in general, are reduced to a secondary or even dispensable externality. Concrete situations and characters must be invested with an eternal emotional significance (such as ethical force, for example) to be worthy of artistic presentation. Ilya Prigogine once said that irreversible time both stops and passes in sculpture.30 Because of its varying human content, time is not homogeneous. And because this frozen yet flowing nonhomogeneous time is directly perceptible in art, the positive value of all kinds of finite things accumulates in varying human artistic experiences. It is this that gives richness, complexity, profundity, and multiplicity to the emotional psyche and to noumenal humanity. Emotionalized time, and nonhomogeneous emotions within time, cause the psyche to take on a noumenal existence that transcends both conceptual

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thought and morality. Clearly, it is art that is directly responsible for the construction of this noumenon; it is art that takes desire, feelings, and the soul as a whole and endows them with this philosophical nature through the apprehension of time.

Morality and Vitality in Mencius If Confucius brought a self-conscious humanism to the tradition of rites and music, it was Mencius who first established the highest of Chinese aesthetic categories: yanggang zhi mei—a virile, dynamic, and moral beauty—which might be considered to be the vital force of the moral subject. It seems to be true for all peoples that sublime and dynamic beauty historically and logically precedes fine and delicate beauty. This is evident in the pyramids of Egypt, the great stone gateways of India and Babylon, the bronze taotie of China,31 the totem poles of the Mayans, and so on. All of these, which Hegel referred to as various types of symbolic art, produce intense stimulation and an experience of the sublime through their rugged grandeur and formidable size. Having their origins in the fanaticism of primitive totemic magic, these monuments are not the result of an individual’s free creation, but the fruit of the collective suffering and toil of the slaves who built them. Therefore what they display in the huge form and acute conflict of material objects is actually the great strength of collective human subjective force. Because this strength has a mystical character arising from its transcendence of individual capabilities, it opens the door for all kinds of later religious art, whether it be the unparalleled large statues of Buddhas with a thousand eyes and a thousand hands, the cathedrals with towering spires, or savage, bloody cave paintings. All of these types of art use their ability to stir consciousness of the sublime in the human heart in order to direct people to spirits or gods that transcend finitude. What one experiences in them, for example when faced with a huge architectural wonder, is the smallness of the individual and the overwhelming power and triumph of the massive object. It is not my intention here to take up the various theories of the sublime, including Kant’s famous triumph of reason, and so forth. What I am interested in are the characteristics of the Chinese people in this regard. Because of the emphasis in both Confucian humanism and the rites and music tradition on the humanized inner nature (the molding of desire and the emotions), China’s primitive symbolic art and aesthetic sense of the sublime took a very different course from those of India and the West. This course was firmly secular and social, moving first away from the power of the gods and toward human achievement, then away from external achievement and toward inner moral

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power. It moved away from the sublime and toward strong beauty (zhuang mei), then away from the strong beauty of achievement and toward moral greatness. Between the Shang and Zhou bronzes and the poems of the “Greater Odes” and “Hymns” sections of the Book of Songs, one can roughly make out the first type of movement. For example, the mystical idea of communication between gods and humans that is evident in designs such as the taotie on the bronze vessels, is transformed in the Songs into the praise of the clan’s ancestors and their achievements. From the Zuozhuan and the Analects to Mencius, the second type of movement is evident. In the Analects, for example, we find the following passage: “Ah, great was Yao as ruler! Majestic! Only heaven is great, and only Yao attained this greatness. Boundless! So much so that the people could not put it into words. So majestic were his achievements, so dazzling his embellishments of culture!” (Analects 8.19). That is to say, words are not adequate to describe Yao’s great achievements; the “majesty,” or loftiness, of his greatness was here still connected to his achievements and position. In contrast to this, Mencius did not regard external achievements or position as being of any importance. He said, “When speaking to important men, one must look on them with contempt and not be intimidated by their high position” (Mencius 7B.34).32 No longer is external eminence emphasized, for it is merely external. In Mencius, this “lofty” “greatness” becomes “strong beauty,” which he discusses directly in terms of the perfection of the individual personality: Haosheng Buhai asked, “What sort of person is Yuezhengzi?” Mencius answered, “He is a good man, and a true man.” “What is good? What is true?” Mencius answered, “The desirable is called good; to have it within oneself is to be true. Fullness is called beauty; to be filled and shine forth is called great. To be great and transform is to be a sage; to be a sage and unknowable is called divine. Yuezhengzi has attained the first two, but not the last four. (Mencius 7B.25)

Mencius here describes six levels of human personality, the good, the true, the beautiful, the great, the sage, and the divine. In doing so, he makes a very clear distinction between “beauty” and the purely moral levels of “good” and “true,” actually placing beauty above these two. “Good” means “desirable”; in other words, if one is “good,” in all one’s actions one seeks things that are desirable, namely, things that accord with humaneness and righteousness. “True” means “having it within oneself ”; if one is “true,” in all one’s actions one takes as guide the principles of humaneness and righteousness that belong to one’s

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own nature and does not depart from them under any circumstance. “Beauty” means “fullness.” To be beautiful one should not only practice and keep the moral principles of humaneness and righteousness, but one should so extend and absorb these principles into one’s personality that every aspect of one’s external deportment, manners, and so on, will naturally display them. “Beauty,” then, is goodness completely worked out in the personality of the whole human being. It includes goodness but at the same time transcends it. Greatness is likewise related to beauty, sageness to greatness, and divinity to sageness, each higher than the one before. All of these, however, arise from “beauty” (“fullness”), and therefore are not categories of purely moral or ethical value, but categories that also bear aesthetic and teleological weight. “Greatness” means “to be filled and shine forth” with magnificent beauty. To be a sage is to be great and transform. According to Mencius’ explanations of the “sagehood” of Bo Yi, Liu Xiahui, and particularly of Confucius, what characterizes a sage is not only a kind of resplendent, magnificent beauty, but also the demonstration of a kind of power that cannot be achieved through wisdom or skill but arises from one’s accumulation of the achievements of the previous generations, from which one is able to produce epoch-making innovations. The sage becomes a model for generations upon generations, with tremendous transformative influence. (See the fifth and seventh books of Men­ cius.) “Divine” means “to be a sage and unknowable”—in other words, to have attained the realm of the sage without it being apparent how one has attained it. “Sagehood” can be achieved through human effort, while “divinity” seems not to have involved human effort. When Mencius classifies beauty into these four levels, and when he discusses its various states and attributes, he is talking about the beauty of the human personality.33 The “sage” and the “divine” have both achieved a “unity between heaven and humans,” with the natural realm and the universe as a whole. What Mencius is strongly advocating here is a subjective force that is at once ethical and superethical; all external achievements (including “sagely” and “divine” artistic creation) are but the expression or manifestation of the perfection of the individual personality. Here, the description of the “beauty” or “greatness” (strong beauty) of the personality in objective terms is connected with its subjective, spiritual level. And the description of this subjective spiritual level, in turn, is the philosophical extension of the Confucian notion of joy or pleasure (le), discussed above. Like Confucius before him, Mencius regarded aesthetic pleasure as the highest human ideal and clearly set out the proper social hierarchy—serving one’s parents (humaneness) and obedience to one’s elders (righteousness)—as the foundation of this pleasure. He said:

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The substance of humaneness is the serving of parents; the substance of righteousness is obedience to elders; the substance of wisdom is to observe these two without deviation; the substance of ritual is to keep them with order and refinement; the substance of music is to take pleasure in them. When pleasure arises, there is no restraining it, but without one’s knowing, the hands and feet will begin to dance. (Mencius 4A.27)

What Mencius has done here is to take the two elements of Confucian humaneness—its basis in blood relationships and its psychological principles—and connect them with human pleasure and human life, to form a kind of foundation for human life. Let us look at another passage: The gentleman has three pleasures, and ruling over all under heaven is not one of them. To have both parents living, and one’s brothers unharmed, this is the first pleasure. To have nothing to be ashamed of before heaven or before others, this is the second pleasure. To attract the brave and talented of the world and teach them, this is the third pleasure. (Mencius 7A.20)

This is reminiscent of Confucius’ “pleasure” in having plain food and water, or in having a friend visit from afar. This pleasure is rooted in the relationships of everyday life, with parents, siblings, friends, teachers—it is the pleasure of “I” and “Thou.” The implication in art is that “amusing oneself alone” is not as good as “amusing oneself with others,” and “amusing oneself with a few” is not as good as “amusing oneself among many.” Mencius followed Confucius very closely, but his spirit is broader and stronger. Because the individual personality, which is so central, is more pronounced in Mencius, the human subject gains in stature, having “nothing to be ashamed of before heaven or before others” and, “though rich, not lascivious, though poor, unmoved; though threatened by force, unyielding” (Mencius 3B.2). With no need to shrink back from any circumstance, and no cause for reproach or fear, this person need not submit to any power or bow before any god. Is this not a powerful notion of the subjective personality? This is what it means to be “great,” “sagely,” or “divine.” This is the Chinese concept of yanggang zhi mei (dynamic, moral beauty). Because this beauty is the ethical manifestation and radiance of the personality of the moral subject, it is impossible for the terror or misery arising from any external circumstance or objective form to match its indomitable subjective force. This excludes, for example, all kinds of bloody ordeals, battlefields littered with corpses, terrifying forces of nature, and so on. What is stressed here

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is precisely the peerlessness of this positive moral force. It is the courage, initiative, and fortitude expressed in the line, “If on self-examination one finds oneself in the right, one will go forth even against ten thousand” (Mencius 2A.2). Whereas Kant’s notion of the “sublime” uses vast, unpleasant external form to manifest the triumph of morality and reason, Mencius’ approach here is characterized by the use of a direct positive presentation of morality and reason to manifest the same. With Mencius, the sublime is not represented by the ancient achievements of collective slave labor, nor by the vast external forms of nature; rather, the sublime becomes the manifestation of moral force in an individual life. Because this moral force is in direct communication with the universe, and is united with both heaven and earth, it needs no recourse to divine power, nor does it rely on vast material objects or terrifying mysterious symbols. The moral power of an individual personality itself becomes an inner condensation of reason, which can manifest itself as a kind of sensuous vital force. This is the most important characteristic of what Mencius refers to as qi (“force,” or “pneuma”), as this passage will illustrate: “I excel at cultivating my flood-like qi.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹This qi is exceedingly vast and powerful. If it is nourished with integrity and not impaired, it will fill up heaven and earth. This qi pairs righteousness and the Way; otherwise it wastes away. It is born of an accumulation of righteousness, but is not gotten by a sporadic show of righteousness. If one’s actions cannot satisfy one’s heart, it wastes away.”↜34 What is important here is that this force, which is material (vital sensuosity), is born of the accumulation and condensation of righteousness (moral reason), which is spiritual. The condensation of morality is transformed into a vital force, so that life ceases to be merely animal existence and becomes truly human. This constitutes another large step forward in the conscious humanity of Confucian humanism. It is clear, then, that “flood-like qi↜” is not simply a rational moral category but at the same time entails a sensuous moral character. This is the crux of the matter. Sensation and supersensation, the natural life and the moral subject, here overlap and intermingle. For the reason of the moral subject condenses in the natural life to become an “exceedingly vast and powerful” sensuous force, a material vitality of unparalleled strength. This intensifies the potential for the individual personality to progress from “beauty” to “greatness,” “sageness,” and “divinity.” What makes individuals moral subjects is not only their external appearance, their experience, or their moral character, but also a kind of sensuous becoming and sensuous force. “Flood-like qi↜” has a twin nature; it is both sensuous and supersensuous, uniting life and morality. Moral reason thus consists in the qi of this sensuous, perceptual existence. In this respect, the “inner sage” of Confucius and Mencius differs from those of religious theologies.

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This is the fundamental characteristic of Confucian philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics. It is no wonder, then, that the concept of qi is the single most fundamental category in Chinese culture. It is important to Chinese medicine and to spiritual practices like qigong (Chinese breathing exercises), practiced to this day. It is an integral category in divination, geomancy, and fortune-telling. A crucial philosophical concept, it also plays an important role in literature. Cao Pi (187–226) remarked that “literature is primarily a matter of qi.”↜35 In art, also, qi comes into play. Six Dynasties critic Xie He (fl. 500–535) made “lively and harmonious qi↜” the primary standard for calligraphy.36 But what exactly is qi? To this day we have no clear and satisfactory definition. It is not purely material, since it is a type of vital force; nor is it purely spiritual, since it has an intimate connection to the material. Cao Pi’s discussion of qi in literature treats it as an innate quality of the body, which “father cannot transfer to son, nor older to younger brother,” and which “cannot be forced.”↜37 Tan Sitong of the late Qing explained that “this ‘flood-like qi↜’ is no special qi, but the same qi we breathe through our nostrils, the same vital energy we regulate with our medicine, the same vigor and sap that enliven a courageous person; it is the qi of both the sage and the common man.”↜38 So it is evident that qi does have something to do with physiological breathing. Critical notions such as the “fullness” or “restraint” of qi in poetry and prose are related to the syntax, intonation, and structure of recitation or silent reading, and therefore to the rhythm, speed, and meter of physiological breathing in both the creative and receptive processes. But qi cannot be explained simply as a function of physiological breathing. In the previous chapter’s discussion of the importance in Chinese arts and letters of the establishment of form, the mastery of skill, and the imitation of models, these were not simply to be understood in terms of reason. What was even more important was training in and mastery of this type of sensual power. But again, qi is more than just a matter of physical perception; as we see in such terms as fengqi (fashion or mood) and qiyun (destiny or fortune), it also bears a certain social character. Liu Xie (ca. 465–522) remarked in the “Shi xu” chapter of his classic of literary thought, the Wenxin diaolong, “When a society’s ways are in decline and there is general complaintâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹there is probably much qi.”↜39 In sum, qi assumes concurrently the dual characteristics of morality and vitality, the material and the physical. It is to Mencius that we owe the notion of qi as a kind of sensuous vital force in which reason is condensed and through which energy can be released. As mentioned above, because this kind of sensuous vital force in Mencius is a strength of will that arises from the condensation of reason as well as from

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sensuous activity governed by morality, it cannot be obstructed or shaken by any external thing. What is important here, then, is the control or mastery of reason, which is reflected in aesthetics in such terms as zhu jing (devotion to one’s pursuit), xian le (holding the reins), and jie xuan (controlling the pace). The latter term comes from Liu Xie’s remarks in the Wenxin Diaolong chapter entitled “Yang qi↜” [Cultivating qi]: “In producing and enjoying art and literature, it is important to control one’s pace, so that one’s heart will be clear and harmonious, and one’s qi will flow unimpeded.”↜40 Yan Zhitui (531–595) compares writing to riding a horse, in which, “even if the horse has great strength, you must control it with the reins.”↜41 The first term comes from the advice of Zhang Xuecheng (1738–1801), in his collection of essays, the Wen shi tong yi, that “when putting pen to paper you must devote yourself to your pursuit; this one thing covers it all. If you devote yourself to your pursuit, then your heart will be quiet and your qi will be regulated, so that you can adapt yourself easily to the requirements [of your genre].”↜42 Notions of later generations such as “momentum,” “integrity,” “directing strength into momentum,” and so on, all have their origins here. All have to do with how the subject, through the cultivation of reason, can control sensation, so that it becomes a material capability controlled and governed by the will. For example, “integrity” is usually considered to be qi in a static state. And “momentum” is a kind of potential energy, a qi that contains energy—like the momentum of water pouring off a steep roof, or a hot knife cutting through butter. The kind of strong and dynamic qi valued in art and literature always has to do with this kind of momentum and integrity. It is not mainly found in external appearance but in a great inner life—a kind of moral potentiality and momentum. It finds expression quite apart from powerful rivers, magnificent peaks, or the glory of celestial bodies. It is the subjective morality and vital power that can be condensed into any image or form. This power manifests itself in sensuous language as the highly generalized rhythms or rhymes we find in Du Fu’s poetry, Han Yu’s prose, Yan Zhenqing’s calligraphy, Fan Kuan’s paintings, and Guan Hanqing’s arias, to name a few. When Mencius transformed the sublime into this “momentum,” he did not stop at purely rational subjective morality, but required that the moral personality and spiritual transcendence of the subject should become one with nature and the entire cosmos: “This qi is exceedingly vast and powerful. If it is nourished with integrity and not impaired, it will fill up heaven and earth” (Mencius 2A.2). According to Mencius, it is through this “flood-like qi↜” that is “born of an accumulation of righteousness” that one can achieve communion with heaven and earth, and the “unity of heaven and humans.” This is what later would be explained by Wen Tianxiang (1236–1282) in his “Ode to Right Qi↜” as

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follows: “There is right qi in heaven and earth, variously bestowed and spread throughout the forms. Below, it takes the shape of rivers and mountains; above, the shape of sun and stars. Among men it is called flood-like; its abundance can fill the vast seas.”↜43 In Mencius we find a great deal about “preserving one’s heart and nurturing one’s nature, so to serve heaven” (Mencius 7A.1); or, “What the gentleman passes is transformed; what he abides is divine. Above and below, he flows with heaven and earth” (Mencius 7A.13). These all point out that the sensuous vital force of the moral subject can communicate with heaven and earth and attain oneness with the universe—in other words, that heaven can be reached through the human, and that heaven and humans can be united in their morality and vitality. This unity will be the topic of the next section.

The Unity of Heaven and Humans in Xunzi and the Book of Changes Due to the influence of Song and Ming neo-Confucians, usually only Confucius and Mencius are considered to be the founding fathers of Confucianism. In actuality, however, without the contribution of Xunzi, Confucianism would never have survived. As I have argued elsewhere, without Xunzi, there would have been no Han Confucianism; and without Han Confucianism, it is difficult to imagine the shape Chinese culture would have taken.44 Mencius and Xunzi are like two wings on the body of Confucianism, without which it would have remained a flightless bird. Xunzi advocated using the “rites and righteousness” of ethics and politics to rein in and govern sensuous human desires and natural instincts, demanding that internal desire be satisfied within the constraints of external ritual, or conversely, that external ritual be implemented through the satisfaction of internal desire. Thus desire should reasonably be satisfied through the practice of ritual, while ritual should attain adherence through the reasonable satisfaction of desire. Mencius can be said to have advanced the theory that human nature (in the form of social rationality) is good, arguing that an a priori morality governs and pervades human sensuosity. Xunzi, on the other hand, advanced the theory that human nature (in the form of physical or animal sensuosity) is evil, arguing that human sensuosity must be normalized and reformed through the existing social order. Although they part company on this issue, the two thinkers both attempt to answer the question, common to Confucian humanism, of how individual sensuosity can acquire social rationality. How is social rationality sedimented within individual sensuosity? For Xunzi, diligent and extended study and self-cultivation are required before one’s spirit will find joy in morality (rationality), as the eyes find joy in beautiful colors, the ears in beautiful sounds, and the mouth in delicious foods.

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But unlike Mencius, Xunzi does not believe this education and molding of the inner nature to be an end in itself; rather, the humanization of the inner nature should serve an external undertaking, namely, the governance and stability of the world. Thus, what Xunzi stresses is the external functionality of human subjectivity, the human subjugation or conquest of the whole world, including both inner and outer natures. This conquest cannot be only moral or spiritual, but must also be actual and material. This is the famous Xunzian notion of “mastering destiny and making use of it”: Nature [i.e., human nature] is the unhewn, plain wood; artifice is its ornamental carving. Without nature, artifice would have nothing to add to; without artifice, nature could not beautify itself.45 The northern sea has galloping horses and barking dogs, but the Central Kingdom acquires and domesticates them. The southern sea has feathers, ivory, hides, copper, and cinnabar, but the Central Kingdom acquires and makes a fortune from them. The eastern sea has purple dye, hemp, fish, and salt, but the Central Kingdom acquires them and uses them for clothing and food. The western sea has skins and yak tails, but the Central Kingdom acquires and makes use of them.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Therefore, of all the things that are under heaven or on the earth, there is not one whose beauty and function is not fully made use of to adorn the sage above or to nourish the people below and rejoice their hearts. This is what is called great divinity.46

“Divinity” here should be distinguished from this term as it is used in Mencius. Here the term refers to and eulogizes the real power to transform human subjectivity. This power is not expressed in the establishment of the moral subject or of an inner intentional structure, but in the actual conquest and transformation of both inner and outer natures. It does not operate from the point of view of the individual personality, but from the point of view of humankind as a whole (history and reality). Even at this early date, there already existed a vigorous affirmation of the material dynamic power of collective human subjectivity. The fact that Xunzi anticipates the simple concept that humans are distinguished from the animal kingdom by their use of tools is especially rare and remarkable in the history of world philosophy. Together with Mencius’ notion of the inner personality of the human subject, the brilliance of Xunzi’s broad, externally oriented philosophy directly reflects and at the same time illuminates the great artistic tradition that prevailed from the Warring States period through the Qin and Han dynasties, which mainly takes the conquest of the world as its subject. This is a point I have treated elsewhere.47 Xunzi’s

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thought also directly paved the way for the Confucian worldview, developed in the Commentaries on the Book of Changes, of the “partnership of humans with heaven and earth.” The Commentaries carry on and develop Xunzi’s thought. In particular, they continue and expand upon the externally oriented, broadly material practical action that is its strong core. At the same time, they reject the proposition of “mastering destiny and making use of it” along with the “separation of heaven and humans,” instead returning to the psychological-emotional track of the “unity of heaven and humans.” In doing so, the Commentaries actually significantly expand on and enrich the original proposition, by systematically investing “heaven” with a human emotional character. Their emphasis on the “partnership of humans with heaven and earth” is no longer Xunzi’s aggressive attitude of conquest over nature, but rather an attitude of homology and compliance with nature. This has some connection with Mencius’ a priori morality and his notion of destiny, but the Commentaries do not mark a return to Mencius. On the contrary, although the notion of “heaven” in the Commentaries is no longer the purely natural heaven found in Xunzi, neither is it the internally controlling heaven of Mencius. Unlike Mencius’ heaven, it does not originate in the morality of the individual personality or inner psychology, but rather, as in Xunzi, it arises from the breadth of human material activity and history, as well as from the natural world.48 Thus heaven in the Commentaries, while still constituting external nature, in this way actually takes on anthropomorphic moral virtue and emotional content. But this virtue and emotion are simply a coloration and in no way suggest a truly personal will. They are aesthetic and artistic rather than religious, theological, scientific, or epistemological. Many passages from the Commentaries bear this out, including: “As heaven proceeds vigorously, so the gentleman must strive to improve himself unremittingly” (1/1/23);49 “The great virtue of heaven and earth is its daily begetting” (“Xici zhuan,” part II, 66/81/16); “Daily renewal is called [the Way’s] abundant virtue; ceaseless begetting is called change” (part I, 65/77/20); and so on. There is no notion in the Commentaries of an anthropomorphic deity controlling and ordering human affairs. On the contrary, what this text emphasizes is that humans must make every effort to progress in order to stay in step with nature and the cosmos. Nature and the cosmos are constantly changing, transforming, and becoming new; humans must adopt a corresponding dynamic structure in order to attain unity with them. Only then can humans achieve “partnership with heaven and earth”—the unity of body, soul, and the social collective with nature and the cosmos. This “unity” or “oneness” is not a static existence but a dynamic progression. This is precisely what is meant by “daily renewal.”

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It should be clear, then, that Confucian humanism moves from psychology and ethics to the universe, from humans to heaven, from the way of man to the way of heaven, from politics and society to nature and the cosmos. As we move from an emphasis on the molding of inner human nature (emotions, senses, and desires) to the pursuit of a dynamic homology of humans with nature and the cosmos, we have pushed primitive Confucianism to its culmination. Here, the sensuous world of nature and the cosmos is not something negative (as in a great many religions), nor is it something neutral (as in modern science); rather, it has a definite significance and positive value, as well as having a certain sensuous tone and character. This is a kind of distillation of the worldview of Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi, which fundamentally affirms human sensuous existence and becoming, and deeply values sensate life. The positive value of the sensuous world is achieved through selfconscious human effort, not bestowed by any god or personal deity. In this view, heaven and earth are great, but humans are also great, and heaven and humans are interconnected and unified. Therefore, people can use their emotions, thoughts, and energy to work in concert with the cosmos and all that is in it. And all human laws and forms (including the laws and forms of art) echo the universal laws and forms of nature, including for example the laws of motion, flux, dynamic equilibrium, the unity of correspondences, and so on. The notion that “firm and supple displace one another to produce transformation and change” (part I, 65/77/1) is a very important concept in the “Xici zhuan,” the most philosophically influential of the Commentaries that accompany the Book of Changes. In terms of the natural realm, “sun and moon interact and produce lightâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹summer and winter interact and complete the year” (part II, 66/82/18, 19). In the human realm, “what unifies the transformations is called [human] affairs” (part I, 65/78/1) and “achievements are manifest in the transformations” (part II, 66/81/16). Therefore, “Heaven and earth change and are transformed, and the sage follows suit” (part I, 65/80/13). “When change is exhausted, transformations occur; transformations continue and endure; thus they are ‘blessed by heaven, there is good fortune, and no lack of benefit’↜” (part II, 66/82/4). The human race should emulate nature, establishing its achievements amidst motion and transformation, and choosing the path of becoming and development. The view of the Book of Changes that both nature and the human realm can exist only in transformation and flux—fundamentally a standpoint that stresses “becoming”—is the basis for the emphasis in the Chinese aesthetic worldview on motion, power, and rhythm. Since the universe and all that is in it exists in continual transformation and flux, beauty and art must do so as well. Even in that most abstract of Chinese art forms, calligraphy, with its total lack

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of concrete or realistic content, the emphasis is on the dynamic momentum, strength, and revolution that is shared with nature. The same is true of painting. For example, in an early work on painting, the Bi Zhen Tu (ascribed to Wei Zhuo of the Eastern Jin, but actually a Tang dynasty work),50 we find such dynamic descriptions as “the barrage of a hundred arrows,” or “white breakers rolling thunderously,” and so on. Or in the Five Dynasties work Bifa ji by Jing Hao (fl. 910–950) we find the instructions to “continuously evolve and transform, not allowing anything to take substance or form.” The reason for the importance of the line in Chinese tradition is that the line is the motion of life and the life of motion. Chinese aesthetics has never emphasized static objects, substance, or outer appearance, but rather the inner function, structure, and relations of its objects, which ultimately arise from and are determined by life’s dynamism. The famous contemporary calligrapher Shen Yinmo has said: Whether the external expression is carved in stone or written in ink, these will always be still forms. But what causes these forms to be achieved is the fruit of motion, form in motion, that quietly remains in the still form. To bring the still back into motion, the viewer must use imagination and feeling to bring it to life again before the eyes. Thus it is possible to see vivid and unfixed forces embodied in a fixed form. At the moment of such vision, one can not only experience a multiplicity of expressions, but also feel the changing rhythms of the music. Any really vivid calligraphy will exercise this kind of charm, making the viewer more and more alive.51

As in calligraphy, so also in architecture, an art form so heavily material and apparently so completely motionless: through the expression of time in space, motion is achieved in stillness, and the object is infused with the expansive, flowing sense of movement.52 Whether in poetry, prose, calligraphy, painting, or architecture, the lack of an inner dynamic potentiality and subjective vividness has been regarded as an indicator of low artistic value in the Chinese aesthetic tradition. This bias can be traced back to the worldview reflected in the Book of Changes emphasizing motion, transformation, and the “homology of heaven and humans.” This worldview takes the Mencian emphasis on the magnificence of the moral life and, by way of a baptism in Xunzi, elevates it to the height of a universal law, which would become both the heart of Confucian aesthetics and its culmination. The emphasis in the Book of Changes on function, relation, and dynamism is of course inseparable from the notion of yin and yang. All movement, functionality, and relationship take place within the interpenetration, harmony, evolution, and equilibrium attained through the mutual interaction of yin and

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yang. It is in the Changes that we find for the first time in the Chinese tradition the series of concrete, dynamic relationships between opposing yet united forces that would see continual elaboration and development in later generations. For example, yang is firm, yin gentle; yang is in motion, yin still; yang is empty, yin full; yang is extended, yin contracted; yang gives, yin receives; yang is above, yin below; yang is high, yin low; and so on. This view also constitutes the full development of the principles of “interpenetration” and “mutual complementarity” from Chapter 1’s discussion of “music entails harmony.” It is written in the Book of Changes that “the cosmos is always in motion yet never in chaos.” To be “always in motion yet never in chaos” suggests that in the midst of transformation and flux, in the midst of various opposing forces that confront and contend with one another, each retains its own order. The Chinese ideal of beauty is just the same. It does not seek an unchanging eternity but a dynamic equilibrium, a harmony in the midst of variety, the correspondence and unity between nature and humanity. These are seen to be the life of the cosmos, the culmination of humanity, the ideal realm, and the noumenon of “becoming.” This notion of the isomorphism and similitude of heaven and humans originates in the analogous associations of primitive humans and in their magical religion. In the highest expression of Confucianism, the Book of Changes, the elements of witchcraft, mythology, and religion have been set aside in favor of secularization, pragmatism, and rationality, resulting in the philosophical elaboration of the interconnection between heaven and humans (or between nature and society). In the Han dynasty this philosophy underwent the selfconscious incorporation of yin-yang dualism, which led to its development into a comprehensive, systematic cosmology, most conspicuously manifest in the thought of Han Confucian scholar Dong Zhongshu (179?–104? B.C.). As early as the “Record of Music” of the Book of Rites, we find the statement, “It is the way of all things to act in accordance with their categories” (19.13/101/10). In Dong Zhongshu, human emotions are very concretely analogous to and in interaction with nature. Dong emphasizes the equivalence, similitude, affinity, and correspondence between the transformations of natural phenomena and the transformations of human emotions. In his Chunqiu fan lu, Dong says: Heaven also has its joyful and wrathful tempers, its mournful or happy moods, just as humans do. If we were to classify them, heaven and humans would be of the same type. (“Yin yang yi,” 12.2/55/11)53 In human life, there are the responses of joy, wrath, mourning, and happiness, which accord with the four seasons. Joy is the response of spring,

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wrath of autumn; happiness of summer, mourning of winter. Heaven has its counterpart in humanity, and humanity gets its emotional nature from heaven. (“Wei ren zhe tian,” 11.1/49/14) The expression of joy, wrath, mourning, or happiness is actually consistent with warm and cool, hot and cold weather. A joyful temper is warm and stands for spring; a wrathful temper is cool and stands for autumn. A happy temper corresponds with the sun and stands for summer, a mournful temper corresponds with the moon and stands for winter. (“Yang zun yin bi,” 11.3/51/8) If you pour water on flat ground it will no longer be dry but wet; if you spread the same ground with kindling and start a fire, it will no longer be wet, but dry. Things lose what they differ from, and follow what is like them. Therefore those that share the same temper come together, those with similar sounds call out to each other. This is clear in our experience. Suppose you are tuning a zither; if you pluck a do, the other do will respond. If you pluck a re the other re will respond. Each note of the scale responds to its respective counterpart. This is the way things are, there is nothing mysterious about it. Beauty calls to beauty, evil to evil, because they are of the same category. (“Tong lei xiang zhu,” 13.3/59/17)

This correspondence between heaven and humans (the similarity and affinity of nature, the seasons, politics, the body, society, the emotions, and so on) did not originate with Dong Zhongshu, but he systematized and broadened this notion in an unprecedented manner. His work also included some unsophisticated exploration and speculation concerning the isomorphism and homology of subjective emotions with the external world. During the Han dynasty, this worldview comprising yin-yang cosmology, the Five Phases system, and the correspondence between heaven and humans, gradually became the major unified form of consciousness shared by the society at large. Indeed, its influence continues to be felt today. With its close ties to aesthetics and artistic creation, it also exercised a tremendous influence on later aesthetic and literary theory. For an example from poetics, let us look at this passage from the chapter in Liu Xie’s Six Dynasties Wenxin diaolong entitled “Wu se” [The Appearance of Things]: The seasons follow one another in turn, as yin and yang contract and expand. With the changes in the appearance of things, the heart is also swayed. When the force of yang sprouts, the black ant scurries away; when

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the principle of yin condenses, the mantis feeds. If this is the response of the tiniest insect, how profound must be the effect of seasonal change on other things! A jade tablet can arouse the heart’s benevolence, and blooming flowers its clear qi. If the beauty of things calls forth a response so, what person can be unmoved? This is why with the appearance of spring, feelings of joy and delight abound, while with the onset of summer’s heat, the heart also becomes heavy. When skies are clear and the air crisp, one’s will extends with the lengthening darkness of yin. When frost and snow extend as far as the eye can see, one’s thoughts grow serious and profound. Each season of the year has its characteristic objects, each of which in turn has its countenance. The emotions are moved by these objects, and words come forth from these emotions.54

Here we no longer find the mystical aspects that characterized Dong Zhongshu’s work, but we do find the same notion that the changing seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter correspond to changing human emotions. Theories about painting through the centuries reflect similar views. In spring, the mountains are veiled in mist and clouds, and people find pleasure in this. In summer, they are dense with luxuriant foliage, and people find this relaxing. In autumn, when the trees sway and shed their leaves under bright, clear skies, people put on a serious aspect. In winter, when the mountains are muddled in fog and concealed in cloud, people are quiet and still.55 In spring, the mountains are like a celebration, in summer like a tournament, in autumn like an illness, in winter, like the grave.56 In spring the mountains seem to laugh; in summer, to rage; in autumn, they seem to dress themselves up; in winter, to sleep. These “four mountains” cannot be articulated by the mountains themselves, but people can put them into words.57

The unity of heaven and humans, the intercommunication and resonance between heaven and humans, or the correspondence between heaven and humans, is a very widespread and long-lasting notion in Chinese aesthetics and artistic creation. It is a fundamental Confucian principle that developed from the Book of Changes via Dong Zhongshu, and an artistic principle followed by generations of Chinese artists over thousands of years. From today’s perspective, however, this principle can be seen to be simply a rough-hewn and

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roundabout expression of the idea of the “humanization of nature” in Chinese philosophy and aesthetics. We have already seen above that Mencius’ theory of greatness—strong beauty—is largely about the vitality of the moral subject. After the Book of Changes, this notion of greatness becomes more and more tied to the dynamic process of the “homology of heaven and humans.” In its discussions of qian and kun (creative and receptive), strong and weak, male and female, yin and yang, and so forth, the Book of Changes is primarily concerned with the yang side of the equation. In divination, for example, the hexagram for qian occupies the primary and most prominent place. The Changes argues that qian, both beautiful and magnificent, “in the beginning was able to transform beauty in order to benefit the world, but did not speak of this benefit; this is surely greatness.” This qian is none other than the “heaven” that Dong Zhongshu so greatly revered. “Heaven” is inherently the creator of all things, but does not advertise itself, and thus is to be considered great. Its greatness resides in the fact that heaven (or qian) is a powerful force in constant motion. It was heaven that set in motion the genesis of the world and the growth of everything in it. This is why the “virile and dynamic beauty” (yanggang zhi mei) preferred by Confucian aesthetics was always connected to a robust sensuous power, an organic strength, and lively animation. Even later feudal society, which elevated “blandness” to the highest artistic standard, in its aesthetic theory could not fail to acknowledge the primacy of this virile and dynamic beauty. For example, late Tang critic Sikong Tu (837–908) begins his Twenty-Four Categories of Poetry [Ershisi Shipin] with a category called “Powerful and Undifferentiated” [Xionghun]—a characteristic illustrated in the lines, “Long winds in the empty vastness,” and “Pale and billowing rainclouds.”↜58 And even Yan Yu’s thirteenth-century Canglang shihua continues to rank Tang poets Li Bai and Du Fu as orthodox masters. Even after a thousand years and despite the intervening influence of Buddhism, the basic spirit of the Confucian school and the Commentaries was difficult to shake. Of course, the roots of the potent qian in the Book of Changes go back far beyond the works of Mencius and Xunzi. In its explanation of the hexagram qian, the Commentaries repeatedly refers to the form of a dragon: “the flying dragon is in the sky,” “diving into the abyss,” or “appearing in the fields.” This betrays the ancient, indeed primitive roots of the Commentaries, for the dragon is an ancient totem of the Chinese people, possessing tremendous mythic power.59 In each of these philosophical currents, whether symbolized by the totem (the image of the marvelous dragon, with its inestimable appeal), the ethical subject (Mencius’ notion of momentum that is “born of accumulated righteousness”), or universal law (Xunzi’s notion of the potency of celestial bodies in the

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Commentaries, and Dong Zhongshu’s natural-social theory of yin, yang, and the Five Phases)—in each of these, the whole of human psychology is directed into a positive and optimistic course. There is no emphasis here on elements like sin, terror, suffering, death, tragedy, disease, or supernormal experience, nor is much prominence given to mysticism, repression, self-abnegation, or bloodshed. Instead, we find the positive affirmation of and pleasure in the internal morality and external activity of humankind, through which even disasters and suffering will eventually be redeemed: When the way of the family draws to an end, misunderstandings come. Hence there follows the hexagram of opposition. Opposition means misunderstandings.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Through opposition difficulties necessarily arise. Hence there follows the hexagram of obstruction. Obstruction means difficulty.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Things cannot be permanently amid obstructions. Hence there follows the hexagram of deliverance. Deliverance means release from tension.60

The idea that “things cannot be permanently amid obstructions” radically excludes the notion of an insurmountable fate. This probably explains why China never produced the great, heart-stirring tragic works that arose in ancient Greece. Among all peoples, the sublime is superior to beauty. In China, since such negative factors as guilt, suffering, tragedy, mystery, and so on were excluded at the outset, works of art and literature always avoided the extreme cruelty and pain of realistic conflict, preferring to appease, lull, or even deceive the suffering spirit by ending in the spirit of a happy reunion. Thus deprived of realistic or psychological bloodshed, what remains is simply to put a good face on everything, as the modern writer Lu Xun so incisively exposed in his stories. Twentieth-century poet and aesthetician Zong Baihua puts it another way: Chinese people feel that the universe as a whole is the great circle of life, which in itself is rhythm and harmony. The rites and music of human social life are a reflection of the rhythm and harmony of heaven and earth. All artistic works find their roots here. But this means that the tragic spirit so pervasive in Western art and literature since the Greeks could not attain a full flowering in Chinese art and has always been rejected or avoided. The depth of human nature, which can only be plumbed by way of drastic inner contradiction, has thus often been overwhelmed by the strong and sincere desire for harmony. The Chinese certainly do not lack those great ocean depths. But it is in the West, with its sense of adventure, its fearlessness in

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the face of tragedy, its willingness to look into the abyss of the universe and human life—it is only there that such works as the tragedies of Shakespeare and the music of Beethoven could flow forth.61

This is a rather roundabout statement of the characteristics of Chinese art. These are the strengths and weaknesses, the advantages and disadvantages produced by a Confucian aesthetic rooted historically in the non-Dionysian tradition of rites and music, and taking “flood-like qi↜” and the homology of heaven and humans as its basic characteristics. In this and the previous chapter, we have seen that Confucian aesthetics is the foundation and main current of Chinese aesthetics. Marked by strong traditions and profound philosophical insight, it has also been able to continuously receive and absorb a great variety of systems of thought and culture into its own systematic structure in order to renew itself and continue developing. Now we shall proceed to a rough survey of the emergence of Daoism, the Sao school, and Chan thought, and of how they collided with, diverged from, and ultimately were assimilated into the Confucian stream, thus stimulating the further progress of Chinese aesthetics.

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Heaven and earth have great beauty but do not speak of it. â•… —Zhuangzi

“Free and easy wandering”:1 Zhuangzi’s Aesthetic View of Life In The Path of Beauty, I put forward the concept of the mutual complementarity of Confucianism and Daoism. After coming under some degree of criticism, it seems this idea has become widely accepted. Actually, numerous commentators have recognized this fact over the years. It is possible for Confucianism and Daoism to be mutually complementary because, fundamentally, both arose out of the same ancient non-Dionysian cultural tradition. Although Daoists opposed the rites and music, theirs was certainly not a spirit of sensuous indulgence or revelry. From the perspective of the history of thought, the primary representative of Daoism, Zhuangzi, is but a developer and extender of certain Confucian ideas. This is why my discussion of Daoism in The Path of Beauty began with Confucianism. To summarize the argument I presented in that work,2 what we refer to as Confucianism and Daoism in fact constitute two streams of development of the same foundational ideas. In one historical stream, the skeptical and positivist Confucian worldview (characterized by such statements as “Reverence the spirits while keeping them at a distance, for this is called knowledge”) develops into the optimistic atheism of Xunzi and the Commentaries on the Book of Changes (“Master the will of Heaven and make use of it” and “As heaven proceeds vigorously, so the gentleman must strive to improve himself unremittingly”). In the other historical stream, it becomes the pantheism of Zhuangzi. Similarly, Confucius’ respect for the personalities of individual clan members (“You can capture the commander of three armies, but you cannot capture 76

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the will of an ordinary person”) in one stream develops into Mencius’ ideal of the great personality (“Not corrupted by wealth, not moved by poverty, not subjugated by military might”), while in the other stream, it becomes Zhuangzi’s ideal of the independent, iconoclastic personality that abandons the world (“They carelessly loiter beyond the dust and dirt, and wander free and easy in the realm of non-action”). On the surface, Confucianism and Daoism seem to be diametrically opposed. One embraces the world, the other forsakes it; one is optimistic and progressive, the other negative and retiring. But in reality, the two form a mutually complementary and harmonious whole. This is true not only in the sense that later scholar-officials would regard the Confucian imperative to “aid all under heaven” and the Daoist imperative to “do what is best for one’s own body” as complementary ways of life. It is also true in the sense that the opposition between compassionate, generous public service and a spirit of enmity toward the world would become a normal element of the Chinese intellectual psyche as well as a common artistic convention. But this is not to deny that, when it comes down to it, Confucianism and Daoism are really quite different in their aesthetic consequences. With Xunzi, Confucians stressed the idea that “without artifice, nature could not beautify itself,” while Zhuangzi argued that “Heaven and earth have great beauty but do not speak of it” (22.60.25).3 The former emphasizes the importance of human creation and external effort in art, while the latter emphasizes nature, or, in other words, the independence of beauty and art. Because of their narrow, utilitarian framework, Confucians often imposed strictures on artistic creation, sometimes hampering or even destroying it. Daoists, on the other hand, mounted an all-out attack on that framework and its strictures, dismantling and disrupting them. With the unwavering romanticism of their visual imagination, the intensity of their emotional expression, and their quest to express the unique human personality, Daoists have continually brought a fresh impetus for development to Chinese art, both in form and content. For although Zhuangzi rejected the world, he by no means denied natural life, but rather cherished and valued it. For this reason, his pantheistic philosophy and his aesthetic attitude toward life fairly radiate with emotion, in a manner that both complements and deepens Confucianism, and in fact is Confucian. That is why it is correct to say that Daoists like Laozi and Zhuangzi at once oppose and complement Confucianism. How does this “opposition and complementarity” look in practice? I would suggest that the notion of “the naturalization of humans” put forward by the Daoists and Zhuangzi is at once opposed to and complements the idea of the “humanization of nature” emphasized by the rites and music tradition and Confucian humanists.

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Let us say that the Confucian thinkers (Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi) emphasize the shaping of inner character and the humanizing of one’s inner nature, so that what is “unavoidably human” in one’s natural physiological desires and senses must acquire social training and capability. And let us say, therefore, that the aesthetic attitudes and aesthetic results that Confucianism achieves will be pleasing to sense and sensibility, and will be largely restrained within the realm of human relations and morality. If this is the case, then the distinguishing characteristic of Daoists, as represented by Zhuangzi, is precisely the transcendence of this very point. In the “Da zong shi” chapter of the Zhuangzi we find this exchange: Yan Hui said, “I’m making progress!” Confucius said, “How so?” “I’ve forgotten humaneness and righteousness!” “Good, but you still haven’t gotten it.” On another day, they saw each other again. Yan Hui said, “I’m making progress!” “How so?” “I’ve forgotten rites and music!” “Good, but you still haven’t gotten it.” On another day, they met again. Yan Hui said, “I’m making progress!” “How so?” “I sit and forget!” Confucius looked surprised and said, “What do you mean, sit and forget?” Yan Hui said, “I destroy my limbs and organs, expel wisdom and sagacity, do away with form, get rid of knowledge, and make myself one with the great thoroughfare. This is what I mean by sitting and forgetting.” Confucius said, “Being one with it, you must have no likes. Having been transformed, you must have no constancy. So you are one of the worthies after all! I would like to become your disciple.” (6.19.17)

By arguing that even Confucius wished to become Yan Hui’s follower in “sitting and forgetting,” Zhuangzi puts forward a higher human realm and ideal personality that transcend both Confucian “rites and music” (which affect the senses and the body) and “humaneness and righteousness” (which appeal to intelligence and consciousness). This realm, this personality, is characterized by a disdain for sensuous pleasures and affections (“the frame like dried-up wood, the mind like dead ashes” [2.3.15]) and the transcendence of material gain, social expectation, and even life and death. It should transcend all desire, all thought for loss or gain, all anxiety and worry, and should not be hemmed in by any internally or externally imposed restrictions governing notions of good or bad, right or wrong, beauty or ugliness of form, shape, sound, or color. In this way, a person’s spirit, and indeed his body, should be able to soar beyond the boundaries of interpersonal relations and become at one with nature as a whole. Thus, if we say that Confucianism was concerned with the “humanization of nature,” then Zhuangzi’s concern is with the “naturalization of humans.”

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The former contends that a person’s naturalness must be conformed to and permeated with sociality in order to attain true humanity. The latter argues that to become truly human one must shed sociality, allowing one’s naturalness to remain unpolluted and to expand to achieve unity with the universe. In Zhuangzi’s view, only this type of person attains true freedom and happiness, completely escaping the bounds of limited existence to become a “complete person,” a “holy person,” or a “sage” who is at one with nature and the universe. When Confucians speak of the unity of heaven and humans, they often use nature to illustrate human affairs, to which they make it conform. For Zhuangzi, the unity of heaven and humans demands the total abandonment of human affairs to attain unity with nature. Confucians locate the value of the individual in interpersonal relationships, while Zhuangzi seeks that value through breaking free from those relationships. This type of individual is able to “wander free and easy”: If he would ride the truth of heaven and earth, and harness the changes of the six breaths, so as to wander in the infinite, then he would depend on nothing. (1.2.1) He mounts on the clouds and wind, rides the sun and moon, and roams beyond the four seas. Life and death do not alter him, much less principles of gain and loss! (2.6.18) They are companions of the creator, and wander with the breath of heaven and earth.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹They forget the liver and the gall, leaving aside ears and eyes. They turn beginning and end around, and don’t know start from finish. They carelessly loiter beyond the dust and dirt, and wander free and easy in the realm of non-action. (6.18.19)

This “free and easy wandering” means dependence on nothing and no one, and therefore absolute freedom. The person who has “forgotten liver and gall, left aside ears and eyes,” so that “life and death do not alter him, much less principles of gain and loss,” attains a tremendous vitality akin to that of nature itself. Like Zhuangzi’s Peng bird, this person “rises on the whirlwind ninety thousand miles” and can “carry the blue sky on his back, with nothing to hinder him” (1.1.7). This suggests an irresistible kind of freedom and joy. Zhuangzi uses free flight and the freedom of flying to illustrate spiritual joy and the emancipation of the mind in an analogy that is both vivid and profound. What makes it so vivid is its striking concrete imagery. What makes it so profound is its evocation of the heights of pleasure experienced in free flight as the content of this spiritual freedom. Still today, over two thousand years later, the idea of “riding

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the wind” and “wandering in the infinite” without recourse to an airplane or flying machine evokes great pleasure. Only in dreams are people able to actually experience this kind of free flight. According to Freud, this has to do with the release of hidden sexual desire and signals the greatest possible joy. Of course, what Zhuangzi is speaking of is not physical flight but the joy of spiritual transcendence. This is not the (Confucian) pleasure of “having a friend come from afar,” nor is it the (Mencian) pleasure of “having the great talents of the world as students.” In place of the pleasure of the Confucian school that is at once ethical and transcends ethics, Zhuangzi’s is an antiethical and superethical joy—a “heavenly joy” that transcends the emotions of happiness, wrath, grief, and joy, as well as likes and dislikes, loves, and loathings. This heavenly joy is in unity with heaven (i.e., nature) and in harmony with the regularity of the universe: To be in harmony with heaven is called heavenly joy. (13.34.23) For the one who understands heavenly joy, life is the functioning of heaven, death is the transformation of things.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹[In him,] there is nothing for heaven to complain of, nothing for humans to object to.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹His emptiness and stillness spread throughout heaven and earth and reach the myriad things; this is what is called heavenly joy. (13.34.27)

Compared with this heavenly joy, no pleasure of eye, ear, or mind can compare—indeed, such pleasures actually oppose and damage heavenly joy: The sound of bell and drum, the display of feather and tassel, are but the offshoots of joy [which is the root]. (13.35.10) There are five ways in which one can lose one’s nature. First, the five colors can confuse the eyes and lose their clarity. Second, the five tones can confuse the ears, so that they do not hear well. Third, the five odors can stimulate the nose, so that the forehead becomes congested. Fourth, the five tastes can muddle the mouth, impairing the sense of taste. Fifth, preferences can upset the mind and cause one’s nature to flit about. These five are all detrimental to life. (12.34.4) Grief and happiness distort virtue; joy and wrath transgress the Way; love and loathing are defects of the mind. (15.42.3)

Clearly, then, the heavenly joy attained through “free and easy wandering” presupposes the elimination of sensory and mental feelings and experience. It is characterized by “forgetting”—forgetting gain and loss, self and others.

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“Forgetting” is stressed again and again in Zhuangzi, in phrases like “forget life,” “it is better to forget one another in the rivers and lakes” (6.16.24), “I lost my self ” (2.3.16), and, famously, in the story of Zhuangzi and the butterfly, in which the dreamer “didn’t know if he was Zhuangzi dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi” (2.7.22). Only when one has forgotten one’s real existence, sensory experiences, and thoughts is it possible to roam heaven and earth with the myriad things and attain “heavenly joy.” This joy is no ordinary sensuous pleasure or rational happiness; actually, what it refers to is first and foremost an aesthetic attitude toward life. Why an “aesthetic” attitude? Because the goal of this emphasis on cutting off the self-conscious awareness of reality, “forgetting that before and after follow one another,” is to be united with the object and thus achieve pleasure. Zhuangzi’s notion of the “fasting of the mind” is illustrative here: [Yan Hui said,] “May I ask about the fasting of the mind?” Confucius answered, “Have a single intent. Do not listen with your ears, but with your mind. Do not listen with your mind, but with qi. For hearing does not go farther than the ears, and the mind does not go farther than symbols. But qi is empty and responds to things. The Way gathers only in emptiness. Emptiness is the fasting of the mind.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The empty chamber gives birth to brightness, the lucky and auspicious stay where there is stillness. (4.10.1)

The senses are constrained by what is seen and heard, as thought is constrained by symbols. Only by shedding these to attain the emptiness of inaction is it possible to respond to heaven and earth and reflect the myriad things, thereby reaching a state of oneness with nature and the universe, that is, heavenly joy. Heavenly joy, in Zhuangzi’s view, is the ultimate joy, the greatest happiness. But “ultimate joy is not joy”—the greatest happiness is exactly that happiness which transcends ordinary happiness and unhappiness. It knows no “happy” or “unhappy,” but has shed all subjective goals, intentions, perceptions, and demands, and become united with the objective regularity of nature. To get to this place, one must achieve emptiness, stillness, and clarity, and one must eliminate the mind and the senses, in order to nurture and forge a pure consciousness that is united with the Way (“the Way gathers only in emptiness”). This is somewhat akin to Husserl’s notion of pure consciousness, but it is not epistemological. Zhuangzi has much to say about emptiness, stillness, and clarity: Stillness leads to clarity, clarity to emptiness, emptiness to non-action and non-inaction. (23.67.11)

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If water becomes clear when still, how much more so the spirit! The sage’s mind is still! It is the looking-glass of heaven and earth, the mirror of the myriad things. (13.34.16)

In short, by being undistracted by the temporal mind and the senses, by cutting off conception and opening wide the mind to reflection, the spirit attains freedom and fullness, and the person can “wander free and easy,” having attained the highest realm in which “heaven and earth were born along with me, and I am one with all things” (2.5.21). Zhuangzi’s thought marks a progression from the Confucian emphasis (in the Book of Changes) on homology, oneness, and the integration of heaven and humans. Zhuangzi advocates the total nondiscrimination between self and the world, subject and object. Thus it is no longer a question of homology (the unity and correspondence of subject and object), but a question of “materialization” (the identity of subject and object). This identity between subject and object can only emerge in the creative intuition of “pure consciousness.” As it belongs to neither psychological effect, logical knowledge, nor religious experience, it must come under the realm of aesthetics. Consider this famous anecdote: Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling on the bridge over the Hao River. Zhuangzi said, “These minnows swimming about just as they please—this is what fish take pleasure in.” Huizi asked, “You are not a fish; how do you know what fish take pleasure in?” Zhuangzi answered, “You are not me, so how do you know I don’t know what fish take pleasure in?” Huizi said, “I am not you, so I certainly don’t know about you. You are most certainly not a fish, so your lack of knowledge of what fish take pleasure in is complete.” Zhuangzi said, “Let us go back to the beginning. When you ask how I know what fish take pleasure in, you show that you already know that I know. I know it by walking here by the Hao.” (17.47.11)

In this well-known interchange, Huizi has the logical victory, but Zhuangzi has the aesthetic victory. When Zhuangzi picks up the logical argument (“You are not me, so how do you know I don’t know what fish take pleasure in?”), he is refuted by Huizi. But Zhuangzi immediately returns to basic, primitive intuition: “In asking the question, you already knew that I know what makes fish happy; my knowledge comes by direct intuition here beside the Hao.” It is not a question of logic at all, much less the proper object of logical argumentation or rational deliberation. To begin with, whether by logic or science, it is very

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difficult to prove even today “what fish take pleasure in,” or indeed even to understand the question. By reason of its homology and correspondence with the movement of human emotions, the motion of the fish leisurely swimming creates an “emotional transference” that causes us to perceive the fish’s enjoyment. Actually it is not a question of what fish enjoy so much as of what people enjoy. People’s pleasure is expressed through the pleasure of the fish and exists within that pleasure. This is not, therefore, a logical problem of epistemology, but a question of the objectification of human emotion and the emotionalization of the object—it is a problem of pan-psychism. Zhuangzi brings out the nonlogical aspect of this problem. Furthermore, Zhuangzi does more than just highlight the homology and correspondence of psychological emotion; he obliterates the opposition, completely erasing the boundary between fish and human, self and world, waking and dreaming, butterfly and Zhuangzi. You dream you are a bird and ascend into the sky; you dream you are a fish and sink into the pool. But as you speak of it today, you don’t know if you are awake or dreaming. In sudden pleasure one does not have the chance to laugh. When laughter presents itself one does not have the chance to order it. By ordering, one can cast aside transformation and enter into the oneness of heaven’s emptiness. (6.19.5)

This realm in which one does not know dreaming from waking, self from other, subject from object, and is one with the Way (“the oneness of heaven’s emptiness” is the Way) is the most pleasurable realm. This is the greatest happiness, as well as true freedom. As many commentators have pointed out: “In sudden pleasure one does not have a chance to laugh”: This describes the heart having arrived at the most pleasurable realm. (Li Mian) Lin Xiyi notes: When one has agreeable feelings, sometimes these do not lead to laughter; this is very pleasurable indeed. It is like the poem that says, “When my fear was calmed, I wiped my tears.” On this Mr. Le Xuan has commented, “By the time I am able to cry, the fright is already over.” This speaks of fright, while “sudden pleasure” speaks of joy. Although fright and joy are different, the idea of not having the chance to do something is common to them. “When laughter presents itself, one does not have the chance to order it”: This describes inner pleasure and contentment that naturally produces laughter. Li Xiyi notes, “This laughter arises from nature; how should it require ordering?”↜4

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What is this if not the height of aesthetic pleasure? It is neither religious ecstasy nor secular happiness, but a self-forgetful, nonconceptual, “perfect” or “heavenly” joy that transcends gain or loss, and in which one experiences unity with heaven. These comments on the phrase “In sudden pleasure one does not have a chance to laugh” seem to describe aesthetic reality from a psychological point of view. Actually what is more important here is Zhuangzi’s emphasis on the philosophical significance of this aesthetic reality. For the aesthetic pleasure that characterizes Zhuangzi’s ideal human personality and the highest realm of human life is not just psychological pleasure but, more important, a kind of transcendent noumenal attitude. This attitude is by no means to be confused with the ignorant unconsciousness of animals, although Zhuangzi does emphasize its similarity in phenomenal form. It is not natural animal sensuosity, nor an a priori outcome, nor a divine gift. Rather, it is a noumenal sedimentation, a metaphysical realm that at once resides within human experience and transcends it. It is a pure consciousness, a creative intuition attained only through the “fasting of the mind” and “sitting and forgetting.” It emphasizes the unity of humans with nature (heaven, earth, and all things), rather than the rejection of nature. What it seeks is a transcendence attained in unity with the universe, nature, heaven, earth, and all things—that is, in “oneness with the Dao.” Therefore this transcendence does not depart from sensuosity, though it is a sensuosity profoundly laden with noumenal sedimentation. Having attained this transcendence, a person can be happy under any circumstances, forgetting both self and other, and integrating subject and object. As another commentator on Zhuangzi has pointed out, “in this mysterious union with all things, there is no lack of enjoyment; when there is no lack of enjoyment then one can forget enjoyment.”↜5 This enjoyment of forgetting enjoyment is none other than the sedimentation of the rational noumenon within sensuosity, the emergence of which is served by the renunciation of all sensory and mental activity, as discussed above. The emphasis of Confucian aesthetics on “harmony” for the most part concerns harmony in human relationships; similarly, its notion of the homology with heaven and earth is manifested most fundamentally as interpersonal harmony. Zhuangzian aesthetics also stresses “harmony,” but a “heavenly harmony,” which, in turn, is the same as the “oneness with the Dao” mentioned above. Heaven and earth and all things—in other words, nature itself—are living things that continually wax and wane. Consequently, the “heavenly harmony,” “oneness with the Dao,” or “unity with all things” that people attain should itself also be alive:

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Huizi said to Zhuangzi, “Can a person really be without feelings?” Zhuangzi said, “It is so.”â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Huizi said, “But since he is called a person, how can he be without feelings?” Zhuangzi said, “This is not what I mean by feelings. What I mean by “without feelings” is that a person does not damage his inner self by likes and dislikes, but constantly follows nature and does not add to life.” (5.15.20) [The True Man’s] mind forgets, his countenance is calm.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹He is cool as autumn, warm as spring. His joys and wraths conform to the four seasons, he goes along with what is fitting for things, and no one knows how far he can go. (6.16.7)

There is no need to exert human effort to add to one’s life, for one will naturally grow very well indeed. There is no need to exert human effort to experience feelings like joy and anger, love and hate, for one can naturally experience joy and wrath, coolness and warmth along with the four seasons. Even in intense and sophisticated argument, Zhuangzi never departed from life and sensuosity. On the contrary, his keynote was always the pursuit of human (not divine) nature, a pursuit that gave weight to the emotions and was affirming of life, seeking “to be as spring with all things” (5.15.3) and “to restore things to their nature” (12.33.9). This is entirely consistent with Zhuangzi’s continual emphasis on “preserving the body and keeping life intact.” Therefore, it can be said that Zhuangzi’s philosophy is an aesthetic system that simultaneously affirms natural existence (the nature of sensuous human existence as well as that of the external world) and demands spiritual transcendence. What Zhuangzi seeks is a kind of transcendent sensuosity. He lodges transcendent existence within natural, perceptual existence, so that his aim can be said to be a noumenal sensuosity that bears evidence of sedimentation. Without relying on human activity or norms, Zhuangzi in this way brings out a level of “unity between heaven and humans” higher than that of the Confucian yin-yang system of homologous correspondences—that is, “oneness with the Dao.” Unity between heaven and humans is possible because it presupposes this transcendent sensuosity in which we find the sedimentation of rationality. Scholars have often emphasized the differences and contradictions between Confucianism and Daoism, and overlooked the way in which the two schools supplement each other and intermingle in the midst of their opposition. Actually, the antiestablishment, antiutilitarian aesthetic attitude toward life that Zhuangzi so ardently advocated had long been latent in teachings of the Confucian school.

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On numerous occasions, Zhuangzi quotes Yan Hui (the disciple of Confucius), and in the Inner Chapters even borrows the role of Confucius himself to expound his own ideas. The view of Guo Moro and others that Zhuangzi was a disciple of Yan Hui is not without merit. Confucius himself lends support to this view in the following famous anecdote: Zilu, Zeng Xi, Ran You, and Gongxi Hua were in attendance. The Master said, “You think that I am a little older than you, but for a moment don’t take me as such. You are often saying, ‘no one recognizes [my abilities].’ If someone were to recognize you, what would you do?” Zilu quickly answered, “Give me a state of a thousand chariots, pressed between larger powers, and on top of that invaded by an army, and suffering drought and famine. Within three years I would make the people courageous, and they would know the right direction.” Confucius smiled at this. “Qiu [Ran You], what about you?” Ran You replied, “Give me an area of sixty or seventy square li, or say fifty or sixty even—within three years under my administration, I would make the people lack for nothing. As for the rites and music, I should leave these to a real gentleman.” “Chi, what about you?” the Master asked Gongxi Hua. He answered, “I don’t mean to say I am up to the task, but I would like to learn it. In events at the ancestral temple, or at gatherings of the princes, I would like to put on the straight gown and the emblematic cap and be a junior minister.” “What about you, Dian [Zeng Xi]?” Confucius asked. The plucking of the strings faded, and Zeng Xi set down the zither. He rose and replied, “My answer is different from these others’.” The Master said, “What does it matter? You are each expressing your aspirations.” Zeng Xi said, “In late spring, when the spring garments have been completed, I would like to go with five or six capped youths and six or seven boys to bathe in the Yi, catch the breezes at the rain dance, and return home singing.” Confucius sighed and said, “I am with Dian.” (Analects 11.26)

Numerous other well-known examples also seem Zhuangzian in flavor: When made use of, act; when set aside, hide yourself. (Analects 7.11) If the Way is not practiced, I will get into a boat and go to sea. (Analects 5.7) If a country has the Way, he can speak and act in a straightforward manner; if a country does not have the Way, he may act straightforwardly, but must speak with circumspection. (Analects 14.3)

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When a country had the Way, [Ning Wuzi] was wise; when it did not, he acted the fool. His wisdom can be emulated, but not his foolishness. (Ana­ lects 5.21)

Other Confucian texts contain similar examples. In the Doctrine of the Mean [Zhong Yong] it says, “If the country does not have the Way, he is silent enough to be tolerated.” The Book of Changes contains the saying, “He does not serve kings and princes; he adheres to lofty principles” (18.24.1).6 Even in the writings of Xunzi, the strongest Confucian advocate of practical human action, we find the following anecdote: Zilu entered. The Master asked him, “What is a man of understanding? What is a man of humaneness?” Zilu replied, “A man of understanding makes people understand him; a man of humaneness makes people love him.” Confucius said, “You can be called a scholar.” Zi Gong entered, and the Master asked him, “What is a man of understanding? What is a man of humaneness?” He replied, “A man of understanding understands people. A man of humaneness loves people.” Confucius said, “You can be called a gentleman scholar.” Yan Hui entered, and the Master asked him, “What is a man of understanding? What is a man of humaneness?” He replied, “A man of understanding understands himself, and a humane man loves himself.” Confucius said, “You can be called a brilliant gentleman.”↜7

Corresponding with the three levels found in the Analects passage “The one who understands it is not as good as the one who loves it; the one who loves it is not as good as the one who enjoys it” (Analects 6.20), Xunzi here lays out three levels, that of being loved, loving others, and loving one’s self. The highest level, loving self and understanding self, clearly is not superior because it advocates selfish love for oneself, but because of its emphasis on the heedlessness of external demands, the lack of artificiality or deliberate effort. It is effectively manifested in complete naturalness. All of these examples, it seems to me, bear an unmistakable affinity to Zhuangzi’s spirit. The difference is that, for Confucius and Confucians, this “going home singing,” or “loving and understanding oneself,” should take place after one has “ordered the state and pacified all under heaven.” Confucius does not deny the ideals and aspirations of Zilu, Zi Gong, or Ran You—indeed, he accords them a certain positive valuation. It is just that they do not constitute the highest ideals of human life. This “highest” ideal, therefore, does not reject the lower attitudes or levels. It could either be that it follows these lower ideals or attitudes

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sequentially, so that, as would be said in later generations, one would “complete one’s accomplishments, then retire,” or “retire at fifty”; having established oneself in terms of human accomplishment and virtue, one could then pursue detachment. Or it could be pursued simultaneously with one’s other undertakings, so that one could maintain a spirit of detachment even in the midst of frenetic public service. Furthermore, precisely because of such an attitude that is oblivious to gain and even to life and death, one’s public service benefits from greater spiritual support. With the psychological support of this kind of detachment, one with nature and integrated with all things, one has no need of external direction or internal zeal, but will naturally “do what one knows to be impossible” (Analects 14.38). Such a person would show concern for the country and its people while displaying broad-mindedness and self-possession. To deal with the worldly without worldliness is what Feng Youlan referred to as the “realm of heaven and earth” in which one deals with human affairs with a heavenly heart, or carries out Confucian duties with a Daoist spirit.8 What Feng did not realize is that this “realm of heaven and earth” is actually an aesthetic realm of life. This is really for the most part a utopian vision in Confucianism, however; those who can actually attain this realm are very few indeed. The objective environment and historical circumstances seldom allow the possibility to be realized. What we often see, instead, is either, on the one hand, “dying for the sake of humaneness, retiring for the sake of righteousness” (the sacrifice of the individual in the service of society); or, on the other hand, reclusion, flight from political struggle to the pleasures of nature. Throughout the long history of Chinese society, the latter was the most common choice. Even a fervent reformist Confucian politician like Wang Anshi (1021–1086) on several occasions resigned from office, and in the end became a recluse, adopting the sobriquet “Old Man of the Mountainside” (ban shan lao ren), and taking pleasure in writing landscape poetry. Especially when “the Way was not practiced,” or “the country was without the Way,” when the state was in decline or in the hands of invaders, many literati intellectuals would take refuge “in lacquered gardens or on high peaks,” finding solace in the Daoism of Zhuangzi and Laozi, seeking comfort in nature and pursuing the lofty goals of “oneness with the Dao” and “the realm of heaven and earth.” It should be said that this kind of outlook on life was no ordinary sensuous attitude of carpe diem, nor a simple conformity to the world; rather, it was an existence and an attitude characterized by metaphysical transcendence and the sedimentation of rationality. Therefore, it could serve in place of religion as a comfort and solace to those suffering psychological trauma or physical hardship. This is the reason why China’s literati intellectuals seldom resorted to self-destruction or religion in the face of great

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defeat or misfortune, but more often chose to preserve their lives, hold to their principles, and flee the world in favor of the pleasures of nature and the purity of detachment.9 Despite this, in reality few of these so-called recluses were able to completely forget their homeland or worldly affairs, nor could they actually repudiate Confucianism. The Tang dynasty intellectual Han Yu once said, “The life of the recluse can only be undertaken by those scholars who excel at caring for themselves and have no concern for the good of the world; if their hearts are concerned for the good of the world, they are unable to undertake it.”↜10 Song neo-Confucian Zhu Xi remarked: “reclusion has usually been chosen by those with grudges against the establishment. Tao Qian, for example, wanted to serve but was unable to.”↜11 Another scholar explains: “Through a systematic study of Chinese scholar recluses, one will discover that such recluses actually constituted a very small ratio.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹They were never able to avoid leaving their retreats to serve the administration.”↜12 The primary influence of Daoist philosophy, of which Zhuangzi is representative, was among the scholar-official class of intellectuals, who were first and foremost Confucians. Their way of life was characterized by the idea that “once one has studied and become proficient, one should take office” (Analects 19.13), or, as Confucius put it, “Am I a bitter gourd, then? Why am I hung up to dry rather than being eaten?” (Analects 17.7). Their lives were informed by ideals like “be concerned for all under heaven” and “relieve the people, pacify the states.” For this reason, Zhuangzi and the Daoists could never occupy more than a supplementary and subordinate position. They were forever consigned to the role of spiritual comfort or therapy and could never become an independent force. This was even the case during the Wei-Jin period (220–420), when Zhuangzi and Laozi were in vogue and neo-Daoist metaphysical “study of the abstruse” (xuan xue) was at its height. Although antiestablishment, antiConfucian themes such as reclusion, immortality, detachment, and laissez-faire were major presences in the poetry, thought, and practice of this period, the fashion was relatively short-lived. Furthermore, the prominent figures of this period, from He Yan (d. 249), Wang Bi (226–249), Ruan Ji (210–263), and Ji Kang (223?–262) down to Xie Lingyun (385–433), in real life inevitably were embroiled in and became victims of the intense political struggles of the time. For them, the Daoism of Zhuangzi and Laozi was no more than an illusory haven and a spiritual solace. If we look at the actual circumstances surrounding these figures, it becomes clear that their practical lives, ways of thinking, and emotional subjectivity were still rooted in Confucian tradition. Theoretically speaking, although Zhuangzi begins by mocking Confucians and the rites and music, opposing humaneness and righteousness, and

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transcending utility, he still stressed sensuosity, sought harmony, and affirmed life and its preservation. In this way, through opposition to Confucianism, Zhuangzi becomes its complement; for Confucianism and Daoism, or Confucius and Zhuangzi, share a fundamental affirmation of sensuous life. Therefore, as I have remarked elsewhere, Zhuangzi’s philosophy is at bottom still very close to the Confucian spirit of “human participation in heaven and earth,” while it is much further from Buddhism, religion in general, and modern-day existentialism.13 It is because of this commonality that Daoism and Confucianism were able to serve a mutually complementary function for the literati. If Confucianism and Daoism had originally been fundamentally separate, with nothing in common, it would have been very difficult to argue for their mutual complementarity and synthesis. Interpenetration both presupposes and results from mutual complementarity. This result clearly also meant a victory for Confucianism. Whether in real life or at the level of thought and the emotions, it is the tradition of Confucius and Mencius that has proved the mainstay of generations of intellectuals in China. But the contributions of Zhuangzi, Laozi, and the Daoists broadened this Confucian-centered system, making it more far-reaching and profound. It is also evident, however, that Zhuangzi’s philosophy of life—the nondifferentiation of self and world, life and death, gain and loss, truth and illusion— would be very difficult to put into practice in real life, and very few people would actually adopt it. Its application in art and literature, on the other hand, had the potential to be exceptionally apt and fruitful. In fact, this is exactly what happened: over the years, intellectuals nurtured on Confucianism adopted and practiced Daoism when it came to their literary or artistic creation or aesthetic appreciation, their private lives, and their enjoyment of nature. For them, the Zhuangzi was an artistic work that could mold the emotions and temperament. In the final analysis, even Zhuangzi was appropriated by Confucianism to serve an aesthetic function. Zhuangzi allowed a truly aesthetic attitude toward life, nature, and art to emerge within the context of the Confucian aesthetic tradition. The Broadening of the Aesthetic Object The emergence of this aesthetic attitude of “free and easy wandering” brought in its wake a broadening of the aesthetic object. As the previous section makes clear, none of Zhuangzi’s teachings should be taken to mean that one should see nature, the world, mortality, or life in general as completely illusory or absurd.

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On the contrary, Zhuangzi continued to affirm the real existence of these things while seeking an ideal personality characterized by a unity between self and the world. Zhuangzi’s elaborate descriptions of nature, his many delightful and fantastic anecdotes, and even his unrestrained writing style, all point to this ideal. On many occasions, Zhuangzi gives vivid depictions of this ideal personality: Far away on Mount Gushe there is a holy person, whose skin is smooth and white as ice and snow, who is gentle as a virgin, and eats no grain. This person inhales the wind and drinks the dew, mounts clouds and wind, and harnesses the flying dragon to wander beyond the four seas.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹(1.2.15) The ultimate man is divine indeed! Though great marshes blaze with fire, their heat does not touch him. Though the Yellow River and the Han freeze, he does not feel their cold. Though thunderclaps split the mountains and winds raise the seas, he feels no fear. One like this mounts clouds and wind and rides sun and moon to wander beyond the four seas. (2.6.17)

These depictions echo those of the character who can “wander free and easy” discussed in the previous section. This ideal personality, at one with the universe, is powerful and unparalleled in magnificence. In Zhuangzi, this subjective personality’s absolute freedom is represented by the boundless grandeur of objective nature, which itself is Zhuangzi’s most important aesthetic object: the beauty of the boundless, a “great beauty,” or “strong beauty.” When the time came for the autumn floods, a hundred streams poured into the Yellow River. As it flowed on it became bigger and bigger, so that from one bank to the other, one could not tell a horse from an ox. Then He Bo, the god of the river, was greatly pleased with himself, thinking all the beauty under heaven was expressed in himself. Flowing eastward with the current, he arrived at the North Sea. When he looked east, he could see nothing but water. Thereupon the Lord turned his head toward the ocean, beheld Ruo, the god of the sea, and sighed.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹(17.43.18)

He Bo thought himself beautiful because of his greatness, but when faced with the boundlessness of the North Sea, of which he could not see the other side, his response was to sigh at the sight, feeling ashamed of himself before such infinitude. This beauty of the boundless “cannot be measured with a thousand miles, nor its depth plumbed with a thousand fathoms”; it “does not alter

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with time, whether momentarily or permanently, nor does it advance or recede, whether by a small or large amount” (17.46.18). This beauty, unfolding in infinite time, is what Zhuangzi calls the “great beauty of heaven and earth.” I have pointed out elsewhere how Zhuangzi’s notion of greatness is different from that of Mencius.14 For Mencius, it is a greatness of individual moral spirit and has an unmistakably ethical hue, while for Zhuangzi, it is a greatness of individual freedom and power unfettered by anything, including social ethics or morality. These are two very different notions; and even though both seek the boundlessness of the individual personality, they are marked by two very different kinds of beauty. For example, in Tang calligraphic arts, the beauty of Yan Zhenqing’s work is closer to the Mencian ideal, while the beauty of Huaisu’s work is closer to Zhuangzi’s. It is the latter type of “great” beauty that has proved more vital through the history of Chinese art, because it has passed beyond the scope of ethics to become purely aesthetic. As was said in the previous section, this kind of pure aesthetic is not, as Kierkegaard assumed, the ordinary sensuous pleasure of ear and eye that is beneath moral categorization. Rather, it is the kind of “perfect pleasure” that transcends morality—a sedimented sensuosity that is at one with infinite nature. This sedimented sensuosity, together with its object (the beauty of the boundless), is precisely that noumenal existence which cannot be articulated in language. Zhuangzi’s “great beauty” both elevates and is an important complement to the Confucian notion of strong beauty as discussed under the hexagram qian in the commentaries on the Book of Changes. It constitutes an elevation of that notion because Zhuangzi’s “great beauty” takes a larger step toward infinite being. It complements and completes the earlier notion because of its particular emphasis on the close relationship of beauty with the ideal subjective personality, as opposed to the emphasis in the Book of Changes on its relationship with the external world. Therefore, although Zhuangzi’s “great beauty,” which heaven and earth have “but do not speak of,” is manifest in objective external form, at the same time it points to the ultimate personality of the “perfect person” (zhi ren). In this way, Confucian-Daoist mutual complementarity is expressed at the level of the ideal personality. Thus supplemented by Zhuangzi, the ideal Confucian personality attains an extraordinary refinement and more easily achieves a spirit of “participation in heaven and earth.” Because of the close relationship between the great beauty of heaven and earth and the ideal human personality, if one has a subjective personality that transcends external things, and if one adopts an aesthetic attitude of “free and easy wandering,” then one will meet beauty in everything. Even things that are extremely ugly in terms of external form can be beautiful. The Zhuangzi has

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numerous anecdotes in which ugliness of external form is coupled with beauty of personality. From the useless “hideous tree,” with its twisted branches and its great trunk, so gnarled it cannot be measured with a line (1.3.4), to persuasive talkers like “Mr. Lame-Hunchback-No-Lips” (5.15.13) and “Mr. Pitcher-NeckGoiter” (5.15.13),15 Zhuangzi’s exaggerated descriptions make the points that “where virtue is great, form must be forgotten” (5.15.14) and “what one loves is not the form but what enlivens that form” (5.14.27). Clearly, for Zhuangzi, beauty lies in the human personality, the spirit, the ideals, and not in external appearance or bodily form. Zhuangzi thus so greatly expanded the scope of beauty as to encompass even ugliness. Anything, regardless of appearance or form, could now become the object of aesthetic appreciation. This would come to include unconventional forms in poetry and prose, clumsy strokes in painting and calligraphy, oddlooking rocks in landscapes, plot twists in drama—indeed, anything unusual, grotesque, or naïve, anything intricate or obscure that breaks the sweetness of harmonious relations or the tranquil norms of moderation, including Zhuangzi’s own “fantastic and outlandish language and extravagant words” (33.100.6). This constituted a tremendous liberation for Chinese art. Never again would it have to submit to ordinary artistic regulations or be measured by artificially refined gauges. By the same token, the clumsiness of great artistic genius became a much higher aesthetic standard than simple refinement. This can be so only because what is appreciated is not the outward form but the “virtue” that permeates it—“what enlivens form”—in other words, the Dao. What one gains in the act of appreciation, similarly, is not the pleasurable experience of ear and eye but the transcendent, metaphysical quality of “mysterious oneness with the Dao.” In the previous chapter we saw that Mencius took the “sage” or “divine” to be the ultimate human personality. In the artistic realm, correspondingly, the highest possible praise was to be called a “sage-painter,” “sage-poet,” or “divine work” (shenpin). In the words of Tang dynasty calligraphic theorist Zhang Huaiguan (713–760): “It cannot be attained through knowledge, nor can it be attained through diligence. It is like the ultimate master roaming in the realm of profound silence, or the phoenix and his mate soaring into the desolate wild”; “if one does not use the myriad transformations to attain divine artistry, if one’s spirit does not emerge from the creator, how will one be able to attain the summit of creativity?”↜16 The phrases “realm of profound silence” and “desolate wild” show the influence of Zhuangzi. By the Tang, the term “work of ease” (yi pin) had been coined and before long overtook the terms “divine,” “wonderful,” and “masterful” to become the

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highest critical praise.17 In one formulation, “the style of ease in painting is the most difficult to find. In defiance of conventional rules of composition, and disdaining refinement of color and line, with simple strokes that capture form, it attains the natural, inimitable, and unexpected.”↜18 Another critic remarks that, although “the ‘divine work’ is usually considered the highest achievement for a painter, there are those who rank the ‘work of ease’ as superior to it, saying that it is at the price of naturalness that divinity is attained.”↜19 The “work of ease,” originally another category altogether, is thus incorporated into the critical system that included the appellations “divine,” “wonderful,” and “masterful,” and even comes to be regarded as superior to these. This change of artistic standard constitutes a breakthrough on the part of Zhuangzi and the Daoists vis-à-vis the original scope of Confucian aesthetics. It also indicates how quickly this breakthrough becomes assimilated into the original critical system, as at once a complement to and an elevation of its existing categories. As does Daoist philosophy in general, Zhuangzi places a great emphasis on “nature,” in two senses. The first is naturalness, or the refusal to serve manmade artifice. The second is the natural environment and landscape. These two meanings can easily be united if one considers how beautiful nature is without the addition of any human artifice. Clearly, the understanding and treatment of nature becomes a key question in our explication of how Zhuangzi’s aesthetics both broke away from and became a fitting complement to Confucian aesthetics. An intimacy with nature is already present in the writings of Confucius, expressed in such phrases as “the wise person takes pleasure in rivers, the humane person in mountains” (Analects 6.23). But this attitude of intimacy always ends with the human: “The wise person has pleasure, the humane person has long life” (Analects 6.23). Human beings from start to finish are the lords of nature, and the human subject is always superior to the natural object. This is not at all the case with Zhuangzi. The idea that “Heaven and earth have great beauty but do not speak of it” is a clear statement of the superiority of nature, of heaven and earth, to artificiality and the human world. Zhuangzi’s ideal personality (the “true man” or the “divine man”) is not a learned, ethical, or accomplished person, but a natural person who is at one with heaven, earth, and the universe. Here the Chinese saying comes to mind: “How boundless is nature’s beauty, how uncertain human life.” The comparison of the vastness of nature with the insignificant human world becomes an important element of the concrete content of Zhuangzi’s thought, which will greatly influence the frame of mind of Chinese intellectuals as well as their art and aesthetics. It also provides a loftier content for Confucianism’s emotionalized time and its grief over the brevity of human life.

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The great Tang poet Li Bo (701–762) wrote two quatrains that will serve to illustrate: You ask me why I’ve made my roost here in these green mountains, I laugh and do not answer, my heart at its leisure. Peach blossoms, flowing waters flow into the distance— There is a heaven and earth, all apart, that are not this world of men. —(“Shan zhong da su ren”)

The King of Yue, Gou Jian, returned from defeating Wu, Righteous soldiers came home all in brocade gowns. Palace women filled the Spring Hall like flowers, Where today only partridges fly. —(“Yue zhong lan gu”)

The hustle and bustle of life is short-lived, while nature is eternal; the palace halls lie in ruins, but the rivers and mountains remain. This clear opposition between the human world and nature, between the finite and the eternal, and the preference for the latter of these two pairs, has provided an infinite source of material for the lamentations of innumerable Chinese poets. As I have remarked elsewhere regarding Chinese landscape painting, “the unchanging natural landscape is thought to be superior to the transient sumptuousness of the human world. Similarly, to follow the course of nature is considered better than the pursuit of human artifice, for the hills, springs, and rocks of nature will outlast the finest music of the most elegant courtyard.”↜20 If even the greatest of human achievements is so transient, how much more insignificant is individual heroism. For this reason, art and letters eulogizing or recording the exploits of such individuals is, relatively speaking, not worth mentioning in the Chinese tradition. “Shao Yong (1011–1077) is said to have remarked, ‘For Tang Yu [Yao], abdication [of the throne] was like three cups of wine; for Tang Wu [Zhou Wu], a punitive campaign was like a game of chess. Now abdication and punitive campaigns are weighty matters, but if one sees them as a cup of wine or a game of chess, how insignificant they are!’↜”↜21 The fact that as famous a representative of orthodox Confucianism as Shao Yong could hold these views, and concerning sage-kings of such mythic stature, demonstrates that, subsequent to the widespread hearing and acceptance Zhuangzi had gained among intellectuals in the Wei-Jin period, what was thereafter called “Confucianism” was no longer the same. In a poem by Northern Song statesman Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072), we find these lines:

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In the three-foot zither of the Daoist masters of inaction There is the unfathomable age-old sound .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ . One listens, not with the ear but with the mind, And thus the mind attains forgetfulness of form and body, As heaven and earth in the light of day have no fear of clouds and darkness. —(“Zeng wuwei jun Li daoshi er shou”)

These Daoist sentiments come from the pen of a political conservative who spent much of his life in public service of one form or another. Here again we see the mutual complementarity of Confucianism and Daoism, or rather the incorporation of Daoism into Confucianism. As I noted in the first chapter, the division of labor between poetry (which “expresses the intent”) and prose (which is “a vehicle for the Way”), the emergence of song lyrics (ci) and arias (qu), the giving way of portraiture to landscape painting—all these constitute the development of a contradiction inherent in Confucian aesthetics itself, namely the contradiction between natural human emotions and social rationality. But the reason this contradiction took the direction it did, toward the appreciation of external, objective nature, is undoubtedly due to the influence of Zhuangzi’s philosophy. Through his philosophy of the spiritual appreciation of nature, Zhuangzi both broke out of and supplemented the Confucian philosophy of interpersonal ethics. If we look at the various genres of Chinese art, we find that, in both form and content, all of them demonstrate this characteristic tendency to emphasize the spirit and deemphasize the material. Apart from the Great Wall of China, China has left behind few testaments to great human power—no pyramids or great stone edifices, few sculptures, and no Michelangelo. In short, Chinese art lacks the artificial, material demonstration of human resistance to or conquest of nature. On the contrary, it has always sought harmony with nature, subordination and submission to nature, and finally unity with nature. For no matter how imposing the architectural wonder or how fine and detailed the engraving of the human world—whether a temple or a palace, a kingly achievement or a heroic feat—in the end, “only partridges fly.” None of these can ever overcome or outlast nature’s eternal self-renewal. This being the case, what is the point of exerting oneself in transitory human material concerns rather than throwing oneself into nature and becoming one with the universe? Even if this last is unattainable, even simply to live in nature is, relatively speaking, a more excellent way. Since “there is a heaven and earth, all apart, that are not this world of men,” is it not far better, with Li Bo, to make one’s palace in the “mountains green”?

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Guo Xi, the great Song dynasty landscape painter and theorist, wrote: “Why is it that the gentleman loves the natural landscape? The hills and gardens which nurture simplicity are his daily residence; the rocks and springs with their loud burbling are his daily enjoyment; the fisherman, woodcutter, and hermit are his daily companions, and the flying monkeys and screeching cranes are his daily entertainment.”↜22 This demonstrates how the country abodes of Chinese intellectuals differed from the castles of Western manored lords in the Middle Ages. Clearly the former had more contact with and were closer to nature. In this view, nature is not an evil temptress—it is not necessary, as it was during the Renaissance period in the West, to repent and ask forgiveness for enjoying nature. For Chinese intellectuals, nature is not only an object of enjoyment and appreciation, but also where they choose to live their lives. This is also the origin of the idea in Chinese painting theory that a landscape that can be strolled through or looked at is not as good as one that can be wandered about and lived in. To quote Guo Xi again: “If we look at today’s mountains and rivers, they may occupy hundreds of square miles, but the places within them that can be wandered about and lived in are no more than two or three out of ten. You must choose a subject that can be wandered about and lived in.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The painter should create with this in mind, and the one who appreciates should use this notion to plumb [a painting’s] depths.”↜23 As early as the Six Dynasties, when landscape poetry and painting were just beginning to emerge, the Buddhist Zong Bing (375–443), in his theories about landscape painting, took real mountains and rivers as his starting point. He began with the idea of wandering in a landscape: “fall in love with Mount Lu and Mount Heng, get along well with Mount Jing and Mount Wu”; “in this way your painting will be lifelike and the colors arranged appropriately, so that you will be able to create this cloudy peak,” and “capture the beauty of Mount Hua and Mount Song in a painting.”↜24 In this tradition, therefore, nature—whether actual nature or that found in poetry and paintings—is always in intimate communication and relationship with human life and emotion. For this reason, the Chinese painter’s or poet’s interest in nature is seldom in the depiction of the details of an individual natural object—its color, fragrance, sound, or smell—but rather in capturing the landscape or scene as a whole. Thus, whether it be an awesome peak or a swollen river, a fish’s scale or the claw of a bird, the natural object will always be treated in the context of the close relationship between people and the whole of nature. This explains how nature in Chinese landscape painting can be both untouched and full of human presence; it is a nature suffused with the warm smells of cooking fires.

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In this respect it differs markedly from Western landscape painting, with its concrete depictions of the enjoyment, possession, and conquest of nature in agricultural scenes, plains full of windmills, travel, picnics, and frightening storms. Nature in Chinese landscape painting does not bear the marks of human mastery or subjugation, and thus retains its untouched quality. At the same time, it does not oppress humans, and thus it always retains a very human character.25 In it we find the woodcutter and the fisherman, the rowboat or the slip of sail, the drinking party in a thatched hut, the group of two or three people walking. Only extremely rarely in Chinese art do we find the real desolation of a great desert or vast river, great empty expanses that have nothing to do with humans, terrifying thunder and lightning, or tense dramatic plots full of conflict or tragic atmosphere. Any brief survey of painting theory will reveal the ideal of natural beauty in the Chinese tradition in its choice of subjects. For example, consider this description of a natural scene by a Qing dynasty painter and calligrapher: Clouds envelop the trees, the woods grow thin; the wind suspends sails, the shore grows distant; tall bamboo groves shelter dim valleys; towering pines abut sheer mountain cliffs. Near the bank egrets hover, brightly washed by rain; wild geese fly over a long river, their shadows reflected in darkened water. A cottage stands by the stream as a waterwheel turns, a tumbledown bridge stands on a sandbar. Wild ducks swim at the river’s mouth, thick trees obscure a ford. A stone house hangs above the forest; a hall set amidst pines opens onto a river bank. A path wound with spring creepers, a hedge entwined with wild oats; a winter courtyard scattered with paulownia leaves; the window of a cabin bed overshadowed with disorderedly bamboo; a wooden gate built but ever idle; an overgrown window lattice, shut but seemingly lived-in. A woodcutter shoulders faggots on a steep cliff; fishermen moor their boats at a rustic crossing; a passerby spurs his mount to cross a river; someone stops his cart to rest on an ancient road; a traveller takes breakfast in an inn; a pedestrian enters the city at evening; a gentleman in headdress leans on his walking stick on a bridge; a man in quilted homespun hugs his saddle along a cliff road.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.26

This is the same languid pastoral depiction of traditional society that I have repeatedly pointed out elsewhere. It may be seen as a reflection of the Daoist naturalization of humans that teaches us to “be as spring with all things,” or “be chilly as autumn.” At the same time, however, it also reflects Confucianism’s humanization of nature (“catch the breezes at the rain dance and return home singing”). Both external natural landscape and internal natural emotions are

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suffused and blended with interpersonal social content. The beauty of nature that Zhuangzi discovered, emphasized, and extolled has in the final analysis taken on a very human flavor. Correspondingly, the very human beauty advocated by Confucians in the end comes to accommodate and incorporate complementation by natural beauty. To have gone without this complement of natural beauty—whether in real life, in the life of the mind or emotions, or in the creation and appreciation of art and literature—would have been a very great loss for Chinese intellectuals. From a pragmatic point of view, in the context of a worldview in which official service was regarded as the natural result of excellence in study, closeness to nature played a complementary role in that it provided solace to those Confucian scholar-intellectuals who did not obtain recognition. From a semantic point of view, nature constituted the spiritual liberation of “oneness with the Dao.” Thus, whether in reality (nature) or in art (landscape painting), the quality of a landscape that allowed it to be wandered about and lived in had both a secular, worldly aspect and a spiritual aspect. As the Southern Dynasties critic Wang Wei (415–453) put it, “I see the autumn clouds, and my spirit soars; face to the spring wind, my thoughts expand.”↜27 The result of the ConfucianDaoist synthesis was a deepened aesthetics in which the creation or appreciation of a single flower or blade of grass could contain and express a transcendent attitude toward life. This attitude imbued everyday life with a holy aura and brought refreshment to fevered office seekers and moralists, providing those enslaved and wrenched about by various forces a way back to what is natural for humans, to genuine sensuosity. This “return” in no sense involved the lowering of humans to the level of animals or the dissolution of the social sense; rather, it required the transcendence of fixed social constraints to achieve the transcendence of sensuosity through the experience of nature. This transcendence of sensuosity is not mere sociality or rationality, but a sedimented sensuosity that at once includes and transcends these things while attaining unity with the universe. At the same time, the mutual complementarity of Daoism and Confucianism made it easier for Chinese scholar-officials to attain a certain psychological equilibrium, arising not only from an intimate relationship with nature in their lifestyle but also from an interpersonal transcendence in their personality, thought, and emotions. We can often perceive in the extremely abstract speculations of the Greek or the German tradition a sort of violent and intense motive force. This was the case in Germany, from Kant’s pragmatic rationalism, through Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, to Neitzsche and Heidegger. In China, however, there was no extremely abstract and abstruse speculation, and correspondingly, there was

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no such intense or impulsive existential spark. These were absorbed into and gave way to the Confucian-Daoist ideal of unity with nature (the humanization of nature and the naturalization of humans). In the face of this ideal, speculations lose their significance and intense force is defused, while eternal nature emerges all the stronger, greater, and more lofty. Late Ming calligrapher and painter Dong Qichang (1555–1636), commenting on a number of famous lines describing natural scenes (such as “The great River flows on day and night”↜28), states that “These magical words will stand the test of time, and there is no need to add to their beauty [with commentary].”↜29 And Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072), a Northern Song statesman and poet, made the following comments: I have always loved the lines from a Tang poem, “Cock crows by a grass hut in moonlight,â•›/â•›Footprints left in frost on a wooden bridge.” [When I read these,] it is as though I myself were suffering the traveler’s grief, in the cold of the close of the year, in a chill wind under bare trees. And when it says, “At the wild pond spring waters overflow,â•›/â•›The setting sun lingers over the sunken flower beds,” one can feel the sweet wind and the sun’s rays, all things coming to life, and a oneness with nature that brings a sense of joy and inspiration. One could say that these four lines teach us of life’s changes and the seasons.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹They demonstrate that literature can rival the creator in marvelousness.30

Dong Qichang’s comment points out that lines of poetry that describe nature do not need the augmentation of ethics, politics, religion, or any other conceptual ideas to become “magical words that stand the test of time.” Ouyang Xiu demonstrates that it is precisely in their relationship with human life and emotions that these lines describing nature achieve their timelessness; it is in the union they reflect between heaven and humans that literature and art can be said to “rival the creator in marvelousness.” The two sentiments are perfectly complementary. In the same way, Zhuangzian and Confucian aesthetics are blended and intermingle (though actually Confucianism retains the upper hand while absorbing Zhuangzi), and profoundly penetrate the life, art, emotions, thought, and attitude toward life of Chinese scholar-intellectuals. I find myself in strong agreement with the views of twentieth-century thinker Liu Xiaofeng in this regard: The Chinese romantic spirit can of course be traced back to Zhuangzi.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹In its emphasis on the metaphysical and spiritual, its eschewal of worldly affairs, its embrace of free and easy wandering, its rejection of the “dusty

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world” in favor of the inner heart, its quest for a mysterious absolute, its denial of bourgeois values—in all these respects, Chinese romanticism is similar in spirit to German romanticism. Both seek to found the finite in the infinite, and in this way to resolve the opposition between the infinite and the finite. Only by regarding the finite as the expression of the infinite, and therefore forgetting the finite, can one escape the restraints of physical form (experience), and obtain access to the metaphysical realm. In the same way, only by regarding language as something that arises from universal noumenon can one cause language to refer to absolute noumena using extralinguistic meaning (such as metaphor).â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹A fundamental difference is that the Chinese romantic spirit sets no store by human will or longing, and does not employ irony toward the destruction of principle, but rather emphasizes human wit and intelligence. This is in marked contrast with the German emphasis on the divine. Chinese romanticism is gentle, respectful, soft yet severe, awe-inspiring but not cruel, reverential and peaceable. Unlike the synthesis offered by the German romantic spirit, in which the subjective consumes the objective, the synthesis offered by the Chinese romantic spirit makes the subjective void resonate with objective nothingness.31

The “void” that “resonates” is pure Zhuangzi, just as the “soft yet severe, aweinspiring but not cruel, reverential and peaceable” comes from Confucianism. In this Confucian-Daoist synthesis, Confucianism is the foundation, and Daoism has been appropriated by and homogenized into the Confucian system. In the West, as Ye Weilian has commented, “Poets took language originally used to describe God’s greatness and applied it to natural landscapes.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Poets always suffer from a metaphysical angst and restlessness, because theyâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹must struggle to pass from the physical world before their eyes to the (abstract) metaphysical world. Poets of the romantic period all bear the scars of this struggle, this angst.”↜32 In China, because of the absence of such a religious, spiritual pillar and the lack of abstract, metaphysical speculation, nature comes to encompass all things, including God, so that one can simply allow the spirit to rest in nature, as opposed to struggling to transcend it. On the other hand, nature is just another part of the human world, and therefore it is just as well to seek solace in real life and real nature. Just as there are few genuine hermits in real life, so also in the world of thought and the emotions, art, literature, and aesthetics. In this Confucian-Daoist mix, Daoism in the end is incorporated and fundamentally homogenized into Confucianism. Li Bo, for example, is regarded by literary historians as a Daoist, but his works are still filled with references to achievement and ambition (as in his

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“Letter to Governor Han of Jingzhou”), and toward the end of his life he did enter the service of Prince Yong, for whose later treason he was also exiled. If this is so, then perhaps Tao Qian (365–427), who actually eventually resigned his post to become a recluse on his farm, refusing to “bow down for the sake of five bushels of rice,” should be regarded as more representative of the true Daoist spirit. But even Tao Qian’s Daoism is still built upon this Daoist-Confucian synthesis, and in the end is permeated with Confucian spirit. This is why the question of whether he was Daoist or Confucian has elicited so much debate over the centuries, beginning with Song neo-Confucian Zhu Xi’s statement that “Tao Qian’s words are those of Zhuangzi and Laozi.”↜33 Modern writer Zhu Ziqing remarked that “the thought expressed in Tao’s poems can really only be described as Daoist,”↜34 while early twentieth-century reformer Liang Qichao insisted, “although he was raised in an atmosphere suffused with the [Daoist] study of the abstruse and with Buddhism, all he profited from or exerted himself for in his life came from Confucianism.”↜35 Modern fiction writer Lu Xun notes that Tao “didn’t spend all his time floating about. He who wrote, ‘My intent is strong and will last forever,’ and he who wrote, ‘From afar I regard South Mountain’ are one and the same.”↜36 Twentieth-century scholar Chen Yinke sums it up as follows: “What he sought was for his spirit to melt into the revolutions and transformations of the universe, so as to attain unity with nature itself.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹[Yet] he himself never seeks to offend or obstruct the this-worldly Confucian ethical code. Thus Tao Qian was a Confucian on the outside, and a Daoist on the inside.”↜37 Tao Qian lodges his emotions in nature while not forgetting worldly affairs; his strong intent will last forever, but still he regards South Mountain from afar. “No one knows where he comes from, nor his surname or clan,” he wrote in his “Biography” of his alter ego, Master Five Willows. And the question with which he closes the same piece, “Does he take after Wuhuai or Getian?” (referring to two mythical rulers of antiquity) is reminiscent of Zhuangzi’s advocacy of a return to the primitive. At the same time, Tao Qian expresses Confucian sentiments in lines like these: The Teacher of old left us this lesson:â•›/â•›Be anxious for the Way, and not about poverty.38 Expend your efforts in good time,â•›/â•›For years and months wait for no one.39 To live at dawn with righteousness and humaneness,â•›/â•›And die at dusk— what more can one ask?↜40

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If we look at his letters to his sons, and his poetry and writings as a whole, we find that this strand is central to his work. This is why, with Chen Yinke, we can call Tao Qian “Confucian on the inside, Daoist on the outside.” Many of his greatest lines demonstrate this duality: “Level plains meet the distant wind,â•›/â•›The shoots of grain yearn for newness”;↜41 “In a glance I take in the whole universe—â•›/â•›What can I do but be happy?”↜42 The two sides come together where the “naturalization of humans” meets the “humanization of nature”: what is depicted in the natural landscapes of Tao Qian’s poetry is actually human personality and human emotion. This “personality” is above reproach in contemporary political terms, and at the same time does not submit to Confucian ethical standards. It is, rather, suffused with the independence of the ideal Zhuangzian personality. The “emotion” we find in his poetry, for its part, is neither ordinary temporal sadness or delight, nor Zhuangzi’s “no feelings.” Instead, it is emotion permeated with interpersonal (Confucian) concern and human experience. This human personality and emotion are unified, and together they are in sync with the seasons or rhythms of nature itself, as these lines will demonstrate: Hazy, hazy, the motionless clouds, Drenching, drenching, seasonal rains; Darkness on all sides, Level roads are hard to pass. Quietly lodged in the eastern chamber, Holding a lonely cup of spring wine; My good friend is far away, I scratch my head and carry on my watch.43 Here in the wild, worldly affairs are few and far between, In these forlorn lanes, carriages are rare. In broad daylight, I shut the bramble door of my hut; The empty rooms are free of dusty thoughts. Now and again in the little village We push through the grass to see each other; When we meet there is no small talk, Only talk of how mulberry and hemp have grown. Mulberry and hemp daily grow taller, My lands daily grow broader. Always the fear that frost or hail will come And they will fall like so many weeds.44

The emotion in Tao’s poetry is pent up. It is very ordinary emotion, but highly condensed, subdued, and sincere. What these poems express is not the

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feeling of a single moment, but the condensation of an entire personality. It is not surprising, then, to see him praised over the centuries in these terms: Tao Qian’s poems express the loftiness of his personality. (Chen Shan, Song dynasty) The personalities of the [Liu-]Song and Jin dynasties [317–479], though claiming purity and loftiness, all sought to hold office. On the one hand they engaged in philosophical discussions on purity, while on the other hand they sought fortune and power. Tao Qian stood firm in not going after such things, and in this way stood head and shoulders above the other personalities of the Jin and Song. (Zhu Xi, Song dynasty) Tao Qian was neither Confucian nor secular, neither profligate nor narrow, not dissolute, not contentious. He was plain and contented, unpretentious, always satisfied with natural pursuits. He was not affected by cold, hunger, or poverty.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹A thousand years later we still read his works and consider his person with unending admiration. (Liu Chaozhen, Ming dynasty)↜45

Tao Qian’s works represent real personality through emotion. The Confucian-Daoist synthesis evident in their subject matter and characteristics is similar to that developed in Chinese landscape and nature painting through its emotional approach to the natural scene; Tao Qian accomplishes this by using the human being as his aesthetic object, while landscape painting takes nature as its object. As for the argument of some critics that Tao’s works are Chan Buddhist in character, this idea emerged for the most part beginning in the Song dynasty and appears particularly in the criticism of Su Shi (1037–1101). I argue that in fact Chan is foreign to Tao Qian’s spirit (see Chapter 5), which is better characterized by Confucian-Daoist mutual complementarity. There are two main strands of this mutual complementarity. One is political and is represented by Guo Xiang (d. A.D. 312), and others, who interpreted the Zhuangzi in light of Confucian ideas and equated Confucian ethical codes with nature. This strand rejects the liberating and anti-alienating Zhuangzian spirit and ideal Zhuangzian personality. Instead, it adopts the worldly spirit in Zhuangzi that advocates “timely adaptation” and “being all things to all people” in order to supplement and give greater emphasis to the Confucian teachings on “contentment with poverty and devotion to the Way,” and “pleasure in contentment.” The second strand of the synthesis is artistic, represented (as discussed above) by Tao Qian’s poetry and by landscape and nature painting. Although

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it also has an aspect of “contentment with poverty and devotion to the Way,” it is largely characterized by rebellion against, transcendence of, and liberation from worldly affairs and social ethics. This is because in art, Zhuangzi’s negative propositions of anti-alienation, transcendence of gain and loss, and the repudiation of everything worldly, are transformed into the affirmative, positive valuation of a certain unsullied independence of character. That is to say, both in real life and in the arts and aesthetics, the negative propositions and supermundane images of Daoism are transformed into positive Confucian propositions and independence of character. This not only constitutes a significant elevation of the original Confucian notions of being “unswerving in conduct and compliant in speech,” someone whose “wisdom can be emulated but not his foolishness”; it also comes to complement on a higher level the whole idea of the humanization of nature. In life, in thought (and the emotions), and in the human personality, nature becomes the highest ideal and the arena in which the naturalization of humans is given its full development. In life, this takes the form of closeness with nature; in thought and the emotions, it takes the form of solace in and communication with nature; and in the human personality, it takes the form of the image of a personality that is analogous with nature in its eternity. All of these are concrete manifestations of the Daoist-Confucian synthesis.

The Unconscious Zhuangzi says, “The Dao cannot be heard, for if it is heard, it is not the Dao. It cannot be seen, for if it is seen, it is not the Dao. It cannot be spoken, for if it is spoken it is not the Dao. Do you know the formlessness of that which gives form to form? The Dao cannot be named” (22.62.25). The context of these words was not a discussion of art or aesthetics. However, Zhuangzi may still be considered the first in the history of Chinese art to have discovered and given attention to the aesthetic principles of artistic creation and appreciation, in particular as concerns those creative phenomena that seem almost miraculous in skill, impossible to grasp or formalize, and difficult to describe or articulate. For Zhuangzi’s Dao, like that of Laozi (who said, “The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao, the name that can be named is not the eternal name”), cannot be captured in language, concepts, or names, but can only be grasped and experienced by the creative intuition of a free spirit. Furthermore, as I have already noted, Zhuangzi’s philosophy is, in and of itself, aesthetic in character. Zhuangzi also emphasized the fact that beauty was to be found not in particular finite phenomena but in nature as a whole. Even if Zhuangzi’s subject was not the arts, it was Zhuangzi who developed the realm of freedom suggested by the Confucian notion of “wandering

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in the arts” and elevated it to encompass the universal noumenon and the personal human noumenon (these two being identical in Zhuangzi). Zhuangzi on numerous occasions described the free realm of artistic creation imagistically, as, for example, in the story of Cook Ding butchering an ox: Cook Ding was butchering an ox for Lord Wenhui. Wherever his hand touched, his shoulder lunged, his foot stepped, his knee jabbed—swish! The blade would go, slash! Nothing was out of rhythm, as if keeping time to the dance of the Mulberry Grove, or to the Jingshou music. Lord Wenhui said, “Ah, excellent! Can such skill be attained?” Cook Ding put down his knife and answered, “What I love is the Dao. It is more than a matter of skill. When I first began butchering cattle, I could see nothing but the entire ox. Three years later, I never saw the entire ox. Now, I meet it with my spirit, and don’t see it with my eyes at all. The senses and intellect have come to an end, and the desires of the spirit are at work. I rely on natural principles, attack along the main seams, and follow the large openings, going by the way things are.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹There are spaces at the joints, and the knife’s blade has no thickness. When one enters these spaces with what has no thickness, they leave ample extra room in which the blade may play. (3.7.30)

This passage describes the butchering of an ox. There is nothing mysterious about this very experiential description. Only when one attains a masterful level of skill, and has completely grasped the regularity of the object, can one move from “seeing nothing but the entire ox” to “never seeing the entire ox.” Moving the knife according to the “way things are” with the ox, one does not meet with the hard bones that would blunt the knife. Only in this way can the ox be butchered properly and as easily as “a clump of earth crumbling to the ground,” leaving the knife’s blade as good as new. This is “skill that has attained the Dao.” An analogous example is Zhuangzi’s teaching that “the sage plumbs the beauty of all the universe, and grasps the principles behind all things” (22.60.25). This “skill that has attained the Dao” is none other than the Confucian notion of “wandering in the arts” elevated to the higher metaphysical level of “conformity to Heavenly Principle.” If any skill, including artistic skill, can attain this mature unity of purposiveness and lawfulness, it will constitute the creation of beauty. However, this type of creative experience is very difficult to explain or teach using language: Wheelwright Bian responded,â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹“When chiseling a wheel, if I go about it too slowly or gently, the chisel will slide and not catch in the wood. But if I

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go about it too quickly or too hard, the chisel gets stuck and doesn’t move. Neither slow nor quick, neither gentle nor hard, I understand it with my hand and feel it in my heart, but I can’t put it into words. There’s an art to it that I cannot teach to my son, nor can my son learn it from me. (13.37.15)

This passage is an abridgement of Zhuangzi’s original discussion, which concerned the uselessness of reading so-called dead books. What remains in the language of such books is only the dregs of the ancients’ thought; what is important to grasp and study is the spirit that is so difficult to transmit, as the anecdote of Wheelwright Bian makes clear. The anecdote, again, is readily validated by experience. To this day, many skills can only be mastered through individual trial and error, and cannot be learned through explanation or instruction based on conceptual language. What Zhuangzi is really talking about here is the difference between conceptual language and logical thought on the one hand, and the mastery of skills and imagistic thought on the other. The Confucians had raised this very distinction. In the Book of Changes, Confucius says: “Writing cannot completely express language, nor can language completely express meaning.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The sages established the images to fully express meaning” (“Xici zhuan,” part I, 65/80/19). Similarly, the “Great Preface” to the Book of Songs says, “Where words are inadequate, one sighs; where sighs are inadequate, one sings; where song is inadequate, unconsciously one begins to clap, dance, and tap the feet.”↜46 Clearly, Confucians also believed that there are things that cannot be expressed in language or conceptual thought.47 But Zhuangzi greatly plays up this aspect, connecting it with people’s real-life experience, which as he demonstrates is closer to the Dao than is conceptual thought. Indeed, it is not only closer but actually “one with the Dao,” one with the principles of nature. It is precisely in this unity, in this oneness, that one can attain the highest realm, that is, the aesthetic realm of freedom and absolute pleasure. Cook Ding had attained this when he finished butchering the ox and “stood there holding the knife, looking it all over, lingering over it, completely satisfied” (3.8.10). Compared with the Confucian free realm of “wandering in the arts,” this clearly seems much more “advanced.” But at the same time it builds on the earlier notion. For this free creative realm in which the free play of the blade is “felt with the spirit and not seen with the eyes” does not arise in a vacuum, but is the result of an evolutionary process. Zhuangzi is very clear about this: Carpenter Qing whittled a piece of wood to make a narrow bell-like instrument. When the instrument was complete, those who saw it marveled, for it seemed to be a divine work. The lord of Lu saw it and asked about it, saying,

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“What kind of art is it you have, that you can make such a thing?” Carpenter Qing replied, “I am but a craftsman, and have no art. Even so, there is one thing. When I am going to make one of these instruments, I never let my qi be affected. I must fast in order to quiet my mind. When I have fasted three days, I can take no thought of congratulation or reward. When I have fasted five days, I can take no thought of right or wrong, skill or clumsiness. When I have fasted seven days, I am still and forget my limbs and my body. At this point, there is no ruler and no court. My skill is steadfast and distractions are excluded. After this, I go to the mountains and the forests, to behold their heavenly nature. If I find a tree whose form is perfect, in which I can see the instrument, only then will I apply my hand to make it. If not, then I leave it be. Thus, it is because of matching nature with nature that the instrument seems to be divine. (19.52.4)

While there may seem to be something abstruse about this, in fact it is simple experience once again. What is emphasized here is that before sitting down to create, one must forget about gain or loss, and not allow oneself to be constrained by any thought of external reward, or concern for whether or not one’s work will meet with the demands of the emperor’s court, and so on. One should forget even one’s own life. Only then can one begin to approach the object and match its nature with one’s own inborn nature. This is actually none other than the Confucian idea of the “homologization of heaven and humans,” or the “resonance between heaven and humans”—that is to say, what Zhuangzi here terms “matching nature with nature.” In this way, one can successfully produce artistic works that others will find marvelous and divine, as if the manmade object had been the natural outworking of the skill of the gods. Does this not describe a truth commonly experienced by artists in the process of successful creation? In practice, there is nothing mysterious or strange about it at all. Let us look at another anecdote from Zhuangzi: Ji Shengzi was training a gamecock for the king. After ten days, the king asked him, “Is it ready?” He answered, “Not yet. It is still proud and relies on its mettle.” After another ten days, the king inquired again. He answered, “Not yet. It still reacts to noises and shadows.” After another ten days the king inquired again. Ji answered, “Not yet. It is still glaring angrily and full of spirit.” After the fourth ten days, the king inquired again. He answered, “It is just about ready. Although other cocks crow, it shows no change. Seen from afar, it seems to be made of wood. Its virtue is complete. The other cocks don’t dare to face it, but all run away when they see it.” (19.51.22)

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Not unlike the previous story, this passage points out that, in order to attain the “complete virtue” that causes the other birds to turn and run, the cock has to go through a “training” process to rid it of haughtiness and excessive spirit, and bring it to the point of being unmoved by any external force. When it is trained to the point of carrying itself like a wooden cock, it has reached the realm of utmost perfection. Although this story, like many of Zhuangzi’s anecdotes, presents a somewhat lopsided and exaggerated picture, it is precisely by means of such lopsided exaggeration that Zhuangzi can so forcefully describe the realization of genuine freedom (including artistic freedom), which serves as the prerequisite, precondition, and means of artistic creation. Whether it is Cook Ding, Ji Shengzi’s gamecock, or the painter in the “Tianzi fang” chapter who “took off his clothes and sat there naked,” each of these took a long time to grasp the objective regularity of the object and to concentrate and condense his own subjective intentionality. Only by getting rid of all internal and external distractions to set up these preconditions were they able to enter into true creative freedom. The following anecdote also addresses this process: The grand marshal had a forger of buckles who was eighty years of age but did his work without the slightest fault. The grand marshal asked him, “Are you a genius, or have you the Dao?” The swordsmith answered, “I have the Dao. Since I was twenty years old I have loved to forge buckles. I never give other things a glance. If it’s not a buckle, I don’t look at it. Those who use them, avail themselves of those who don’t use them, in order in the long run to obtain use of them.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.” (22.63.5)

This passage has to do with the subjective precondition (concentrating one’s subjective intentionality). Again and again, Zhuangzi stresses this notion of “applying one’s intent in an undivided way, and concentrating one’s spirit” (19.50.16). Or, to return to the description of Cook Ding, “I look to see where the difficulty lies, and heighten my vigilance, keeping my eyes on my work, slowing my motions, and using the knife with the utmost delicacyâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.” (3.8.9). One must be steadfast in spirit, keeping the eyes fixed on the work; when faced with difficulties, one must proceed with great caution. The following passage may serve to summarize: Artisan Chui’s drawing was as true as a compass or a T-square. His fingers were transformed along with things, and did not bow to his mind. Therefore the spiritual tower [of his mind] was single and clear of obstruction. If one forgets one’s feet, it means the shoes fit, if one forgets one’s waist, the

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belt fits. If the understanding can forget right and wrong, the mind fits. If one does not vary internally, and is not led by externalities, one is dealing with events in a way that fits. If one starts with what fits and never wears what doesn’t, one can forget that fitting fits. (19.52.14)

This is Zhuangzi’s thought in a nutshell. It encapsulates everything from the aesthetic attitude toward life, the subject of the early part of this chapter, to the discussion here of skillful creation. It brings together all the foundational ideas of Zhuangzi, from “free and easy wandering,” “perfect joy that has no joy,” and “heaven and earth have great beauty but do not speak of it,” to the anecdotes of Cook Ding and Carpenter Qing. It begins with the naturalization of humans and ends with the joy of freedom and the ideal human personality; in other words, “matching nature with nature” in order to “forget that fitting fits.” From craftsmanship to literature and art, there is an aspect of all creative processes that cannot be captured in ordinary conceptual language or logical thought, namely, the unconscious or nonconscious aspect. Zhuangzi gestures toward this with such phrases as “not seeing with the eyes,” “not bowing to the mind,” “sitting and forgetting,” or “the fasting of the mind.” But this aspect is neither an a priori condition nor a divine gift. Zhuangzi left behind very vivid descriptions of the conscious and unconscious aspects. On the one hand, we find in Zhuangzi references to the unconscious such as “meeting it with the spirit and not seeing it with the eyes,” “fingers being transformed with things and not bowing to the mind,” and generally actions and attitudes that cannot be expressed in language. But on the other hand Zhuangzi also posits basic reasons for this, like “there is an art to it,” “I rely on its natural principles,” and “I follow the way it is.” In other words, the unconscious has its own innate regularity and logic that is connected with consciousness. The unconscious is attained only through the transcendence or sedimentation of consciousness. In this sense, the unconscious does not refer to “dormant” animal instinct, but to a kind of nonconscious condensation or sedimentation achieved through conscious human effort. If we say that the aesthetic attitude discussed above is the psychological result of that sedimentation, then what is described here is the process by which that sedimentation takes place. This idea of the unconscious has exercised a tremendous influence on Chinese aesthetics. Whether in poetry, prose, painting, or calligraphy, the question of an unconscious creative principle has been a matter of almost constant discussion. For example, Song dynasty scholar Shen Kuo writes: The subtlety of calligraphy and painting must be comprehended by the spirit, for it is difficult to get at by way of form or appearance. Ordinary

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viewers are usually only able to find fault in form, color, or composition. When it comes to the profound artistic principle of a work, there are few who can grasp it.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹It is produced with facility; as soon as the intent arrives, the work is accomplished. So it can be seen that the creative principle has entered the divine and perfectly captured the will of heaven. This is difficult for the common person to understand.48

Ming poet Yang Shen (1488–1559) uses the term “spiritual” (shen) to describe this principle: “Zhuangzi and Li Bo are spiritual writers. Those who are merely craftsmen at writing cannot begin to rival them. But if writing is not perfectly crafted, it cannot be called spiritual. Yet this spiritual quality cannot be attained by mere skill.”↜49 “Skill,” or “craftsmanship,” denotes artificial, conscious effort. The “spiritual” quality of a work is unconscious, or transcends consciousness. Without perfect craftsmanship one cannot attain the spiritual, but at the same time the spiritual cannot be equated with perfect craftsmanship, for it cannot be forced through conscious effort. This is why it is “hard for the common person to understand.” In the words of the critic Guo Si (?–1130), The style of an artistic work arises from the artist’s inherent disposition. It cannot be acquired by fine craftsmanship or through years of practice. When tacit comprehension and spiritual inspiration come to an artist, he does not know how or why.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹If the artist is of noble character, the style of the work will necessarily be equally lofty. If the style is lofty, the work will necessarily have a profound emotional effect. The so-called spiritual quality of the work is magnified and perfected.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Otherwise, for all one’s ingenuity and skill, one’s work will not surpass that of an ordinary craftsman. They may call it a painting, but it is not a painting. This is why Mr. Yang could not pass on his skill to a disciple, just as Wheelwright Bian could not teach his son. It is a function of heavenly endowment, and arises from the seat of the spirit.50

This passage says that in order to attain the highest realm of effective style in painting, what is needed is not fine craftsmanship or human teaching, nor simply more time to practice. There is an element of the unconscious in it (“he does not know how or why”). It is a matter of “the creative principle entering the divine and perfectly capturing the will of heaven.” But this unconsciousness is not entirely elusive. It has to do with a person’s character, or in other words, with the realm of the total human personality. The character of the High Tang poet Li Bo has been seen as an example:

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Li Bo is an immortal come to earth. When Sima Zihui saw him, he said that he had such an immortal flair that he could wander the four corners of the earth with the gods. When He Zhizhang saw him, he also called him “an exiled immortal.” After he returned to the mountains, Li Yanyun, the Investigation Commissioner of Chen Liu district, asked Daoist master Gao of the North Sea to teach him the Daoist scriptures. His demeanor must have been far superior to that of an ordinary man. What is unrivalled in his poetry is its superior spiritual intuition. It floats in and then suddenly vanishes. It does not trifle with embellishment, or labor at polishing phrases. It is as unfettered as a heavenly steed circling the sky. In terms of profundity, Li Bo does not rival Du Fu. In terms of solemnity, he does not rival Han Yu. But compared with these two, whose work cannot avoid traces of human effort, Li Bo’s work bears no affectation, and seems to be effortlessly achieved. This is the difference between an immortal and a human.51

This description of Li Bo’s “immortal” quality bears the distinct marks of the creativity characterized by Zhuangzi’s “naturalization of humans.” This seemingly effortless naturalness, described with phrases like “a heavenly steed circling the sky,” or “as soon as the intent arrives, the work is accomplished,” is the result of a total oneness between humans and nature through which, with the aid of the unconscious, one can attain the kind of mysterious or divine skill that reaches the level of the Dao. In a sense, this is the consummate “naturalization of humans.” Let me stress that this “naturalization” does not mean a return to the animal nature, nor does it suggest a passive adaptation to the environment. On the contrary, it means breaking out of the boundaries of our animal nature to work in concert with the functioning, structure, and principles of all of nature. “Huang Zijiu [1269–1354] used to spend the whole day sitting among the rocky crags of remote mountains or in the depths of dusky groves, absently daydreaming. No one could guess what he was up to. Or he would go to the seashore or riverbank to watch the currents or the surf, without any thought of storms or sea monsters. Ah! This is how the brush of a madman could capture such gloom and such transformations, so as to vie with the Creator in marvelousness.”↜52 It certainly was not because he wanted to imitate these natural phenomena concretely that this Yuan dynasty painter sat in meditation. He was attempting to feel and to resonate with them, and thereby to allow his whole being to grasp what he would then reproduce with ink and brush—namely, the natural momentum and vital force of the scene. This resonance and reproduction could not be achieved on the spot. Rather, it was the outpouring of

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something that had accumulated and condensed over a long period until it had become unconscious. That is why it is said that “the brush is to express meaning, and the meaning is to express the brush. What makes the brush and meaning express each other is the artist’s lack of self-consciousness.”↜53 This is what Chinese art critics refer to when they so often remark that “it is best to be unconscious.” China’s unique art of calligraphy can also be taken to illustrate the idea of the naturalization of humans. In it, both human feelings and the art of the brush are to resonate with and reproduce the rhythm and order of all of nature. It is the lines and rhythms, the forms and traces of calligraphy that capture emotional and conceptual meaning, whether conscious or unconscious, which cannot be explained or conveyed by linguistic, conceptual, or symbolic media. This “meaning” is usually so obscure and yet so rich, so broad and yet so indefinite, that it is the true “meaningful form” in the aesthetic sense. This “form” derives its meaning, not from the attempt to convey some definite conceptual content, nor from the attempt to imitate external objective phenomena. Its meaning resides in the traces and vestiges of the structure, power, spirit, energy, and movement of the form itself.54 To quote at some length from an earlier work on this subject: Calligraphy on the one hand expresses the feelings of the calligrapher, whether “joy or sorrow, anger or pleasure, complaint or longing” (Han Yu); and therefore it can serve, whether consciously or not, as a perfect manifestation of the creator’s inner world. On the other hand, it can also serve as the affective counterpart of the universal forms and principles of the cosmos. Han Yu also said, “All that one sees when one looks at the world— the mountains, rivers, cliffs, and valleys, the birds and beasts, insects and plants, sun, moon and stars, wind and rain, fire and water, thunder and lightning, and even the dances and battles of humankind—indeed all the transformations of heaven and earth, whether those that delight or those that dismay, can find their expression in calligraphy.” And Cai Yong writes, “As soon as yin and yang are born, the forms are manifested” (Jiu shi). Mencius says, “Above and below, he flows along with heaven and earth.” What calligraphic arts express and convey is the great song of life, characterized by the direct clash and struggle, then adaptation and coordination between humans and nature, sentiment and experience, the structure of the inner world and that of the external universe (which includes human society). As such they greatly surpass the arts of imitation or concrete depiction in terms of content, theme, and scope of presentation or representation. The art of calligraphy is an illustration of the direct union of the “naturalization

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of humans” and the “humanization of nature” in the aesthetic realm. It acts upon one’s whole heart and spirit, and from there exerts an imperceptible influence on every aspect of the mind and body, from one’s thought and emotions to one’s fingers and wrists, psychology and disposition.55

Calligraphy is the most complete and direct manifestation of “the art of the line.” As I have already pointed out, the art of the line is the realization in the realm of the plastic arts of the universal emotional form of the musical arts. In the natural world there is no such thing as a pure line, just as there is no such thing as a pure musical sound. The line is a man-made abstraction of form, which although it departs from the concrete appearance of things (their volume, area, quality, form, features, etc.), actually does so for the sake of representing (or presenting) the motive power of the universe and the power of life itself, in order to express the Dao, and in so doing, to both attain and reproduce universal emotional form. The ancient Chinese liked to explain art and literature with reference to natural human life and its elements, speaking of its “bone structure and form,” its “veins, blood, muscles, and flesh,” prizing “unimpeded spirit,” “wandering with the immortals,” and so on. All these have reference to human physiology, the appearance of the body, and inborn character. (Aesthetic terms such as “strength of bone” and “bone structure,” for example, have their origins in phrenology.)56 At the same time, these terms transcend the limits of their concrete, perceptual existence to seek concourse with heaven, earth, and the universe, indeed with all of nature. Terms such as “bone,” “veins,” “muscle,” “flesh,” and “blood” that originally referred to natural aspects of the human body now become important aesthetic standards and concepts, alongside terms like “spirit” and “qi.” This continues to be the case today. The great Song dynasty scholar and poet, Su Shi (1037–1101), said regarding calligraphy that “Calligraphy must have spirit, energy [qi], bone, flesh, and blood; if one of these five is missing, it cannot be considered calligraphy.”↜57 Late-Qing reformer Kang Youwei (1858–1927) said: “Calligraphy, like a person, needs to have veins, bones, blood, and muscle. If the blood is thick and the bones are old, the veins hidden and the flesh lustrous, and if in addition to this the overall effect is of wonderful ease, then it may be called beautiful.”↜58 Similarly, Ming poet Hu Yinglin (1551–1602) said of poetry that “The bones and veins of a poem are like the root and limbs of a tree, its flesh and muscle like the leaves and branches. Its color, brilliance, spirit, and charm are like the tree’s blossoms.”↜59 All of these examples, and others like them, take what were originally biological concepts pertaining to the human body and turn them into aesthetic or literary yardsticks. This is a clear demonstration of the weight

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given to sensuous life in the Confucian-Daoist synthesis. Life is beauty. The power, quality, and appearance that life manifests naturally in the human body are beautiful. This is the same value expressed in both the (Confucian) notion that “heaven proceeds vigorously” and the (Daoist) notion of “free and easy wandering,” and demonstrates how the latter supplements and broadens the former. In part, this is also what is meant by the “naturalization of humans.” As I noted above, Zhuangzi was able to far more deeply and concretely develop the notion of the homology of heaven and humans because he had set aside society and human affairs, and concentrated his attention on the homology and resonance between human life and nature and the universe. In this way he discovered and drew attention to the phenomenon of the unconscious, which can emerge only through a long process of accumulation, allowing one’s whole being to resonate with the principles of nature. This was an extremely important development for the arts and literature, and exerted a tremendous influence on later Chinese art. At this point it may be interesting to see what Western aesthetics has to say in this regard. Here I turn again to Susanne Langer: [T]he more you study artistic composition, the more lucidly you see its likeness to the composition of life itself, from the elementary biological patterns to the great structures of human feeling and personality that are the import of our crowning works of art; and it is by virtue of this likeness that a picture, a song, a poem is more than a thing—that it seems to be a living form, created, not mechanically contrived, for the expression of a meaning that seems inherent in the work itself: our own sentient being, Reality.60

Before moving on from Daoism, I wish to mention some passages in the Zhuangzi that address Daoist breathing exercises, or qigong, such as “the breath of the true man comes from his heels” (6.16.2), and “[let your breath] follow the vein along the backbone” (3.7.28), and so on. All of these, along with what today would be called the “special powers of the human body,” including all the secrets of sensuous existence that remain to be discovered, also fall within the rubric of the naturalization of humans. For what these practices require is that human physiological processes and life rhythms embrace and become one with all of nature and the universe. These practices touch on many questions in physiology and medicine that have gone unanswered up to the present day and are very much related to the philosophical proposition of the naturalization of humans. Of course, these questions are much larger and more far-reaching than the issue of the unconscious in aesthetics or artistic creation, but they do have a bearing on aesthetics.61

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Clearly, if we consider Zhuangzi’s thought as an aesthetic, we find that it completely embodies the notion of the naturalization of humans, so as to encompass everyday life, one’s attitude toward life, the ideal human personality, and the unconscious. Aesthetics here becomes a question of much more than just pleasure in the appreciation or creation of art. It becomes the great philosophical problem of attaining unity with nature and plumbing its secrets to build up the mind and body of the subject. One strain of Zhuangzi’s emphasis on the naturalization of humans would later develop into the practices of Daoist masters and laypeople who used breath control and other spiritual training to strengthen the body and prolong life, even to the point of both theoretical and practical attempts to attain everlasting life or the realm of the immortals. The other, more philosophical strain was absorbed into the Confucian paradigm of the homologization of heaven and humans, in such a way as to expand and purify this homology (by ridding it of the Confucian irrelevancies of human affairs, politics, and ethics). This strain was put into practice very concretely in everyday life, human attitudes toward life, spiritual cultivation, artistic creation, and aesthetic appreciation. The Daoist notion of the naturalization of humans, in short, became the perfect complement to the Confucian notion of the humanization of nature.

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C h a pt e r 4

Beauty in Deep Emotion

It is in just such as me that emotion is the strongest. â•… —Shishuo xinyu

A New Reflection on Mortality Unlike the North China plain, the site of most of the philosophical debates of pre-Qin China, the ancient state of Chu in South China was an area in which shamanism continued unabated for quite some time. Primitive culture and practices in general persisted longer in this region. The north-south cultural divide in China has deep historical roots, on which I will not dwell here other than to point out that southern culture was from the start marked by its own splendid color. The major representative of this tradition is Qu Yuan (ca. 340–278 B.C.), to whom the authorship of much of the collection Songs of Chu (Chuci) is attributed. Six Dynasties theoretician Liu Xie (ca. 465–522) applies the phrase “breathtaking color, unmatched beauty,”↜1 to the anthology itself, but this also works as a description of the cultural character of the state of Chu. Whether in its handcrafts, painting, or literature, or in its general worldview, the southern imagination is always rich and variegated, and unabashedly romantic. Its sensory palette is intense and bright, a riotous profusion of color; its emotions are fervent, indomitable, and exalted. The Songs of Chu tell of dragons and cloud banners, and relate fabulous stories such as those of Kang Hui tilting the earth, Houyi shooting down nine of the ten suns, the nine-headed tree-uprooting giant, and the three-eyed earth god. “When pouring out a complaint, they stir the reader’s sympathy; when describing the sorrow of separation, they make one unbearably sad.”↜2 Southern culture inherits and preserves the spirit of primitive society, its naïveté, sincerity, intensity—even its childishnessÂ�Â�—just as Confucianism in the North carried on in systematic and conceptual form the tradition of rites and 117

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music. And because the literature of the South retained more of the lively character of mythology and was more liberated and less restrained, it naturally had a stronger force of appeal. To quote Liu Xie again, “Encountering Sorrow and the ‘Nine Declarations’ are strikingly elegant in their sorrowful expression; the ‘Nine Songs’ and ‘Nine Arguments’ are extravagantly beautiful in their sad feelings.”↜3 This was true artistic creation, not simply the stuff with which to pepper diplomatic speech, as reflected in the exhortation from the Analects, “If you don’t study the Songs, you will have nothing to say” (Analects 16.13).4 This was real mythology as opposed to didactic parables dressed in rational clothing; the real poetry of youth, not ethics lessons for grown-ups. But by Qu Yuan’s time, the level of cultural exchange between the North and South had made cultural interpenetration and mutual influence an inexorable historical trend. For the most part, it was the North, with its more developed civilization and more advanced social systems associated with the tradition of rites and music, that extended its influence over the South. The Zuo zhuan records instances showing that many of the rulers and ministers of the state of Chu were able to employ quotations from the Songs in their diplomatic speech. Mencius also notes that “Chen Liang, a native of Chu, delighted in the Way of Confucius and the Duke of Zhou, and so went north to study in the Central Kingdom” (III.A.4).5 Presumably Chen Liang was not the only person of that time to have gone north to study.6 Qu Yuan himself was an admirer of northern culture and was known as a man who “praises wise rulers beginning with the legendary Emperor Ku, through King Tang of Yin and King Wu of Zhou, down to Duke Huan of Qi, to demonstrate their moral breadth and effective government, and paint a satirical contrast with his contemporaries.”↜7 He lays out the glories of Yao and Shun, and weighs the reverential aspect of Tang and Wu, in the didactic style of the Book of Documents. He adopts satire to warn against the misdeeds of Jie and Zhou, or the usurpations of Hou Yi and Guo’ao. He uses the metaphorical language of the Book of Songs to compare the ruler to golden dragons, and evildoers to dark clouds. At every turn he hides his tears and sings his undying loyalty, lamenting the ninefold gate that separates him from the ruler [who has exiled him]. In these respects, his work is in the spirit of the “Airs” and the “Odes” [of the Book of Songs].8

Such praises must inevitably be a bit overblown. What is clear, however, is that Qu Yuan was a recipient of the traditional Confucian teachings. His intense spirit of civil service, his undying loyalty and tenacious concern for politics,

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his pursuit of personal cultivation and social ideals—all these are undeniably Confucian in character. A line from Encountering Sorrow reads, “Having from birth this inner beauty,â•›/â•›I have added to it by cultivating my abilities.” For a nobleman to speak of “inner cultivation” is straight out of Confucian tradition. Qu Yuan gives a uniquely southern expression to the ideal unity of beauty and good found in the Analects phrase “When inner nature and outward cultivation are in balance, then you have a true gentleman” (6.18). It was characteristic of this uniquely southern expression of Confucian ideals that it combined a moving and vibrantly romantic imagination, such as can only emerge from primitive mythology, with the intense and fervent sentiments of the individual personality, which can only emerge with the awakening of reason. It was not subject to the moral and rational restraints of “moral teaching through poetry.” Instead, we find here a freer and more complete expression of primitive vigor, unbridled passion, and unchecked imagination. As twentieth-century writer Lu Xun once pointed out, “Fortunately, the intrinsic culture [of the state of Chu] was never completely wiped out. Instead it produced in the literature that came out of this intersection a certain magnificent splendor.”↜9 This “magnificent splendor” is the product of the intersection of the “intrinsic culture” characteristic of the southern kingdom of Chu with northern Confucianism. People often speak of Qu Yuan and Zhuangzi in the same breath. Zhuangzi also came from the South, and his work, perhaps even more than Qu Yuan’s, is remarkable for its extremely “unbridled” imagination. The Songs of Chu has its “Wandering Afar,” while the Zhuangzi has its “Free and Easy Wandering” chapter. Zhuangzi has an independent, otherworldly spirit, letting his spirit roam over all creation; Qu Yuan, similarly, has many poems that approach the subject of “wandering in the immortal realm.” He also strives for and to some degree attains this independence of personality. However, in the end Qu Yuan is not like Zhuangzi. The difference lies in how these two figures approach the human categories of right and wrong, good and evil, beauty and ugliness. Zhuangzi denies them, while Qu Yuan upholds them. It is through his transcendence of the categories of right and wrong, his equalizing of beauty and ugliness, good and evil, that Zhuangzi achieves transcendence over worldly human affairs and attains oneness with nature. Qu Yuan is quite different. He unfailingly and tenaciously strives for honesty in human relations and for this-worldly loyalty. He seems to have completely embraced Confucianism, but a Confucianism marked by a thoroughly emotionalized brand of righteousness and morality. The similarities and differences among Confucius, Zhuangzi, and Qu Yuan are most clearly displayed in their respective attitudes toward death. It is in their treatment of death that Qu Yuan’s works attain their most “dazzling

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color” and “unmatched beauty.” Confucius said, “If one has heard of the Way in the morning, one will be ready to die in the evening” (Analects 4.8). He also said, “a resolute scholar or a humane person does not seek life to the detriment of humaneness, but may be called upon to accept the death of the body in order to achieve humaneness” (Analects 15.9). These passages demonstrate a calm courage in the face of death but remain on a relatively abstract level. They focus on the various thoughts and feelings that must arise when an individual faces or chooses death, but do so in the service of moral concepts and absolute laws. Zhuangzi, on other hand, says, “life is like floating, death like resting” (15.41.28);10 and “even the happiness of a king facing south on his throne cannot compare” to that of the dead (18.48.24). He obliterates the distinction between life and death, between longevity and an untimely death, then calls this the attitude of the ideal human personality. But such a total renunciation of worldly worries and emotions is not only difficult for most civic-minded people to accomplish, it is also quite remote from the concrete experience of our individual self-conscious existence in the face of death. Furthermore, both Zhuangzi and Confucius advocate self-preservation in such statements as, “When a country did not have the Way, he acted the fool” (Analects 5.21), and “Situate yourself between the useful and the useless” (Zhuangzi 20.53.12). What these statements express is essentially the same as the ancient northern maxim, “The smart and wise will preserve his life.” This type of teaching is also found in the Songs of Chu, as for example in the famous piece, “The Fisherman,” where we find the following lines: The sage is not entangled by worldly things, but moves along with the world. If everyone in the world is muddy Why not stir up the mud and make some waves? If everyone else is drunk, Why not drink their dregs and down their lees? —(4.1/564)11

When the waters of Canglang are clear, ah, I can wash my hat-strings; When the waters of Canglang are muddy, ah, I can bathe my feet. —(6.2/567)

But this path, this attitude toward life, which would have been shared by Confucius and Zhuangzi alike, is actually rejected by Qu Yuan. In these lines from

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the same poem that foreshadow his own suicide by drowning, Qu Yuan indicates his preference for death over life: I would rather jump into the River Xiang, And be buried in the belly of a fish Than allow my pure whiteness To be sullied by the world’s dust. —(5.3/566)

His choice is stark and final. It is in no sense either impulsive or blind obedience to superstition. His complete and self-conscious offering is a choice that is at once rational and emotional. Albert Camus once said, “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest— whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards.”↜12 Hans Georg Gadamer said, “This special human dimension is the in-built capacity of man to think beyond his own life in the world, to think about death. This is why the burial of the dead is perhaps the fundamental phenomenon of becoming human.”↜13 With Hamlet’s line, “To be or not to be,” Shakespeare can be said to have given expression to an element of European character brought out by the Renaissance. In an ancient Chinese context two thousand years earlier, Qu Yuan was probably the first poetic philosopher to have so keenly asked this “question of the first importance.” The course of Qu Yuan’s life answered the question in the negative, but with such “dazzling color and unmatched beauty” that the fundamental human question, “Is life worth living?” is cast in very sharp relief. It is precisely this topic of suicide and death that raises Qu Yuan’s art to a level of such incomparable profundity. This topic will serve to significantly develop and complement the Confucian tradition of the North and will come to constitute an important element of China’s high cultural tradition. To someone like Zhuangzi for whom “life and death are no different” (2.6.19) this topic could never have taken on such importance. Likewise for the calm, abstract Confucians, who say, “If I am to live, I will yield to things as they are; if I am to die, I am at peace,”↜14 this topic was irrelevant. It is precisely when Qu Yuan becomes fully aware that he must choose death by suicide that he embarks on his emotion-filled quest, seeking answers in heaven and earth, time and space, to his questions about right and wrong, good and evil, beauty and ugliness. In his poems, he demands that all these things show their colors in the face of death, that they provide an answer to the question of whether or

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not they truly exist. “How is it that all the fragrant flowers of the pastâ•›/â•›Today are nothing but this smelly mugwort?” (Encountering Sorrow, 79.1/677). “How can the square and the round fit together?â•›/â•›And can people on different paths walk together?” (ibid., 26.3/604). Success or failure in politics, historical fate, the value of life, the ancient tradition—do these make sense? Are they understandable? Existence has lost its foundation, and Qu Yuan is compelled to compose “Asking Heaven.” The polluting influences of the world must be transcended, and therefore we have Encountering Sorrow. The question of the foundation of concrete human existence here becomes very conspicuous. Qu Yuan takes the importance and necessity of concrete flesh-and-blood human existence as the starting point in his search for truth. Therefore, this truth is not a disembodied universal concept or a set of practical guidelines for one’s life, but is “Being” itself. For this reason, it is able to answer intensely emotional longings. Clearly Qu Yuan’s was a broken, lonely heart, laden with sorrow and suffering, and well-acquainted with worry and frustration. In his heart, life and the world around him had already been transformed into a very concrete and complex set of individual emotions, which were directly connected to the question of whether or not to continue to exist. Things in general may undergo change and survive; only my own death can never be repeated or replaced. The negative (the wu, or nonbeing) created by the prospect of my ceasing to exist interrogates and challenges the positive (the you, or being) of all existence. It can freely roam the universe, call all of tradition into question without inhibition, and make indignant complaint against those in power. As Qing dynasty philosopher Wang Fuzhi put it in his commentary on the Songs of Chu, “Only when one has realized one’s ultimate mortality can one follow one’s nature with perfect solitude.”↜15 Qu Yuan’s work is full of this utter loneliness and sorrow, as these lines from various poems of the Songs of Chu will show: That birds of prey do not flock together, ah, Has been the way of things since ancient times. —(Encountering Sorrow, 26.1/604)

The world was muddy-headed and did not give me recognition, So I soared up high and did not look back. —(“Nine Declarations,” “She jiang,” 3.1/189)

Alas, that my life should have no pleasure! I wander alone among the mountains.

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But I cannot change my heart and follow the vulgar, And so I must embrace sorrow and poverty to the end. —(Ibid., 11.1/198)

In a crisscross of tears my sorrow pours out, Sleepless with worry until dawn. All through the long, long nights, I am buried in grief, and can’t get rid of it. —(“Nine Declarations,” “Bei hui feng,” 7.1/489)

The final choice of this great solitary was death: I would rather face sudden death or oblivion Than adopt this attitude [of crookedness and flattery]. —(Encountering Sorrow, 25.3/603)

Since there remains no one with whom to implement good government, I will follow Peng Xian to his watery abode. —(Ibid., 94.3/695)16

I would rather face sudden death or oblivion Than see another disaster strike. Yet if, with words unsaid, I throw myself into the river, A pity that my blinded lord would never understand! —(“Nine Declarations,” “Xi wang ri,” 20.1/538)

Standing by the dark waters of the Yuan or Xiang I could pluck up the courage to plunge into the flow. The death of my body and the loss of my name would be nothing, But what a pity that my blinded lord would never see. —(Ibid., 7.1/528)

Knowing that death cannot be avoided, I accept it without grudge. —(“Nine Declarations,” “Huai sha,” 20.1/226)

I will float with the Yangtze and the Huai into the sea, Follow Zixu to my heart’s content. As I gaze on the sandbanks in the Yellow River

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I mourn for Shen Tu’s nobility. Repeated remonstrances to his lord went unheeded, But what use was it to clasp a heavy stone [and drown]? My heart is in knots, hard to untie, My thoughts in a tangle that I can’t unravel. —(Ibid., “Bei hui feng,” 27.1/513)17

Wang Fuzhi says that in these works Qu Yuan “turns the matter over in his mind, then decides to drown himself in the river”;18 having “set his mind on death, he lays out his intent before his sovereign”;19 “these works were likely penned when he was about to drown himself.”↜20 In the history of literature, it is rare to find examples of poetry written on the verge of suicide that attain the depth and beauty of Qu Yuan’s verses. The poet’s choice to die becomes in his work a kind of trope upon which turn his descriptions, his imagination, his thought and emotional expression. The richness and profundity of life itself is brought out in these works in many and variegated colors. As in the following excerpts, the verses portray with sharpness and complexity the opposition and conflict between right and wrong, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, and bring out the tragic and inscrutable darkness of human history: Wu Zixu met disaster, Bi Gan was made into mincemeat. If all these in former times suffered this way, What complaint can I have against the people of today? —(“Jiu zhang,” “She jiang,” 13.3/200)21

Above, the arrow is on the crossbow, Below, the nets are already spread. —(“Nine Declarations,” “Xi song,” 18.1/42)22

The vulgar of the age are cunning, .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ . They take corruption as their standard. —(Encountering Sorrow, 24.1, 4/601)

The fates of heaven are changeable, Why does it now punish, now reward? Nine times Duke Huan of Qi assembled the lords, Yet in the end his body was destroyed. —(“Questioning heaven,” 86.1/408)

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Why are their meritorious deeds the same, And their deaths so different? Mei Bo was made into mincemeat, While Ji Zi got off by feigning madness. —(Ibid., 71.1/392)

Given this state of affairs, given the desolation, ugliness, and pointlessness of this existence in the world, the poet asks, is my life worth living? It is no easy thing for a flesh-and-blood individual to overcome the intense natural instinct to cling to life and to break with the ugly world through death. This is not the resentment that drives a common person to fling him- or herself into a ditch. It takes a certain degree of self-consciousness to pit one’s death against the absurdity of the world. A decision like Qu Yuan’s reflects a careful choice after a considered reflection on the merits of life and death. In the process, all of the best thoughts and feelings of the person are solidified and condensed into a sensuous emotion, including one’s nostalgia for and attachment to life. This emotion is quite unlike the universal emotional form that the tradition of rites and music sought to form in human community. Rather, it is the very concrete and highly individualized emotion that arises as the self becomes conscious of the world and reflects back on its existence in the face of the death it has chosen. This emotion is “concrete” because it is enmeshed from start to finish in the self ’s concrete involvement in political struggles and other sometimes perilous experiences. Far from “transcending” these, the self must make its judgments between right and wrong, beauty and ugliness, good and evil, while embroiled in these practical situations. Its judgments, therefore, are not purely the result of rational thought, but also reflect an emotional reality. Furthermore, insofar as they are rational, this rationality is immersed in and conforms to the emotions. Clearly, this is not a role that universal emotional form could carry out equally well. This brand of emotion is so “individualized” that Qu Yuan paid the price of his individual existence in order to achieve its expression. It is the outpouring of that unique, unrepeatable existence itself. This, again, is not something that can be accomplished by universal emotional form. It is this uniquely concrete and individualized emotion that provides a much-needed breakthrough for universal emotional form and broadens its scope. It injects it with the brightred vitality of human blood and causes it to break out of the constraints of “pleasure but not to excess, mourning but not dejection,” so as to accommodate the extremes of grief and sorrow. No longer bound by strictures like “music entails harmony” and “poetry gives voice to the intent,” universal emotional

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form is freed to express uncontainable happiness and unbearable resentment. In other words, the injection of this lifeblood enables this emotional form to attain a new level of tragic significance and impulsive force as it broadens its reach to embrace the greatest profundities of life. Although Qu Yuan uses reason to explain his decision for suicide in rational and ethical terms (for example, explaining that he does not wish to see his homeland fall into subjugation), the fact that he is unwilling to listen to the advice of “The Fisherman,” or to go the road of Confucius, Zhuangzi, or the ancients, demonstrates that his decision is above all an emotional one. Emotionally, he feels unable to continue living. The rational sense that “life is not worth living” gets translated on the emotional level into “I am absolutely unable to live.” While this denial of life is emotional, it is not, as mentioned above, the result of an instinctual impulse or blind leap, but something that is soaked in and penetrated with the individual’s sense of moral responsibility. It is neither mystical nor fanatical, but a kind of rational emotional stance. However colored with rationality and even morality, Qu Yuan’s decision in the end transcends both of these. It arises from his reflection on mortality, and as such is profoundly interwoven with the construction of the psychological subject. There have been those in later generations who have sneered at Qu Yuan’s “foolish loyalty,” saying that he bought into the Confucian “philosophy of servility.” Others have blamed him for “making a show of himself and his talents”↜23 and “overdoing itâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹by embracing the waters of the river,”↜24 in opposition to the Confucian emphasis on gentleness and moderation. But ask these critics to answer the great question “Do you dare to die?” and they will certainly shrink back. As it is said, “From of old death has been the first of all difficulties; or does the forlorn woman have a monopoly on sorrow?” If we allow that dying in indignation is not as difficult as dying with contentment for a just cause, then surely suicide is even more difficult than either of these, especially when it is not the result of a momentary fit or a blind impulse, but is a choice taken after careful reflection on mortality and the value of human life in the face of the world’s absurdity. This choice for death, and the individual emotion that animates this attitude in the face of death, is a powerful force in the construction of the human psychological noumenon. For this reason, it is actually the emotion itself, and what it reveals about human existence, rather than the concrete act of suicide, that was so greatly to influence later Chinese art and literature. In the lofty character and emotional attitude reflected in his choice to die, as well as in his absolute rejection of ugly realities and his yearning for the ideal life, Qu Yuan was to greatly move and inspire later generations. Through his death, Qu Yuan brought the philosophical

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attitude toward mortality in Confucianism and the rites and music tradition to an unprecedented level of emotional depth. The Japanese are said to have an ancient tradition of viewing suicide as beautiful: There is a Japanese saying, “of flowers, the cherry blossom; of persons, the warrior.” In other words, the cherry blossom is the best example of a flower, the samurai the highest example of a human being. Human mortality is like a flowering cherry, which drops its blossoms in an instant, cleanly, and for this reason is beautiful. Because death, and particularly suicide, share this beauty, the high rate of suicides among Japanese writers is well-known throughout the world.25

The famous Japanese writer Yukio Mishima remarked that “death is the only mystery.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The utmost reach of the power of the imagination is (the moment of) death.”↜26 The cherry blossom’s intense and short-lived bloom and sudden fading seem to symbolize the Japanese mode of thinking in which death (especially by hara-kiri) is seen as beautiful. The mode of thinking in the Chinese tradition is quite different. Although Qu Yuan’s death has always moved Chinese intellectuals due to the influence of the Confucian tradition, very few have followed his example in suicide. For rather than death itself, it is the deep emotional reflection on death that captivated later generations. Death becomes a way to cultivate the spirit, to enable it to bear the whole burden of existence (including humiliation, frustration, and suffering), and thus to grow ever stronger and more profound. The Chinese tradition does not take the intensity of the cherry blossom for its symbolic ideal, but rather the patient endurance of the chrysanthemum, plum, pine, or bamboo. So even though those who imitated Qu Yuan by drowning themselves were few, Qu Yuan’s brand of emotional integrity has not failed to shape the hearts of generation after generation of Chinese intellectuals. The mind-set that Qu Yuan cultivated (characterized by statements like “Though I am dismembered, I am as though unchanged” and “Despite suffering nine deaths he seems to have no regrets”), the mournful indignation and painful attachment that he was the first to display in the face of death, his purity of intent and candid disposition—all these have often served to inspire both life and artistic creation. Sima Qian’s endurance of a life of humiliation, Ji Kang and Ruan Ji’s mournful indignation—these all reflect the deeply depressing sense of “this existence” that arises in the face of death.27 All of these great literary figures thought of death, and even if they did not act on those thoughts, they were able to express

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in their works the meaning of “existence” that can usually only be discovered in the face of death. Their works are the outward radiance that emanates from an inner emotional reflection on death. In Chapter 2 I quoted Six Dynasties calligrapher Wang Xizhi (321–379)— “↜‘Life and death are the greatest of matters, indeed!’ Isn’t this reason enough to be sad?”↜28—to demonstrate how Confucians focus on the brevity of existence and the cherishing of life in order to avoid facing death. But in every individual’s sensuous existence, the mammoth problem of death can never be completely avoided. What sets writers like Ji Kang and Ruan Ji apart is the different level of self-consciousness they achieve vis-à-vis this topic. In the face of death, it is possible to supplement Confucian avoidance with Daoist indifference, as in these lines from one of Tao Qian’s poems in imitation of burial songs: The grassy plains, how vast, The white poplars too are rustling. A hard frost in September— They see me off beyond the outskirts. On all sides, not a dwelling, Tall grave stones tower around. The horses neigh at heaven, The wind bewails itself. When in this lonely room I am shut up, In a thousand years there will be no day. In a thousand years there will be no day, To what purpose is sagely wisdom? Those who came to see me off Each one returns to his home. The relations may be sorrowful, The others are already singing. When death comes, what is there to say? One’s body is put to rest with the hills.29

This poem at first seems quite indifferent to life and death. But on closer inspection, what it really conveys is more a deep sadness in the face of death. Wang Xizhi remarked that “to say that death is the same as life is absurd, and to equate the longevity of Peng with an untimely death is preposterous.”↜30 For Zhuangzi’s notion of “equating life and death” to be translated into any sort of emotional attitude—essentially into thorough passionlessness—is very difficult to achieve in practice. In the words of an old saying, “Man is not like grass or trees—how can he be without feelings?”

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The conscious choice to die, and the subjective experience in the face of death, actually deepens the emotional concern for the brevity of life in the Confucian tradition. For Qu Yuan, such a choice expressed not only his sorrow in the face of death but his uncompromising perseverence in life. In this case, the emotions surrounding his suicide are the same as those that characterize his unswerving faith; his reflections on death always come back to the love of life. If one is willing even to face death, how much more should one be willing to face demotion or exile? The fact that, having experienced both demotion and exile, Qu Yuan continued to cling to existence and hold fast to his beliefs, while still expressing sorrow over human affairs—this is Qu Yuan’s sentimental legacy. For later generations of scholar-officials, this legacy brought a certain sincerity of feeling to the Confucian tradition,31 endowing its inner rational structure with profound life-and-death implications, thus taking it to a level of emotional depth appropriate to human existence. Tang dynasty writer Liu Zongyuan (773–819) was known to praise works for expressing “mourning like Qu Yuan’s.” After a bitter political defeat, Liu himself had been banished to a semitropical aboriginal region and experienced an indignation and depression not unlike Qu Yuan’s. Although he did not choose to die, he always lived in awareness of death: Few live to be sixty or seventy. I am already thirty-seven years of age, and am beginning to feel how much more quickly pass the days and months as one year passes into another. Probably in a few decades, this life will be over.32 If my body recovers from this illness, I probably only have thirty or so more years’ sojourn in this world. The last twenty-seven years went by in a flash, and as for what will come after, I have already figured out that there will not be enough to enjoy.33

This is certainly still a Confucian lament on the brevity of life, but even more it is a reflection on impending death in the tradition of Qu Yuan. Liu here gives due attention to death, while also calling life into question (“there will not be enough to enjoy,” “howâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹quickly pass the days and months”) and wondering at how tragic it can be. Ming dynasty critic Liu Houcun remarked that, “After Liu Zongyuan’s demotion, the melancholic lamentation that made its way into his poetry was particularly bitter. In the end, he died in indignation, never having made sense of it.”↜34 Perhaps Liu Zongyuan never arrived at the moderate Confucian ideal of self-preservation, nor at the Daoist ideal of freedom and contentment. This

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is why Liu Houcun compares him to Tao Qian as follows: “See how different Tao Qian is. In his poems Poor scholars [Pin shi] and Blaming my sons [Ze zi], he is sorrowful where he should be sorrowful, joyful where he should be joyful, and can just as easily forget both sorrow and joy, simply letting things follow their course.”↜35 But it really is not necessary to put down the one and exalt the other in this way. Liu Zongyuan’s tenacity, the emotional intensity of his resentment, the stern, commanding, and pure style of his work—all these display the beauty of deep emotion that arises, in the style of Qu Yuan, when death is the subject. This is something that neither Zhuangzi nor Tao Qian can equal. Liu Zongyuan, with Sima Qian, Ji Kang, and Ruan Ji, is a distinguished successor in the tradition of Qu Yuan. So even if they have been called “slanderous” (Sima Qian), self-proclaimed “belittler[s] of Tang and Wu, denier[s] of Confucius and the Duke of Zhou” (Ji Kang), all of these figures met with the widespread acceptance and approval of Confucian intellectuals of their time. Just as Tao Qian and Li Bo were heirs of Zhuangzi, these authors received and passed on the spirit of Qu Yuan, and in their own way broadened and developed Confucianism, so that the tradition of humaneness, with its emphasis on morality, integrity, and emotion, had its content profoundly enriched by considerations of mortality. It is through the spiritual inspiration and artistic influence of these personalities and their works that the tradition of Qu Yuan would first be solidified in the Wei-Jin period (220–420 A.D.), then go on to become an important element in Chinese constructions of human nature and in Chinese aesthetic style.

Noumenal Inquiry and Experience In The Path of Beauty, I argued that Chu and Han culture essentially constitute a single continuous tradition. In the Wenxin diaolong, Liu Xie also lumps the two together in his statement that “The Chu were gaudy, the Han extravagant, decadent without end.”↜36 The people of the Han dynasty, from the palace down to the commoner, loved the poetry of Chu, a popularity that continued for several hundred years. One important manifestation of this continuity with the plaintive style of the Songs of Chu is in the Han fascination with funeral dirges. Even at banquets celebrating the most joyous occasions, illustrious aristocrats would have mournful dirges played. Historical sources bear this out: At weddings and other great feasts in the capital,â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹when they had had their fill of wine, they continued with the singing of dirges.37 The great general Liang Shangâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹once gave a great party by the Luo River.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹When they had drunk to the point of great happiness, when the

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wine had stopped flowing and the singing had ended, they continued with dirges, so that those who sat there listening all ended up in tears.38

Although this type of practice was criticized by Confucians as “being joyful or sad at the wrong times,” as a fashion it continued through the Wei-Jin period, when we find these records: When Yuan Shansong would go out touring, at every lovely view he would have those in his retinue perform dirges.39 After having drunk, Zhang Lin would sing very plaintive dirges.40

On this trend, Qian Zhongshu comments that “Those who were able to produce sorrow through the performance of music were considered good musicians, and those in whom this sorrow arose were considered ‘knowing listeners’ [zhi yin]. During the Han, Wei, and Six Dynasties, this was all the vogue.”↜41 He continues: When the ancient Chinese spoke of music they meant for the most part mournful music.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹It was not only good music but also beautiful scenery that could cause people to weep or grow melancholy.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Someone has said, “It is only when one comes upon a beautiful line in poetry that true tears are shed.”â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹So, clearly, it is the shedding of tears that is valued, and not just the music one hears.42

Whether in music, landscape, or poetry, the mark of art and aesthetics and their highest aim is often the arousal of mournful feelings. This could be said to be a kind of universal principle; it is also a very important means of shaping the human emotions. There is nothing that elicits sadness more than mortality. Indeed, the mournful consciousness of death is a sign of the consciousness of life. This consciousness probably arose from the ancient rituals of burial and mourning, for, as Gadamer said, human nature has its origins in the practices surrounding the burial of the dead. The Chinese tradition of rites and music also placed primary emphasis on funerary and burial rites. The Confucians maintained and passed on these traditions, and began their internalization. Confucius said, “As for mourning, real grief is to be preferred over formalities” (Analects 3.4), emphasizing the relative importance of an inner feeling of mourning over mere ritual. Mourning is extremely important to the consciousness of being human and plays a very prominent role in the psychological molding of emotion, which was discussed in Chapter 1. Animals do not carry out funerary rituals and therefore

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presumably also cannot experience the same kind of deep, socially mediated mourning. This type of mourning, which primitive people experienced communally through burial rituals, requires a sort of emotional self-consciousness and introspection; it encompasses an apprehension of and reflection on life and human relationships, and includes elements of memory, understanding, and empathy. The experience of communal mourning performed an important social function in the consolidation of the primitive collective and in advancing the cooperation of the community’s members. From a psychological point of view, the experience humanizes the physiological or animal emotions (by means of the above-mentioned social function) and nurtures within them the emergence of self-conscious rationality. In other words, the experience of ritual mourning molds and shapes the emotions. It is an important consequence of the emergence of “universal emotional form” during this period. As mentioned above, what was already a strongly plaintive element in the Songs of Chu and Encountering Sorrow evolved during the Han into the fashion of singing dirges even at the close of the most joyous celebrations. This practice took the primitive tradition of rites and music to a new level and, like Qu Yuan’s reflections on mortality, reflects the existential consciousness of the aristocratic and intellectual classes. The preoccupation with sorrow over mortality demonstrates an unprecedented attachment to life, to which it also adds a certain existential, philosophical flavor. The presence of sorrow in joy always deepens the joy and rouses people to grasp hold of this fleeting life. (Bittersweet is a flavor all its own, as they say.) The social and literary practices surrounding this preoccupation are marked by a certain sorrow over the apprehension of mortality, a self-conscious awareness of existence, and the need for transcendence in finite human life. The preoccupation with death implies a sort of rational apprehension of existence, but is still utterly emotional in character. It is both an inquiry into noumenal existence, and the experience of it. From the Songs of Chu and the Han dirges through the “Nineteen Old Poems of the Han”↜43 and the tragic consciousness of the Wei-Jin period—all these lamentations on individual mortality on the one hand bore the legacy of the ancient rites and music tradition and self-conscious Confucian humanism while on the other hand significantly deepening it. In this respect, the Wei-Jin period, an age of emerging self-consciousness, clearly evidences progress in the formation of this rational construction. In practice, there is a gradual shift in this period from the politically minded evaluations of the third-century Renwu zhi [Annals of Public Figures], to the aesthetically minded evaluations of the fifth-century collection Shishuo xinyu [A New Account of Tales of the World],44 marking the increasing role of

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the imaginary in the depiction of the ideal personality. From the point of view of philosophical theory, the search for this ideal personality had its roots in the Zhuangzi, but Wei-Jin metaphysics applied it to the sentimental realm surrounding issues of mortality. As a whole, the paired valuation of deep emotion and philosophical wisdom becomes a defining characteristic of Wei-Jin consciousness. This pairing is manifested aesthetically in what has become known as the “Wei-Jin style.” Twentieth-century thinker Feng Youlan essentially says the same thing when he posits four elements of the Wei-Jin style: to exhibit this style, a work must display “abstruse thought,” “penetrating insight,” “exquisite taste,” and “deep emotion.”↜45 In other words, it must have both wisdom (“penetrating insight” and “abstruse thought”) and deep emotion. “Deep emotion” refers first and foremost to the emotional response to mortality, which is the greatest of all feelings. I remarked above that the Zhuangzian attitude obliterating the difference between longevity and a premature death, or indeed between life and death, was the ever-elusive goal of the literary celebrities of the Wei-Jin period. Precisely because this attitude was so difficult to achieve, the problem of mortality and the preoccupation with longevity came to play an ever more prominent emotional role, and all the more often became the subject of intense brooding. The Shishuo xinyu contains numerous accounts of grieving in a section entitled, “Grieving the Departed”: When Wang Rong [234–305] was mourning for his son Wanzi [Wang Sui], Shan Jian went to see him. Wang was unable to contain his grief. Shan Jian said, “He was just a child. Why so much grief?” Wang Rong answered, “The sage forgets emotion, the lowest of the low has no emotion; it is in just such as me that emotion is the strongest.” (17.4/488)46 After Zhi Daolin47 had mourned Fa Qian’s death, his spirit went into a decline and he lost his elegant bearing.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹A year later, Zhi Daolin died as well. (17.11/491)

Such emotional accounts of “the utmost grief,” “very bitter weeping,” uncontrollable grief,” and so on, are concrete manifestations of the Wei-Jin style. The same section says, “When they lay a jade tree↜48 in the earth, how can one’s feelings ever cease?” (17.9/490). How far this is from the attitude of Zhuangzi, who was said to have beaten on a tub and sung his heart out joyfully when his wife died (18.48.9)! Indeed, Zhuangzi’s attitude would come under criticism in this period: “It is one thing not to cry at one’s wife’s death, but to

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be joyful? To mourn by beating a drum is absurd. This is nothing but affected unconventionality and runs counter to nature.”↜49 But in fact the thinkers of this age had a great appreciation for the kind of attitude Zhuangzi displays in this passage: Ah the mountains and forests! Oh the hills and fields! They fill me with joy and happiness. Happiness has not finished when grief follows upon it. Grief and happiness—I cannot make them come, nor can I stop them from going. Alas! The people of this world are like travelers pushed about by “things.” (22.63.22)

Wang Bi (226–249) gives philosophical support to Zhuangzi’s view when he says that the sage shares the “five emotions” with the common people: “Because the five emotions are the same, he cannot respond to things without joy or grief.”↜50 This inevitable “joy or grief ” is reminiscent of the line from the Shishuo xinyu quoted above, “how can one’s feelings ever cease?” This is why it is permissible to display “the utmost grief,” or “uncontrollable grief.” This revision of Zhuangzi on the surface seems to suggest the influence of Confucianism, but Confucianism does not advocate this kind of extreme mourning or sadness about mortality. When “Zixia wept for his son to the point of losing his sight,” he was criticized by the Confucians. To suffer “uncontrollable grief,” or “grieve so long that after a month one dies”—these are totally uncalled for from a Confucian point of view. Instead, this Wei-Jin fashion bears the influence of the Chu style, modeled on Qu Yuan, that came into vogue beginning in the Han, and also carries on and develops the legacy of the Han dirges. Qu Yuan’s literary legacy, injected with elements of both Confucian and Daoist (Zhuangzian) philosophy, forms the basis of Wei-Jin literaryâ•›/â•›aesthetic fashion. Social upheaval, disasters, wars, and famine led to the flourishing on an unprecedented scale of all kinds of mourning songs, whether over death or separation, in response to social ills or personal tragedy. What is unprecedented here is that these songs go beyond the expression of simple emotions to use the lamentation over the bleakness of life as a means to express a certain kind of noumenal inquiry. In other words, because the expression of “feeling” in the Wei-Jin period is always intimately connected with the inquiry into the purpose of life, mortality, and existence, it becomes philosophical in character. This is because Daoist philosophy (in which “nothingness” is the tacit noumenon), along with the argumentative wisdom it promoted, had already been penetrated and transformed in a very real way by fervent emotion, impressionable experience, and the determination to live. In the resulting rational construction, all the emotions sparkle

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with the light of wisdom, and sorrow over finite human life is imbued with the significance of the infinite universe. The transformation results in a kind of noumenal experience—a noumenon, in other words, that is directly experienced, lamented, and tasted, not only in thought but also in aesthetics. When applied in a broader sense, this kind of inquiry and experience can arise, not only in response to death, but also in response to human affairs and natural landscapes, so that virtually anything related to human life can take on immense beauty. Some passages from the Shishuo xinyu bear this out: Lord Huan [Huan Wen, 312–373] passed Jincheng on his way north, and there saw some willows that he himself had planted some years earlier, now all over twenty spans around. He sighed, saying, “If this is what happens with trees, how can we bear to think what happens with people?” Breaking off some twigs in his hand, he let his tears fall. (2.55/90) When Wei Huan [Wei Jie] was about to cross the Yangzi River with his horse, his expression grew tragic, and he remarked to those around him, “Seeing such vastness, a thousand feelings arise in one’s heart. If such feelings are unavoidable, who can dispel them?” (2.32/72) Grand Mentor Xie [Xie An, 320–385] once told Wang Xizhi, “In my middle age I am easily overcome by sad music, and if I must part from a dear friend I am always sick for several days thereafter.” (2.62/95) Whenever Huan Ziye (Huan Yi, d. ca. 392) heard a sad song, he would always cry out, “How can I bear it?” Lord Xie [Xie An] heard him and said, “Ziye can really be said to have deep emotions.” (23.42/570)

It is this kind of pervasive sorrow over life, this brand of noumenal experience, that constitutes the Wei-Jin aesthetic in which deep emotion is combined with wisdom. It is everywhere evident in the ubiquitous contemporary evaluations of people and poetry as having “brilliant expression,” “perfect emotion,” “divine emotion,” “elegance and grace,” and so on. A facile imagination, well-thought-out argument, beautiful diction, and sincere emotion—in other words, Feng Youlan’s four elements—all these are imbued with profound significance on account of their relation to the great problems of life and the universe. These are at this point no longer the province of Han classicists or petty Confucian annotators, nor of the modest neo-Confucian gentlemen of later generations; rather, they are the province of a kind of spiritual aristocrat of elegant demeanor, in whom both emotion and reason are strongly in evidence.

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The structure of this aristocrat’s spiritual sensibility in turn becomes the model for the ideal human personality of the time. Although the metaphysical basis of this model personality is in ZhuangLao Daoism, in fact, due to the interpenetration and absorption of the Qu Yuan tradition into this philosophical base, “emotion” becomes the true heart of the ideal. The Shishuo xinyu records this statement satirizing the pseudocelebrities of the day: “A celebrity need not have exceptional talent; if he is often idle, drinks heavily, and is well-acquainted with Encountering Sorrow, he may be called a celebrity” (23.53/575). Clearly, Encountering Sorrow played an important role for these intellectuals. The influence of this poem also explains how Confucian morality and Daoist argument, now incarnate as an aesthetic-artistic worldview, were able to attain a degree of influence in this period unequaled either in the future or the past. Philosophically speaking, Zhuangzi, Laozi, and the Book of Changes, often referred to as the “Three Metaphysicals” (san xuan), were the favorite object of study of Wei-Jin intellectuals. The “nothingness” at the core of Wei-Jin Daoism points to the latent possibility for infinitude. It is not true emptiness, however, and can at any time be transformed into fullness. This is very similar to the Confucian metaphysics based on the Book of Changes. This period sees a thorough admixture and melding of the ritual affirmation of the transformation of things in the Changes, the exaltation of the personal noumenon in the Zhuangzi, and the deeply emotional reflection on mortality in Qu Yuan. What prevents the construction of a metaphysical ontology based on “nothingness” from being purely abstract speculation, and what keeps the metaphysical emphasis on infinitude (attained by first experiencing then casting off the finite) from becoming mere polemics, is this element of emotional realization.51 More than just a universalized logical knowledge, it is an individualized psychological construct. It is a kind of noumenal experience, an inquiry into and understanding of that “formless,” “nameless,” “flavorless,” and “soundless” noumenon. This inquiry takes place in the seat of the individual emotions. It is thus a concrete experience, full of worldly human feeling. So when Wang Bi speaks of the characteristics of the sage who “understands nothingness,” he mentions both the fact that his “divine understanding abounds” and that “the five emotions are the same [as those of common man].” In other words, both wisdom and emotion are involved in attaining sagehood. Wang Bi’s ideal personality, it turns out, works out in theory what the WeiJin literary celebrities, with their endless metaphysical discussions and their unabashed emotional expression, live out in practice. And it is none other than this characteristic combination of “deep emotion with wisdom” that gives Wei-Jin philosophy its aesthetic character and causes its influence to spread to

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every area of artistic endeavor and theory. Every important aesthetic work of the period, whether Lu Ji’s “Rhapsody on Literature,” Zong Bing’s “Preface on Painting Landscapes,” Wang Wei’s “On Painting,” Liu Xie’s Wenxin diaolong, or Zhong Rong’s Shipin—all center around this circular rational construction. Wei-Jin philosophical and aesthetic discussions of wu (“nothingness”), dao (“the Way”), shen (“subtlety”), and yi (“intention”) all bear its imprint. Other labels and truisms of the period, including “Wei-Jin stylistic vigor [fenggu],” “Jin style,” “poetry arises from the emotions,” and “portraiture that captures the spirit” [fu shen xie zhao] would merit further scrutiny within this framework. The aesthetics of this period no longer concerned itself with whether or not the emotion displayed was in accordance with Confucian ethics, but paid more attention to the meaning and value of the emotion itself. Since emotion is already linked with the noumenal inquiry and experience of the human personality, its aesthetic significance has already surpassed that of social ethics. In this way, the arts are freed from their service as a tool for spreading Confucian ethical thought. Although in the rites and music tradition and in Confucian aesthetics it had always been thought that art and the emotions were inseparable, from a purely aesthetic standpoint this unity should be said to have begun with the incorporation of Zhuangzi and Qu Yuan that created Wei-Jin aesthetics. The confluence of Zhuangzi, Qu Yuan, and Confucianism in the Wei-Jin period forged the basic psychological character and rational mechanisms of Chinese art and aesthetics, in which writers and artists experience, express, imagine, and comprehend the world around them. Precisely because of the influence on Wei-Jin aesthetics of Zhuangzi and the cosmology of the Book of Changes, Chinese art and literature never took an interest in such subjects as happiness in the face of ruin, or the denial of life; they did not go in the direction of the Greek tragedy or Nietzsche’s philosophy. And, again because of this influence, Chinese art and literature have also been able to continually break out of orthodox Confucian strictures like “[be] gentle and sincere,” “literature should be a vehicle for the Way,” and “complaint [should be] without anger.” They have been able to cast aside conventional moral codes and enjoy a kind of lofty spiritual freedom. Because of the influence of Confucianism and Qu Yuan, correspondingly, Chinese art and literature never displayed wanton cruelty or false transcendence, and never affected personal extinction. Even a renowned Buddhist like Zhi Daolin (see quotation from the Shishuo xinyu above) displayed the same depth of emotion when, upon the death of his friend, he lost the will to live and died of grief. Because this cultural mind-set is the result of the meeting at a deep level of reason and the emotions due to the confluence of Confucianism, Daoism,

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and the Qu Yuan tradition, the sorrowful and tragic aspects of life to which it is sensitive are more often those of the weathering of hardship and the crucible of life experience. It does not mourn the loss of youth but focuses on the worries of adulthood. Whether it be Qu Yuan, Tao Qian, or the High Tang poets Li Bai or Du Fu; whether it be the biographerâ•›/â•›historian Sima Qian, the novelist Cao Xueqin, the ci poets Su Shi or Xin Qiji, or playwrights Guan Hanqing or Ma Zhiyuan; or whether it be the great calligraphers, Chinese artists value what is called the “maturity of the person and the work.” (Another element of this concept is the technical mastery required by a formal training that is simultaneously both rigorous and free.) “Maturity” here refers to the kind of mature character that results from enduring the various hardships and difficulties in the crucible of life and death. Poetic lines like these from Du Fu—“Yu Xin’s writing became mature in his old ageâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.” (“Xi wei liu jue,” no. 1); “The poems of [Yu Xin’s] evening years move those on rivers and mountain passes” (“Yonghuai guji wu shou,” no. 1)—refer to just such an inner personality refined by life’s hard knocks. It is through suffering, hardship, and death that artistic maturity is attained. From the point of view of this confluence of Confucianism, Daoism, and the Qu Yuan tradition, we may say that in Tao Qian the characteristics of the first two are prominent, though his work is more heavily Daoist, while in Ruan Ji the characteristics of the latter two are prominent, though his work is more heavily influenced by the Qu Yuan tradition. Whether his “Biography of Mr. Great Man” [Da ren xiansheng zhuan], or his many “Singing my Mind” poems [Yonghuai shi], Ruan Ji’s works emphasize the theoretical superiority of nature over the Confucian ethical code. Although he vehemently attacked social codes, disdained convention, and exposed every kind of hypocrisy and corruption, seeking instead “To rise above the world and leave behind the crowd,â•›/â•›Shun custom and go my own way,â•›/â•›Climb to the Great Beginning,â•›/â•›Look out over the beginning of the vast expanse”↜52—all of which clearly display the profound influence of Zhuangzi—yet, as Liu Xie points out in the Wenxin diaolong, “Ruan Ji commands qi in service of his poetry,” and his “lofty spirit” is not as high-minded or untethered as Zhuangzi’s.53 On the contrary, in his work we find on display the kind of terror, discontent, indignation, and sorrow that generally would have been suppressed. It is full of a very human anxiety, sorrow, and despair that is connected with the fear of death and the reflection on existence. As Li Shan commented, “Always serving in chaotic times, ever in fear of slanderous attacks, Ruan Ji sang out his mind, and so in all his poems we hear the sighs of his anxiety over life.”↜54 This sorrow and anxiety places Ruan clearly in the tradition of Qu Yuan and becomes the hallmark of his work.

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Wei-Jin thought emphasized “harmonizing the five tastes through tastelessness” and “naming the myriad things with namelessness,” teaching that “the sage responds to things but is not entangled in them.” The intellectuals of this period sought oneness with the Dao based on “nothingness,” through which, in theory, they should have been able to give full and free expression to their minds and ideas. That this seemingly very natural and unrestrained aesthetic style should manifest itself in Ruan Ji in the form of such deeply felt distress and indignation is interesting indeed. Let us take a look at a few lines from two of Ruan Ji’s “Singing my Mind” poems: At midnight, unable to sleep, I rise and take up my zither; Through a sheer curtain I examine the bright moon, The light breeze stirs my garments. A lonely goose cries in far-off wilds, A northern bird calls in the North Wood. What will this pacing bring me? These anxious thoughts only break my heart.55 Deep sorrow keeps my will constrained, Fear always brings me up with a start; Whiling away the time, the banquet not yet over, Suddenly I see that it is sunset. The crickets chirping at the doorway, The cicadas chirring in the yard— Yet I have no friend with whom to share my heartbreak— Who is there that understands my feelings? Would that I were a bird amid the clouds Singing my sad song across a thousand miles! Magic mushrooms spread across Yingzhou Peak— I wander afar seeking longevity.56

Here we see a remarkable fearfulness and sorrow, indignation and anxiety, all expressed in very colorful language. This “wandering afar seeking longevity” is actually quite reminiscent of Zhuangzi’s “free and easy wandering,” while at the same time the lines could almost have come straight out of the Songs of Chu. But this is the work of someone well-versed in abstruse learning, the metaphysics of the time. Ji Kang (223–262), an equally well-known literary celebrity and contemporary of Ruan Ji, is quite similar. Perhaps it is these thinkers who should

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say, “It is in just such as me that emotion is the strongest.” For “just such as me” refers not to the divine, who have transcended emotion and are without feelings, nor to things, which are automatically “without feeling.” It is precisely because they are flesh-and-blood human beings with very real feelings that these writers lament the brevity of life, wonder about the universe, and feel terror in the face of death, for these emotions are difficult for any human being to avoid. The type of emotion felt here, then, is quite different from the universalized group sentiment prevalent in the ideological field of the Pre-Qin and Han periods. At the same time it is distinct from the personal liberation of individual emotional desires that is characteristic of recent capitalist societies. Although this emotion arises in the individual, it is also a kind of generalized lamentation about life, mortality, separation, and so forth. It is characterized by a kind of thought that cannot be expressed in conceptual language. It is always related to the profound experience of and inquiry into transformation in the universe, the way of nature, and noumenal human existence. As a sort of emotional form, art in this period has progressed from the set of generalized and normative symbols of ancient times to the expression of those deep emotions which emerge from noumenal inquiry and experience. In the process, it has become more fully “art.” The beauty of Wei-Jin thought and the so-called Wei-Jin style, and of Wei-Jin and Six Dynasties calligraphy and sculpture, lies here. In the history of China and Chinese art, the Wei-Jin is at once the most speculative and the most expressive of historical periods. Much as we may speak of an admixture of Qu Yuan, Zhuangzi, and Confucius, and although on the surface Qu Yuan and Zhuangzi may appear to be more prominent in the speculative wisdom and expression of deep emotions that dominate the period, in fact, as we saw above, it is Confucianism that from start to finish plays the more important role, visibly or invisibly. This is true both from the point of view of the behavior, lifestyle, and ideals of the great figures of the day, and from the point of view of the constitution of human thought, emotion, and personality. Thus we find that, while Ji Kang was defiant to the point of death, his son died a loyalist;57 although Tao Qian was carefree, he taught his sons to be prudent; and Ruan Ji’s dissipation also helped to preserve him from political misfortune.58 Even the drunkenness fashionable in this period, and that figured so prominently in the lives of these individuals, could not compare with Western bacchanalianism. It is not wanton pleasure seeking or in the service of instinctive impulses. Rather, as much as ever, the intemperance of these thinkers sought understanding through reclusion and enlightenment in the midst of decadence. In short, the spirit of the age was still thoroughly rational. Whether in the contemporary “Ode on the Virtues of Wine” (Jiu de song) by Liu Ling (d. after 265), or Ouyang Xiu’s much later “Notes from a Drunkard’s Pavilion” (Zuiweng

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ting ji), the persistence of this rational element is evident. Drunkenness should numb the faculties and liberate the emotions, giving full rein to one’s instincts and passions. But even in the Confucian tradition, the ideal was to be able to “take wine without limiting oneself, without being disorderly” (Analects 10.8), a rational attitude that would still hold sway two thousand years later: “With what can I release my anxiety,â•›/â•›If not with Du Kang’s gift of wine?” (Cao Cao [155–220], “Duan ge xing”); “I unsheathe my dagger to cut the water, yet on the water flows;â•›/â•›I raise a cup to drown my worries, but my worries worry on” (Li Bo).59 Interwoven with drunkenness in these poets’ works are the themes of worldly anxiety, human suffering, and an attachment to life that is simultaneously rational and emotional. This brand of intemperance does not give in to instinctive impulses, nor to the passion to destroy life or one’s surroundings. Rather, it displays an implicit tenderness for and profound attachment to life, and evinces a harmony of reason and emotion. The following ci poem by Feng Yansi (903–960) of the Five Dynasties period demonstrates a similar depth of emotion, so that while it no longer evinces the kind of noumenal inquiry characteristic of the Wei-Jin style, it still attains a remarkable beauty: Who says that worries can be cast aside once and for all? Every spring, The melancholy is the same as ever. Day after day before the blossoms I am sick with wine, And always the sight of my face growing haggard in the mirror. On the bank the grasses green, the willows by the river— Ask me why these worries come again, year by year by year? Alone I stand on a small bridge, the wind filling my sleeves, When all have gone, there is the still wood, the new moon.60

This deep and tenacious but implicit emotion was to become an important aesthetic criterion of the Chinese artistic tradition. While partly the legacy of the Confucian notion of “gentleness and sincerity,” this type of emotion both breaks out of that mold and enlarges it. In this sense, it can be said to have its origins in the Wei-Jin period.

Imaginary Reality In the previous chapter we saw that the ideal of the “free and easy” personality in practice resulted in the naturalization of humans and in the principle of the unconscious. Correspondingly, in the realm of aesthetics and culture,

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Qu Yuan’s reflection on mortality and the Wei-Jin combination of deep emotion and insight in practice result in the creation of an imaginary reality. In the process, the primitive Confucian poetic notions of fu, bi, and xing (roughly, exposition, metaphor, and imagistic association)61 are transformed to result in the creation of the artistic conception (yijing), a kind of imaginary situation. Confucius said, “Sacrifice as though present; sacrifice to the spirit as though the spirit were present.”↜62 And, “If I do not personally take part in the sacrifices, it is as though I had not sacrificed” (Analects 3.12). The requirement that one should personally be present at the sacrificial rites implies an imaginary element in the worship of the spirits. This is an emotional posture toward noumenal existence—a mystical feeling residing in the imagination—that transcends morality and is closely related to the notions of metaphor and imagistic association in art and literature. I have elsewhere considered the question of the function of metaphor and imagery in artistic creation as follows: Why must art and literature employ metaphor and imagistic association?â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹In my opinion, it is a question of objectifying the emotions. Consider the lines, “I love to sing the mountain songs, but my mouth is hard to open,” or, “I love to sing the mountain songs, but it is hard to lift my head.” Why “my mouth is hard to open,” and “it is hard to lift my head”? The expression of subjective emotions is not difficult; what is difficult is causing them to have an objective effect on others. The subjective expression of emotion has meaning only for the individual. It has no general, objective efficacy. Your anger cannot cause others to be angry as you are; your sorrow, likewise, cannot cause others to sorrow. Your anger and sorrow must somehow become contagious; they must take on a generalized objectivity.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹ This means that your subjective emotions must be objectified—they must literally become the object. Therefore, in order to express your emotions, you must first still them, you must allow them to steep, until you have found the objective form in which to convey them. This is what is known as “employing things to arouse associations with words” (tuo wu xing ci), or in other words, metaphor (bi) and imagistic association (xing). This is the rationale behind the practice, whether in the Book of Songs or in contemporary popular songs, of making the first few lines describe a quite unrelated image.63

While this explanation is correct in theory, historically it was not quite so simple, for metaphor (bi) and imagistic association (xing) themselves have undergone a process of transformation and development. When the ancient

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Chinese tradition centering around yue (meaning both “music” and “joy”) entered the realm of “poetry giving expression to the intent,” although its emotional core was not lost, the emotion in question remained a sort of universal emotional form. Furthermore, in the beginning these emotional forms catered to the need of the sacrificial system for a communal emotional response, and therefore would have had a religiousâ•›/â•›historical character specific to the clan or tribe. Therefore, the seemingly “unrelated images” that started a piece—for example, a poem in the Book of Songs that begins with the image of a plant or animal, like “Guan guan cry the ospreys,” or “The swallows fly”—in the beginning probably all had historical origins in clan tradition. They were not simply natural images that served the purpose of a particular poet. This is especially true of the highly standardized and circumscribed techniques of metaphor (bi) and imagistic association (xing). Scholars have already demonstrated that the more common opening images in ancient Chinese poetry—birds, fish, plants, and so on—each had a unique mythological, magical, or religious historical basis unique to a particular tribe or clan. Birds, for example, were related to ancestor worship, fish to prayers for fertility, trees to the worship of the imperial clans of the gods of land and grain (i.e., to the tribal states). From the very beginning, then, to make a bird, fish, or tree the object of description was fraught with very solemn traditional meaning. It was quite different from today’s practice of adopting the image of a fish or bird for a metaphor, nor was it much like the later creative technique known as the “fusion of feeling and scene” (qing jing jiao rong). “Imagistic association has its origins in the first uses of objects for inspiration. These were not motivated by aesthetic or pragmatic considerations, however, but by religious ones.”↜64 In other words, the bird, fish, or plant that served as an opening image was originally a magical, mythic, or religious idea that would have borne an ineffable mystical meaning for the clan or tribe. In the imagination and emotions of the tribe’s members, it would have held a weighty noumenal significance, not unlike the music and words of the sacrificial rites. However, just as the images on the pottery of the New Stone Age gradually evolved from the realistic to the abstract in a process of sedimentation from content to form, a process by which beauty became “meaningful form”; and just as “meaningful form,” in turn, gradually became form devoid of meaning, a generalized, formal beauty, so these opening images also gradually lost their original magical-religious significance and were transformed into the sort of generalized, universalized form of objectified emotion that we associate today with the practice of using a natural object to begin a poem. “With the passage of history, the primitive images gradually lost their ideological content and became abstract forms.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹These forms were continuously imitated and

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referred to, so that they eventually became regularized and independent artistic forms,”↜65 namely, the artistic forms of bi and xing (metaphor and imagistic association). Just as in the plastic arts, “content is translated into form, and the imaginary and conceptual into feeling, through a process of sedimentation,”↜66 so here, what began as a specific form of expressing the thoughts and feelings of a particular group (tribe, clan, etc.), gradually sedimented and was transformed and broadened to become the generalized, universalized feelings and imaginary patterns of objectified emotion. The bird, fish, or plant lost its once somber ideological content to become a highly generalized natural image that could be experienced and imagined by people. When I read a line like “the swallows fly” today, I receive no impression other than that of a pair of graceful swallows. No longer are any mystical or sacred sentiments or concepts involved. On the one hand, there has been a change in the imagination or the emotions themselves, so that what was once the mystical imagination and emotions of magical-religious concepts has been replaced by or broadened to encompass a relatively free-flowing imagination and the everyday emotions that arise in the face of a natural scene. On the other hand, the artistic forms of metaphor and imagistic association have become fixed and transformed from somber expressive forms with direct and concrete mystical content into ordinary artistic forms that can be freely and widely adopted for the expression of emotion through objects. That is to say, the objectified natural scene can now freely serve as object or medium for the expression of everyday emotions. These two changes—in the imagination and emotions on the one hand, and in the artistic form on the other—proceeded hand in hand. Art remained the child of the imagination and continued to serve as a kind of emotional logic; it is simply that the “child” and the “logic” underwent profound changes as they moved firmly into the human realm. However, it was still necessary for another process to take place in order for landscapes, flowers, animals, and plants to truly serve as expressions of the emotions and objects of the imagination. Just as landscape poetry and painting arose quite late as independent aesthetic pursuits, so did the free use of true metaphor and imagery. In order to become the means of emotional expression, natural images, once freed from their magical-religious content, first had to pass through the stage known as moral analogy (bi de). This occurred during the sociopolitical and philosophical Pre-Qin period. A few examples of Confucius’ use of landscape metaphors are illustrative here: Confucius said, “The wise person takes pleasure in rivers, the humane person in mountains; the wise person acts, the humane person is still; the wise person has pleasure, the humane person has long life.” (Analects 6.23)

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To govern by virtue is to be like the North Star; it remains where it is, and all the stars rotate around it. (Analects 2.1)

Another example is the Confucian argument that “adornment should follow plainness,” in which Confucius uses the example of feminine adornment to speak about the role of ritual.67 When Mencius argues for “tracing back to the intent from the meaning” (Mencius 5A.4) in understanding the Book of Songs, he is arguing for a similar practice of reading. Moral analogy makes use of elements of the natural world and is a reflection of the experiencing of the natural world, but at the same time it is subordinate to the rational knowledge of society and human affairs, and thus still falls squarely within the tradition of rites and music and Confucian humanism. From the above quotations it is evident that, although mountains, rivers, and stars by this point no longer have any magical-religious content, they still carry certain ethical or moral implications. Already before the time of Confucius we find the use of mountains and rivers as analogies for humaneness and wisdom. This practice became even more common after Confucius’ time. Xunzi (d. ca. 312 B.C.), for example, compares water to virtue, righteousness, the Way, courage, intent, and so on. All these examples employ analogical thought to emotionalize or experientialize ethical or moral categories and norms. In this type of analogy, the correspondence in the emotions between the natural phenomenon and ethical character should, as much as possible, be effected using fixed, rational knowledge. For example, mountains are used to suggest stability, reliability, greatness of achievement, strength of character, and so on. Water suggests vivacity, happiness, the infinite capacity for wisdom, free-flowing emotions, and so on. In each case, what is clearly known by reason is used to establish or call forth an emotional homology. Emotions are constructed and shaped, in other words, through the mediation of reason. This Pre-Qin type of moral analogy prevailed for many years, and so this concrete means of structuring reason and the emotions also became a kind of tradition. For example, as late as the beginning of the Qing dynasty, in the writings of the painter Shitao (1641–ca. 1710), we still find mountains compared with ethical-moral categories like ritual propriety, harmony, and solemnity.68 Today, the fact that the plum, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum (the socalled four gentlemen) are still used to stand for lofty character and a serious demeanor (because they are upright, hardy, do not wither, and so on), shows that Chinese intellectuals and artists continue to make use of this artistic form in their emotional symbolism.

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Let us take another example. The Han dynasty dictionary, the Shuo wen jie zi, explains that jade has five “virtues”: humaneness, righteousness, wisdom, courage, and purity.69 “Jade” is still today used in girls’ names all over China, presumably because of these virtuous associations. In ancient times, jade was used for ceremonial vessels, and in medieval times (the third through the ninth centuries), it was the material for royal tablets and for belt or girdle ornaments that served either sacred or auspicious purposes, based on analogies with sincerity, purity, and other moral qualities suggested by its natural quality, tactile impression, and color. Such analogies involved a combination of natural sense perceptions and ethical feelings. A similar phenomenon is evident in conventions of Peking Opera, where face color is used to suggest a person’s moral character, black, white, red, blue, yellow, and green standing for strong, evil, loyal, fierce, courageous, and cruel characters, respectively. In all of these examples, various natural forms and their characteristics are used to evoke ethical emotions by way of rational and conceptual knowledge, so that they can be experienced aesthetically or as objects of expression. Clearly, the physiological responses associated with objective natural characteristics can take on social meaning. In China, this occurred gradually over the course of history, after first passing through a magical-religious phase (when xing, or imagistic association, arose), then through an ethical-rational phase (in the practice of moral analogy). Artistic creation and appreciation, and the construction and realization of aesthetic sentiments, are first and foremost the result of the objectification of the primitive mystical intentions, feelings, and concepts of the group (tribe or clan) through the adoption of natural objects for metaphor and imagery. Subsequently, the moral and ethical character of the human personality also undergoes a similar objectification through the practice of moral analogy. This is the historical process whereby, in China, social concepts and ideologies intersected and converged with physiological sense experience. The practices of metaphor, imagistic association, and moral analogy are fundamental means of shaping the human emotional psyche in Chinese aesthetics, and as we have seen, each bears the clear legacy of Confucianism and the rites and music tradition. The practice of moral analogy, like so much in the Chinese artistic tradition, began in music and then made its way into the other arts, including literature, where from the start it was closely allied with metaphor and imagistic association. Ancient shamanism, mythology, and religion had undergone a moralizing and ethicizing process under Confucianism; similarly, theorizing surrounding the musical element of the rites and music tradition was dominated by moral analogy. This demonstrates how vestiges of the magical-religious aspect of the rites and music tradition were able to persist after the transition to ethical

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Confucianism. The “Record of Music” includes numerous examples of moral analogy, such as “clarity and brightness like heaven, greatness and breadth like the earth, fluctuation and revolution like the four seasons,”↜70 and so forth. In many cases, these analogies were stretched to the point of absurdity, as can be seen in numerous examples from the Zuo zhuan, the Analects, and Xunzi, all of which are cut from the same cloth. The next stage was the construction of Five Phases cosmology, from the Book of Changes to Dong Zhongshu, as discussed in Chapter 2. By the Han dynasty, the practice of moral analogy had taken the form of “veiled irony” in the literary-theoretical practice of Han Confucian critics of the Book of Songs, also discussed in that chapter. This was a practice of ethical-political explication and commentary that was utterly far-fetched and ridiculous, so much so that even the staunch Song dynasty neo-Confucian Zhu Xi could not stomach such readings. It was only after a long process of historical development that this political way of reading literature gradually gave way to true aesthetic reading. Qu Yuan was an important factor in this transition. As I said at the beginning of this chapter, Qu Yuan was shaped by Confucian teachings. One way in which this is evident in his work is in his prolific use of moral analogy. As Han dynasty commentator Wang Yi (fl. 89–258) pointed out in his commentary on the Songs of Chu, “Beneficial birds and aromatic herbs stand for loyalty and purity, birds of evil omen and foul creatures for fawning and calumny; the Fair One stands for the ruler, immortal beauties and heroic maidens for sagely ministers; dragons and phoenixes refer to the gentleman, wind and clouds to the petty man.”↜71 The “Ode to the Orange” in the “Nine Declarations” is a famous example of moral analogy. Its description of the orange is a eulogy to Qu Yuan’s own moral character: “It accepts its fate without being moved,â•›/â•›Born in the south country—ah!â•›/â•›Deep-rooted and hard to transplant,â•›/â•›Its purpose is single—ah!” (5.3/2–6.1/3); “Wielding virtue, without selfishness,â•›/â•›It is in partnership with heaven and earth—ah!” (7.3/8). Both of these show that Qu Yuan had been deeply influenced by Confucian poetics, for not only did he employ moral analogy, he also greatly expanded its scope to include all manner of natural elements and scenes, beautiful ladies, fragrant herbs, dragons, phoenixes, clouds, rainbows, people, birds, animals, plants, and so on. But it is worth taking care to point out the ways in which Qu Yuan’s “Ode to the Orange” breaks free from the poetics of moral analogy. Among other things, what Qu Yuan tries to get across in his use of natural objects as moral symbols is not simply abstract moral concepts (like humaneness and wisdom), nor theoretical postulates (like “adornment should follow plainness” [Analects 3.8]), but rather emotion itself, an emotion that is at once charged with political

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and ethical content, while at the same time not confined to it. That is to say, in Qu Yuan, the medium for expressing conceptual thought is no longer purely moral concepts or ethical categories, but has also incorporated the emotions and how they are experienced and imagined. This causes a softening of moral and rational concepts, making them more polysemous and less clear-cut. For what we have in Qu Yuan is neither the mystical and communal emotion of ancient magical religion, nor the moral and ethical preaching of Confucian poetics. Qu Yuan’s use of fragrant herbs and natural landscapes is still moralistic in character; but it has become an emotional symbolic that is to some degree uncertain and polysemous, and in this sense it is truly symbolic form. An important element of Kantian aesthetics is the proposition that beauty is a symbol of morality. In China, Qu Yuan can be said to be the earliest and fullest embodiment of this notion. Both Kant and Goethe have pointed out the analogous relationship between color and morality; actually, this is Chinese moral analogy, through and through. However, the symbolic images in Qu Yuan’s works, represented by the figure of the “beautiful lady adorned with fragrant herbs,” can no longer be characterized as purely conceptual moral analogy, nor are they just the universal emotions aroused by abstract analogical thinking. Rather, they are an emotional creation characterized by integrity and purity of intention, embodied in and called forth by the symbols themselves. It would be worth considering how exactly these three factors—conceptual knowledge, moral-ethical emotions, and the imagination and experience called forth by natural objects—interweave, evolve, and transform. But this would take us into the realm of the psychology of art, and as such the careful consideration of this question is beyond the scope of this book. Crudely speaking, we can descry three stages that correspond to this movement—from mystical primitive imagining of natural objects, characterized by awe in the face of the spiritual (primitive bi, “metaphor,” and xing, “imagistic association”); to the intermediary stage that starts with clear conceptual knowledge and uses natural analogies to ethical and moral character to elicit connections with the emotions (moral analogy); and, finally, to the point where the imagining of natural objects gradually wins out and can directly and freely associate with all kinds of emotions and experiences. These stages may be said to constitute three stages in the history of the process of development of the artistic, literary, and aesthetic psyche. At each of these stages, the conspicuous role of the imagination (whether the mystical, indistinct imagination of primitive metaphor, the conceptual imagination of moral analogy, or the truly personal emotional imagination) is extremely important to the formation of the rational structure of aesthetics. Imagination here is not a purely psychological matter, for over the course of

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history it has already become a kind of humanistic matrix that is sedimented in tradition and manifests itself in the arts. For philosophers, it is of interest for its crucial role in the formation of the rational structure of the psychological noumenon. In a previous work72 I emphasized that the Confucian worldview is characterized fundamentally by its penetration with emotion. When the ancients said, “Daily renewal is called its abundant virtue” and “ceaseless begetting is called the changes,” these were both ethical-moral and aesthetic-emotional statements. Confucian philosophy regarded nature, the earth, and the entire universe as vital, relational, and emotional. This amounted to a huge imaginative enterprise, even if this imagination had to pass through the fantastic stage of primitive magical religion and the conceptual stage of moral analogy before being freed from the fetters of conceptual knowledge to arrive at the emotional stage. This last stage corresponds to the nonconceptual pleasure Kant speaks of in his aesthetics. Qu Yuan is an important representative of the transition from the second to the third stages. (As for whether such images from the Book of Songs as “Fresh and green the willow trees” [Mao no. 167] and “Thick, thick grow the rushes” [Mao no. 129] constitute the later notion of a yijing, an artistic conception in which emotion and scene are united, I would say not necessarily; such a view results from the readings of later generations. In their own time, these images had their own socially and ritually determined meanings. In this sense, the Han literary critics were historically justified.) However, the practice of moral analogy stubbornly persisted, both in artistic creation and in real life. As late as the Qing dynasty, in his comments on ci poetry, Zhang Huiyan (1761–1802) still read these early poetic images using a political exegesis. Political readings continued to win out over aesthetic readings. As an example, let us look at Ouyang Xiu’s famous short lyric: Deep in the walled garden, deep—how deep? Mist stacks on willows, Uncountable layers of screens and blinds. The jade bridle and ornate saddle are in the brothel district— Though the tower is tall, one can’t see Zhangtai road. A driving rain, a mad wind, late in the third month. A door keeps out the twilight, But there’s no way to keep spring from going. With tear-filled eyes I ask the blossoms, but the blossoms do not answer— In a swirl of red they fly into the swings.73

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Zhang Huiyan reads this poem as follows: “Deep in the walled garden,” means that the women’s quarters are far off and remote. “The tower is tall, one can’t see” means that the emperor continues to take no notice. “Zhangtai” and “the brothel district” refer to the dandy’s behavior. “A driving rain, a mad wind” refer to the violence and cruelty of the ruler; “a swirl of red they fly” means that there were a number of good ministers who were persecuted. Most likely it is written for Han Qi and Fan Chunren, both chancellors.74

This type of reading falls within the tradition of “adornment should follow plainness,” Qu Yuan’s “beautiful lady and fragrant herbs,” and Han Confucian “veiled irony.” This is the only type of “imagination” the Confucian literary tradition has to offer. Even in the modern period, Zhou Zuoren’s reading of his brother Lu Xun’s story, “Regret for the Past,” still takes this type of approach, although not in a political fashion. Zhou believes that Lu Xun’s story uses malefemale romance as a metaphor for love between brothers: “↜‘Regret for the Past’ is not an ordinary love story, but it uses the death of the lover to mourn the loss of affection between brothers. Some may take this view as evidence that I am a blunderer, but Iâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹believe it cannot be far off.”↜75 Zhang Huiyan and Zhou Zuoren’s views may not be persuasive, but they do show that this type of reading—this type of psychological formation involving imagination, knowledge, and the emotions—is a time-worn traditional mode of expression and reception. Even in today’s written Chinese, whether literary works or personal correspondence, vestiges of this practice are apparent in our frequent use of weather analogies to refer to political vicissitudes and to express emotions, exchange experiences, or pass on information. However, even if this is so, the fact is that, beginning in the Wei-Jin period, the moral analogy-like form of structuring the relationship between imagination, knowledge, and emotion actually did not play a very important role. What did play an increasingly important role was the combination of nonconceptual insight (or knowledge) with emotion and the imagination. The reason Wei-Jin thinkers and writers could be so completely liberated from the moral analogy of Han dynasty classical exegetes was precisely because of what we discussed in the previous section, viz., the parallel drawn during this period between deep emotion and insight in human experience and noumenal inquiry. This parallel ensured that emotional understanding would be emphasized in place of the verbal transmission of conceptual ideas, and that the emotions would gradually come to play a key role in human wisdom and the apprehension of the universe. This combination of intuitive appreciation with reason and deep emotion

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caused greater and different types of interpenetration to develop within the rational construction, which in turn led the imagination gradually to free itself from the fetters of conceptual thought and gave it a freer realm in which to operate. It was through its incorporation of the Qu Yuan tradition, and only after going through the Wei-Jin period, that Chinese aesthetics, so dominated by Confucianism, was able to make progress along the path of human culture. Originally, in the conception in which natural objects and human moral qualities were placed in metaphorical relation in order to establish a certain emotional resonance, beauty was a moral symbol, not a mystical or spiritual one. Natural objects were symbolic representations of morality and character, rather than evidence of mystical power or the miraculous power of the divine. The orientation of such aesthetic thought is obviously this-worldly, toward social relationships rather than the spirit, mysticism, or the supernatural and supersocial terrifying abyss of infinitude common to so many religious symbol systems (such as the revolving wheel of Shiva and Brahma in Indian religions). Confucian philosophy makes the infinite finite and seeks to apprehend and experience the infinite within finitude. It attempts to use concrete, realworld symbols for emotion in order to understand and grasp the infinite noumenon. As demonstrated above, this noumenon itself is the ideal of personal sentiment. As I discussed in Chapter 2, Confucian thought in this sense also universalizes and naturalizes human life. The imagination functions as a bridge in this process. In the Shishuo xinyu, comparisons between nature and humans are so numerous as to completely break out of the narrow framework of moral analogy, putting forward an imagined emotional reality in which nature is basically identical to the human (the human personality, human life, human demeanor, human existence): The people of the time saw Wang Xizhi as ethereal as a floating cloud, and powerful as a frightened dragon. (14.30/476) Someone sighed at Lord Wang’s exuberant appearance, saying he was, “bright and brilliant as a willow in spring.” (14.39/479) Lord Wang saw the Defender-in-Chief as “steep as a sheer cliff, a wall ten thousand feet high.” (8.37/333)

These comparisons are quite different from the ethically focused practice of moral analogy, although they may still bear its vestiges. Rather, they evince the direct relationship, whether experienced or imagined, between the natural

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object and the style or features of a particular personality. In this imagined relationship, positive emotions of admiration and approval are expressed without the mediation of abstract ethical ideas, resulting in a certain polysemous indeterminacy. Formally speaking, the relationship here between humans and symbolic natural objects is one of direct correspondence, again in no way mediated by conceptual knowledge. From the point of view of content, these natural symbols also do not require the mediation or governance of a third party that transcends humans (the divine). For these reasons, the rational structure these signs and symbols provide and shape remains firmly situated within interpersonal feelings and this-worldly sorrow and has little to do with superhuman concepts or supernatural emotion. These changes in the form of the imagination and these advances in its content are mutually conducive. Mystical settings and terrifying spaces (such as those in Han wall murals and in the “four directions” of “Summoning the Soul,” one of the Songs of Chu) gradually give way to human history and a time frame defined by deep emotion. We saw in Qu Yuan how what was destroyed could live on—how even the spirit that chooses death still leaves a good legacy of existence to the spirits that live on. Similarly, beginning in the Wei-Jin period, many spatial images (natural objects) become infused with a humanistic nostalgia and with deep temporal emotions. This is a very important point. Even if, because of this, the feeling and imagination of Chinese arts and literature might be confined forever to a closed, harmonious system of space and time, it was also for this reason that natural images lost the alienating, mystifying, or terrifying character with which they could be endowed and were able in their later development to gradually blend with a variety of human emotions in order, in the end, to result in the creation of one of the fundamental categories of Chinese art: the artistic conception, or yijing. It is impossible to consider the artistic conception apart from the notion of the fusion of feeling and scene (qing jing jiao rong). The fusion of feeling and scene is actually what is referred to in the West as the phenomenon of “empathy.” There are many types of empathy. There is “comprehensive empathy,” which gives vitality to form, as in the kind of formal homology discussed in the previous chapter (for example, the motion or stillness of the line, or likening the unfolding of the orchid to joy, the straightness and hardness of bamboo to anger, and so on).76 There is so-called empirical empathy, or atmospheric empathy (as when color expresses character, or music expresses strength, and so on), and many other types as well. In general, empathy can be said to consist of the melding of the appreciating (or creating) self with the appreciated (or created) object. The appearance or action of the object calls forth my mental and emotional activity, which is subsequently dissolved in the full concentration of

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my faculties in the process of appreciation or creation, so that it is eventually replaced by the features and actions of the object, resulting in the unity of my own subjective emotions with the objective form. This is the fusion of feeling and scene, the unity of self and object, which is so sought after in Chinese art and literature. From the point of view of imaginative form, once empathy (or the fusion of feeling and scene) is attained, there is no need whatsoever for conceptual signs or symbols, nor for the mediation of any kind of ideology. This is the “imagistic thought” of which Liu Xie wrote: “The spirit uses images to communicate, and thus is conceived the transformation of emotion; things are sought based on the appearance, while the mind responds with reason.”↜77 “Reason” here no longer refers to the moral sense, nor can it be known conceptually. Rather, it is, to translate literally, “pregnant” with the transformation of the emotions. In other words, beauty is no longer a purely moral notion, but a fusion of feeling and scene. It is no longer a rational construction made up of conceptual symbols for personal character, but rather one that cannot be articulated through conceptual symbols and that appeals directly to the emotions themselves, giving free rein to the imagination. This type of imagery is no longer confined to a few easily recognizable symbols such as the pine, plum, bamboo, chrysanthemum, tiger, fly, and so on. Instead, all that the ear hears and the eye sees is available to become the emotional form of the imagination’s free play. In the practice of moral analogy, the emotions had to pass through the mediation of conceptual thought; but in the artistic conception (yijing), in the fusion of feeling and scene, there is no need for a conceptual medium between emotion and object. In the rational construction produced by moral analogy, ethical and rational elements are more pronounced. In that produced by the yijing, however, reason dissolves completely into the emotions and imagination, and loses its independent character to become a sort of unconscious or nonconscious player. If we return here to the notion of imagistic association (xing) discussed at the beginning of this section, and if we use this notion as a principle through which to examine the several-thousand-year history of Chinese poetics, it becomes clear that what is known as bi (metaphor) is but a vestige of moral analogy that, like that practice, uses conceptual thought as a medium in the homology of the emotions and free objects. What is known as xing, on the other hand, was able easily to evolve into the direct relation of the emotions and nature. This is why among later critics we find such remarks as, “bi is apparent, xing is hidden”;78 “if the words have finished but the meaning lingers, that is xing”;79 “metaphorical meaning, although it is precise, is shallow, while imagistic meaning, although broad, has a lasting flavor”;80 and, “As for imagistic association, what one sees is one thing, what is meant is another; it cannot be pinpointed by analogy, nor

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thought out by reason.”↜81 Even though xing is not technically the equivalent of empathy or the artistic conception, it is a movement in the direction of empathy. And although metaphor and imagery have usually been referred to by a compound (bixing), in the practice of artistic creation, the incidence of xing outnumbers that of bi, and this becomes even more the case as time goes on. By the Wei-Jin period, the notion of “relying on emotion to arouse inspiration” had become common practice in artistic creation, while the Han practice of explicating the Songs along the lines of “the consort’s virtue” was a thing of the past. By the Tang dynasty, the use of xing to create an artistic conception in which feeling and scene were fused had become a fully mature practice and been incorporated into the poet’s unconscious psyche. Xu Fuguan explains this as follows in his discussion of the poem, “Cong jun xing” by Wang Changling (?–756): “The pipa begins to dance, then changes its tune,â•›/â•›Always here on the Pass, feelings of separation.â•›/â•›Swirling border worries, one never hears their end,â•›/â•›High, high the autumn moon shining on the Great Wall.” In the above poem, if we say that the high autumn moon shining on the Great Wall is unconnected with “border worries,”↜82 then why, reading this, should people be moved to such a boundless sense of loneliness and desolation? For the poet has taken the border worries that are his subject and effortlessly infused them with an infinite profundity. On the other hand, if we say that the moon scene is connected with the border worries, in what way exactly is it connected? And what exactly is the poet trying to convey through making such a connection? These questions are difficult to get a handle on. It is only after the emotion, the atmosphere, and the mood have undergone a certain purification that the objective scene of the moon shining on the Great Wall is allowed to intersect with the subjective idea of border worries. In this way, by making all of reality become the border worries, the border worries are also allowed to become a natural scene, of which the boundless autumn moon shining on the desolation of the Great Wall is the anchor. It is a hazy intersection, in which it is difficult to discern the boundaries. This is why we speak of the unity of subject and object. It is through the objective, finite Great Wall that the infinite emotions of border separation are given full play. As for why the moon shining on the Great Wall should have come to the poet’s mind here, this can only be said to be a casual coincidence. His inner emotion somehow, without his knowledge or awareness, moors itself to this objective image, in a way that could not have been accomplished by deliberate effort. This is what is called an “inspired stroke.” This poem follows the form of the standard quatrain, and is also one of its most highly

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developed examples.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Xing, or imagery, is a crucial poetic element that has taken poetry from the simplest and most primitive content and form all the way to its peak [here in the Tang]. If imagery were to be blotted out from our poetry, one might as well blot out poetry itself. Without it, we would only be able to appreciate the poems of the ancients at the level of rationality.83

From its magical-religious origins to moral analogy and finally to the artistic conception, the development of xing could also be said to follow a trajectory from the level of communal consciousness (at its origins) to the level of individual consciousness (in moral analogy) and finally to the level of the individual unconscious (in the inspired stroke). The psychological order or rational structure displayed at this level of the individual unconscious is itself the result of historical sedimentation and accumulation over the course of a long tradition. This demonstrates that in the process of molding and establishing human nature, the various elements of Chinese aesthetics—its reason, emotion, imagination, and insight—combine to effect the advancement of the national psyche and to form its fundamental characteristics. One of these fundamental characteristics is that, psychologically, Chinese art emphasizes imaginary reality over and above sensory reality. In Chinese literature, whether poetry, fiction, or prose, the complex and explicit description of thought or emotion is quite rare. Even in poetry, in which there is the greatest amount of natural description, the incidence of abstract references to the wind, moon, flowers, trees, mountains, water, birds, and so on is much greater. In other words, little care is given to specify which tree, flower, or bird, or how strong a wind, what stage of moon, what kind of mountain is in question. That is to say, description in Chinese literature is not very concrete. Later poetry lacks even the great number of names of plants and animals that we find in the Book of Songs and Songs of Chu, to say nothing of the great incidence of such details in Western poetry. In traditional Chinese painting, there are no shadows or shading, and no indication of concrete time or space, so that “we cannot tell whether the spots on the mountain in the distance are pine or cypress.”↜84 In drama this is even more clearly the case. The stage settings are completely invented and the actors’ movements affected. Modern Western theater, perhaps best represented by Stanislavsky, requires that the stage be like a room without walls, and that acting be true to real life. Chinese drama could not be more different. For example, in the play San tang hui shen, when Yu Tangchun receives her sentence, she kneels facing the audience to make her case, a most unrealistic scenario. But audiences have no problem with this. In Peking opera,

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actions such as opening or closing the door or going up or down stairs are indicated by conventional motions, and have no need of realistic props or sets. These characteristics arise from the lack of concern for sensory reality in favor of an imaginary reality, in which there are stairs and doors exactly where the actors’ hands, feet, and posture suggest they should be. The actors’ motions and postures are also generalized, even stylized, rather than concrete and realistic. The same principle is at work here as in Chinese poetry and painting, in which the aspect of natural objects (their type, form, color, or size) is not clearly or concretely laid out, but in which they nonetheless possess an imaginary reality. All these aspects are added as the imaginations of the creator and the audience are brought to bear, an activity that relies on experience of the contemporary world. These imagined details thus are still taken from living reality and relatively rarely call forth purely fictional associations. The type of emotion that is evoked by the imagination is also squarely anchored in real, this-worldly feelings and seldom involves any transcendent or mystical sentiments. In this sense, even though imaginary reality is divorced from concrete sensory perception, it incorporates the experiences of real life and the feelings associated with everyday social life. It is said that “feeling should lead, scene should follow”; precisely because the imagination is under the tutelage of the emotions, the specific aspects it reads into the scene will vary with changes in time and place, and according to the individual reader or viewer. This is how the nonspecific wind, flower, snow, or moon can be colored by concrete individual experience and explains why Chinese art can be so inclusive, so variable, and so universal. Let us take an example from Li Yu (937–978): “I ask you, how much resentment can there be?â•›/â•›Just as much as a river full of spring waters flowing east.”↜85 These famous closing lines from his song lyric to the tune “Yu meiren” create a sort of imaginary reality. Although they use a quite generalized set of emotional symbols, for a great variety of individuals in different time periods and social situations they have been applied to a huge number of concrete situations and experiences. Over the centuries, both the creators of literature and art and their audiences have applied their imaginations to a hazy and nonspecific external world of scenes and images. Imaginary reality gives Chinese art and literature the ability to move freely across time and space, cause and effect, objects and phenomena, and through fiction to expand or contract, add to or even change the original aspect of all these things. In this way, time and space, cause and effect, and so on, are freed even more from common logic, so that the fortuitous nature of the thinker’s newly revealed emotion becomes more pronounced. This is the basis of the common remark that the space-time framework of Chinese art is a rationalized space-time framework.

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Because of this emphasis on imaginary reality, Chinese art requires that comprehension, cognition, and perception be dissolved and incorporated into the imagination. This is the basis of such guiding principles as understatement (“touch on it, then stop” [dian dao wei zhi]), concision (“ink saved is like gold” [xi mo ru jin]), and the preference for the implicit over the explicit. This is also what is behind such proverbial statements as “overcoming the many with the few” [yi shao sheng duo] and “making blank space serve as if figured” [ji bai dang hei]. Any object or natural image can only serve as the suggestion from which the imagination takes off. On the other hand, this emphasis on imaginary reality also means that the free homologization of the senses and the direct expression of the emotions always play a secondary role. Chinese art strives for the “subtlety [that] lies between likeness and unlikeness.”↜86 There is still the aspect of “likeness” (reality) that prevents utter abstraction or the totally free association of the senses. Even in calligraphic arts, the Chinese never approach the degree of freedom encountered in Western modernism. Apart from the difference in the expressed emotions themselves, the creative psyche of the tradition of imaginary reality also plays an important constraining role. The fact that imaginary reality is emphasized over sensory reality does not mean that the element of rational cognition is overlooked. On the contrary, it is precisely because comprehension (or cognition) plays a fundamental hidden role that fiction can be believable and suggestion can seem real. It is because of its basis in cognition that the imagination can be so free from reliance on perception. At the same time, cognition does not need to be directly expressed, and even often seems totally invisible, because the rational-cognitive element has been completely incorporated into the imagination. In such a rationalemotional construction, imaginary reality replaces inference and perception, so that not only is cognitive subjective consciousness not in evidence, but neither are any traces of cognition or symbolic thought, signs, similes, or metaphors. Furthermore, even the subjective emotions have been so completely incorporated into the objective scene as to be virtually invisible. They are manifest in what seems to be a purely objective visual scene. This is why in Chinese poetry and painting criticism we find numerous statements like, “ten thousand emotions captured in the scene,” “the fusion of feeling and scene,” “a poem in the painting,” “a painting in the poem,” and “a scene devoid of self.” The Chinese piece of art or poem does not purposely set out to say something or describe something but, instead, “when the emotions meet the scene, the right words come of their own accord; if one makes a deliberate effort to describe a scene in words, nothing will result.”↜87 Chinese poems are more like the frames of a movie or montage; they are both highly objective (they may use purely visual

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presentation) and highly subjective (the presentation and organization is completely governed by an emotional point of view). In the end, this type of imaginary reality is created by the power of the emotions. Six Dynasties aesthetician Lu Ji said that “The writer examines the void and demands being;â•›/â•›He taps on silence, seeking sound.”↜88 If one wants to rely on imaginary reality to produce music or images out of nothingness or silence—if one wants to truly achieve “poetic feeling and painted meaning”— then Zhuangzi’s view of pure consciousness and creativity as “emptying the self in order to respond to things” is inadequate, for what is required is saturation with emotion. It is through deep emotion that imaginary reality can produce both “scenes full of self ” (characterized by “beholding things through the self ”) and “scenes devoid of self ” (characterized by “beholding things through things”), and thus no longer rely on cognitive description or conceptual analogy. In this way it is able to completely break out of the old cage of Confucian bixing (metaphor and imagery) and enter the vast field of the creation of the “artistic conception” (yijing). It was in the Wei-Jin period that fenggu (vigor) became an important category and criterion for artistic criticism.89 The word is a combination of the character feng, literally “wind,” which suggests flowing emotions, as in the line “The wind on the grass cannot but bend it” (Analects 12.19), and gu, literally “bones,” which, as discussed in the previous chapter, has to do with strength and vital force. What is important to note about the compound fenggu, then, is the role of the emotions. For feng is actually an amalgamation of Confucian qi (pneuma or breath), Zhuangzi’s Dao (Way), and Qu Yuan’s qing (emotion). Of these, Qu Yuan’s emotion is the most important and forms the fundamental character of feng. Lu Xun said that the “Nineteen Old Poems of the Han” “is in some ways similar to the Songs of Chu and Encountering Sorrow, although in form they are actually quite unique. They are truly amazing in their honest sincerity, in how they lodge deep sorrow in tranquility. The shallower their surface meaning, the more profound the implication; the more common their diction, the more far-reaching their effect.”↜90 In these poems, which are not far removed from the Wei-Jin in time, the depictions of natural imagery and human affairs are much more ordinary, generalized, and vague than in Encountering Sorrow or the Han rhapsodies. But the aesthetic experience they arouse in readers is exceedingly rich and enduring. Lu Xun’s words about their meaning and diction could not be more true; the sentiments of ordinary people are here lodged in generalized scenes that are not at all concrete and nowhere near realistic. But by way of their imaginary reality, two thousand years later they continue to move readers. Actually, it is precisely because they have cast off the certainty of conceptual

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thought and sensory reality that they achieve immortality and become a homologue of the psychological noumenon. What art represents, and what so moves people, is this emotional psychological subjectivity that humankind has continuously accumulated through the course of history. This is true “immortality.” A Chinese person need only live for one day to be able to taste and savor this immortal life, which is none other than our own (corporate) historical self. In the previous chapter we saw how Zhuangzi and the Daoists broadened the Confucian notion of the “humanization of nature” and the “unity of heaven and humans” by way of the “naturalization of humans” and the principle of the unconscious. Correspondingly, we can say that Qu Yuan and the Wei-Jin metaphysicals extended and advanced Confucian ethical emotion and the practice of moral analogy through the noumenal experience of the unity of the deep emotions with wisdom, and through imaginary reality. The “naturalization of humans” was confined to the sensory and formal levels, while the unity of the deep emotions with wisdom occurred on the level of feeling and content. By assimilating and incorporating Zhuangzi and Qu Yuan, Confucian-based Chinese aesthetics greatly enriches itself both internally and externally, so that its appearance is vastly changed, even if it has not lost its original spirit. This will become even more apparent in the next chapter’s discussion of the reception of Buddhism.

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C h a pt e r 5

Metaphysical Pursuits

Suddenly I turn my head, And now there she is In the waning light. â•… —Xin Qiji (1140–1207)

Eternity and Subtle Awakening The arrival of Buddhism in China was an event of tremendous significance for the history of Chinese culture. How to receive the new religion became a crucial ideological question that would occupy the Confucian-centered Chinese cultural tradition for hundreds of years and evoke a brilliant array of responses. In every field, from literature and art to faith and philosophy, the question arose as to whether to reject or assimilate, convert to or adapt the new system—whether to use Buddhism to explicate Zhuangzi, whether to set Confucianism and Buddhism in opposition, and so on. In addition to heated theorizing about political and economic implications, one of the most critical areas was the debate over the proper object of human aspirations. The result of all this would be another large step forward for the stream of the Confucian tradition that had already absorbed the influences of Zhuangzi, Qu Yuan, and Wei-Jin metaphysics. This is particularly the case concerning the history of aesthetics. All the main sects of Buddhism were represented in its early years in China, but over the next several hundred years, apart from the continued strong influence of the Pure Land sect among the lower classes, it would be China’s own Chan (Zen) school of sudden enlightenment that would exert the greatest influence on the social ideology as a whole. It is said that, in China, “all the famous mountains are occupied by monks.” Since Chan Buddhism also came to have the largest number of adherents overall, most of these remote scenic spots eventually came to be dominated by Chan monasteries and temples. But what is more important is how Chan was able to evolve gradually from a religion of the 160

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common people to a system of thought that captured the spirit of the intellectuals, and that took this spirit and transformed it, by way of an encounter with nature, into a deeper, more detached, and metaphysically significant quest. There is no question that the emergence of Chan Buddhism enhanced the metaphysical aspect of Chinese culture. It broke out of both the existing Confucian worldview, characterized by phrases such as “heaven proceeds vigorously” and “ceaseless begetting is called change,” and the existing Daoist worldview, with its exhortations to “wander free and easy,” “mounting the clouds and wind, and straddling the sun and moon.” For Buddhism, all of these leave too many footprints; for the true noumenon completely transcends the notions of organic development and wandering with immortals, as well as such binaries as motion and stillness, fullness and nothingness. For this reason, the arrival of Buddhism constituted an unprecedented assault on traditional philosophies, but not their total rejection. Chan does not deny the perceptual world or sensuous human existence, upheld by both traditional schools of thought. Nor does it deny the Confucian affirmation of everyday life in the real world. Where Confucians said, “the Way is found in everyday human relationships,” Chan teaches that, “In carrying water or splitting firewood, there is nothing less than the excellent Way.” Even though each school of thought has its own, quite distinct notion of the Dao, Confucians, Daoists, and Buddhists are relatively united in their assertion that the Dao can be followed, conveyed, or realized in the course of everyday sensuous existence. So while Chan Buddhism raises the transcendent aspects of Confucianism and Daoism to a new level of relevance, when it comes to its inherent practicality, it remains firmly within Chinese tradition. All things considered, Chan can be considered to carry on and renew the tradition. As a sect of Buddhism, Chan still advocates monasticism, and in this sense the eschewal of ordinary human relationships and secular life. However, the life, faith, and thought of Buddhist monks, including their poems on enlightenment, actually had little bearing on the intellectual class or their artistic creations. What was tremendously influential, on the other hand, was the theoretical, philosophical, and emotional pursuit of metaphysical transcendence carried out by Chan Buddhists. This had a profound spiritual effect on the psychological formation of nonmonastic intellectuals, and thereby also on their artistic creations, aesthetic taste, and attitudes toward life. It will not be possible here to attempt a full explanation of Chan Buddhism. Suffice it to say that Chan does not appeal to rational thought or to blind faith; it does not engage in debates about whether or not there is material existence, nor does it strive carefully for analytical knowledge; it does not stress meditation or prolonged ascetic practice. Rather, Chan advocates an instantaneous,

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all-encompassing enlightenment that happens in the context of the everyday realm and retains a direct connection with life itself. It is in the ordinary perceptual existence of everyday life that one can find transcendence and enlightenment, and that one can attain the indestructible Buddha-nature. Because Chan Buddhism does not rely on logical thought and does not observe common norms of behavior, its brand of enlightenment usually takes the form of a totally unique and individual experience of intuitive understanding. It is found both by seeking and by not seeking, both in consciousness and in the unconscious, neither by annihilating thought nor by focusing on remembering. In other words, it is somewhere between what could be called “permanence in impermanence” and the absence of the categories of permanence and impermanence that one attains “sudden awakening.”↜1 For aesthetics—for the process of artistic creation, for example —these are quite familiar ideas, very apt and indeed realistic. Art is not the product of logical thought, nor is aesthetic knowledge the same as rational knowledge. Both art and aesthetics have as their basis individual intuitive realization, and as such are neither completely conscious nor completely unconscious. Like Zhuangzi and the Wei-Jin metaphysicals, Chan Buddhism takes its philosophical exposition to the very highest levels but in so doing arrives at quite common aesthetic principles. In this sense, Chan plays successor to the Daoist tradition. The Daoists said, “The method of no method is the perfect method.” Or, in other words, the method of no method seems to have a method. Indeed, Chan teaches that there is no fixed method whatsoever, only the individual’s own perceptual “subtle awakening” (miaowu), which is ineffable and beyond pursuit. It is like the words of the song lyric by Xin Qiji (1140–1207) of the Song dynasty: In the crowd I sought her a hundred, a thousand times— Suddenly I turn my head, And now there she is In the waning light. —(From “Qing yu an”)2

The words miao (meaning “subtle”) and wu (awakening) appear early and often in documents from the Six Dynasties period. These were common terms in Wei-Jin metaphysics as well as in Buddhism and are found, not only in the writings of Buddhist thinkers like Zhi Daolin, Seng Zhao, or Zong Bing, but also in the works of Ruan Ji, Gu Kaizhi, Xie Lingyun, and so on. Each of these thinkers sought in one way or another to grasp an ultimate truth that transcends society and time, mortality and change. This trend reached its apogee in Chan Buddhism.

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As I have remarked elsewhere, the secret of Chan Buddhism lies in the direct experience of mysterious awakening that happens in a moment of time, an encounter with “eternity in the wink of an eye.”↜3 Under a given set of conditions, one suddenly realizes in this instant of time that one has risen above space and time, cause and effect. Past, future, and present seem to have melted into one. The experience cannot be analyzed, and one does not attempt to do so. One no longer knows where one is (in space and time) or where one came from (cause and effect). This experience eliminates all barriers between self and other, and between self and things, so that one achieves total union with the objective world (for example, with the realm of nature) and merges into a sort of eternal existence. Chan sets a great deal of store by intimacy with nature, for the kind of detachment and instantaneous awakening it seeks is often experienced through nature. Paradoxically, it is usually through the purposeless character of objects in the natural realm that the purposiveness of the universe (and thus of the divine) is realized. When flowers bloom, water flows, birds fly, or leaves fall, these actions are unconscious, unintentional, and unplanned. In other words, they are characterized by “no mind” (wu xin). But in this state of “no mind,” in this lack of purposiveness, it is possible to discern that “great mind” that makes all things so—that great purposiveness which is the divine. Furthermore, it is only in this nonpurposive state of “no mind” that this greater purposiveness can be perceived. In comparison to this, all things deliberate, any conscious or planned actions or thoughts, are not worth speaking of, and actually only inhibit this revelation. It is not that one chants the scriptures to the point where the rocks and stones themselves nod their heads; rather, the rocks and stones nod their heads before one has spoken a word. That is, without any human intervention, nature already shares the Buddha-nature. In Chan anecdotes, analogies, and metaphors, natural objects are not cold and dry, withered or dead. On the contrary, Chan writers favor the lively and vivid imagery of blooming flowers, growing plants, soaring hawks, or jumping fish. The message seems to be, “Look at nature! The tree of life is always green—oh do not destroy her!” How, then, are these Chan ideas put into practice in actual artistic works? First, because what is sought is “eternity in a moment,” and since this “eternity” is actually the imperishable original Buddha-nature, in Chan-inspired works time is made to stand still. Since “the Buddha-nature originates in stillness,” in order to achieve it, Buddhism in general rejects and denies the ever-changing, chaotic, and multifarious phenomenal world. The reason why Buddhism advocates meditation and nonconventionality is in order to escape the “false front” of the phenomenal world that is ever in motion, and thereby to approach the original Buddha-nature.

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In this respect, the Chan sect is not unique. But because Chan emphasizes transcendence through the senses and eternity experienced in a moment, it encourages the realization of this eternal, unchanging original stillness in the midst of the flux of ordinary phenomena. As such, it can in a single bound attain the marvelous spiritual realm characterized by the mystical union of self and Buddha, the forgetting of self and things, and the dissolution of one’s spirit into the universe. This is what is called “Chan sense.” But it is often the case that although “Chan adherents busy themselves talking about the Dao” they are unable thereby to attain it, while in the many chance moments of everyday life anyone may at any moment experience realization and reach the Dao. This attainment of the Dao by way of “subtle awakening” can usually only be grasped momentarily and is difficult to sustain. Therefore, it is not found in the monastic life or religion itself, but instead through a kind of elevated state of mind or realm of life. This is why poems that are Chan in flavor are superior to those written by Chan practitioners. Chan sense is found, “not in books,” and “not in principles,” but only in “a taste of subtle awakening.” “Awakening” consists of a sort of unconscious, sudden release and distillation. The unconscious was discussed in Chapter 3. What I want to emphasize here is the sudden aspect of this release or distillation—the aspect described in the lines, “Suddenly I turn my head,â•›/â•›And now there she isâ•›/â•›In the waning light.” These lines describe something perfectly ordinary and natural, but at the same time, because they are so suffused with subjectivity, they achieve a profound and lasting significance, overflowing with Chan sense. The Qing dynasty critic and poet Wang Shizhen (1634–1711) once said of the great Tang poet Wang Wei that “Every word of his Wang Stream quatrains is Chan.”↜4 Let us look at three of Wang’s quatrains as examples: The branches are tipped with magnolia lilies,â•›/â•›On the mountains, the red calyx blooms.â•›/â•›In a ravine, a lonely abandoned door—â•›/â•›One by one, they blossom and fall. (“Xin yi wu”) People are idle, cassia blossoms fall,â•›/â•›The night is still, the spring hills deserted.â•›/â•›The moon’s rise startles mountain birds,â•›/â•›Now and again they cry in the spring ravine. (“Niao ming jian”) In the empty hills, no one is to be seen,â•›/â•›One only hears echoes of human voices;â•›/â•›Returning light enters the deep forest,â•›/â•›To shine again on the green moss. (“Lu zhai”)5

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In these poems, everything is in motion, every object is very familiar, real, and natural. Yet the meaning conveyed is one of an eternal, noumenal stillness. There is motion in stillness, fullness in emptiness, beauty in the void. Or better, there is no motion or stillness, fullness or emptiness, beauty or void, for the noumenon transcends these, and in it they blend together and become inseparable. This is how it is possible to find motion in stillness, or emptiness in a concrete scene—to attain the noumenon via the multifarious phenomenal world, or eternity in the intuitive understanding of a moment. Nature is so beautiful, so seemingly untouched by the human world—the blossoms open and fall, birds call out in the spring ravine—yet somehow it is in the momentary awakening to nature that one becomes aware of that incorruptible life. We find the same notion of stillness in motion in the Japanese idea of attaining Zen enlightenment at the sound of a frog jumping into the water. Here again, the profound realization of noumenal emptiness occurs by way of the ever-changing and transforming universe. It is a most ordinary sound—in a moment of stillness, a frog jumps into the water—a sound so clear and delicate, like the tiny ripples made by a sudden breeze on the surface of the water. This simple sound attests to and affirms existence, both the world’s existence and one’s own life; but the existence it affirms is lonely, hollow, and desolate. This is why the sound can result in revelation, why one is more than ever convinced that only the noumenon, beyond motion or stillness, is imperishable and incorruptible. The flux of scenes in space and time serves only to manifest the eternal, the imperishable congealed there. This incorruptible eternal seems at once to reside within the natural scene and to be external to it. It is condensed within the ever-transforming, ever-moving external scene, and at the same time transcends external things to become a sort of mysterious experience, a joyful state, a realm of life. Song poet-statesman Su Shi (1037–1101) said of Wang Wei, “There is painting in his poetry,” and “There is poetry in his painting.”↜6 The former statement is an example of this kind of condensed eternity, of being “rapt in the scene,” or having one’s “mind enter the scene,” so that one’s spirit unites with nature and finds rest in it, the mind seeming to dissolve until all that is left is the brilliant beauty of nature, like a scene in a painting. The latter is an example of this transcendence of external things, of “the mind’s transcendent realization,” or “the image beyond the image.” What the variegated, flowing natural scene displays is the existence of the eternal, imperishable noumenon. In other words, his is a noumenal poetry, at once full of emotion and seemingly devoid of emotion. It is permeated by Chan sense, that union with nature characterized by “no mind,” and “no thought.” If we clear away the religious elements from this Chan

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sense, it becomes a nonrational aesthetic viewpoint, or what I have elsewhere described as an aesthetic pleasure occurring at the level of “spiritual delight.”↜7 It is a sensuous pleasure that lingers in the senses even while transcending them. It is the direct philosophical apprehension of life that results from the heightening of the senses and the profound sedimentation in them of rationality. Chan sense is a kind of noumenal sense. Clearly, with the advent of Chan Buddhism, the psychological formation of the Chinese people attains a new level of richness. The idea of “subtle awakening” brings with it a new round of instability and progress in people’s inner rational structure in which nonconceptual understanding—the element of intuitive wisdom—overwhelms the imagination and the senses and merges with the emotions and intentions in such a way as to direct and shape their development. Apart from the idea of stillness in motion, another form that Chan enlightenment often takes is the profound realization of the chance nature of human life and circumstances. It is in this realization, in the uncertainty and elusiveness of things, that we can seek insight into the meaning of life and existence. These two excerpts from poems by Su Shi may serve to illustrate: To what can we compare life in this world? It’s like a goose alighting on snowy ground— The claws may chance to leave a few tracks in the mud, But when the goose has flown, who can tell in which direction?↜8 You may laugh at sentimental me, So early sprouting hoary hairs. Life in this world is like a dream— Let me offer a toast to the moon on the river.9

“Life is like a dream” is a timeworn saying, but here in Su Shi’s poem it acquires a more profound sense of skepticism and sorrow about the purpose of life and the existence of the universe. There is no concern here for individual longevity, ascension (to the realm of the immortals), or immortality. Rather, Su Shi’s lines question what this existence itself is, what it means, and what is its purpose. What they seek is to transcend existence itself—life, the world, the universe—to emerge from under these in order to solve the riddle of existence. These lines are no longer Zhuangzian but Chan in flavor. The concern is no longer to set up some sort of ethical (Confucian) or transcendent (Daoist) ideal personality, but to find the spiritual path leading to the eternal noumenon. On this path it is through subtle awakening, and only through subtle awakening, that one can

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attain eternity. This is the essence of Chan. It is something quite new, which at the same time enriches and breaks open the Chinese tradition as it has been shaped by Confucianism, Daoism, and Qu Yuan. Perhaps it would be useful to lay out some of the similarities and differences between Chan and these other three strains. In the case of Confucianism, these are relatively clear. Confucianism emphasizes human relationships. It values action in stillness and in general stresses activity. These emphases are apparent in such passages as “it gives birth to life without ceasing,” and “heaven proceeds vigorously,” from the Book of Changes. This is why Confucians find beauty in masculine strength, vigor, and overflowing qi. Whether in Mencius or Han Yu (768–824), whether in literary theory or in artistic style, Confucian works reflect this characteristic. This is true even of Du Fu’s verses, with their powerful gloom and awe-inspiring severity. Look at these lines by Chen Zi’ang (661–702): I cannot see the ancients who came before, Nor those who will come after me. Thinking of the vastness of heaven and earth Alone, I shed sorrowful tears.10

Although these lines have to do with the meaning of life, history, and the universe, they reflect a Confucian mind-set and a Confucian sorrow, unflavored by either Daoism or Chan. This distinction is relatively easy to draw. The distinction between Chan and Daoism (Zhuangzi) is more difficult to make clear. People often connect Daoism and Chan very tightly, so tightly as almost to equate them. And indeed, the two have many commonalities and similarities: both are anticonventional; both nullify distinctions between self and things, subject and object, life and death; both repudiate knowledge, stressing instead awakening, closeness with nature, and transcendence. Particularly in the arts, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between Zhuangzi and Chan. However, there are very important differences between the two schools. While Zhuangzi advocates a kind of ideal personality—the “perfect,” “true,” “divine” person of the “Free and Easy Wandering” chapter—Chan emphasizes a kind of spiritual comprehension that is mysterious and experiential. While Zhuangzi actually continues to hold on to life and death, Chan really has no concern for life and death, claiming to see through them. The former stresses life, not regarding the world as illusory, but rather seeking liberation from and transcendence of all manner of concrete limitations. It advocates raising the individual human personality to the level of the universe. In aesthetics, this is expressed in a preference for the vast and expansive, the clumsy and the

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awkward. The latter sees the world, things, and the self as illusory; indeed, the universe itself, including the ideal personality of the “true person,” is of no more value than “dried-up dung.” True existence is found only in the momentary awakenings of the spirit. Chan neither stresses life nor takes it lightly. Anything in the world can have meaning or have no meaning. Everything passes, leaving no trace, and so one can be careless of all things. This means that there is no reason to seek transcendence, because so-called transcendence itself is absurd and insignificant. What Chan seeks, then, is not an ideal personality but a completely enlightened state of mind. Although Zhuangzi also advocated a carefree attitude toward life, because of Chan’s foundation in the sudden realization of eternity in a moment, in it this attitude—this mental realm, this spiritual experience of union with the universe—becomes much more profound and pronounced than in Zhuangzi. Aesthetically, this is expressed as a preference for lingering flavor and ingenuity. Therefore, Zhuangzi’s phrases, “mounting the clouds and wind, straddling the sun and moon, to wander beyond the four seas,” are Daoist, not Chan, whereas the lines of Su Shi, one of the foremost poets of the Song dynasty, “In the empty hills there is no one,â•›/â•›Flowers bloom and water flows,”↜11 are Chan, not Daoist. For although the latter lines on the surface describe beauty (nature), what they point to is emptiness (noumenal emptiness). Conversely, Zhuangzi’s phrases describe emptiness, but what they point to is actually fullness (the ultimate human personality). Likewise, Wang Wei’s lines “I stroll to where the stream ends,â•›/â•›And sit to watch the clouds rise” are Chan, not Daoist, though they may seem akin to Daoism. And Tao Qian’s “Fields criss-cross under a distant wind,â•›/â•›The sprouts of grain also yearn for newness” and “Picking chrysanthemums by the eastern hedge,â•›/â•›From afar I regard South Mountain,” are Daoist not Chan, although they seem to have some Chan sense to them. If we compare a bit more closely the poems of Wang Wei, Su Shi, and Tao Qian, the differences among them should become clearer. Even though Su Shi was one of the greatest exponents of Tao Qian’s poetry in the Song, and although Tao’s poems are somewhat akin to the work of both Wang Wei and Su Shi, under close analysis the bland, broad, and very personal tone that characterizes Tao Qian’s work is quite distinct from Wang and Su’s more intellectual ingenuity. This is precisely the locus of the split between Chan and Daoism. Likewise in the case of (the Daoist) Li Bo. Both Tao and Li are fundamentally Daoist, but the one’s work is characterized by tranquil remoteness, while the other’s is characterized by extravagance and natural elegance. Xu Fuguan once distinguished the two using the phrases “subject and object are unified” versus “subject and object are placed side by side.”↜12 In actuality, the two represent two different aspects of Zhuangzi. Wang Wei and Su Shi can be

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distinguished very generally along the same lines, with Wang being closer to Tao Qian, and Su being closer to Li Bo. If we take, for example, the following lines, with their very similar objective natural images, we find in them the flavor of Confucianism, Daoism, and Chan, respectively: Under suspended stars, the plain is vast, The moon surges up on the flow of the great River. —(Du Fu)13

The mountains disappear into the plains, The River flows into the great wilderness. —(Li Bo)14

The rivers flow beyond where earth meets heaven, The beauty of the hills is between being and emptiness. —(Wang Wei)15

Du Fu’s lines suggest a this-worldly Confucian activism, Li Bo’s a carefree Daoist breadth of spirit, and Wang Wei’s an enlightened Chan contentment. Hu Yinglin, commenting on these couplets by Li Bo and Du Fu, said that Du Fu’s “force is superior,”↜16 meaning that Du Fu’s work displays more thought, vigor, and strength, as exemplified in the two words “suspended” (chui) and “surges” (yong). Li Bo, on the other hand, simply describes things as he sees them, with a seemingly effortless naturalness. And Wang Wei is even more aloof and bland. Both Wang Wei and Li Bo lack the positive vigor of Du Fu’s deep and moving sincerity. In his discussion of calligraphic arts, Xiong Bingming, quoting Liu Xizai, draws a similar distinction between the calligraphy of high Tang eccentric Zhang Xu and that of Huaisu (737–after 798), noting that “Zhang’s calligraphy employs both sadness and joy, while Huaisu’s avoids both sadness and joy,”↜17 being instead characterized by “thin, delicate brush strokes,” “neither heavy nor light,” and “quick brush movement” that disappears as soon as it appears.18 The distinction between these two is, in fact, that between Daoism (Zhang) and Chan (Huaisu). Chen Zhenlian goes so far as to say that the calligraphy of Huang Tingjian (1045–1105), with its extreme speed and intense appearance, achieves Buddhahood: “He uses looseness in place of restraint, and captures the whole by way of scattering. He uses the rugged to achieve evenness, and makes the sharp stand in for the dull.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹These are things the elegant Confucianism of the Jin and the simple sincerity of the Tang neither deigned nor dared to do.”

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He goes on to describe the sudden enlightenment and the penetrating, forceful, and keen character of Chan in the words of Da Chongguang (1623–1692): “Old Man Fu [Huang Tingjian] was conversant in Chan pleasures; when it came out in his calligraphy, it was like a profligate monk becoming a sage, and had no air of ostentation about it.”↜19 Clearly, as an aesthetic and philosophical quality, Chan comes to penetrate all areas of artistic and literary creativity and appreciation. Of course, all of the above statements are relative and should not be taken too far. Particularly in artistic criticism and aesthetic appreciation, it is absurd to attempt to paint a black-and-white picture. In the previous chapter, I argued that Tao Qian and Li Bo united Confucianism and Daoism in themselves. Similarly here, Wang Wei and Su Shi are outwardly Confucian but Chan Buddhist and Daoist at heart. Confucianism, Daoism, and Chan are not always so easy to disentangle one from another. In comparison with the tradition of Qu Yuan, what stands out about Chan Buddhism is its calm contentment. The intensely held emotional integrity of Qu Yuan, his fiery affections and stark life-and-death choices, are nowhere to be found in Chan. Also gone are the heartfelt emotionalism of Wei-Jin literati, their attachment to life and terror of death, that were the legacy of the Qu Yuan tradition in Six Dynasties mysticism. The joy of Chan Buddhism submerges both the enthusiasms and the resentments of political struggles and the sentiments surrounding the reflection on human mortality. If one is to transcend the dusty world, there is no room for a flood of nostalgia or an overflow of enthusiasm. On the other hand, if art or literature were to be truly without emotion, could they still be called art or literature? This is why, as others have so aptly put it, “To be Chan without being Chan results in poetry;â•›/â•›In a poem that is not a poem, Chan is evident”;↜20 or “To try to write a Chan poem does not make sense; what results is neither Chan nor poetry.”↜21 Many poems in praise of Chan take pains to utilize some sort of analogy to express their meaning, and as such inevitably fall into abstraction, becoming mere propaganda pieces. Poems that achieve a genuinely Chan flavor can be closer to the spirit of Chan than actual Chan poems because they succeed in evoking, through aesthetic form, a faint, tranquil emotion or state of mind from which one can merge with, touch upon, or realize the purpose of the universe, the meaning of time, or the mystery of eternity.22 It is interesting to note that the well-known twelfth-century Chan poet Yan Yu urged people to “first acquaint themselves thoroughly with the Songs of Chu, reciting them day and night, as the foundation”↜23 and then to move on to the “Nineteen Old Poems of the Han.” But the Songs of Chu is dominated by

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emotion, and the “Nineteen Old Poems” are also full of deep feeling. So clearly, at least in art and literature, Chan still bears the legacy of Zhuangzi and Qu Yuan—Zhuangzi’s personality and Qu Yuan’s emotion. It inherits Zhuangzi’s awe in the face of nature’s vitality and Qu Yuan’s pursuit of the meaning of life. But Chan adds to these its own element of enlightenment or realization (the apprehension of eternity in a moment). With the addition of this third element, personality and emotion become the means of seeking the mysterious eternal noumenon, of attaining noumenal stillness in the midst of even the most turbulent activity. In this way, personality and emotion seem to become less distinct, and more intelligent and tranquil. They become a sort of “flavor” that lingers with the reader for a long time. In other words, when viewed in light of the riddle of life and the meaning of the universe, the ideal human personality of Zhuangzi and the fervent emotion of Qu Yuan begin to melt away, but rather than disappearing, become a sort of diluted “meaningful form.” This “light of wisdom” is no longer tied to the high-blown, thoroughly metaphysical argumentation of Wei-Jin aristocrats, nor does it resemble their carefree, dissolute sentimentality. For in both of these, wisdom and deep emotion still bear some traces of forced affectation. Here, instead, the two are melded into one in a perfectly instantaneous subtle awakening. This is why works that are full of Chan sense, like those of Wang Wei and Su Shi discussed above, will be characterized by a highly ingenious, intelligent beauty when compared to the works of Zhuangzi and Qu Yuan. They will employ the seemingly instantaneous realization of some secret or mystery to awaken the mind. Furthermore, this realization will occur in the intuitive apprehension of everyday people, objects, and scenes, arising from the most mundane poetic subject matter. What makes this awakening “subtle” is that, while it is not attained through language or the senses, at the same time it does not occur apart from them, for landscapes (including artistic or literary ones) are not apprehended apart from sight, hearing, and the imagination, and poetry similarly requires language and words for its expression and transmission. But what is apprehended or expressed is most emphatically not simply the scene or the words (or their referents). The line “One by one, they blossom and fall” takes place in finite time but arouses in the reader the realization of an eternity that transcends time. The line “But when the goose has flown, who can tell [from the prints] in which direction?” takes place in finite space but arouses in the reader the realization of transcendent existence. Two excerpts from Su Shi’s song lyrics may be instructive here: Ancient days and modern times alike are like a dream, How ever is one to awaken from it?

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There are only the old joys, the new resentments. On another day, seeing the Yellow Tower at night, Someone will sigh for me. —(To the tune “Yongyu le”)

The roads of this world are unlimited, But our toilsome life will end, Like these scattered joys and pleasures. Having murmured some lines, I lean on my traveler’s saddle, wordless— A thousand thoughts of the past. —(To the tune “Qin yuan chun”)

The speakers in these lines seem to have sunk into the incessant blind revolutions of this pathetic life from which there is no escape. What is to be done? In human affairs, there is no avoiding the cycle of suffering. Yet even in the face of life’s meaninglessness, people must live and must enjoy a host of “old joys, new resentments”; this is real life, this is sensuous existence. At the same time, however, people have the urge to transcend all of this. As I said above, what Su Shi bemoans in phrases like “life is like a dream,” and “life is like a journey,” is not the same as the sorrow over the brevity of life or loss of one’s prime that we find in the Wei-Jin period or the “Nineteen Old Poems.” Here it is not a question of the length of an individual life, but of the meaning of human life in general. This is why the emotional quality of these poems is not intense or violent, but reasoned, calm, and profound. In his famous essay, “A Leaf of a Tree,” the famous modern Japanese painter Higashiyama Kaii (1908–1999) said: “It is always the case that the fortuitous discovery of a beautiful scene can be enjoyed only once.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹If the cherry were always in bloom, if our life had no end, then the fortuitous meeting of one with the other would not occasion such emotion. The beauty of flowers lies in how their falling displays in a flash the brilliance of life. Humankind in the depths of its heart cherishes and deeply loves life. The existence of both human and flower is fleeting, so when their paths cross, we feel an unconscious pleasure.”↜24 This pleasure, however, is tempered with sighs and melancholy. Consider this couplet by Wang Shizhen (1634–1711): “The sun at noon, the painted boat passes beneath the bridge,â•›/â•›The shadows of her perfumed robes are too quickly gone” (from “Yechun jue”). These lines do not explicitly convey Chan sense. They simply have to do with how quickly a chance meeting is over, and how melancholy this is. While the sentiments here might be read

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as those of Qu Yuan with a Chan flavor, I believe they are really closer to Chan. This melancholy over the chance nature of things should be familiar from our everyday life today. On the street a man passes a beautiful woman but has not even the opportunity to say hello before she is gone forever. There is even more loneliness and desolation in the lines from the Qing dynasty novel Dream of the Red Chamber: “Beneath the red window-screen,â•›/â•›It wasn’t fated for me.â•›/â•›In the mound of yellow earth,â•›/â•›My dear, you were ill-fated.”↜25 The novel’s protagonist, Jia Baoyu, does not have to strain to achieve a Chan flavor in his poem, because this is simply what life is like. Mortality, fate, chance—all these are heartless, fleeting, and governed by accident. Chances quickly gone or easily missed become the source of lifelong regret. But it is precisely here where people can come to a deeper apprehension of the mystery of the eternal noumenon, where they are brought to realize the purpose (or purposelessness) of life, and the meaning (or meaninglessness) of existence. It is natural that such things should evoke feelings of melancholy and sadness, as well as reflection on the inevitability of things. When immersed in the business of everyday life, amidst the pressing needs for clothing, food, and shelter, and the pursuit of fame and profit, people quickly forget these things. Having lost their sensitivity and perceptivity, it is only with difficulty that they can be brought to rediscover the purposeless, eternal noumenon. Perhaps, in a moment of reciting poetry, regarding a painting, or listening to music—perhaps in an instant of appreciation of nature—they can attain the realm of subtle awakening expressed in Xin Qiji’s lines, quoted above: “Suddenly I turn my head,â•›/â•›and now there she isâ•›/â•›in the waning light.” The entry of Chan Buddhism added a new depth to the psychological noumenon in the Chinese tradition and took to a new philosophical level the elements of human relationships, life, and emotion from Confucianism, Daoism, and the Qu Yuan tradition. If Du Fu’s lines are true, In life it is hard to meet one another, We move like morning and evening stars. When will there be another night like this one When we share this single candle’s light? —(From “Zeng Wei Ba chushi”)

then, says this strain of the tradition, let us cherish this small moment of pleasure, this brief and yet eternal human affection. If we say that, in the West, the influence of Christianity gives purpose to what otherwise would be purposeless by reference to a personal god, then, here, purposelessness itself seems to

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become the purpose, in that it can only enrich the emotional noumenon of the human psyche. In other words, this emotional noumenon is itself the purpose of life and its ultimate reality. This turns out to be an even more metaphysical version of the conscious humanity of Confucian humanism. It has no need of cosmology, the homology of heaven and humans, or even “free and easy wandering,” for it is in the “sudden turning of the head” that one attains the eternal, incorruptible noumenon. Eternity implies the nonexistence of time. It is one of Parmenides’ constants; it is transformation in the Book of Changes; it is the “perfect person” of Zhuangzi. Here, in Chan, eternity is contained in that most ordinary and yet most extraordinary “sudden turning of the head.” Chan Buddhism points to this supertemporal metaphysical noumenon, not through words or preaching, but through “banging and bawling,” trick questions and koans (the so-called case method, a question-and-answer technique designed to shock the student into realization). This is sometimes called attempting to reach the Dao through “extraordinary means.” All of this notwithstanding, when all is said and done the existence of time is an inevitable part of nature and human experience. Any talk of timelessness or the transcendence of time, any thought of reaching something external to or prior to the universe (spaceâ•›/â•›time), is ultimately of purely poetic or philosophical significance. Chan is, when all is said and done, poetic philosophy or philosophical poetry. It does not involve itself with actual, physical nature or human affairs, but only with the construction of the psychological subject. And this is where its main significance for aesthetics lies.

Lingering Flavor and Blandness What Chan Buddhism aims for is neither the personality extraordinary for its imposing power (as in Confucianism), nor the personality extraordinary for its freedom (as in Zhuangzi); nor yet is it the intense emotional state of persistent sorrow or indignation (as in Qu Yuan). Instead, what Chan seeks is an inner state of spiritual realization. In consequence, then, of the entry of Chan onto the Chinese cultural stage, states of mind and what became known as “lingering flavor” (yunwei) would become increasingly important categories and characteristics of subsequent traditional Chinese aesthetics. In Chan enlightenment, human attitudes find their expression in natural scenery, which in turn points to a certain spiritual state of mind. This leads to yet another version of the “humanization of nature” (which we saw in Confucianism) or the “naturalization of humans” (which we saw in Zhuangzi). A Chaninfluenced aesthetic is not primarily concerned with interpersonal relationships (as is Confucianism), the human personality (as is Zhuangzi), or the emotions

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(as is Qu Yuan), but rather with states of mind. The beautiful descriptions in SiÂ� kong Tu’s (837–908) Twenty-Four Categories of Poetry may serve as an example: The moon comes out in the Eastern Dipper, A good wind follows it; Mount Taihua is like jade in the night, One hears the sound of a clear bell.26 White clouds just beginning to clear, Hidden birds chase each other; .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ .╇ . Fallen blossoms without a word, [The poet] is as bland as the chrysanthemum.27 It is what you can bend down and pick up, Not what you can take from someone nearby. Go together with the Dao, And with one touch, it will be spring.28

Sikong Tu’s poems are at once criticism, descriptions of poetic scenes, and descriptions of spiritual states of mind. They are packed with Chan-style subtle awakening. Each reflects an aesthetic conception and at the same time a human state of mind, or better, a kind of spiritual enlightenment. What they convey is that lasting appeal we call “lingering flavor.” It is not surprising that the most famous section of Yan Yu’s thirteenthcentury critical work, Canglang’s Remarks on Poetry, which for many years set the standard for Chinese aesthetics, concerns the notion of “flowers in the mirror, moon on the water”: “[The poets of the High Tang are like] antelopes hanging by their horns, which leave no tracks that can be followed. Their best lines are penetrating and clear, inimitable. Like sounds in the air, color in a reflection, the moon on the water, or an image in a mirror, the words end but the meaning is unfathomable.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.”↜29 The phrase “flowers in the mirror, moon on the water” refers to illusion, but an illusion that is so beautiful, so richly evocative of a state of mind and lingering flavor, as to be quite unforgettable. It refers to both “the beauty of illusion” and “the illusion of beauty.” For illusion to be beautiful, it cannot appeal to cognition or logic, but to an experience of awakening to the noumenon. The illusion is not empty speculation but retains a certain realism and lifelikeness, so that even if the flowers are in the mirror and the moon is on the water, still there are flowers, and there is a moon. Many have written about “flowers in the mirror, moon on the water” as a general principle of artistic creation (emphasizing the unconscious, the

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superiority of form to thought, or the equality of form and thought, and so on). Many have also commented on its relationship with Chan, as has Guo Shaoyu: From this point of view, Wang Shizhen’s notion of “shenyun” [spiritual flavor] is closest to the meaning of the Canglang phrase. Wang says, Canglang [Yan Yu] uses Chan as a metaphor for poetry. I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to the five-character line. Take Wang Wei’s Wangchuan quatrains, for example, in which every word attains the spirit of Chan. Or take lines like these of Wang Wei’s: In the rain the mountain ridge descends, Beneath my lantern, insects sing in the grass. A bright moon shines through the pines, A clear brook flows over rocks. or those of these other Tang poets: But she lets down the crystal curtain; It tinkles and sparkles as she gazes at the autumn moon. â•… —(Li Bo)

A pale moon peers over the edge of the pines; Its clear light seems to shine for you. â•… —(Chang Jian)

Woodsmen lose each other in the dark, Even the sound of insects in the grass is not heard. â•… —(Meng Haoran)

Now and then fallen blossoms arrive; They spread their fragrance afar on the flowing river. â•… —(Liu Jixu)

In their careful observation and subtle use of language, these are no different from the Buddha grasping a flower, or Kasyapa’s subtle smile (Daijing tang shihua, juan 3). These comments speak of Chan and enlightenment interchangeably. Chan lies in enlightenment, but as though now hidden, now appearing, something that cannot be grasped. And conversely, enlightenment lies in Chan, but remains at arm’s length and leaves no traces.30

Neither Yan Yu nor Wang Shizhen, however, ever clearly sets out what exactly are the aesthetic characteristics of this poetic ideal, of this Chan-influenced

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poetics of “subtle awakening” and “flowers in the mirror.” In fact, simply put, these aesthetic characteristics can be summed up in one word: blandÂ�ness (dan). Blandness—whether in the sense of a certain dilute “mildness” or in the sense of a dimly perceptible “faintness”—would later become the highest aesthetic ideal and most sought-after artistic realm in Chinese poetry, painting, and indeed any artistic endeavor. Writing in the late Tang dynasty, Sikong Tu in his Twenty-Four Categories gives the category “Powerful and Undifferentiated” [Xionghun] pride of place, while in practice he favored the “Bland” [Chongdan] and “Implicit” [Hanxu]. This was a reflection of the general artistic trend of that whole period. Painting criticism, similarly, elevated the “work of ease” (yi pin) over the “divine work” (shen pin), and had great praise for Tao Qian, allowing the notions of spirit, amusement, flavor, and charm to take the theoretical place once occupied by the Dao, qi, principle, and reason.31 Song dynasty poet Mei Yaochen (1002–1060) has a couplet that reads, “In writing poetry, ancient and modern alike,â•›/â•›Nothing is as hard as the simple and bland.”↜32 Similarly, Su Shi said, “It is a general rule that when one starts to write, one aims for extraordinary atmosphere and splendid color. But as one gradually ages and matures, one begins to aim for the bland and simple.”↜33 Even the great neo-Confucian philosopher Zhu Xi (1130–1200) displayed this aesthetic preference when he wrote, “The poetry produced between the Jin and the Song was leisurely and bland; the poetry of Du Fu and his like is always in a hurry.”↜34 It is only in the “Clear and marvelous” [Qingqi] category that Sikong Tu makes his statement, “Its spirit arises from the marvelousness of the ancients,â•›/â•›While its blandness is elusive,” and only in the “Transcendent” [Chaoyi] category that he says, “From afar you seem to have attained it,â•›/â•›But if you come close to it, it is gone.”↜35 Actually, however, there are foreshadowings of the “flowers in the mirror” ideal in almost every other category. To cite just two examples, he says: “The perfection of the emotions and characterâ•›/â•›Is elusive and cannot be sought.â•›/â•›If you chance upon it, this is from heaven,â•›/â•›A delicate, faint sound” (“Solid Realm” [Shijing]). And: “Meeting it, you find it is not deep;â•›/â•›Approaching it, it grows ever fainter.â•›/â•›It seems to have a form,â•›/â•›But when you reach for it, it is gone” (“Bland” [Chongdan]).36 This is the “flowers in the mirror” ideal: one can see it but cannot grasp it. Taken together, these statements can be said to describe the concrete form and character of the “bland” style. When we speak of “blandness,” we mean something that is without taste but at the same time full of flavor; in other words, “the flavorless flavor is the perfect flavor.” What is interesting is that this highly Chan-influenced aesthetic standard should also have such early traditional formulations. Even Liu Shao of the Later Han, in his evaluations of character in the Renwu zhi [Annals of

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Public Figures], put forward the idea that “Of all the human qualities, the most valuable is moderation and harmony. A moderate and harmonious character will be bland and unflavored, so that it can then be ‘seasoned’ into the five talents, or adapted to the needs of the situation.”↜37 This formulation has to do with politics. Philosophically speaking, the importance of wu (nothingness) in WeiJin metaphysics is even more well known. Whether in politics, philosophy, or aesthetics, the principle of “matching the five flavors with flavorlessness” is the same principle that has been around since the Confucians first advocated “harmony” and “moderation.” But it is only when we get to Chan that this principle attains an unprecedented level of noumenal significance, in which it is emphasized as the highest realm of both human life and art. That is why it is only here that this principle is able to produce, in the sensible world, the aesthetic result of unending lingering flavor. A.â•›H.â•›Maslow once said that in any kind of “peak experience” humans attain a unity with the world, without any specific affections. It is just such a peak experience without any particular affections—that is, the flavor of “blandness”—that is the object of the Chan quest. From this point on, “resonance” (yun) or “lingering flavor” (yunwei) overtakes such concepts as momentum (qishi), vigor (fenggu), the Way (Dao), divinity (shen), personality (ge), and so on, to become the preeminent aesthetic category, culminating during the Qing in Wang Shizhen’s notion of spiritual flavor (shenyun). This should be distinguished from the “flavor of qi↜” (qiyun) or “flavor of the divine” (shenyun) of the Wei-Jin period,38 in that it has completely left behind any notion of strength, loftiness, gracefulness, or elegance and become a totally mundane, this-worldly lingering flavor that is at the same time profoundly illusory in character. This is what is meant by “blandness.” Artistically, this bland flavor manifests itself in the various concrete forms taken by the “flowers in the mirror” brand of illusory beauty. For the most part, it consists of purposeful attempts to describe the most ordinary natural scenes, so as to portray the empty illusoriness of life and the spiritual realm in a way that arouses thought and deep feeling. It is characterized by the same stillness in motion, void in substance, nothingness in fullness, and illusion in beauty discussed above. It is only here that one can find Chan sense and blandness. Take the following poem by Cui Tong of the Tang dynasty, for example: What, after all, do monks do? Sweep the floor, light the incense. A delicate fragrance crosses the mountains green, Leisurely clouds enter the bamboo lodge. Body and mind far from the dusty world, For months and years, “sitting and forgetting.”

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Toward dusk the Chan cell is closed, No one there but the setting sun.39

This is a very ordinary and quite realistic picture of the life of monks in the temple. But what comes out in the last two lines is a sort of lingering flavor of the faint and eternal. “No one there but the setting sun” portrays such loneliness and quiet, such indescribable melancholy. There is nothing left at all, only the faint light of the setting sun. Could this be “being”? When later critics of Chinese poetry and painting spoke of “unintentional excellence,” what they meant was not simply the attitudes or principles of the unconscious in artistic creation, but also this aesthetic realm that has eschewed all thought and intention, every emotion and attachment—in other words, the realm of Chan sense. Is this real awakening to the truth of the noumenon the answer to the riddle of eternity? I do not know. But poets and painters are always looking for its footprints. The lines “At the foot of the pavilion I meet not a soul,â•›/â•›Pale autumn shadows in the setting sun”↜40 reflect not only the poetic sentiment of Ni Zan (1301–1374), but also the kinds of scenes we find in his paintings. This is “blandness”: in the most ordinary and simple scene of autumn desolation, one seems to approach or “awaken to” the eternal noumenon. But when one proceeds to try actually to grasp and comprehend it, it is gone without a trace: “When you reach for it, it is gone.” This is why Ni Zan’s paintings always take for their subject the simplest things, whether a thatched hut, a bamboo grove, or a tree. As in the poetry of Wang Wei or Su Shi, the artistic result is most affecting. Throughout the generations, Ni Zan’s stature has continued to increase. Just as in poetry and letters “blandness” became the standard characteristic, so also in landscape painting more and more the highest requirement became the “remote and bland,” the belief being that “the dramatic is easy to get, the bland difficult.” Grand, vast and many-layered landscape paintings gradually gave way to “bland and faint” scenes of bleak winter trees or wide-open undefined spaces. This is why we so often find in later Chinese painting theories ideas like “taking white for black,” “seeing the large in the small,” and “unpainted space becomes the finest space,” and why the emphasis came to be on the lingering flavor of the ink and the art of sketching with a dry brush. These things, all of which actually have to do with blandness, were to become normative principles in later Chinese painting. There is a famous poem by Liu Zongyuan (773–819) of the Tang dynasty that reads: The old fisherman moors by the western shore for the night, At dawn he draws pure water from the Xiang and makes a fire of bamboo.

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The mist dissipates, the sun rises, no one to be seen, The sound of an oar ’midst the mountain and river green. Looking back at the horizon he heads downstream, Above the cliff the clouds follow mindlessly along.41

Of this poem, Su Shi said, “This poem is full of deep flavor and rare delight; although the last two lines are not necessary, it is still all right.”↜42 But is the poem better with these two lines, or without them? Which way produces a fuller flavor? From the point of view of the Chan tradition of trick questions and koans, or from the point of view of the instantaneous enlightenment of “banging and bawling,” in which “with an intense sense of sight one can become a Buddha,” it would seem that the poem is better without the lines. If the last two lines are left out, the meaning remains outside the words, the poem ends abruptly, as befits a Chan aesthetic. Perhaps this is how Su Shi saw it. However, from the point of view of the superior quality of “bland” lingering flavor we have just been discussing, it is better not to leave them out. For these last two lines are far from superfluous. With them, the lingering flavor of the poem is more remote and unhurried, fuller and more lasting—as it is said, “the mind is extinguished and does not infringe on the scene.” It attains the noumenal realm of “no-mind,” taking the poem to a new level of blandness and simplicity that lingers long in the reader’s mind. Liu Zongyuan is not unable to create more intensely Chan poems, like his famous quatrain, From a thousand hills birds’ flight cut off, On a myriad paths human footprints wiped out. A single boat, a rain-hatted old gaffer Fishes alone in the cold river snow.43

This abrupt poem epitomizes the critical aphorism that “human and scene both remain hidden.” The following selection from a Song dynasty “talks on poetry” collection may serve to illustrate this distinction further: Let us look at Su Shi’s poem in response to the monk Shou Quan: Hearing only beyond the mist the sound of a bell, Seeing not in the mist the temple that it hides. A quiet man walks and continues on, Dew on the grass wets his straw sandals.

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Seen only by the moon on the mountain-top, Night by night shining ever and again. It is impossible not to like the poem’s clear, abbreviated depiction of the passing figure. One evening as he was touring in Qiantang, he received Shou Quan’s response: The sun sets, cold cicadas chirr, I return alone to Linxia Temple. The wooden gate not yet closed for the night, A slip of moon follows my sandaled steps. I hear only the sound of dogs barking, Reaching farther into the basket of dark. When he saw this, he realized its deep serenity and clear resonance, and how well it captured the unconventionality of Linxia. Old Mr. Su Shi “wanted to go back to the Three Gorges but was stuck in its currents.” He was “swimming against the current,” and would never reach it.44

This story raises issues similar to those that fired the debate over Liu Zongyuan’s poem, for the poem by Hui Quan (Shou Quan) is more free and untethered, calm and effortless, while Su Shi’s poem ends up being artificial, trying too hard, so that it misses the natural and in the end loses all Chan sense. Perhaps, in the end, good old Su Shi still retained more Confucian spirit, so that despite his interest in Chan he was condemned to “awaken, and yet not awaken.” And yet, it is precisely this “awakened, and yet not awakened” Su Shi that best represents Chinese aesthetics once it has absorbed Buddhism and Chan sense.

The Return to Confucianism and Daoism Zeng Guofan has used the terms “Greater Yang,” “Lesser Yang,” “Greater Yin,” and “Lesser Yin” to categorize the four streams of ancient Chinese literature. To borrow these terms for our present purposes, perhaps one could say that Confucianism, with its “strong beauty” that incorporates weakness, belongs to the “Greater Yang↜” strain, while Daoism, which emphasizes a weakness that contains strength, belongs to the “Greater Yin.” Qu Yuan and the Sao school also emphasize strength in weakness and can be considered the “Lesser Yang↜”; while Chan, which appears strong but in reality favors weakness, would be the “Lesser Yin.” The distance between this “Lesser Yin” and the strong, virile aesthetic tradition of Confucianism is really quite great. Chan, after all, constitutes the reforming, creative response of the Chinese cultural mind-set to Indian Buddhism.

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The problem Buddhism faced in China was that the practice of monasticism, even Chan monasticism, was never particularly well received there. This antimonastic prejudice was reflected in the ideological and cultural realms as well, and explains why the life-affirming, relational spirit of Confucianism and Daoism always made its way back, one way or another, into Chan-inspired art and literature. As Tang poet Li Shangyin (813?–858) has said, “Chang’e must regret having stolen the elixir of immortality,â•›/â•›Her heart, night after night, in the jade sea, the blue sky.” In the end it is better to return to the realm of humanity, to affirm rather than to deny life. Even in the works of Ni Zan, so skilled at portraying the bland and remote, we find the brimming vitality of this quatrain: The orchid grows in the lonely valley, In her shadow she sees her reflection. No one there to be warmed by her charms— Only the spring breeze smiles at her.45

As I pointed out in Chapter 3, this contradiction is present in Chinese Buddhist thought from the very beginning. In the works of the earliest theorist of painting, the monk Zong Bing, for example, we find that even after saying, “The sage (Buddha) incorporates the Dao and reflects all things,” he goes on to talk about “longing for Mount Lu and Mount Heng, and missing the Three Gorges.” In other words, Zong Bing had an attachment to natural landscapes that provided the stimulus for his creation of landscape paintings. Clearly, despite his philosophical arguments that one should “purify the heart of all tastes, smells, and images,” and that “landscapes distract from the Way with their form,” the real anchor of Zong Bing’s soul was the inner joy he found in wandering through a natural scene. In this respect, the Buddhist saint is not so different from the Confucian or Daoist sage. This is not a saint who simply sits and meditates, seeking discipline, quietude, and wisdom. Rather, this is a saint who also explores mountains and rivers—experiencing, in Confucian terms, “the pleasure of the humane and wise.” Although Zong Bing may speak in terms of “meeting the divine with emotion, for the divine transcends principle” and seem to pursue Buddhist principles, in actuality he comes back to, “What else can I do but what delights my spirit?”↜46 This “delight of the spirit” is actually a sort of aesthetic appreciation. Clearly, then, from the very beginning we find evidence of Zhuangzi and Daoism, as well as Confucianism, in the aesthetic realm of Chan Buddhism (i.e., in the aesthetic enjoyment of natural landscapes and in landscape painting).

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The same holds true for poetry. Someone has suggested that Sikong Tu’s Twenty-Four Categories, “by placing the category of ‘Powerful and Undifferentiated’ [Xionghun] first and ending with ‘Flowing Movement’ [Liudong], gives us a glimpse of the Way of Heaven and Earth.”↜47 I would find it difficult to agree with the assumption here that Sikong Tu’s work constitutes a strictly organized theoretical system. Still, this starting point and end point together do suggest that even a Chan-influenced poetic theory still relegates “blandness” to a secondary position, continuing to privilege Confucianism (“Powerful and Undifferentiated”) and Daoism (“Flowing Movement”) (and especially the former). As for “the Way of Heaven and Earth,” the “Way” is, of course, also that of Confucianism and Daoism. This is similar to the phenomenon we observed in Yan Yu, who despite the self-conscious promotion of Chan in his poetry criticism, still ranked Li Bo and Du Fu as the ultimate poetic masters worthy of emulation. We saw the same thing in Su Shi, who considered himself an adherent of Chan Buddhism but still displayed the free-spirited open-mindedness of Daoism and the altruistic concern for his country and times of Confucianism. The return from Chan to Daoism and Confucianism is a basic characteristic of Chan in Chinese culture and art. This may be the most fundamental difference between Chinese and Japanese Chan (Zen) Buddhism. The Zen Buddhism we find in Japanese art and ideology is much more authentic. In its emphasis on grasping the experience of the moment, its pursuit of emptiness, its sorrowful and lonely situations, its light hold on life, its willing selfdestruction, its view of death as beautiful, its exquisite gardens, its preference for the odd over the even, and so on—in short, in its affirmation of the “sorrowfulness of all things”—the Japanese version of Chan Buddhism is much more in keeping with the school’s original character. Chan in the Chinese tradition took an entirely different road, emphasizing a directly intuited wisdom that is eventually reincorporated into a positive view of life (Daoism) and humanity (Confucianism). With this in mind, let us try once again to compare Chan with Confucianism, Daoism, and the Qu Yuan tradition. Chan emphasizes “the scene established by the mind,” and therefore seeks to create scenes that will awaken and enlighten (an example is the Japanese garden). Daoism emphasizes nature, and therefore does not attempt to produce artificial scenes, instead affirming nature in its pure and original state, and favoring the powerful undifferentiated vastness of a great river like the Yangtze, despite what it might lack in elegance or subtle artistry. Chan emphasizes the transience and illusory quality of all things. Human life is like a wayward wandering in which one does not know

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where to go, and therefore its greatest achievements end in utter desolation and nothingness. Confucians and the admirers of Qu Yuan, in contrast, emphasize relationship and emotion, and cling to home, family, and friendship, expressing their feelings in parting poems and laments suffused with human feeling and intimacy. Chan strives for an enlightenment that is instantaneous, unrepeatable, and ineffable; for this reason its adherents are completely uninterested in law or morality. Confucianism, Daoism, and the Qu Yuan tradition all emphasize either the law or its negation, the “law of no law.” In summary, because of this close relationship with Confucianism, Daoism, and the Qu Yuan tradition, the Chan sense evinced in the artistic works of traditional Chinese scholars cannot be said to be very pure. The beauty of the natural scene always manages to shine through its illusory quality, a lively vitality through the desolate stillness. Chinese art that is informed by a Chan aesthetic often uses the natural scene to evoke a metaphysical realm, while on the other hand the demonstration of this metaphysical realm draws people back toward real-life concerns. In the spiritual expansion and enrichment of the aesthetic tradition that results from this new synthesis, human emotions, understanding, senses, and imagination undergo a kind of reorganization, and human intentions and ideas experience a sort of transformation. Another story about Su Shi may be instructive here. “Once Old Mr. Dongpo (Su Shi) was walking in the fields, holding a gourd ladle and singing.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹An old woman of seventy said to him, ‘As an academician, you once knew fame and fortune, but now all that seems like a spring dream.’ Dongpo agreed with her.”↜48 Su Shi seemed to very much appreciate this type of remark. In fact, this woman, who had actually expressed his own view of life (i.e., that life is illusion), would appear in his later poems as “Grandma Spring Dream” (Chunmeng Po). What eighteenth-century poet Yuan Mei (1716–1798) criticized in Su Shi as a “lack of feeling” most likely resulted from his “enlightenment”; he did not display the same kind of fervid emotion that we find in Qu Yuan, for example. Yet even Su Shi, having seen through life, could still exclaim: “Who says that in life youth does not come again?â•›/â•›The flowing river before the temple gates can still turn to the west.â•›/â•›Don’t turn your white hair into a lament on growing old!”;↜49 or, “Drinking wine, my ambition and courage still open wide—â•›/â•›A little frost at the temples,â•›/â•›What harm is there in it?”↜50 Or again, “Don’t tell your nostalgia to the ancients,â•›/â•›Rather bring a new flame to warm some new tea,â•›/â•›With poems and wine, seize the glory of the day.”↜51 As is evident in these lines, Su Shi continues to exercise his spirit in an optimistic struggle. This is what is meant by the return to Confucianism and Daoism. It is a return that sets off even more starkly the melancholy Chan view of the meaninglessness of life. At the same time, this meaninglessness assigns the idea that “one still has to live” an active

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role in the service of enlightenment. All things considered, this new synthesis adds a richer, deeper layer to the sedimentation of human psychology. The great founder of the Chan sect, Hui Neng of the Tang dynasty, arose from among the people, and his followers were also for the most part lowerclass, ordinary folk. But as Chan passed into the ranks of upper-class scholars, the religiously motivated quest for buddhahood gradually gave way to this sort of aesthetic awakening to life. The turn from the religious to the aesthetic is a result of the influence of Confucianism and Daoism on Chan and demonstrates the return from Chan to these older traditions. As I have argued elsewhere, Su Shi is representative of this return. Although he may have been unaware of it, Su Shi was probably the first to give full expression in the realm of art and literature to this sense of the utter emptiness of life, this skepticism and hopelessness about human life and society, the universe, and indeed existence itself. Perhaps it was only in Buddhism that Su Shi was able to find some consolation. It was this empty, regretful, and indifferent attitude toward life, this turning to diversions in the face of an unsuccessful quest for transcendence, that caused Su Shi to esteem Confucians while also admitting Buddhist masters, to discuss the affairs of the world while devoting himself to the abstruse. Like a floating cloud or a running stream, he had no fixed nature. He laughed and he cursed, and brought it all into his writings. Here we find none of the melancholy complaints of a Qu Yuan or a Ruan Ji, none of the bold frankness of a Li Bo or a Du Fu, the straightforwardness of a Bo Juyi, the severity of a Liu Zongyuan, and least of all the overbearing arrogance of a Han Yu. What Su Shi sought aesthetically was a simple, unadorned blandness, a natural charm, which at the same time included the ideal lifestyle of detachment from society and the affairs of the world. He opposed artificiality and embellishment. Su Shi took all of this to a philosophical level, making it serve a sort of complete awakening.52 The philosophy I am speaking of is neither Buddhist speculation nor Zhuangzian grandiloquence. Rather, it is a particular state of mind, a particular quality of life. Su Shi was neither a Buddhist nor a Daoist. In fact, in his lifestyle, attitudes, and ideals he was a true Confucian. The uniqueness of Su Shi’s role lies in how he was able to absorb Daoism and Buddhism without losing his Confucianism—how from a foundation of Confucianism, he was able to pursue Chan enlightenment and enter discussions of the metaphysical and abstruse. This may be precisely why, despite his excoriation by a small number of ultra-orthodox neo-Confucian thinkers, Su Shi has consistently been appreciated and even revered by large numbers of Chinese intellectuals. His personality is accessible, his style intimate and natural. More than any other figure, Su Shi seems to embody aesthetically the highest principle of Confucianism,

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“seeking nobility and brilliance, and following the way of the Mean.” Therefore, rather than the great neo-Confucians philosophers of the Song and Ming, it is Su Shi who is most representative of the Chan-influenced Chinese aesthetics that dominated beginning in the Song and Yuan. This is equally true whether it is a question of his creative work or of his attitude toward life, of his influence on later generations or of his place as an aesthetic figure. As is well known, Song and Ming neo-Confucians for the most part adopted a negative attitude toward the arts in their theoretical writings. Take Cheng Yi (1033–1107), for example: Someone may ask, is writing detrimental to the Way? I say, it is detrimental.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Or someone may ask, is poetry worthy of study? I say, once you begin to study poetry, it will certainly require a great deal of time and effort, which will interfere with weightier matters.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹It is often said today that in poetry none can equal Du Fu. And yet Du Fu wrote such lines as “Butterflies are all around, flitting through the flowers;â•›/â•›Dragonflies leisurely skim the surface of the water.” Of what use are such trivialities?↜53

Or Zhu Xi: The Way is the root of literature; literature is like the branches and leaves of the Way.54 If you waste your time on the branches and leaves, to the detriment of real learning, in the end you will lose both.55 Writing poems is a waste of time. Of what use is it?â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹I say there is no need to write poetry, because it takes away from the study of the Way. If you really understand the meaning of the Way, you will know the uselessness of poetry.56

There are numerous similar statements, all of which convey the idea that the Dao is the root, poetry and literature are the branches, and that if one has “a weakness for literature,” this will have a detrimental effect on the Dao. This view can be said to be heir to the traditional critical standard that reigned in the rites and music tradition and in Confucian moralistic poetics. That standard emphasized inner quality over external literary form and stressed ethics and politics over aesthetic pleasure. Yet the neo-Confucian development of this tradition is quite one-sided. There is, in fact, very little to say in this regard about Song-Ming neo-Confucians, for they completely pass over the logic, rules, and

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significance of aesthetics itself. Even for such a brilliant theoretician as Zhu Xi, who was by no means conservative in his aesthetic and literary tastes (as we see, for example, in his studies of the Songs of Chu), none of this had any place whatsoever in his philosophical theory. Art and literature lack any organic connection to Zhu Xi’s thought. As for the creative output of the neo-Confucians themselves, because of their didactic view of poetry, their works deserve very little attention. Interestingly, the contemporary scholar Qian Mu holds a very different point of view. He says: Among the Chinese, the first person to really care about the art of living was Shao Kangjie (Shao Yong [a Northern Song neo-Confucian], 1011– 1077).â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹He did not aspire to sainthood or sagehood, nor did he care much about morality. He simply wanted to live happily, to be a happy person. This is what the Daoists had taught. But to live happily is really a great art. I have an anthology of six neo-Confucian poets. The first among them is Shao Kangjie, the second is Zhu Xi, followed by Chen Baisha, Wang Yangming, Gao Jingyi, and Lu Futing. Each is a great neo-Confucian thinker and a teacher of morality. Anyone who looks at their poems will find them to concern human life and to overflow with feeling and charm. This is why I say that, for Chinese people, morality and art are two sides of the same coin.57

I cannot agree that the poetry of these neo-Confucian moralists is any good at all. Although there are some good poems in Qian Mu’s anthology of neo-Confucian poets (Lixue liu jia shichao), because of their didacticism many of the pieces go against basic aesthetic principles, becoming overly theoretical, simplistic, and tasteless. They certainly do not “overflow with feeling and charm.” As for which of our views is correct, the reader will have to judge based on reading these poems and comparing them with those of the great poets through the ages. I include this quotation from Qian Mu here, however, because I am very much in agreement with the beginning and ending sentences. I believe that the Song-Ming neo-Confucians, in the wake of Chan Buddhism, enriched traditional Chinese thought through their unification of morality and art in the realm of life or, in Qian Mu’s words, the “art of living,” in which morality and art are “two sides of the same coin.” Zhu Xi remarked that “it need not be put into language and written down in order to be literature [wen]; rather, it is expressed in daily life, in all one’s activities, in one’s speech, silence, movement, or stillness. Indeed, in all that can be seen of a person’s life, there is nothing that is not

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literature.”↜58 In other words, “literature” (wen) is not only poetry and essays, but the entire human personality, all of human life. All that can be seen of a person’s speech and action can be considered literature about the Dao and Principle (li). Literature is the art of living, an aesthetic posture toward life. Feng Youlan once said that neo-Confucianism is just a turn of the page away from Chan Buddhism. If it is true that “splitting wood and drawing water are no different from the most Excellent Way,” then it should be true that one can realize and attain the Dao through everyday life. Song-Ming neo-Confucians absorbed and developed Buddhist and Chan thought, and in the moral pursuit of their theory of Mind transformed something religious into something aesthetic. In so doing, they took an aesthetic attitude toward life (Qian Mu’s “art of living”) to the level of metaphysical transcendence, elevating the realm of human life to a supra-ethical and supra-moral, quasi-religious level, where it was able to supplant religion. In this sense, the neo-Confucians actually were quite important to the development of traditional aesthetics. Their contributions, however, are apparent, not in their theories about art, their criticism, or their creative work, but rather in the metaphysical noumenon that emerges particularly in their school of Mind. This noumenon is neither god nor morality, but “the realm of heaven and earth,” or the aesthetic realm of human life. It is a new form of Confucian humaneness brought about through the ideological incorporation of Daoism, Qu Yuan, and Chan Buddhism. As I have discussed in an earlier work,59 the sensual realm of nature is not distinct in neo-Confucianism from the noumenal realm of rational ethics; rather, these two intermingle and unite in a perfect harmony. In this view, “heaven” and “humans” each has both a rational side and an emotional side, and each in some respect can be seen to be a reflection of the other. Xie Liangzuo, a gifted Song dynasty disciple of the Cheng school of neo-Confucianism, used the dual images of a “peach pit” and an “apricot pit” to explain humaneness (ren), using the seed as a metaphor for growth. The story of how Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073) refrained from weeding his courtyard in order to observe the will of heaven became a sort of fable for neo-Confucians. And in the poems of neo-Confucians, we find lines such as “The myriad things watch in quietness, all find complacency,â•›/â•›The four seasons arise and are good, people do the same,”↜60 and “In idleness I know the face of the spring breeze,â•›/â•›A myriad purples, a thousand reds show that it is still spring.”↜61 All of these examples attempt to demonstrate and grasp human ethical principles through the vitality of the natural world. This is a prominent feature of Song-Ming neo-Confucianism, but it also betrays some influence of Zhuangzi and Chan. Although the neo-Confucians explicitly claim to revere Confucius and Mencius, in fact they give Confucius a new metaphysical reading and go beyond

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the subjectivity of Mencius’ moral personality to philosophically “sanctify” it. They like to speak of the “pleasure of Confucius and Yan Hui” as the highest realm of human life. What this refers to is actually a teleological spiritual realm in which there is no fear of suffering; it is full of vitality, and at once ethical and supra-ethical, quasi-aesthetic and supra-aesthetic. Kantian teleology, in which man is seen as the ultimate purpose of nature, is still, in a sense, an objective teleology, while Kant’s subjective purposiveness exists only in the aesthetic realm. Song-Ming neo-Confucians, on the other hand, use the subjective teleology of the unity of heaven and humans and the oneness of all things to signify a supra-ethical noumenal realm to which humans can attain, and that comes to be viewed as the highest state of human existence. From the point of view of external form, this noumenal realm comes very close to the nonutilitarian, self-forgetful aesthetic pleasure of the aesthetic realm. Clearly, the philosophical system the neo-Confucians sought to establish was more than a moralistic metaphysics, much less just a set of moral principles. Because its motive force cannot be attributed to God, as in theology, it must rely upon human self-cultivation. The cultivation of this supermortal moral realm does not rely on sacrifices to or communication with a deity for the attainment of spiritual transcendence and ecstatic joy. Rather, it draws its strength from a sense of purpose that involves the mutual interdependence of all of humanity and the entire cosmos (i.e., again, the unity of heaven and humans). This emerges from such statements as “All men are brothers, and nature is my brother,” or “Humaneness is the mind of heaven.” It comes out in the seemingly commonplace, peaceful detachment expressed in Zhang Zai’s words, “If I am to live, I will yield to things as they are; if I am to die, I am at peace.” This attitude can lead one to accept death readily when it is required of one, without the hope of recognition or celebration, whether human or divine. Heroism is easy, contentment difficult. If the former involves an intensely religious sort of martyrdom (which, of course, is far from easy), then the latter, aesthetic way of looking death calmly in the face constitutes an even higher realm, according to Chinese standards. Zhang Zai’s type of contentment in the face of death is quite distinct from the quest for a spiritual immortality, for it aspires to an aesthetic not a religious realm.62 In Chinese tradition, aesthetics takes the place of religion as the means of establishing this highest realm of human existence. It is this potential supramoral and aesthetic noumenal realm that makes possible such uncalculated free choice and the kind of moral realization that transcends life and death. The postulation of this aesthetic realm can be said to constitute the high point of Confucian philosophy and the Chinese aesthetic tradition once it had absorbed Zhuangzi, Qu Yuan, and Chan Buddhism.

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Here I would like to mention the work of Taiwanese scholar Zhang Heng, whose conclusions for the most part are in agreement with mine. Zhang also strongly emphasizes the aesthetic character of the moral realm of Song-Ming neo-Confucianism. The difference is that, in my view, the aesthetic realm is higher than the moral realm because of its all-encompassing nature, whereas Zhang Heng (like Qian Mu and other modern New Confucians) stresses the unity of aesthetics and morality, the melding together of beauty and goodness. In addition, Zhang Heng sees this ideal as present in the primitive Confucianism of Confucius and Mencius, while I believe that Confucius and Mencius had only inklings of it. It was only as a product of Song-Ming neo-Confucian exegesis, following the absorption of Chan Buddhism, that the profound metaphysical significance of this ideal would be plumbed, and that it would become something that so illuminated the experience of everyday life, the “Heavenly Principle,” or “essence of the Way.” Zhang’s conclusions are as follows: The realm in which beauty and goodness meld goes beyond the aesthetic experience of music and other art forms. It is a sort of ideal realm of human life. In the “Xian jin” chapter of the Analects, when Confucius asks about his disciples’ aspirations, Zeng Dian [Zeng Xi] responds, “In late spring, when the spring garments have been completed, I would like to go with five or six capped youths and six or seven boys to bathe in the Yi, catch the breezes at the rain dance, and return home singing” [Analects 11.26]. Although this passage seems simply to relate an experience of everyday life, in fact it illustrates concretely an ideal spiritual world. For the activities described are not simple phenomena, but things that affect the state of mind of the actor. They reflect an aimless, carefree satisfaction, and at the same time stand out from other real-life experiences in their unrestrained character. Clearly, this is a kind of aesthetic experience. The usual object of aesthetic appreciation is not there (even the natural world is not the aesthetic object in this case). Instead, the distinction between subject and object has long since been obliterated, so that one attains a realm of unity between the self and the outside world. Naturally, this is also a type of moral realm, as Zhu Xi puts it so aptly in his commentary: Zeng Dian’s response shows that he understood that where human desire comes to an end, the Heavenly Principle prevails and fills everything, leaving not the smallest deficiency. This is why when it comes to his conduct he is able to display such ease and grace. And when he expresses his intent, it is not to aspire beyond his current position but to enjoy his everyday life, with no hint of self-sacrifice. At the same

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time, his heart is so broad that it encompasses heaven and earth and mingles with all things above and below, so that each is given its proper meaning. This is apparent if we read between the lines. Compared with the answers of the other disciples, all of which concern moral trivialities, his aspiration is of a higher level. This is why the Master sighs and highly commends him. When Zhu Xi says, “where human desire comes to an end, the Heavenly Principle prevails,” this is similar to the way irrelevant distractions are pushed aside during aesthetic experience. The way in which Principle “fills everything, leaving not the smallest deficiency,” expresses an attitude of carefree satisfaction. The fact that he shows “no hint of self-sacrifice” and no concern for “moral trivialities” demonstrates Zeng Xi’s lack of calculation. “His heart is so broad that it encompasses heaven and earth and mingles with all things above and below,” refers to a realm in which self and the world blend into a single unity. Clearly, this moral experience is also an aesthetic experience. The realm in which the humane person achieves oneness with heaven and earth and all things is also the highest realm of beauty.63

To summarize, the neo-Confucians did in the purely philosophical realm what Su Shi did in his creative work and his aesthetic taste—that is, in returning to Confucianism by way of Chan Buddhism, they greatly enriched their own thought by establishing this metaphysical noumenal realm in which aesthetics supersedes religion. It is interesting to note that the high point of Song-Ming neo-Confucianism coincides with the high tide of Chinese landscape painting. Could the fact that philosophy and artistic taste were moving in step with each other suggest that there was a connection between them? This is a question that awaits further research. From the point of view of aesthetics, both are representative of the spiritual quality discussed above. In neo-Confucianism, the idea of the “unity between heaven and humans,” in which moral reason unites with the life of the senses, leads to the establishment of a noumenal realm that is at once moral and super-moral, quasi-aesthetic and super-aesthetic. Landscape painting, on the other hand, expresses this unity between heaven and humans in imagistic form. In Chinese landscape painting, even if the human figure may be so tiny as to be nearly invisible, it is significant that humans are depicted neither as the masters of nature nor as its subjects. Without these seemingly insignificant fishermen, woodcutters, travelers, or scholars, nature would seem lonely, desolate, and even terrifying (see Chapter 3). Landscape

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painting does not try to depict human achievements or personalities and takes no interest in the character or might of the gods. Rather, it demonstrates only the harmony between nature and humans. Yet this harmony is more than just an intimate realism about rustic life. Instead, it portrays a realm of life and a metaphysical flavor that communicates something about noumenal existence. Namely, it communicates the unity of human existence with nature, the unity of the humanization of nature and the naturalization of humans. These ideas cannot be considered simply Daoist because of the Chan sense inherent in them; furthermore, as they involve a return to the real world, this Chan sense is subordinated under the rubric of Confucianism and Daoism. Even Ni Zan’s unpopulated landscapes still use this realm of the unity of heaven and humans (a Daoist-Confucian synthesis) to attract and move their audience. It is just that in his deserted pavilions the Chan sense of illusion is a bit stronger. Those who appreciated and produced landscape painting were not monks or Daoist adepts, but intellectuals and scholar-officials. These were men who had undergone training in Confucianism. They were products of a Confucian educational system. In landscape painting these intellectuals encountered the eternity of nature, the transience of life, the infinitude of the cosmos, and the meaninglessness of worldly affairs. And hidden amidst the multilayered mountain ranges or at the edges of vast plains there would always be a couple of straw huts or a little ferry to connect this aesthetic experience to the human world. Worldly affairs, the homeland, human life, the cosmos—all of these together form a sort of poetic approach to the noumenon. In this way, landscape painting and its appreciation come to provide both a leisurely respite for those hankering after fame and position, and consolation and encouragement for those whose pessimism leads them to escape the world. Perhaps this is the source of landscape painting’s magic. It is a potion mixed from Confucianism, Daoism, and Chan Buddhism, but in which Confucianism plays the dominant role. Su Shi has a ci poem in which the poet contemplates the moon: I wanted to mount up on the wind, Yet feared those crystal towers and jade ramparts So high, would be too cold. I rise to dance, setting clear shadows in motion; How much better to be among men.64

It is better, in other words, having obtained the Chan sense of subtle awakening, to return to the world of feelings and the warmth of relationships. This is

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where we find reality, the noumenon, and eternity. Subsequent to its baptism in Chan Buddhism, this has been the experience of Chinese aesthetics, art, and literature. If we say that Zhuangzi’s contribution was on the level of sense perception, and Qu Yuan’s contribution was on the level of the emotions, then it is on the level of meaning that Chan enriches, broadens, and deepens the Chinese aesthetic tradition.

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C h a pt e r 6

Toward Modernity

Learn from the heart, not from the Way. â•… —Yuan Hongdao

From Desire to Innate Sensibility After a peak, a decline always begins. The decline will end either in a gradual disappearance or in change. This was the case for traditional Confucianism and also for the literary and aesthetic tradition that developed under the tutelage of Confucian thought. By “decline” here I refer to the fact that, having attained a summit of sorts in the work of Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming (1472–1529), and other Song and Ming thinkers, Confucian philosophy never again experienced the same level of development and innovation. Corresponding to this, traditional poetry and painting also can be said to have experienced a similar decline. After this point, any innovative trends of thought or artistic creation tended to depart from or even deny the Confucian tradition. But these remained only tendencies and in the end never really broke free of the constraints of Confucianism, although they may have shown the intention or potential to do so. These efforts were neither mature nor adequately thoroughgoing, particularly from the theoretical point of view. This section will treat the artistic and philosophical trends of the mid-Ming and later periods. As mentioned above, Confucian aesthetics beginning with the rites and music tradition was heir to a non-Dionysian culture. Even with the influx of Zhuangzian thought, the Qu Yuan tradition, and Chan Buddhism, this basic character remained unchanged. This non-Dionysian cultural character meant that the Chinese aesthetic tradition did not reject sensuous pleasures or the satisfaction of sensuous needs but at the same time did require that these pleasures 194

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and needs be checked and moderated. Neither Zhuangzi’s free-wheeling personality, nor Qu Yuan’s emotional morbidity, nor again the Chan spirit of emptiness that transcends worldly things, was able to rise above the Confucian principle of “making the Mean one’s way.”↜1 This spirit that at once affirmed and reined in the senses, and that sought detachment while remaining very much rooted in the real world, was thus allowed to continue unbroken. This is why, despite the criticism that Zhu Xi and his contemporaries levied against Su Shi, they never had reason to brand him a heretic. From the start, the rites and music tradition sought to preserve harmony among the intentions, emotions, and thought for the purpose of organizing and uniting the community. Similarly, Confucianism revolved around human relationships. Based on a pseudo-etymological reading of the character ren (humaneness) as comprising the characters for ren (person) and er (two), the sensuous needs and desires of the individual are recognized and affirmed within a framework of human relationship and interpersonal concern, apart from which they have little value or significance. The “Dao” of Zhuangzi was a spiritual freedom that transcended the sensuous body. Although it was lifeaffirming, at the same time this spirit attached little significance to material circumstance and stood in direct opposition to the desire for individual material gain. The “emotion” so valued in the Wei-Jin period, similarly, still referred to a kind of cosmic solicitude or interpersonal sympathy; it retained a very social and rational quality, and never eulogized the feelings or desires of the individual. Even the more transcendent “enlightenment” of the Tang and Song, although it might have been nonrational, was never irrational or antirational, nor did it validate primitive desire or instinctual impulse. In short, none of the these strains—the rites and music tradition, the Confucian Way of humaneness, the Daoist cult of personality, the emotional Sao school surrounding the Qu Yuan tradition, or Chan theories of enlightenment—had emphasized the problem of the freedom of desire of the individual sensuous being or attached significance to the instinctive impulses of this sensuous existence. But around the middle of the Ming dynasty things began to change, albeit in a very limited fashion, and in the form of trends of thought that did not appear at the level of conscious theorizing. What I am speaking of is the emergence of “desire” (yu). Human desire, and above all sexual desire, is an age-old physiological phenomenon that has become a time-worn subject of artistic creation, from primitive song and dance to every conceivable modern art form. But under the tutelage of the rites and music tradition and Confucianism, desire was corralled into the social service of ethical education and denied any intrinsic value. This is evident in the interpretations of the first poem of the Book of Songs, “Guan,

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guan, cry the ospreys,” as praise for the virtue of the queen consort; of Encoun­ tering Sorrow as an allegory of the minister and ruler; and of abandonment and bereavement poems in terms of what they teach about the relationship between husband and wife. Desire was rarely represented in the form of premarital love, but commonly took the form of postnuptial longing. With the exception of some songs about love in the court (for example, in Six Dynasties palace-style poetry) or in the lives of the common people (in love and folk songs), sexual love never attained any intrinsic value in literature or aesthetics. Still less did it attain an independent value deriving from a fundamental relationship with individual sensuous existence. Beginning in the middle of the Ming dynasty, Chinese society and its customs underwent some important changes. The reasons for these changes remain unclear, but their origin was most likely in the unprecedented commercial prosperity of the age and in the development of urban consumerism. Stories of romantic love became quite popular at the time, as traditional mores began to break down. Despite the fact that stories in the San yan or Er Po collections of Feng Menglong (1574–1646) and Ling Mengchu (1580–1644) would normally begin and end with a few lines of didactic moralism, their subjects clearly no longer fell into the category of being a “vehicle for the Way,” or “expressing the intent,” or even “arising from the emotions.” Nor do these works take the Mean, harmony, or the moderation of pleasure as their standard. On the contrary, for the most part these works aim to tantalize or satisfy the reader’s desires—chiefly natural, sexual desires. From the late Ming novel Plum in a Golden Vase to Li Yu’s seventeeth-century Carnal Prayer Mat collection, the explicit sexual description in these works rivals or surpasses what we find in the West. Pornography also began to be produced for and openly enjoyed by educated men during this period. Deliberately appealing to the senses and tantalizing the reader’s fleshly desires, these works begin to present a real challenge to traditional morality. Now every individual is a sensuous being with instinctive sexual desires. Whether male or female, gentleman or commoner, all share an interest in sexual things. This is a matter of physiological “fate,” if you will. The fact that these things had not attained their rightful position in art or aesthetics in China is because they had been repressed by the strictures of ethical instruction and the quest for transcendence. Although there was an abundance of sexual handbooks, and Chinese history is replete with stories of imperial debauchery, incest, catamites, and so on, not to mention the aristocratic hedonistic philosophy of the Liezi (an early Daoist classic), none of these constituted a significant threat to the strictures of traditional feudal morality or gave weight to the individual’s flesh-and-blood existence as we understand it today. It is not until this period

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that the forbidden door begins to be opened, and sexual love is affirmed and described on a large scale and in great detail. Li Yu’s Carnal Prayer Mat goes so far as to equate male–female sexual relations with the Dao. In it, the mystic arts of love that were once the secret domain of a small minority are given literary and artistic expression in exaggerated form. What is significant here is that this had already become the fashion and customary practice of the time. Unlike the spiritually motivated dissolution and charm that characterized the Wei-Jin period and its style, this is a genuine sensual hedonism. For such a social trend to be reflected in aesthetics it must first follow a convoluted path through multiple refractions. There are many complex relationships and multiple mediations here that require careful analysis. For the present purposes, I will deal with this subject very briefly from the point of view of philosophy, aesthetic taste, and technical form. First, philosophically speaking, when this new trend is mirrored in the course of the disintegration of Wang Yangming’s theory of Mind, it takes the form of the acknowledgment and affirmation of sensuous existence. As I have discussed elsewhere,2 Wang Yangming divides the notion of “Mind” (xin, the mind-heart) into the “Dao Mind” (Heavenly Principle), and the “Human Mind” (human desire), a division that was already present in Zhang Zai (1020–1077). In Zhang’s work, just at the start of the neo-Confucian movement, the salient quality of the Dao Mind was its transcendence, while in Wang’s view, at the end of the neo-Confucian movement, the salient quality of the Dao Mind was its contingency. In Wang Yangming, the Dao Mind is opposed to the Human Mind, yet depends upon the Human Mind for its existence. Herein lies the intrinsic contradiction that would undo his whole system: because the Dao Mind relies on the comprehension, consciousness, and perceptions of the Human Mind for its expression, the conscience (or innate moral knowledge, liang zhi) must ultimately conform to Nature. Because of this, comprehension, consciousness, and perception are not purely logical or rational, but rather are imbued with physical human psychological qualities. It is inevitable that from here would develop the materialistic propositions “The Heavenly Principle lies in human desire” and “Principle is found in qi.” Let me explain. The disintegration of Wang’s system first becomes manifest as its emphasis on the inseparability of the Dao Mind and the Human Mind, conscience and intelligence, leads to the melding together of these pairs, so that they are often spoken of interchangeably, and eventually even become identified with each other. Although in the abstract Wang Yangming raises Mind, conscience, and intelligence to the level of a priori transcendence of material form, they never attain the level of “Principle,” because they always remain connected to the body and the material. In this way, rationality and sensuosity become identified, and

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so intermingle as to be impossible to differentiate. Correspondingly, the dominance of rationality becomes that much closer to the dominance of sensuosity. Hence, “The conscience (or innate moral knowledge) is where the Heavenly Principle becomes evident and has its effect.”↜3 In this way, both the moral conscience and the intelligence are to greater or lesser degree penetrated by elements of the sensuous nature. They thus become psychological rather than purely rational, experiential rather than aprioristic. More important, in the course of the formation of neo-Confucian thought, this materialistic aspect would gradually become the foundation and basis of both Nature and Principle. The logical Principle that originally occupied the position of dominance and control turns out to be derivative of Mind and Emotion. In this way, where once there was Mind that derived from Principle and Nature, now there is Principle that derives from Mind. Similarly, Emotion that derived from Nature becomes Nature that derives from Emotion. Thus Wang Yangming says, “If the inborn sense of compassion is extended, there will be more than enough humaneness to go around; this is the way one should pursue Principle.”↜4 Rather than allowing humaneness (Zhu Xi’s Nature and Principle) to determine and govern the “inborn sense of compassion” (Zhu Xi’s Emotion), in Wang’s formulation humaneness and the pursuit of Principle are simply an extension or derivation of this sense of compassion. Since Mind is identified with Principle, and since Mind is inseparable from the physical body, then Principle must depend on the body for its existence. In his Chuan xi lu, Wang writes: “Without Mind, there is no Body (shen); without Body, there is no Mind. When we speak of its existential space, we call it the Body; when we speak of its governing function, we call it the Mind.”↜5 Since the “Dao Mind” and the “Human Mind” are inseparable, and if Mind and Body are also inseparable, then Principle, and the Heavenly Principle, become more and more entwined with sensuous flesh, and more and more worldly. Wang Yangming’s thought focuses the question on the subjective spirit and will of the self, mind, spirit, and consciousness, all of which are inseparable from the physical body. His original intention was to seek the ethicization of human psychology, to attempt to imprint the traditional social order directly upon human consciousness. The end result, however, was exactly the opposite. For in its eventual formulation, innate moral knowledge, or “conscience” in the form of good will or moral consciousness, takes on the color of sensuous emotion. In this way we soon end up with such formulations as “To control desire is to misunderstand humaneness.”↜6 Wang’s thought tends more and more to deny the need for external constraints to artificially control the mind or suppress desire—to deny the necessity for abstract, a priori rational concepts to keep a rein on the human heart.

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Wang Yangming’s follower Wang Gen (1483–1541) explained that “the Dao is found in the daily life of the common peopleâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹meaning that it did not depend on being ordered to be apparent. Those who heard this felt much enlightened.”↜7 Elsewhere he said, “The Heavenly Principle is that Principle that is naturally existing; it is only when we try to order it in some way that it becomes human desire.”↜8 Both of these statements demonstrate the tendency toward sensuosity of Wang Yangming’s identification of Mind with Principle. No longer is psychology predicated on ethics, but ethics gradually comes to be predicated on psychology, and logical standards are gradually replaced by psychological demands. The “Principle” half of the equation of Mind with Principle shifts from external rules of nature, norms, and social mores, to internal nature, emotion, and even desire. This is precisely what Zhu Xi was concerned about when he wrote that “those who emphasize only consciousnessâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹will probably end by regarding desire as the residence of Principle.”↜9 In this way, Wang’s thought is close to modern bourgeois humanism, according to which human nature is constituted of natural human desires, needs, and passions. All Wang Yangming’s followers, whether of the Taizhou school or of the JiÂ�shan school,10 shared this same tendency, from Wang Gen’s teachings on “love,” to Yan Jun’s view that “one must act only according to one’s nature, following only what is natural—this is what is called the Dao.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹All the knowledge, forms, and principles propounded by our Confucian ancestors only serve to obstruct the Dao.”↜11 It is apparent in He Xinyin’s proposition that “Human nature is taste, human nature is color, human nature is sound, human nature is comfort; all of these are human nature.”↜12 Liu Zongzhou (Liu Jishan, 1578–1645) stressed that “the Dao Mind is the original human mind; a just and rational nature is the natural disposition of people.”↜13 Liu sought to establish a noumenal mind that was completely good and without evil, in order to exclude every possible human desire. But in his student Chen Qianchu this had evolved into the view that “the human mind is originally free of the Heavenly Principle. The Heavenly Principle becomes apparent only in human desire. Where human desire is as it should be, Heavenly Principle will be found. Where there is no human desire, there will be no Heavenly Principle to speak of.” He also said, “The proper seat of human desire is Principle; if there is no desire, where will be the Principle?”↜14 and so on. Here it appears he has come around to the same conclusions as the Taizhou school. Li Zhi (1527–1602), in his teaching on the “child heart” (tongxin), openly spoke of “selfishness” (si) and “profit” (li): “Selfishness is the heart of man. A person must have selfishness in order for his mind to become apparent. It is as though without selfishness, there can be no mind.” And again, “If one does not seek one’s own profit, there is something wrong. If one does not aim for

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achievement, when will the Dao ever become apparent?”↜15 This is diametrically opposed to the teachings of Song-Ming neo-Confucians, who said, “Practice justice, and do not seek profit from it; elucidate the Dao and do not aim to achieve something thereby.” Not only did Li Zhi affirm profit, ambition, selfishness, and egoism, he actually made these the foundation of righteousness, the Dao, altruism, the good of the community, and so forth. It is not far from these to the assertions of Dai Zhen (1724–1777): “Desire is the love of things and the love of women; when such a desire is shared with all the people, then you have Principle.”↜16 And, “What the sages of old called humaneness, righteousness, ritual, and wisdom, are not to be sought outside of desire, but rather are inseparable from blood and breath, heart and mind.”↜17 And the next logical step along this theoretical path is the thought of Kang Youwei (1858–1927), who said, “Principle is the principle of humanity”↜18 and “Man is born with desires—this is his Heaven-given nature!â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The desire of the mouth is for good food and drink, the desire of the body is for a fine dwelling.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.”↜19 And again, “The Way of human life is to avoid hardship and seek pleasure; there is no other Way.”20 The significance of Dai Zhen’s thought to eighteenth-century China is that it utilizes traditional methods and vocabulary, within the bounds of traditional theory, to give expression to what is clearly a very modern, naturalistic humanism. So much for the philosophical outworkings of the trend toward the affirmation of desire. As far as aesthetics is concerned, at roughly the same time a group of individuals, directly or indirectly connected with Li Zhi, put forward an individual-centered creative theory in art and literature. These persons included Xu Wei (1521–1593; “Value the innate quality”),21 Yuan Hongdao (1568–1610; “Learn from the heart, not from the Way”),22 and Tang Xianzu (1550–1616; “I say that if it is not to be found in reason, who is to say it is not to be found in emotion?”).23 Although this trend would later endure the opposition and denouncement of the pseudo-classicists, it continued to prevail in the artistic production and theory of the early Qing (Jin Shengtan, Li Yu, Shitao) through the Qianlong period (1736–1796) in the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou, Yuan Mei, and others. The individualist painter Shitao (1642–1707) said, “The One-Line Method is something that must be arise from one’s self.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹For a painting must proceed from the mind.”↜24 And the influential poet Yuan Mei (1716–1798) remarked, “In relations with people, one should be selfless;â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹in poetry, one should never be selfless,â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹you cannot take refuge within someone else’s hedge.”↜25 Each of these thinkers is saying more or less the same thing. It is true that Dai Zhen never reached the level of influence of Wang Yangming, just as Yuan Mei and his followers never produced quite the effect of Xu Wei and Tang Xianzu. However, the general trend from the Jiajing reign period of the Ming

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through the Qianlong reign period of the Qing (1522–1795) was to break away from, or even repudiate, traditional Confucian teaching. This is true whether we speak of the Gong’an school’s advocacy of blandness and ease or the Jingling school’s quest for the obscure;↜26 it is true of Li Yu’s eroticism, Shitao’s originality, or Yuan Mei’s promotion of innate sensibility (xingling).27 When these thinkers spoke of Mind, Emotion, Truth, Nature, the Self, and so on, their use of these terms had already departed from the Confucian or Daoist universalizing notions of “the Mind of Heaven and Earth,” or the emotion of the Wei-Jin, Sui, and Tang dynasties that welled up in response to life’s vicissitudes. This was no longer the Song-Ming neo-Confucians’ notion of a “just and rational nature” or “perceptual intelligence.” No, their views of emotion, mind, sensibility, and so on, were much more individualistic and much more physical. Whether consciously or unconsciously, their formulations of these terms were more closely connected with selfishness, sexual desire, sensuous physical existence, and instinctive needs. When Tang Xianzu’s heroine in The Peony Pavilion (Mudan ting) loves in such a life-or-death fashion, it is not just a spiritual attachment but a physical desire with which she struggles. This is of great symbolic significance. The sexual love here is no longer characterized by the crude vulgarity we find depicted in the Yuan dynasty Romance of the Western Chamber (Xixiang ji), but is depicted as a more sublime expression of desire. Yuan Mei, who was perhaps the latest representative of this trend of thought, would never have equated his notion of “innate sensibility” (xingling) with carnal desire. At bottom, however, it is also closely tied to natural, physical desire. The basis of this “innate sensibility” is “temperament” (xingqing). He said, “When lifting the pen one must first inquire of the temperament”↜28 and “↜‘Poetry expresses the intent’ refers to the fact that a poem must originate in the temperament.”↜29 What he means by “temperament” is largely the emotions. The phrase “Poetry originates in the emotions” dates from ancient times and is nothing new; what is new here is Yuan Mei’s notion that “emotion” refers first and foremost to the feelings between the sexes. He said: “Now poetry is born of emotion. If one has an emotion that cannot be resolved, then one will end up with a poem that has lasting appeal. And chief among the emotions is that between man and woman.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The Song neo-Confucians criticized Bo Juyi for the fact that his poems on Hangzhou are largely in remembrance of courtesans, rather than ordinary folk. But why, then, should King Wen have lost sleep, not over his father and grandfather, but over a lady?”↜30 This is perhaps the main argument of Yuan Mei’s theory of poetry. In summary, the return to the real flesh-and-blood individual and the sensual, worldly love between the sexes would end in the modern road to selfdestruction for traditional aesthetics. Because from here the next step is the

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manifestation of individual independence and expression—in other words, the emancipation of the body and the liberation of the mind—and in the process, the gradual denial or even repudiation of the rites and music tradition, with its emphasis on “restraining pleasure with music,” and the Confucian aesthetic tradition, in which one “starts from emotion and halts at ritual and propriety.”↜31 It is appropriate to speak of “self-destruction” because all of these artists, authors, and thinkers were themselves Confucian scholar-intellectuals who never consciously deviated from the fundamental Confucian spirit or concepts. For example, Tang Xianzu, despite his glorification of love and emotion, still said that “the greatest pleasure is in Confucian doctrine.” Jin Shengtan (1608–1661), who had great praise for the Ming novel Shuihu zhuan (Water Margin) and for the Yuan play Romance of the Western Chamber, still held high the banner of loyalty and justice. And even the multitalented, open-minded Li Yu still talked about being “helpful for moral teaching,” “beneficial for exhortation,” and “leading into the right path.” Even Yuan Mei held to the Confucian view that poetry should “reflect the feelings of the common people.” The other thinkers are more or less the same; they had no conscious desire to rebel against Confucian tradition. They were still bearers of the legacy of Confucian aesthetics. Yet in their creative activity they demonstrated the countervailing tendency we have been discussing to give prominence to individual desire and instinctual impulses. Sensual debauchery, instinctive outbursts, and the sudden outpouring of long-suppressed subconscious desire—these are the stuff of this new modern trend, though manifested not in mature aesthetic theory but in concrete aesthetic taste. In various forms and to varying extents, these thinkers expressed the tendency to repudiate traditional standards, norms, and aesthetic criteria. Their open pursuit of the interesting, coincidental, shallow, odd, vulgar, romantic, humorous, shocking, deviant, and unexpected take them quite a distance away from the traditional poetic ideal of “gentleness and sincerity,” and the Confucian standard of moral and ethical instruction. Perhaps some examples will serve to illustrate. Ming playwright Xu Wei said, “If in reading it, you really do feel as if cold water had been poured on your back, if you are taken aback, then this is an example of ‘reflecting the feelings of the common people.’↜”↜32 “In the late Tang and Five Dynasties,” he remarked elsewhere, “the art of filling in song lyrics [writing ci poetry] reached its peak. The poets of the Song could never reach the same level. Why? Because ci should be shallow and approachable. The writings of the late Tang are the most shallow, remaining close to the theme of the tune title. This is why they were so superior. During the Song, not a poet could set down a line without imitating Du Fu. The form was exalted, but the spirit (qi) was crude. No sooner were the words set down than they ossified. This is why they never suited the genre.”↜33

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Yuan Hongdao held up children and the lower classes as examples: It is very difficult for people to find enjoyment.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The enjoyment found in nature is deep, while that found in learning is shallow. As children, we are not aware of such a thing as enjoyment, yet we find enjoyment everywhere and in everything. Children have no fixed expression, their eyes never remain long on one thing, their mouths are always jabbering, their feet frolicking. This is the period in which we know the greatest pleasure of human life.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The fool easily finds enjoyment, because he has no rank or status. The lower one’s status, the fewer one’s ambitions. Perhaps he will seek wine and meat, or music and women—he is free to follow his heart without fear or scruples. Because he sees himself as a derelict, he does not care if the world derides him; this is also a type of enjoyment.34

And applying this to writing, he says: One should only express the innate sensibility (xingling), and not adhere rigidly to set conventions. If it does not flow from one’s own heart and mind, it would be better to put down the pen.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Excellent passages have no need to be discussed, but the defective parts are also full of original expressions. I personally greatly enjoy these defective parts, while the so-called excellent parts always seem to be marred by embellishment and imitation.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹What is expressed according to one’s nature seems better able to capture human joys and griefs, lusts and desires. This makes for more enjoyment.35

Li Yu (1611–ca. 1679) is known as a playwright, critic, and fiction writer. He remarked: “Fineness” and “ingenuity” have always been taboo in writing style.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹It is only in the Southern (chuanqi) drama that they are not prohibited. In a chuanqi play, the more fine, the denser the plot, and the more ingenuity, the neater the plot. Writers must not be too “honest,”â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹for the key to novelty [jianxin] is none other than fineness and ingenuity. What proceeds from novelty makes people raise their eyebrows and widen their eyes, as though hearing something for the first time. What proceeds from honesty, on the other hand, makes people depressed and disheartened, as if they have listened to something they should not have listened to.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.36 Since theater is enjoyed by the literate and illiterate alike, as well as by illiterate women and children, one should value the shallow and not the deep.37

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Jin Shengtan remarked: “It is crisis that produces marvelous literature.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Where there is crisis, the result will be marvelous; where there is no crisis, there will be nothing marvelous.”↜38 “If there is no crisis, there can be no pleasure, while great crisis will produce tremendous pleasure.” And again, “The more unusual, the more surprising and wonderful; the more surprising and wonderful, the more pleasure will be aroused.”↜39 And to round out our catalogue, let us turn again to the eighteenth-century poet Yuan Mei: It has been said that love poetry is inadequate for moral training, but I doubt this. “Guan, guan cry the ospreys” [the first poem of the Book of Songs] is a love poem. Love poetry finds its origins in the theory of yin and yang, husband and wife.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Any kind of poetry, be it unusual or plain, romantic or naïve, has something to recommend it. For not all poetry need be serious.40 “Gentleness and sincerity” is but one end of the poetic spectrum. It is not necessary to seek this above all.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹I accept Confucius’ comment that poetry should reflect the feelings of the common people. What I do not accept is the notion that it must be gentle and sincere.41

In short, these thinkers no longer seek to conform to the notion of “gentleness and sincerity” but have begun to cast doubt on such notions. No longer is it necessary for a work to be elegant, tranquil, harmonious, deep, plain, or penetrating. One need no longer avoid, but should actually pursue, the kind of shocking, vulgar, romantic, or startling effect discussed above. The appearance of this trend in aesthetic taste demonstrates the fact that artistic and literary appreciation and production are no longer occurring completely within the ethical realm of Confucian tradition, but instead are striving for independence from it. It also demonstrates the fact that aesthetic trends had become more strongly imbued with the sensuous pleasures of daily life. To quote Yuan Mei again: “The value of literature really has nothing to do with its usefulness.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹It is a long time since literature was closely linked with the Dao; yet the literati need to solidify their position, and therefore they speak again and again of ‘illuminating the Dao,’ as if it were a bad habit. But if you probe their intentions, you will find that the Dao these writers speak of is not the Dao of King Wen and Wu or the Dao of Confucius. The Dao is like a broad road, and has no need of literature for its illumination.”↜42 Here Yuan Mei is more or less openly calling for the separation of literature from the Dao. If even orthodox writings take this tack, it goes without saying

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that less orthodox writings will do so as well. Beginning in the mid-Ming, this trend became even more pronounced. For example, the fiction of the late Ming is full of descriptions of obscenity, greed, cruelty, and swindling, and takes great relish in relating scandalous and disgraceful behavior. These works sought to titillate the senses, to produce great dramatic tension, and so on. In painting, the same trend is apparent in Chen Hongshou’s (1598–1652) portraits of ugly and unusual characters who “knew no repose, even in a painting,” or Xu Wei’s innovations in ink techniques used to suggest the object, or Dong Qichang’s (1555–1636) strong advocacy of unrealistic and clumsy landscapes in the style of the “ancients.” In calligraphy, as Xiong Bingming has noted, “The unrestrained grass script of the Ming was at the time strongly repudiated by orthodox neo-Confucianists like Xiang Mu and Feng Fang. The latter said it was ‘like a beggar-child in rags, covered with sores, long-since fallen into the gutter, lying on a reed mat in the street, clumsy and crippled, no longer looking even human.’ The former called it ‘like blind loafers on a village street, dressed in rags, hands and feet dirty and putrefied, belting out vulgar songs.’↜”↜43 It was because this unrestrained grass style of calligraphy, like the above-mentioned aesthetic trends in painting and literature, took part in the general departure from the restraints of Confucian tradition that it earned such a furious repudiation by the defenders of the tradition. Actually, all of the personages discussed above earned similar reprobation at the hands of the orthodox. For example, of Li Zhi it was said that “he has brought harm to the people’s customs; he should be put to death and his books destroyed.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹He should properly be called a criminal.”↜44 Of Xu Wei’s poems it was said, “They have drifted into the demonic, have lost all fineness of diction, and mostly amount to frivolous trivialities.” “His poems paved the way for the Gong’an school and his writings were the inspiration for the bad style of Jin Shengtan and his like.”↜45 As for the Three Yuans (Yuan Hongdao and his brothers), we find these words: “Anyone who learns from the Three Yuans is simply showing off his own smallness of mind, breaking every rule, and violating every norm.” And, “Since the Wanli period [1573–1619], the Gong’an school has been touting their frivolity, and the Jingling school has been carrying the banner of the gloomy and abstruse. This hubbub of contention embroiled the hearts of the people in frivolities, while the melancholy foretold the fate of the country; this is the reason for the fall of the Ming.”↜46 The criticisms leveled at Li Yu and Yuan Mei during the Qing dynasty were even more severe: The sixteen plays of Li Liweng [Li Yu] have enjoyed great popularity, but I believe they are nothing but the most vulgar humor, pure philistinism,

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that bears no traces of refinement.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹As for Li Yu himself, he is a man of shabby character, good at flattery. He enjoyed cavorting with three or four courtesans. When they would encounter a group of aristocrats, he would have the girls perform, play drinking games, and even discuss the arts of the bedchamber. In so doing he always managed to extort from them a high price. It is not surprising that a man of such poor character should produce such writings.47 Of all the classics, Li Yu valued only the Songs, having no regard for the Changes, the Book of Documents, the Rites, the “Record of Music,” or the Spring and Autumn Annals. And of the Songs, he preferred the folk Airs to the Odes or the Hymns. Of the Airs, again, he thought nothing of the songs of right government or the customs of the people, valuing only the romantic songs, which he insisted upon reading as odes to free love, rejecting moralistic readings.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Now, there have always been petty-minded people who have latched onto questionable passages in the Classics in their own interests, but never until now has it happened that anyone has dared to spread such debauched ideas about the propriety of the Classics, defaming the sages and discrediting their instruction.48 This unschooled person (Yuan Mei) upheld a regard for charm and wit, turning upside down the difference between good and evil, chastity and lasciviousness, right and wrong, inciting people to go after pure witticism.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Unknowing young people would forget their upbringing, as if blown about by the wind. In this way the Classics become an excuse for following one’s desires and preaching lasciviousness, defaming the sages and disregarding their instruction.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹He induced discontentment among women with their proper station, so that they envied worthless scholars their pursuit of fame. He poses a threat as great as a flood or a wild beast.49

Whether they are read as personal attacks or theoretical arguments, the above attacks clearly center upon the individualistic, thoroughly sexually colored aesthetic taste for the lascivious, novel, frivolous, and vulgar. This aesthetic trend was fundamentally at odds with the ethical standards of the Confucian tradition, and so was seen as “defaming the sages and disregarding their instruction,” or “breaking every rule and violating every norm.” So although the fundamental role of sex is ensconced in the tradition through the Book of Changes (“First there was man and woman, then there was husband and wife; first there was husband and wife, then there was father and son; first

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there was father and son, then there was ruler and minister”),50 this formulation places it firmly in the service of establishing the Confucian social hierarchy, which is precisely what the preeminence of sexual desire in the modern period threatened to destroy. The early Qing was a period of consolidation of the tradition. It may be said that Wang Shizhen’s notion of shenyun [spiritual flavor] was carrying on the tradition of Yan Yu’s Chan-based poetics, Wang Fuzhi’s poetics expressed an emotional emphasis consonant with the Qu Yuan tradition, and Shen DeÂ�qian was the “reflected light of the setting sun” of Confucian orthodox ethical poetics. Correspondingly, Yuan Mei should probably be seen as most representative of the trend toward breaking free of the Confucian tradition, based on the liberation of desire (“following one’s desires and preaching lasciviousness”) that arose in the mid-Ming and after. In this philosophical context, Xu Wei, Tang Xianzu, and Yuan Hongdao are contemporaneous with and correspond to Li Zhi and the Taizhou school, while Yuan Mei is contemporaneous with and corresponds to Dai Zhen. Because the pseudo-classicists were very much in power during Yuan Mei’s time, the attacks and repudiation he endured were much more intense. The repeated criticisms of Zhang Xuecheng quoted above are examples. It should be noted that Zhang Xuecheng was also a thinker who evinced a modern sensibility, but he lagged far behind Yuan Mei. To summarize, the problem of desire is an ancient one. What is distinctive at this juncture is that desire is an expression of the importance given to the flesh-and-blood individual—in other words, that desire highlights the existence of the individual. The individual here is no longer defined only as a member of an ethically defined relationship or as an element of a cosmic system. Rather, the individual is an unrepeatable, irreplaceable, and totally unique sensuous life. This life no longer functions as a stand-in for the significance of life in general, or for a generalized attachment to mortality. Instead, it is a real flesh-and-blood “self ” with desires and needs. Having dealt with philosophy and aesthetics, then, let us turn to the question of form. If the repudiation of Confucian tradition discussed above was not yet occurring at a conscious level, then we must acknowledge that the investigation and standardization of form and technique carried out during this period by certain artists and authors was, in contrast, very conscious. This unprecedented emphasis on and pursuit of the rules and principles of art and aesthetics is another indicator of the movement toward modernism. This trend implies that art and literature are not simply “vehicles of the Way,” but that their techniques and principles have significance in and of themselves. Most representative of this phenomenon is the advocacy of the “imitation of the ancients” by

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Ming scholar-painter-calligrapher Dong Qichang (1555–1636). Dong’s notion of “imitation” refers not to simple copying but to the pursuit of the formal principles of ancient works, which are then extracted and fixed into patterns that can be employed in creative work in order to harness and order the objective landscape. In no way does this constitute the realistic imitation either of nature itself or of ancient works of art. Rather, it is the abstraction and recombination of traditional artistic techniques. If we say that the trend toward the modern is manifest on the level of content in Xu Wei, Shitao, and the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou in the form of intellectual liberation and individual expression, then it is manifest on the level of form in Dong Qichang and the Four Wangs51 in their extraction of the principles of artistic technique. For from this point on, technique is accorded a value completely independent of content. Some Western scholars have compared Dong Qichang with Cézanne. I believe this is something of an overstatement. However, Dong did seek to portray a sort of essential reality that transcends the natural scene. He said, “in terms of little paths and craggy peaks, painting does not compare with landscape; but in terms of marvelous artistic technique, landscape cannot compare with painting.”↜52 In other words, painting can be superior to the landscape itself, not in the objective sense of how well it captures the lifelikeness or typicality of the scene, but rather in the subjective creativity of skillful artistic technique. In this regard, Dong Qichang certainly displays a certain modern consciousness. The same tendency is apparent in Li Yu’s dramatic criticism, and in the critical remarks on fiction of Yuan Lin, Jin Shengtan, and Mao Zonggang, as well as in Weng Fanggang’s Qing dynasty notion of the “texture” of an essay, the techniques of classical-style essay writing of the Tongcheng School, and so on. All of these share to a greater or lesser extent a common theoretical tendency to emphasize form and the techniques and principles of artistic creation. This constituted a gradual movement away from Confucian tradition, and one that cannot be traced to Zhuangzi, Qu Yuan, or Chan Buddhism. Of course, attention to form has been present since ancient times, in the techniques of artisans passed down orally from generation to generation, and in literati discourses such as that of Shen Yue of the Six Dynasties, who catalogued the faults of poetry. The reason we read the present phenomenon as part of a trend toward the modern has to do with the fact that, to different degrees and in different ways, the various characteristics we have been discussing display a modern consciousness of and tendency toward professionalism and specialization. The paintings of the Four Wangs, for example, cannot be said to be either expressive of emotion (as in Yuan painting) or descriptive of nature (as in Song painting). Rather, they are simply the ornamental “products” of professional painters.

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In none of these three respects—whether from the point of view of philosophy, aesthetics, or form—would these tendencies have met with the approval of Confucian tradition or Song-Ming neo-Confucian orthodoxy. Far from it— they would have been deeply decried and rejected. From the point of view of the neo-Confucians, the philosophical trend toward a naturalistic humanism, the advocacy for the creativity of the individual self, and the aesthetic taste for the decadent, vulgar, strange, and extreme, along with the avid pursuit of formal principles and technical theory, would have been seen as having departed from the orthodox path of self-cultivation and enlightened government to the extent of bringing harm to “the Way of the Sages.” If we look at Liu Zongzhou’s articles in his Ren pu [Human Record], with titles such as “Warning against Attending the Theater,” or “Warning against Writing Love Poetry,” we can see the extent and significance of the deviation from Confucian tradition that this trend constituted (for it was, indeed, a unified trend, extending over several hundred years, and not simply an isolated phenomenon). Before it could have the opportunity for full development, however, this trend was suppressed by pseudoclassicists, from the purveyors of an orthodox poetics to the textual critics and Cheng-Zhu neo-Confucians of the Qianlong (1736–1795) and Jiaqing (1796–1820) reign periods of the Qing dynasty. Nevertheless, its message, affirming individuality and desire, served as a harbinger of the modern period.

The Influence of Western Aesthetics Beginning around the time of the Hundred Days’ Reform of 1898, modern Western thought entered China in force. This would, of course, have a profound impact on traditional Confucianism as well as on literature and the arts. The story of this impact is a complex one, and one that is beyond the scope of this book. From the point of view of aesthetics, two examples of the reception of Western culture and its interaction and conflict with the existing tradition over the past century or so are particularly worth our attention. The first is the theoretical work of Wang Guowei (1877–1927) and Cai Yuanpei (1868–1940) in the early twentieth century. The second is the theory of “art as life” that gained prominence toward the middle of the century. Many scholars have already written substantially on Wang Guowei and his work of poetic criticism, the Renjian cihua. In many respects a typical, traditional Confucian intellectual, Wang Guowei was at the same time a forerunner in the reception of Western philosophy and aesthetics. He is perhaps best known for his elaboration of the notion of the “aesthetic realm” (jingjie).53 There are various interpretations of Wang’s notion of the aesthetic realm. In my opinion, what distinguishes the aesthetic realm is not simply the author’s

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feeling, motivation, or sensibility, nor is it just the flavor, charm, or tone of the work, nor again can it be understood as another way to talk about the integration of feeling and scene.54 Rather, the aesthetic realm is the revelation of life through the relationship between feeling and scene, and the objectified realm of the artistic subject—in other words, it is a manifestation of the realm of human life. Although Wang’s argument does not everywhere center on this point, it is undoubtedly the key to all of his aesthetic thought. Therefore it is no accident that Wang also uses his three types of aesthetic realm (“Gazing along the road to the horizon,” “Having no regrets though my clothes grow loose,” and “Suddenly turning one’s head”) to describe the process of learning. Wang also distinguished between what he called the “aesthetic realm of the poet” and the “aesthetic realm of the ordinary person,” pointing out that Only the poet can sense the aesthetic realm of the poet; only the poet can create it on paper. This is why when one reads a poem, one has a sense of exaltation, and of leaving the world behind.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Ordinary people can all feel the sad feelings of separation, the joy of reunion, the homesickness of the traveler, but only the poet can put these things on paper. This is why the poet affects people so deeply and on such a broad scale.55

In other words, poetry expresses an experience of life that is shared by poet and ordinary person alike; this experience becomes an artistic, aesthetic realm when emotional responses to life are given verbal expression in the objective form of objects in the environment. Thus, the aesthetic realm originates in the emotional experience of life, which is then transformed into an artistic subject. This subject consists of the correspondence between the realm of human life and experience on the one hand, and psychological emotions on the other. To return to Wang Guowei’s own formulation: The “realm” does not only refer to a landscape or scene. The emotions of joy and sorrow, anger and pleasure, also constitute a sort of aesthetic realm in the human heart. So if a poem captures in words a real scene or a real emotion, it can be said to convey an aesthetic realm.56

What Wang is referring to here is the objectification of psychological emotion in order to construct an artistic noumenon that manifests something about human life. When Wang speaks of poems that approach their subject in a manner that is veiled (or mediated, ge), or unveiled (or unmediated, bu ge), and when he speaks of the difference between “describing” and “creating” an aesthetic realm, these things should be understood in this sense, rather than

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purely in terms of the interaction of feeling and scene. Only in this way will their aesthetic significance become clear. Wang’s pursuit of and theorizing about the aesthetic realm imply the hope that this artistic noumenon will somehow provide an escape from the suffering of individual sensuous existence. He writes: What is the essence of life? It is desire. Desire, by nature, knows no limits, and originates in dissatisfaction or want. Want produces suffering.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹ When one desire has faded, another takes its place. Therefore there is no permanent satisfaction. Even if my every desire were satisfied, and I had no further object for my desire, weariness and boredom would soon ensue. Thus my life is like a heavy burden that I cannot carry. It is like a pendulum, always swinging between suffering and boredom.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Therefore, desire is life is suffering—the three are one.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Now, there is one thing that can raise one above the struggle for gain, and lead one to forget the distinction between self and the world. In this state, one is without hope or fear; one is no longer a desiring ego, but only a knowing self.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹This one thing is, of course, art. The art object at once describes the suffering of life and provides us a way of escaping it. It enables us, enshackled and ensnared as we are in the world, to leave behind the struggle with desire and obtain some measure of peace. This is the aim of art.57

This may seem to be pure Schopenhauer, but it is actually a modern development of the sense of life as illusion that had prevailed since the time of Su Shi. What is new here is Wang’s construction of this experience around the desires of the sensuous individual. In seeming opposition to the modernizing trend toward affirming desire and emotion discussed in the previous section, what Wang is expressing here is a denial of, weariness with, and terror of this individual existence and sensuous, natural desire. This pessimism and weariness in the face of the inevitability of individual existence and therefore of physiological needs and instinctive desires, is actually a perfect reflection of the conflict that arose in China when global modernism collided head-on with tradition. The Confucian tradition had always emphasized “life,” but this “life” was a communal, social life; it had to do with “heaven and earth” and the state, and did not lay any particular emphasis on the feelings and desires of the sensuous individual. When the life of the community began to lose its significance, then naturally the existence of the individual would also lose its value. Wang was a deeply patriotic scholar-official (under the Manchu Qing dynasty) who felt keenly the hopelessness of his own future, on top of the already melancholy legacy of the traditional view of life’s illusoriness. It is

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quite natural, therefore, that he should have accepted Schopenhauer’s pessimistic philosophy of the blind domination of the will, and that he should seek to escape life through an artistic noumenon that creates a sort of aesthetic realm. The desire to escape from the demands of individual sensuous flesh-and-blood existence is itself testimony to the fact that this existence has awakened and is exerting an overwhelming influence. Therefore, Wang’s notion of a noumenal artistic realm (an aesthetic realm) that transcends profit and loss and leads to the forgetting of the self–other distinction constitutes a higher level of philosophical development than Yan Yu and Wang Shizhen’s Chan enlightenmentbased aesthetic theories of “stirring enthusiasm” [xingqu] and “spiritual flavor” [shenyun]. This is why Wang Guowei has attracted more attention in modern times than Yan Yu and the like—his incorporation of Western-style theories that negate the will, desire, and life itself, more clearly highlights the modern problem of the role of desire in life. Confucian intellectuals sought to temporarily escape the demands of desire and the suffering of life through an imaginary, artistic world—the aesthetic realm (which for them was the noumenon)—precisely because they never had a religious faith. Wang Guowei himself is an example. It was only in art that he could find the thing-in-itself that gave comfort and meaning to his life, even though he clearly understood that this could provide only an unreliable and temporary release. This is why, when reality forced him to make a choice, his real answer was, with Qu Yuan, self-destruction—suicide. But when he wrote in his suicide note, “As a matter of principle, I will not again be disgraced,”↜58 he continued to reflect a firmly Confucian mind-set. His suicide was a product of the combination of modern pessimistic Western philosophy and a traditional Confucian sense of frustration. As I noted in the previous chapter, Confucianism never established a supramoral religion, only a supramoral aesthetics. It never set up a divine noumenon, only a human (psychological-emotional) noumenon. It never sought salvation or mercy from a god, but consolation for human sorrow in the molding of the emotions. If we say that Wang Guowei raised these issues in a pessimistic manner, then Cai Yuanpei responded to them more positively, with the injunction to “let aesthetic education take the place of religion.” Wang Guowei was influenced by the ideas of Schopenhauer, Cai Yuanpei by Kant. Just as Wang Guowei had kept his feet firmly rooted in Confucian tradition, Cai Yuanpei never joined Kant’s quest for an ethical theology but hoped instead to extract from religion its emotional elements and function, and by making these serve as the fundamental quality of art, allow art to take the place of religion. In Cai’s own words,

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Our spiritual functions can be divided into three categories: the intellect, the will, and the emotions. The earliest religions always displayed these same three categories.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The intellectual function has since become independent of religionâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹as has the function of the will.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Therefore, it is clear that the only one of these that retains an intimate connection to religion is the emotional function—i.e., the sense of beauty.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹A truly worldly education cannot be attained through mere rote learning. Its relationship with the phenomenal world is not something that can be articulated using tired language or simplistic words. How, then, can it be explained? I say, through education in beauty. The aesthetic sense comprises both beauty and dignity, and as such serves as a bridge between the phenomenal world and the substantial world.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹In the phenomenal world, everyone has feelings of love and hate, fear and joy, sorrow and pleasure, depending on the phenomena of separation and reunion, life and death, fortune and disaster, gain and loss. But art can employ these phenomena for its materials, while in the process causing its audience to feel nothing but the sense of beauty.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹When one is enabled to rise above one’s feelings about the phenomenal world and enter fully into the sense of beauty, one can be said to have touched the idea of the substantial world and entered into friendship with the Creator.59

Cai here equates religion with emotional education, leaving aside its functions in ethics and the training of the will and emphasizing instead its ability to “mold the emotions” in order to attain the “noumenal world.” Clearly, Cai is speaking from a traditional Confucian atheistic standpoint as he makes his argument for allowing aesthetics to replace religion. Cai takes a positive approach to what Wang Guowei had approached in a negative manner: art as a means of escape from worldly cares and as a temporary solace in the sufferings of life. Both were pursuing the noumenal reality of human life through art and aesthetics. The important question is why these two men, coming from such different starting points, and traveling along such different paths, should have arrived at the same conclusion. I believe the answer lies in the intersection of the Confucian tradition with Western aesthetics. When the non-Dionysian culture of the rites and music tradition and the atheistic philosophy of the Confucian tradition opened their doors once again to absorb and assimilate the philosophy and aesthetics of Kant and Schopenhauer, the result was this new proposition. Although this proposition on the surface differs quite markedly from the indulgent trends that had prevailed in China since the mid-Ming, still these trends shared a common

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modern foundation that emphasized the importance of individual sensuous existence. To quote Wang Guowei again: When Confucius taught people, apart from employing poetry and music, he made them enjoy natural beauty. This is why he would practice the rites beneath the trees, share aspirations on Mount Nong, swim by the Altar of Rain, or sigh when crossing a river. And when he asked his disciples to share their intentions and dreams, he agreed only with Zeng Dian [Analects 11.26].â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Such a person, such a scene, unites innumerable things in one, so that “I am the universe and the universe is I.”â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹Is this not the same thing as Schopenhauer’s “non-desiring self,” or Schiller’s notion of the “heart of beauty”? In the aesthetic realm of which I speak, there is no hope, no terror, no inner struggle, no profit or loss, no self or other; and there is adherence to moral principles without following the letter of the law. A person who lives like this could be said to have entered the realm of the sages; a society like this would be a utopia. Confucius’ dictum, “be at peace with it and carry it out,” like Schiller’s injunction to “take pleasure in keeping moral laws,” can only be complied with through aesthetic education.60

This is the same thing we hear from Cai Yuanpei, who advocated an aesthetic education combining Eastern and Western traditions. Although the theoretical starting points may be different—one positive, one negative, one Kantian, one following Schopenhauer—their prescriptions for combining Western scholarship with the native Chinese tradition are very similar. Both advocated replacing religion with aesthetic education and transcending morality with aesthetics, thereby bringing about the unity of heaven and human, and overcoming desire, hope, fear, profit, loss, and the distinction between self and other. In this way each hoped to touch the reality of the noumenal realm and bring about an ideal people and a utopian society. This confluence seems to bear testimony yet again to the tenaciousness of ancient Chinese tradition (and particularly the Confucian tradition) and its creative power in the course of absorbing and assimilating modern Western ideas in the realm of aesthetics. However, beginning in the 1920s, the call for national salvation became paramount in the midst of intense political struggles, and aesthetics was soon consigned to a quiet corner, along with pure philosophy. Wang’s and Cai’s call for “aesthetics in place of religion” was set aside and ignored. In the arts and literature, therefore, beginning with the call for “art to serve life” taken up by the Literary Association in the 1920s, continuing through the leftist cry of the

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1930s for art to serve the revolution, and reemerging in the literature of the anti-Japanese resistance during the 1940s, the traditional Confucian mandate for literature to serve the Dao seems to make a comeback, albeit in a new form. It is no accident, then, that the “pure” art and literature of the “art for art’s sake” movement ceased to exert any particular influence, whether in theory or creative practice. Interestingly, in the years that followed the anti-Confucian May Fourth Movement of 1919, the concern for proper government and the well-being of the people that held sway in the new literary movements can actually be seen to reflect a fundamentally Confucian spirit. This testifies not only to the tenacity and vitality of the Confucian tradition, but also to how deeply embedded and indelible was the cultural-psychological formation that twentieth-century China had inherited. This is why the modernizing trend toward individual desire in literature is once again repressed, to be replaced by a trend toward emphasizing the realities of everyday social life.61 In aesthetics, the proposition of Russian thinker Chernyshevsky that “art is life,” introduced into China in the 1940s and popularized in the 1950s, suits the theoretical needs of the day perfectly. Not only can it accommodate both “art for life” and “art for revolution,” it also coincides beautifully with the lifeaffirming Chinese aesthetic tradition. As such, Chernyshevsky’s thought was enthusiastically welcomed among intellectuals and students, and became the starting point for a new, modern aesthetics. But this development has been treated thoroughly elsewhere and need not be belabored here. All things considered, then, the modern period was no different from the ancient, in that it continued to absorb outside influences, reshaping and assimilating them until they became thoroughly sinicized, while its philosophy and aesthetics remained fundamentally Confucian in spirit.

Media and Categorization In order for an aesthetics to become truly modern, it must first undergo a baptism of systematic, “scientific” analysis. This process necessitates the question of how to tackle certain very specific subjects, such as, for example, the study of the material media employed in Chinese art and literature. This type of systematic analysis is beyond the scope of this book. In this section, I will attempt only a brief discussion of some of these concrete issues. The major sensuous materials of Chinese literature and art (particularly calligraphy, painting, and architecture) are the Chinese language, its characters, the writing brush, and the wooden structure. These material factors, in addition to having shaped and largely determined the aesthetic characteristics of

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Chinese art and literature, and having given expression to the various aspects of the tradition discussed in earlier chapters, have also served some other key functions. Much has been said about the characteristics of Chinese characters, or ideograms. Among the various studies, I believe those that stress the element of meaning are the most important. There are six categories (liu shu) of Chinese characters, of which the “ideographic” and “associative” are the most important. In order to grasp the meaning of a character through its radicals, using conceptual knowledge, one must have a kind of interpretive, or meaningful, memory. The Chinese character makes memory a very important element of meaning, for it is through meaning that it is committed to memory. Since the Chinese writing system is not alphabetical, the resulting distance between writing and language has meant that writing depends entirely upon the comprehension of meaning. Over several thousand years of history, this meaningful faculty of memory has been trained and honed. The pursuit of comprehensibility has been an important and characteristic principle of character formation. The fact that, in Chinese, foreign loan words are not simply transliterated but are given ideographic or associative equivalents, or the transliteration is gradually replaced with an ideographicâ•›/â•›associative translation, is quite rare among world languages. Examples of words that were originally transliterated are the Chinese words for bourgeoisie, democracy, ideology, and computer. This meaningful element of the formation of the Chinese character gives it quite a high degree of freedom. Each character represents a single syllable. In his commentary on Zhuangzi’s “Qiwu lun” chapter, Zhang Taiyan (1868–1936) remarked: “Monosyllabic languages require less time of their speakers, polysyllabic languages require more time of their speakers. For this reason, speakers of polysyllabic languages have to spend more time to express an idea, because the idea lags behind the sound of the language. Speakers of monosyllabic languages, on the other hand, express their ideas more quickly because of the greater equivalence of sound and idea.”↜62 Zhang Taiyan uses this distinction to explain even the presence or absence of religion, which clearly goes too far. However, the fact that Chinese is monosyllabic is clearly connected with the aesthetic character of Chinese language and literature. For example, although the number of commonly used characters in Chinese is rather small, the vocabulary created through combinations of these characters is quite large. Furthermore, because of the presence of meaningful elements in the formation of these combinations, the process of idea formation and expression can take place at an even faster pace. Therefore, a large amount of information can be contained within a small number of morphemes or words. This is of crucial significance

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to the aesthetic character of Chinese poetry and literature, as for example in its emphasis on concision and simplicity, and its musicality. At the same time, because the meaningful aspect of Chinese characters is part of their nature and is not a concept or consciousness that is manifest on the concrete level, a character can be very flexible, polysemous, indeterminate, and obscure. And due to the so-called common origin of calligraphy and painting, the character never completely leaves behind its primitive pictographic quality. The pictograph, or pictographic quality, does not refer to a realistic depiction of a thing, but to a generalized, sensuous abstraction. But neither does this abstraction correspond to a definite schema; it functions, instead, as a vaguely figurative symbol that appeals to intuition. This is why the Chinese character has more comprehensive, polysemous, and indeterminate elements than other symbol systems. Someone has argued, from the lack of abstract nouns in the Book of Songs, that perhaps the ancient Chinese had not yet developed logical thought. This claim fails to take into account the tremendous emphasis the ancients placed precisely on intellectual understanding; but because this understanding was encoded imagistically, it became obscure and polysemous. The Chinese language does not have strict rules governing parts of speech, tense, singularâ•›/â•›plural distinctions, and so on. For this reason, the function, meaning, and position of a word is only comprehensible in the context of the sentence as a whole. The functions of tense, case, and so on are replaced by a very strict word order. This demonstrates the rational order of the whole language system and also makes it easier to “see things as things”—in other words, to set aside subjectivity in order to grasp and represent things in an objective manner that transcends space and time, cognition and logic. For example, in Chinese it is possible to completely omit the verb, so important to sentences in Western languages. These facts about the language, of course, have an effect on people’s thought, feelings, ideas, and intentions, and therefore also on literature, philosophy, and art. For example, owing to the lack of rules governing tense, case, and so on, and because of the vagueness of the meaning of any particular word in a sentence, sentence formation can be very flexible and varied, so that the sentence, and indeed the whole text, often will have a certain level of indeterminacy and hidden meaning, and will leave open a range of possible readings and meanings. This elastic character is especially obvious in poetry, and is one of the reasons for the aesthetic maxim “A poem has no perfect exegesis.” The imagistic and polysemous quality of Chinese characters makes them emotionally very rich. There are also a large number of function words and exclamatory particles that are more purely expressive in nature. Chinese is

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sometimes called a “poetic language,” a language that is never far from sensuous experience and emotional expression. These qualities of the Chinese language have a lot to do with why Chinese culture did not create for itself a transcendent, abstract god, being content with a metaphysics that remains at the level of finite sensory experience, and with a system of thought that favors homology and analogy over abstract deduction and induction. Corresponding to the Chinese character is the distinctive Chinese writing brush, which allowed Chinese art to develop as an “art of the line.” On the decorated pottery of the Neolithic Period, we find “flowing lines, some quite bold and vigorous, with brush strokes clearly evident. From this it is clear that, even in this early period, the writing brush was already in useâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹most likely a brush made from the hair of an animal’s tail or from feathers.”↜63 When one paints or writes with a brush, the thickness of the line is always changing, and the line turns and moves, allowing a tremendous degree of freedom and an almost infinite number of formal possibilities. Its movement, momentum, and dynamism make it an art form, like music, that can interact directly with the emotions. All of these qualities, of course, had a direct bearing on the aesthetic character of Chinese painting and calligraphy. Ancient Chinese architecture typically used wooden structures as its material. The reason for this remains unclear to this day. My guess is that there were sociological reasons for this preference. That is, it was not due to the lack of stone materials but to the longevity of the primitive clan society of the Neolithic Period, which lacked a strong central authority and therefore did not have the manpower to construct great stone edifices (like the pyramids or the Mayan temples). The Great Wall of China, after all, was not begun until the much later Warring States period. Because the tradition of wooden architecture was so long-lived, it was also very difficult to change. Wooden architecture is characterized by a warm tone (wood is warmer than stone), a large, open plane (wooden structures could not be as tall as stone buildings), and complex structural groupings (while stone buildings tend to be more simple). All of these played a crucial role in shaping the aesthetics of an architecture that stressed integrity, practical rationality, and hierarchical relationships. These characteristics have persisted over thousands of years, from cities and palaces (like Beijing’s Forbidden City),64 to common dwellings (like the common family compound, or siheyuan). It is no accident that these material media—from the Chinese language and its characters to the writing brush and wooden structures—display precisely the same traditional aesthetic qualities we have been discussing (the preference for spirit over material, the blending of emotion and reason, the primacy of

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imagination over the senses, etc.). For form and content, spiritual requirements and material media, must form a harmonious whole. Wilhelm Worringer has criticized the view that technique determines style, arguing that what is more important is the spirit of the times. Of course, it is not true that these material media determined the characteristics of Chinese aesthetics, for this would be to ignore the more important role played by the artists and audience—the “human media,” if you will. Beginning in the Qin and Han, because of the early development of the civil service system, scholars and intellectuals became the backbone of the social structure, as well as the major authors and appreciators of literature, art, and philosophy. It was they who played decisive roles in determining the artistic trends and aesthetic tastes that would draw the society together. At the same time, they kept in touch, to greater or lesser degree, with folk art and literature, and with the tastes of the lower classes of society. This connection is seen in the yuefu (folk songs or imitations, known as Music Bureau poetry), as well as in song lyrics and arias, drama, calligraphy, and painting, all of which had their roots in folk and artisan traditions. The high and low traditions of Chinese culture are not actually very strictly separated, but the high tradition, of course, was still the more dominant and powerful. From the Book of Songs and Songs of Chu to the Qing novel Dream of the Red Chamber, from the calligraphy of the Wei-Jin period to the literati paintings of the Ming and Qing, it was the Confucian-educated scholarintellectuals who produced almost all of Chinese philosophy, aesthetics, art, and literature. These human “media” were of even greater importance than the Chinese character, the writing brush, or the wooden structure. For this reason it is only natural that Confucian thought always remained the mainstream of Chinese aesthetics. In short, it is clear that the Confucian-dominated Chinese traditions of philosophy, aesthetics, art, and literature, as well as ethics and government, which from their beginnings in the rites and music and Confucian humaneness went on to incorporate the influences of Daoism, Qu Yuan, and Chan Buddhism, are all founded on a certain “psychologism”—one that took Confucius’ advice to Zai Wo, “Would you feel at ease?â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹If you really feel at ease, then do it,”↜65 as the root of all political ethics and ideological consciousness. This psychologism cannot be the object of empirical study; rather, it is a philosophical proposition that takes emotion as the noumenon. From its ethical origins to the “realm of life,” the entire stream of the history of Chinese thought has taken this type of sensuous psychology as the noumenon. The thing-in-itself is not, then, the spirit, nor is it a deity, nor morality or reason. Instead, it is the psychology of human nature in which emotion and rationality

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Confucianism

Pneuma (qi)

Intention

Metaphor and imagistic association (bixing)

Philosophy

Object

Subject

Medium

Beauty (lies in)

Meaning

Flavor

Chan

Song and Yuan

Vigor of style Subtle awakening (fenggu)

Emotion

Image (xiang)

Qu Yuan

Sui and Tang

Deep emotion

Aesthetic realm

Tao Qian, Zhang Xu, Li Bo, Ruan Ji, Wang Xizhi, Liu Wang Wei, Su Shi Huang Gongwang Zongyuan, Zhu Da Ni Zan, Cao Xueqin

Spiritual reason (shenli)

Personality

Dao

Zhuangzi

Six Dynasties

Rites and music, moral Way Nature

Representatives Gu Kaizhi, Du Fu, Yan Zhenqing, Wu Jingzi

Pre-Qin and Han

Period

Table 1.╇ A Schematization of the Emphases of Chinese Aesthetics

Life

Xu Wei, Tang Xianzu, Li Yu, Yuan Mei

Innate sensibility (xingling)

Desire

Amusement

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are blended. Thus, it can be both transcendent and immanent, both sensuous and beyond the senses. This is what we mean by aesthetic metaphysics. It is upon the basis of this very psychologism that the categorization of Chinese philosophy and aesthetics should be undertaken. I remarked above that the written Chinese character has an obscure and indeterminate quality about it. This is even more the case when it comes to any categorization, which must rely on divisions each of which encompasses a very broad scope. In Chapter 2, I brought out this point with respect to the category of qi (pneuma). But it is equally true with respect to any category. The task of strict scientific analysis and explanation of these classes remains an important, and certainly quite difficult, task for Chinese historians of aesthetics and criticism. Some foreign scholars and critics have employed a Western theoretical framework to analyze Chinese theories of literature and art. James J.â•›Y. Liu, for example, set out six types of Chinese literary theory: the metaphysical, the deterministic, the expressive, the technical, the aesthetic, and the pragmatic.66 Xiong Bingming suggests that “if we take into account all the theories of calligraphy that have arisen since ancient times, they may be classed into six great systems,” namely, the schools of “realism,” “pure formalism,” “sentimentalism,” “ethicism,” “naturalism,” and “Chan sense.”↜67 Both of these categorizations are worthy of study, but both fall short of accuracy, and in fact seem a bit forced. They fail, in the end, to articulate the true spirit of Chinese art. To truly understand and explain in present-day theoretical terminology the highly intuitive and inclusive Chinese aesthetics and its categories will be a long and involved process. In the present work I have not been able to undertake such a task and can only look forward to its completion in the future. It is clear that this book’s approach has been intuitive and impressionistic, lacking the scientific quality of modern analytical language. My approach to categorization is similar. In Table 1, I have tried to set out the main categories and emphases of the tradition in a simplified and schematic manner, in order to suggest its rough divisions and historical trajectory. These categories should not be taken too strictly or absolutely, for all of them are closely interrelated and interpenetrate one another. It is my hope that this rather unscientific table, like the book itself, will be a starting point for further research and will serve as a useful reference.

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Epilogue

Confucius said, “One who warms up the old in order to know the new can be a teacher” (Analects 2.11). The purpose of looking back is in order, through history, to discover oneself, grasp the present, and determine the future. It is the means of understanding one’s current situation and of looking ahead to one’s prospects for the future. All of these actions will bear the marks of one’s own historical prejudices—prejudices that result from the sedimentation of a certain cultural-psychological formation and noumenal consciousness. What is the noumenon? It is ultimate reality, the origin of everything. According to the Confucian-based Chinese tradition, the noumenon is not nature, for a universe without humanity is meaningless. Nor is the noumenon a deity, for to ask humans to prostrate themselves before a god would not fit with the notions of “partnering in the transformation and nurturing of all things” or “establishing the heart of heaven and earth.” It must follow, then, that the noumenon is humankind itself. In this book I have advocated a kind of anthropological ontology1 (or, a practical philosophy of subjectivity), according to which ultimate reality is to be found in humankind’s social-technological construction and culturalpsychological formation. In other words, ultimate reality is found in the two types of “humanization of nature”;2 the first, in which external nature is brought into the human realm, and the second, in which internal nature is molded into “human nature.” This human nature constitutes the psychological noumenon, an indispensable element of which is the naturalization of humans. An important property of the psychological noumenon is natural human emotion. Although based physiologically in biological instincts like sexual love, mother love, and communal love, emotion comes to constitute human nature by undergoing a concrete and historical process of development that takes place in the course of individual and corporate human life. Without this historical process—the process of living—human nature could never have emerged. 223

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Evidently, this (apparently universal) sedimentation of emotion, or noumenal construction, comes about only as the individual takes the initiative to grasp his or her own “being.” It emerges only through the effort to live, the experience of struggle, the furnace of love. It arises in the midst of great homesickness, in the grief of separation, in the bleak loneliness of human existence, or in the intuitive response to nature, whether that response be one of delight or sorrow or some combination of the two. It follows, of course, that it also exists in works of art, in which the flavor of human life is condensed. One should take hold of these, experience and savor them. In so doing, one participates in the construction and sedimentation of the human psychological noumenon, as well as in its continual deconstruction and re-creation. For each person’s individual sensuous existence, each person’s “being,” is completely and utterly unique. The Doctrine of the Mean states that “There is no one who does not eat and drink, but it is rare to find someone who can distinguish the flavors.” Is it possible that, by “warming up” the old, Confucian-based tradition of Chinese art and aesthetics—from the ancient rites and music tradition through Confucian humanism, Zhuangzian freedom, Qu Yuan’s deep emotion, and Chan metaphysics—we can get a small taste of what it means to be human and gain some new knowledge as well, thereby pushing ourselves ahead yet further? This is my earnest hope.

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Notes

Translator’s Introduction 1.╇ See Liu Kang, Aesthetics and Marxism: Chinese Aesthetic Marxists and Their Western Contemporaries (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), xv, and chaps. 4 and 5. Liu points out that China’s aesthetic Marxists of the 1950s and 1960s emphasized a “material practice that humanized nature” (137), drawing on terminology from Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts. Li Zehou himself remarks that “we have to pass through Marxist thought and go beyond it,” valuing Marxism as “a theory of the construction of material and spiritual life” rather than for its narrative of class struggle. See Zehou Li and Jane Cauvel, Four Essays on Aesthetics (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006), 170. 2.╇ Li and Cauvel, Four Essays, 170–171. Li stresses that in the context of Chinese thought, in which there is no real discussion of Being, anthropological ontology “means simply to talk about and seek out the roots of human existence.” 3.╇ See Zhao Shilin, “Jidian shuo,” in Meixue baike quanshu, ed. Li Zehou and Ru Xin (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 1990). Zhao is quoting from Li Zehou zhexue meixue wenxuan (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1985). 4.╇ Ibid. 5.╇ Ibid. 6.╇ Ming Dong Gu reviews the relevant arguments in this regard and refutes the view that China lacks a mimetic theory of literature, in his “Mimetic Theory in Chinese Literary Thought,” New Literary History 36 (2005): 403–424. 7.╇ Analects 17.21. See chap. 6, n. 65, for the context of this quotation.

Chapter 1. The Rites and Music Tradition 1.╇ Studies comparing the scope and usage of mei with the words for beauty in other languages would be warranted. 2.╇ Xu Shen, Shuo wen jie zi, juan 4, pt. 1, p. 17a, in Shuo wen jie zi fu jian zi (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1972), 78. 225

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3.╇ Xu Shen, Shuo wen jie zi, juan 5, pt. 1, p. 11b, in ibid., 100. 4.╇ See the discussion in Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, ed., Zhongguo meixue shi, vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 1984), 80. The character for beauty also shared a common origin with the character for “dance.” 5.╇ Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 46. 6.╇ See Li Zehou, Pipan zhexue de pipan—Kangde shu ping (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1984). 7.╇ Ibid. 8.╇ See K.â•›C.â•›Chang, Art, Myth and Ritual (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983). Taotie were “supernatural, mysterious, and awesome animal images” serving to defend the status quo and perhaps representing the head of a sacred ox. See Li Zehou, The Path of Beauty, trans. Gong Lizeng (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1994), 29. 9.╇ Chang Renxia, Zhongguo wudao shi hua (Shanghai: Wenyi chubanshe, 1983), 12. 10.╇ Zhongguo gudai wudao shi hua (Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1980), 8. 11.╇ Ibid., 9. 12.╇ Zhou li zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1993). References hereafter are given in the text. 13.╇ From the “Yi ji” chapter. Shang shu zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995), 5.8.5. 14.╇ From the “Yi Xun” chapter, in ibid., 13.15.12. 15.╇ See Yang Kuan, Gu shi xin tan (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1965), 135. 16.╇ Shuo wen jie zi, juan 5, pt. 1, p. 11b, in Shuo wen jie zi fu jian zi, 100. 17.╇ See Friedrich Schiller, “Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man,” in Essays, ed. Walter Hinderer and Daniel O. Dahlstrom (New York: Continuum, 1993), 118–119. 18.╇ Susanne Langer, Feeling and Form (New York: Scribner’s, 1953), 190. 19.╇ Ibid., 191; quoting Curt Sachs, World History of the Dance, trans. Bessie Schönberg (New York: W.â•›W.â•›Norton and Co., 1937), 4. 20.╇ Cf. Li Zehou, Wode zhexue tigang: Guanyu zhutixing de bucheng shuoming (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1985). 21.╇ The following argument paraphrases my earlier discussion of these issues found in Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, Zhongguo meixue shi, vol. 1, 79–81. 22.╇ Much later criticism employed “taste” as an artistic criterion, as these examples will demonstrate: Ge Hong: The five flavors differ, but all taste good; beauties are distinct from one another, but all appear well balanced. (“Ci yi,” Bao Puzi wai pian jin zhu jin yi, annot. by Chen Feilong [Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 2002], 677)

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Lu Ji: A rarefied feast without relish of seasoned gravy,â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹for all its grace, is innocent of glamour. (Cyril Birch, trans., “On Literature,” in Anthology of Chinese Literature: From Early Times to the Fourteenth Century [New York: Grove Press, 1965], 211) Liu Xie: The aftertaste completely encompasses it. (“Yin xiu,” Wenxin diaolong zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series [Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 2001], 8.5/87/7) Zhong Rong: Five-character poetry stands above all other literary styles and has the richest flavor of the mass of literary works. (Preface to Shipin, Wan you wen ku edition, vols. 607–608 [Taibei: Taiwan shangwu yinshuguan, 1965], 2) Sikong Tu: Discriminate the flavors [of literary works] and only then speak of them.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The flavor is beyond sourness or saltiness.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹The meaning [is] beyond the flavor.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹(“Yu Lisheng lun shi shu,” quoted in Zu Baoquan, Sikong Tu de shige lilun [Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1984], 17–18) Ouyang Xiu: The recent poems are overly antiquated and stiff, difficult to chew. However, it is like chewing an olive—the longer you chew, the more its true flavor comes through. (Commenting on Mei Yaochen’s poetry, in Liuyi shi­ hua; see Stephen Owen, Readings in Chinese Literary Thought [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Council on East Asian Studies, 1992], 380) Su Shi: Saltiness and sourness are not to the taste of all people, but there are true flavors in them. (From the poem “Song Shen Liao shi”) Yan Yu: Only after reading the Encountering Sorrow over a long period of time did I realize its true flavor. (“Shi ping,” Canglang shihua jiao shi [Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1983], 184) As late as the Ming and Qing dynasties, the great critics (including Xie Zhen, Hu Yinglin, Wang Shizhen, Ye Xie, Wang Shizhen, Yuan Mei, and Liu Xizai) continued to use the term “taste” in their works. 23.╇ Li Zehou, Path of Beauty, 2. 24.╇ See Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures, especially chaps. 1 and 2. 25.╇ References in the text are to Lunyu zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995). 26.╇ References in the text are to Mengzi yinde (Beijing: Harvard-Yenching Institute Sinological Index Series, no. 17, 1941). This quotation is from D.â•›C.â•›Lao’s translation, Mencius (London: Penguin, 1970), 164. 27.╇ References in the text are to Xunzi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1996). 28.╇ From the “Great Preface” to the Book of Songs, Mao shi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995), 1.

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29.╇ See “Yin Zhou zhidu lun,” in Wang Guantang xiangsheng quanji, vol. 2 (Taibei: Wenhua chuban gongsi, 1968), 433–462. 30.╇ See, for example, Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture (Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1934), chaps. 4–6. 31.╇ Herbert Fingarette, Confucius—The Secular as Sacred (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), chap. 1. 32.╇ Herbert Fingarette, “The Music of Humanity in the Conversations of Confucius,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 10 (1983): 333. (Fingarette’s Wade-Giles romanization has been converted to pinyin.) 33.╇ Benjamin I. Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 49–50. On the evolution of Vedic religion, Schwartz is drawing on the work of R.â•›C.â•›Zaehner, Hinduism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972). —Trans. 34.╇ Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures, 53. 35.╇ These passages probably originally described a gentleman or superior man in general and only later were applied to Confucius. See Arthur Waley, The Analects of Confucius (New York: Vintage, 1989), 55. —Trans. 36.╇ For an explanation of the probable origins of this ritual prohibition, see Waley, Analects of Confucius, 58–59. —Trans. 37.╇ References in the text are to Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu zi suo yin, vol. 1, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995). 38.╇ Yang Bojun, ed., Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu, vol. 4 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), 1458. 39.╇ Kong Yingda, ed., Chunqiu zhengyi, Sibu congkan, vol. 20 (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1966), no. 31, p. 14. 40.╇ Collected in the Book of Rites, the Doctrine of the Mean (Zhongyong) has been attributed to Zisi (483–402 B.C.?), a grandson of Confucius, but this view has little credence among scholars today. However, its position as an important Confucian classic is beyond dispute. —Trans. 41.╇ Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall, Focusing the Familiar: A Translation and Philosophical Interpretation of the Zhongyong (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001), 89. This text contains the original Chinese along with a translation; this reference is to the Chinese original. Note that Ames and Hall object to the common translation of zhong as “mean,” preferring instead “nascent equilibrium” or “proper focus.” —Trans. 42.╇ New Confucianism (xinrujia) refers to a largely twentieth-century movement to reassert traditional Chinese thought and culture in the face of the onslaught of Western ideas. It is influenced by, but should be distinguished from, neoConfucianism (lixue), which refers to the movement associated with Zhu Xi and others beginning in the Song dynasty. —Trans. 43.╇ Feng Youlan, San Song Tang xueshu wenji (Beijing: Beijing Daxue, 1984), 139.

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44.╇ Ibid., 136. 45.╇ “Ru Fo yitong lun,” in Zhongguo wenhua yu Zhongguo zhexue, vol. 1 (Beijing: Dongfang chubanshe, 1986), 441. 46.╇ See Xiu Hailin, “Yue zhi chuyi ji lishi yange,” in Renmin yinyue 3 (1986). 47.╇ Xu Shen, Shuo wen jie zi, juan 6, pt. 1, p. 20a, in Shuo wen jie zi fu jian zi, 124. 48.╇ From the “Zhong xia ji” section of Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals. Lü shi chun qiu zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1994), 5.5/27/24. 49.╇ Ibid., 5.5/26/6,10–11. For the translation of these lines I have benefited from consulting The Annals of Lü Buwei: A Complete Translation and Study by John Knoblock and Jeffrey Riegel (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), 147. —Trans. 50.╇ From the “Dasi yue” section of the “Chunguan” chapter of the Rites of Zhou; Zhou li zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1993), 3.21/41/15. 51.╇ Chapter 20 of the Xunzi, “Yue lun.” 52.╇ References in the text are to Li ji zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1992). 53.╇ “Zheng yu,” Guoyu zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1999), 5.1/98/14, 19. 54.╇ “Zhou yu,” B, in the Guoyu, 1.30/22/12, 18. 55.╇ Ibid., 1.30/22/9. 56.╇ Ibid., 1.30/22/10. 57.╇ See Susanne Langer, Feeling and Form, and her Problems of Art: Ten Philo­ sophical Lectures (New York: Scribner’s, 1957). 58.╇ Langer, Feeling and Form, 32. 59.╇ These are sections of the Book of Songs. The “Hymns” are the song, “Odes” the ya, and “Airs” the feng. 60.╇ “Gentleness and sincerity,” or wenrou dunhou, a phrase originating with the Book of Rites and associated with the characteristic indirection of the Book of Songs, would later come to be an important aesthetic term. —Trans. 61.╇ From the “Treatise on Music” in Sima Qian’s Shiji; Shiji hui zhu kao zheng fu jiao bu, vol. 1 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986), 682. 62.╇ Ibid. 63.╇ Benedict is drawing on a distinction drawn in Nietzsche’s discussion of Greek tragedy. See Benedict, Patterns of Culture, 78ff. —Trans. 64.╇ Max Weber has also commented on this non-Dionysian character of Chinese primitive culture.

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65.╇ Zhu Xi, Zhuzi yu lei, juan 80 (Taibei: Zhengzhong shuju, 1973), 3292. 66.╇ References in the text are to the Zhouyi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995). 67.╇ See Li ji, 19.1/98/28. 68.╇ Zhu Xi, Zhuzi yu lei, juan 80, 3304. 69.╇ Ibid., 3279. 70.╇ Xiang Tuijie, Zhongguo minzuxing yanjiu (Taipei: Taiwan shangwu yinshuguan, 1966), 88. 71.╇ Ibid., 96. 72.╇ Ibid., 98. 73.╇ Quoting Stephen Owen’s translation of the “Yuan dao” section of the Wenxin diaolong. Owen, Readings, 187. 74.╇ Ibid., 191. 75.╇ Wang Wei (415–453), “Xu Hua,” in Yu Jianhua, ed., Zhongguo gu dai hua lun lei bian, vol. 1 (Beijing: Renmin wenxue, 1998), 588. 76.╇ Han Zhuo (fl. 1119–1125), Shanshui Chunquan ji, in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua mingzhu huibian (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1982), 133. For an EnÂ� glish translation, see Robert Maeda, trans., Two Twelfth-century Texts on Chinese Painting: Translations of the Shan-shui Ch’un-ch’uan chi by Han Cho and Chapters Nine and Ten of Hua-chi by Teng Ch’un (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 1970). 77.╇ Ji Cheng (1582–?), Yuan ye, quoting the English translation by Alison Hardie, The Craft of Gardens (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 43. 78.╇ See also Louis Harap, Social Roots of the Arts (New York: International Publishers, 1949). 79.╇ The “Five Essentials of Behavior” (wu jiang) are decorum, manners, hygiene, discipline, and morals; the “Four Points of Beauty” (si mei) are beauty of mind, language, behavior, and environment. 80.╇ Mao shi zhu zi suo yin, 1. 81.╇ The preface probably took its present form in the first century A.D. See Owen, Readings, 37. 82.╇ See Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, “Mao shi xu de meixue sixiang,” in Zhongguo meixue shi, vol. 1, chap. 8. 83.╇ For example, “Sheng min” (Mao No. 245), “Gong Liu” (250), “Da ming” (236), “Huang yi” (241), and “Mian” (237). 84.╇ Mao shi zhu shu and Mao shi zheng yi, annot. Zheng Xuan and Kong Yingda, Sibu beiyao, vol. 20 (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1965), Mao shi zhu shu, juan 1, “Guo feng,” “Zhou nan,” 9a. 85.╇ A variant has hou ren lun, which Owen renders as “[giving] depth to human relations.” Owen, Readings, 45. 86.╇ Mao shi zhu zi suo yin, 1.

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87.╇ “Poetry contains divine mysteries,” in Chong xiu Wei shu ji cheng, juan 3 (Japan, Meitoku publishing house, Showa 46 [1971]), p. 28. This quotation comes from a collection of occult materials; although occult books are not the same as primitive shamanism, even in these fantastic, mystical theories, politics is at the heart. 88.╇ This paragraph paraphrases my argument in Li Zehou, The Path of Beauty, 55. 89.╇ Wang Yi (d. 158 A.D.), from his “Tianwen xu” in Chuci Wang Yi zhu, juan 3, collected in Wanyou wenku huiyao, vol. 673 (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1965), 39. 90.╇ “Yuan Dao,” “Yuan Hui,” and “Yuan Ren.” 91.╇ From Han Yu’s “Preface on Seeing off Meng Jiao,” in Yang Jialuo, ed., Han Yu wen ji jiao zhu (Taibei: Shijie shuju, 1960), 136. 92.╇ Qing shihua, last volume (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1984), 948. 93.╇ See Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, Zhongguo meixue shi, vol. 1, “Conclusion.”

Chapter 2. Confucian Humanism 1.╇ References in the text are to Lunyu zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995). 2.╇ This term has been translated variously as “goodness,” “benevolence,” or “humaneness.” The choice of “humaneness” reflects the fact that the term is a homonym for the word “human” or “person.” It should be understood broadly to encompass humanistic culture in addition to compassionate consideration. —Trans. 3.╇ The greatest weakness of Herbert Fingarette’s works is his failure to recognize or give adequate weight to this point. See his Confucius—The Secular as Sacred (New York: Harper and Row, 1972). 4.╇ See Zhang Heng, “Lun yu lun shi,” Wenxue pinglun, vol. 6, May 1980. 5.╇ Li Zehou, “Kongzi zai pingjia,” in Zhongguo gudai sixiang shilun (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1985). For an English translation, see Liu Qizhong, trans., “A Critical Re-evaluation of Confucius,” Social Sciences in China 2 (1980): 99–127. 6.╇ This is Arthur Waley’s translation, from his The Analects of Confucius (New York: Macmillan, 1938). 7.╇ References in the text are to the Li ji zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1992). 8.╇ Waley notes that Wucheng was being governed by Ziyou, one of Confucius’ disciples, the implication being that Ziyou was casting pearls before swine by teaching them music. Arthur Waley, The Analects of Confucius (New York: Vintage, 1989), 210. —Trans. 9.╇ As was discussed in the previous chapter, this passage draws on the fact that the same character is used to represent both music (yue) and pleasure (le). —Trans.

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10.╇ This poem concerns Du Fu’s response to having his thatched hut blown down by the autumn wind. 11.╇ Yu Shaochu, ed., Wang Can ji (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980), 6. 12.╇ Cited by Xie Zhen (1495–1575) in Siming shi hua [Shijia zhishuo], collected in Ming shihua quanbian, vol. 3 (Nanjing: Jiangsu guji chubanshe, 1997), 3127. 13.╇ From “Ji Tang sheng.” 14.╇ From “Zi Jing fu Fengxian xian yonghuai wu bai zi.” Du Fu is comparing himself to two ancient sage-kings; see Stephen Owen, An Anthology of Chinese Lit­ erature (New York: Norton, 1996), 417n1. 15.╇ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversations with Goethe [by] Eckermann, trans. John Oxenford (New York: E.â•›P.â•›Dutton and Co., 1935), 164–165. 16.╇ See A.â•›C.â•›Graham, “Xianqin rujia dui renxing wenti de tantao,” in Liu Shuxian, ed., Rujia lunli yanjiu taohui (Singapore: Institute of East Asian Philosophy, 1987), 157. 17.╇ For the wording “overstepping the bounds of right,” I am following Arthur Waley. —Trans. 18.╇ “When thoughts accumulate, and ability is put to use in order to accomplish something, this is called practice.” Xunzi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1996), 22.107.24. 19.╇ See Li Zehou, Zhongguo gudai sixiang shi lun (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1985), chap. 4. 20.╇ Liu Baonan, annot. Lunyu zhengyi. Sibu beiyao, vol. 70 (Taibei: Taiwan Zhonghua shuju, 1965), juan 17, p. 7b. 21.╇ Ibid., juan 9, p. 6b. This and the following comment are regarding Ana­ lects 8.8. 22.╇ Ibid., juan 9, p. 7a. The story of Ziyou related in the previous section (Analects 17.4), is also instructive here. Ziyou’s story, however, has to do with the collective aspect of “governing with the Way,” while our concern here is with the formation of the individual human personality. 23.╇ Imamichi Tomonobu, Dongfang de meixue, translation of Toyo no bigaku by Jiang Yin et al. (Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 1991). 24.╇ Georg W.â•›F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J.â•›Sibree (New York: Dover, 1956), 221. 25.╇ From the fifth-century collection Shishuo xinyu, section 55, “Yan yu,” where an official named Huan Wen makes this comment on passing by some trees he had planted in a city many years earlier. Yang Yong, ed., Shishuo xinyu jiao jian (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Dazhong shuju, 1969), 90. 26.╇ For example, “Human life ages easily, heaven hardly” (from “Double Ninth,” to the tune “Caisangzi”); “The soughing autumn wind is here again today” (from “Beidaihe,” to the tune “Lang tao sha”).

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27.╇ Wang Xizhi, “Preface to Collected Poems from the Orchid Pavilion” [Lan­ ting ji xu], trans. Richard Strassberg, in The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chi­ nese Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 566. 28.╇ Zhang Zai, “Xi ming,” in Zhang Zai ji, annot. Zhang Xizhen (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1978), 63. 29.╇ Cf. Analects 7.23. Huan Tui was a minister of war in Song who had attempted to kill Confucius; see Chunqiu zuozhuan zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995), B12.14.4/457–458 [14th year of Duke Ai]. 30.╇ “Sculpture is time put into matter. In some of the most beautiful manifestations of sculpture, be it in the dancing Shiva or in the miniature temples of Guerrero, there appears very clearly the search for a junction between stillness and motion, time arrested and time passing.” New Perspectives Quarterly 21, no. 4 (Fall 2004): 11. 31.╇ See Chap. 1, n. 8. 32.╇ References in the text are to Mengzi yinde. A Concordance to Meng Tzu (Beijing: Harvard-Yenching Institute Sinological Index Series, 1941). 33.╇ See Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, Zhongguo meixue shi, vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 1984), 183–184. 34.╇ Mencius 2A.2. The phrase “a sporadic show of [righteousness]” is from D.â•›C.â•›Lau’s translation, Mencius (London: Penguin, 1970), 78. 35.╇ Cao Pi, “Lun wen,” from his Dianlun. See Stephen Owen, Readings in Chi­ nese Literary Thought (Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1992), chap. 3, for the text with a translation and discussion. 36.╇ Xie He, “Gu hua pin lu,” in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua mingzhu hui­ bian (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1982), 17. 37.╇ Cao Pi. 38.╇ Tan Sitong, “Si pian,” from “Shi ju ying lu bi shi,” in Tan Sitong quan ji, ed. Cai Shangsi and Fang Xing (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), 137. 39.╇ Wenxin diaolong zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 2001), 9.5/95/2. For an English translation, see The Book of Literary Design, trans. Siu-kit Wong et al. (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1999), or Owen, Readings in Chinese Literary Thought. 40.╇ Wenxin diaolong, 9.2/90/3. 41.╇ Yan Zhitui, “Wen zhang,” in Yanshi Jiaxun zhuping (Beijing: Xueyuan chubanshe, 2000), 114. 42.╇ Zhang Xuecheng, Wenshi tongyi jiao zhu, ed. Ye Ying (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1985), 279. 43.╇ Wen Tianxiang, Wen wenshan quanji, vol. 1 (Taibei: Shijie shuju, 1962), 375.

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44.╇ See Li Zehou, Zhongguo gudai sixiang shilun (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1985), chap. 4. 45.╇ “Li lun,” Xunzi, 19.95.1. 46.╇ “Wang zhi,” Xunzi, 9.38.14. 47.╇ See Li Zehou, The Path of Beauty, trans. Gong Lizeng (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1994), chap. 4, “Romanticism of the Chu and Han.” 48.╇ Ibid. 49.╇ From the discussion of the hexagram “qian” in the Book of Changes. References to the Book of Changes and to the “Xici zhuan” commentary in the text are to the Zhouyi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995). 50.╇ See Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, Zhongguo meixue shi, 2:412. 51.╇ See Xiandai shufa lunwen xuan (Shanghai: Shanghai shu hua chubanshe, 1980), 120. 52.╇ See Li Zehou, Path of Beauty, chap. 3. 53.╇ References in the text are to the Chunqiu fanlu zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1994). 54.╇ Wenxin diaolong, 10.1/96/15. 55.╇ Guo Xi (fl. 11th c.), “Lin quan gao zhi,” in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua, 68. For a translation, see “An Essay on Landscape Painting,” trans. Shio Sakanishi, 1st ed. (London: John Murray, 1935). 56.╇ Shen Hao, “Hua zhu,” in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua, 235. 57.╇ Yun Ge, “Hua ba,” in ibid., 329. 58.╇ Stephen Owen’s translations, in his Readings in Chinese Literary Thought, 303. Owen explains the category xiong hun as “ceaseless activity following from pure potentiality” (305). 59.╇ See Li Zehou, Path of Beauty, chap. 1. 60.╇ From the “Xu gua,” in Richard Wilhelm, trans., I Ching or Book of Changes, English trans. by Cary F. Baynes (London: Arkana, 1989), 573, 579, and 584. 61.╇ Zong Baihua, “Yishu yu Zhongguo shehui,” in Xueshi 1, no. 12 (October 1947).

Chapter 3. The Daoist-Confucian Synthesis 1.╇ This is Burton Watson’s translation of the title of the first of the “Inner Chapters” of the Zhuangzi, “Xiaoyao you.” See Burton Watson, trans., The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968). 2.╇ The next four paragraphs paraphrase my argument in Li Zehou, The Path of Beauty, trans. Gong Lizeng (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1994), 49–50. 3.╇ References in the text are to Zhuangzi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 2000).

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4.╇ Chen Guying, Zhuangzi jinzhu jinshi (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1984), 201. 5.╇ Liu Fengbao, “Nan huaxue xin bian,” in ibid., 207. 6.╇ References to the Book of Changes and the “Xici zhuan” commentary in the text are to the Zhouyi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995). The quote is from the discussion of the hexagram gu. 7.╇ Xunzi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1996), 29.143.8. 8.╇ Feng Youlan, Xin yuan ren, in Minguo congshu series 5, vol. 14 (Shanghai: Shanghai shudian, 1996), 90ff. 9.╇ See Li Zehou, Zhongguo gudai sixiang shi lun (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1985), 218. 10.╇ Han Yu, “Ershijiu ri fu zaixiang shu,” in Han Changli wen ji jiao zhu, juan 16 (Taibei: Shijie shuju, 1960), 95. 11.╇ Zhu zi yu lei, juan 140 (Taibei: Zhengzhong shuju, 1973), 5344. 12.╇ Jiang Xingyu, Zhongguo yinshi yu zhongguo wenhua (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1947), 22. 13.╇ See Li Zehou, Zhongguo gudai sixiang shi lun, chap. 6. 14.╇ This paragraph paraphrases the argument in Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, Zhongguo meixue shi, vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 1984), 256. 15.╇ “Mr. Lame-Hunchback No-Lips” is Burton Watson’s translation. Watson, Works of Chuang Tzu, 74. 16.╇ Zhang Huaiguan, “Shenpin,” in Shu duan, collected in Lidai shufa lunwen xuan (Shanghai: Shanghai shuhua chubanshe, 1979), 177 and 180. 17.╇ The term “work of ease” (yi pin) also bears the influence of the Chan school, on which see Chapter 5. 18.╇ Huang Xiufu, “Mulu,” Yizhou ming hua lu (Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1964; repr. 2004), 1. 19.╇ Dong Qichang (1555–1636), Hua chan shi sui bi, collected in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua mingzhu huibian (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1982), 252. 20.╇ Li Zehou, Mei de licheng (Beijing: Wenwu chuban she, 1981), 297. 21.╇ Quoting the late Ming Confucian theorist Li Zhi (1527–1602), “Za shuo,” in Fen shu (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), 97. The sage-king Yu is the founder of the pseudo-historical Xia dynasty (21st–16th century B.C.), while Zhou Wu (King Wu of Zhou) is one of the virtuous founders of the Western Zhou dynasty (11th century–771 B.C.). 22.╇ Guo Xi (attrib.), Lin quan gao zhi, in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua, 64. 23.╇ Ibid., 65. 24.╇ Zong Bing, “Hua shanshui xu,” in ibid., 14–15. 25.╇ See George Rowley, Principles of Chinese Painting (Princeton, NJ: PrinceÂ� ton University Press, 1974).

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26.╇ Da Chongguang (1623–1692), Hua quan, in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lun­ hua, 308. 27.╇ Wang Wei, Xu hua, in ibid., 16. 28.╇ A line from “Zhan shi xia du ye fa Xinlin zhi jingyi zeng xifu tongliao” by Xie Tiao (469–499). 29.╇ Dong Qichang, “Ping shi,” in Hua chan shi sui bi, juan 3 (Taibei: Xinwenfeng chubanshe, 1982), 8. 30.╇ Ouyang Xiu, quoted in Zhongguo meixue shi ziliao xuanbian, last volume (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1982), 6. 31.╇ Liu Xiaofeng, Shi hua zhexue (Jinan: Shandong wenyi chubanshe, 1986), 76–77. 32.╇ Ye Weilian, Yin zhi tai he (Taibei: Shibao wenhua chubanshe, 1980), 159. 33.╇ Zhuzi yu lei, juan 136, 5207. 34.╇ Zhu Ziqing, “Tao shi de shen du,” in Zhu Ziqing xuba shu ping ji (Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 1983), 227. 35.╇ Liang Qichao, “Tao Yuanming,” in Yin bing shi he ji, Zhuan ji (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1936), chap. 96, 9. 36.╇ Lu Xun, “Ti mo ding cao,” no. 6, in Qiejie ting za wen, collected in Lu Xun quan ji, vol. 6 (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1981), 422. 37.╇ Chen Yinke, Chen Yinke xiansheng quanji, vol. 2 (Taibei: Jiusi chuban, 1977), 1035. 38.╇ From “Guimao sui shi chun huaigu tian she,” no. 2. Tao Qian is referring to Analects 15.31. 39.╇ From “Za shi,” no. 1. 40.╇ From “Yong pin shi,” no. 4. Cf. Analects 4.8. 41.╇ From “Guimao sui shi chun huaigu tian she,” no. 2. 42.╇ From “Du Shanhaijing,” no. 1. 43.╇ From “Ting yun.” 44.╇ “Gui yuan tian ju,” no. 2. 45.╇ Tao Yuanming yanjiu ziliao huibian, in Tao Yuanming juan, vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1965), 61 (quoting Lin Cui), 75, and 173–174. 46.╇ Mao shi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995), 1. 47.╇ See James F. Cahill, “Confucian Elements in the Theory of Painting,” in Arthur F. Wright, ed., The Confucian Persuasion (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1960), 123–124. 48.╇ Shen Kuo, Meng xi bi tan, juan 17, Wanyou wenku huiyao ed. (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1965), 107. 49.╇ Yang Shen, Zong zuan Sheng’an he ji, juan 21, quoted in Zhongguo meixue shi ziliao xuan bian, last volume, 109. 50.╇ Guo Si, Hua lun, in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua, 84. Guo Si is the son of Song dynasty landscape painter Guo Xi.

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51.╇ Zhao Yi, Oubei shihua, juan 1 (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1981), 3. 52.╇ Li Rihua, “Lun hua,” in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua, 228. 53.╇ Shen Zongqian, “Jie Zhou zi hua bian,” in An Lan, ed., Hua lun cong kan, vol. 1 (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1962), 361. 54.╇ This paragraph paraphrases my argument in Li Zehou, “Lue lun shufa,” in Zhongguo shufa, 1986.1. 55.╇ Ibid. 56.╇ See Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, Zhongguo meixue shi, vol. 2. 57.╇ “Lun shu,” Dongpo tiba, juan 4, in Su Shi wen ji, vol. 5 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986), 2183. 58.╇ Kang Youwei, “Yu lun,” no. 19, in Guang yi zhou shuang ji (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1965), 77. 59.╇ Hu Yinglin, Shi sou, vol. 2, “Wai pian,” juan 5 (Taibei: Guangwen shuju, 1973), 600. 60.╇ Susanne Langer, Problems of Art: Ten Philosophical Lectures (New York: Scribner’s, 1957), 58. 61.╇ Tai ji quan is an example of an exerciseâ•›/â•›art that is breathing-related and has aesthetic elements. In the practice of tai ji quan, one can attain not only good physical health but also aesthetic pleasure. See Sophia Delza, “The Art of the Science of T’ai Chi Ch’uan,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 25, no. 4 (Summer 1967): 449–461.

Chapter 4. Beauty in Deep Emotion 1.╇ Wenxin diaolong zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 2001), 1.5/10/7. 2.╇ Ibid., 1.5/9/10. 3.╇ Ibid., 1.5/9/11. These titles refer to poems in the Songs of Chu. 4.╇ Referenes in the text are to Lunyu zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995). 5.╇ References in the text are to Mengzi yinde. A Concordance to Meng Tzu (Beijing: Harvard-Yenching Sinological Index Series, 1941). 6.╇ See Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, Zhongguo meixue shi, vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 1984), 365. 7.╇ Sima Qian, “Qu Yuan Jia Sheng lie zhuan,” Shiji ping zhu ben, annot. Han Zhaoqi, vol. 2 (Changsha: Yuelu shushe, 2004), 1183. For a translation, see Sima Qian, “Biographies of Qu Yuan and Jia Yi,” in Records of the Grand Historian: Han Dynasty I, trans. Burton Watson, rev. ed. (Hong Kong: Renditions, 1993), 435–452. 8.╇ Wenxin diaolong, 1.5/9/7. 9.╇ Lu Xun, Han wenxue shi gangyao (Hong Kong: Sanlien shuju, 1958), 22.

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10.╇ References in the text are to Zhuangzi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 2000). 11.╇ References in the text are to Yu Yufei, ed., Qu fu zheng yi (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1969). For an English translation of the anthology, see David Hawkes, trans., Songs of the South (Middlesex, Eng.: Penguin, 1985). 12.╇ Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, trans. Justin O’Brien (London: Penguin, 2000), 11. 13.╇ Hans Georg Gadamer, Reason in the Age of Science, trans. Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981), 74–75. 14.╇ Zhang Zai, “Xi ming,” in Zheng Meng, collected in Zhang Zai ji, annot. Zhang Xizhen (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1978), 63. 15.╇ Wang Fuzhi, “Li Sao,” in Chuci tongshi, collected in Chuanshan yishu, vol. 7 (Beijing: Beijing chubanshe, 1999), 4124. 16.╇ These are the final two lines of the poem. “Peng Xian” is usually believed to refer to an upright minister of the Shang dynasty who chose to drown himself when his advice was not taken. —Trans. 17.╇ Zixu was forced to commit suicide, and his body was sewn into a bag and tossed into the river. Tradition has it that Shen Tu Di drowned himself by jumping into the river clasping a heavy stone after the infamous King Zhou of the Shang repeatedly ignored his remonstrances. 18.╇ Wang Fuzhi, comments on Li Sao, in Chuci tongshi, 4131. 19.╇ Wang’s comments on “Huai sha,” in ibid., 4159. 20.╇ Wang’s comments on “Bei hui feng,” in ibid., 4166. 21.╇ Wu Zixu is the same Zixu as in note 15. Bi Gan was an uncle of the same King Zhou of the Shang with whom Shen Tu had remonstrated. Literal mincing was one of the more gory forms of capital punishment of the day. 22.╇ The bow and nets refer to bird-hunting devices. 23.╇ Ban Gu, “Li Sao xu,” in Hong Xingzu, ed., Chuci buzhu, juan 1, collected in Sibu congkan, vol. 33 (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1965), 27. 24.╇ Zhu Xi, Zhuzi yu lei, juan 80 (Taibei: Zhengzhong shuju, 1973), 3288. 25.╇ Fu Weixun, “Riben ren de shengsi guan,” Zhongguo shibao, September 1, 1985. 26.╇ Ibid. 27.╇ Sima Qian (ca. 145–90 B.C.) is known as the author of the Shiji (see n. 7 above), who suffered the humiliating punishment of castration. Ruan Ji (210–263) was one of the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove,” a group of intellectuals who disdained politics and were legendary drinkers. His contemporary Ji Kang (223?–262) was a Daoist recluse known for his interest in immortality who was eventually executed. 28.╇ Wang Xizhi, “Preface to Collected Poems from the Orchid Pavilion” [Lan­ ting ji xu], trans. Richard Strassberg, in The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chi­ nese Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 566.

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29.╇ “Ni yuan ge ci,” no. 3. For the series, see Tao Yuanming ji (Beijing: ZhongÂ� hua shuju, 1979), 141–142. 30.╇ Wang Xizhi, “Preface,” 567. 31.╇ As characterized by such sayings from the Analects as “Only in winter do we realize that the pine and cypress are the last to fade” (9.27) and “An ordinary man cannot be deprived of his will” (9.25). 32.╇ “Yu Xiao Hanlin shu,” in Hedong xiansheng ji, vol. 2, juan 30 (Taibei: Taiwan shangwu yinshuguan, 1967), 88. 33.╇ Ibid. 34.╇ See Tao Jingjie ji, collected in Wan you wen ku, vol. 789 (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1965), 4. 35.╇ Ibid. 36.╇ Wenxin diaolong, 1.3/6/8. 37.╇ Fengsu tongyi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1996), 11.8/133/20. 38.╇ “Zhou Ju zhuan,” in Hou han shu 91 (n.p.: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1916), 5b. 39.╇ Liu Yuqing (403–444), comp., Shishuo xinyu jiao jian, ed. Yang Yong (Hong Kong: Dazhong shuju, 1969), 23.43/570. 40.╇ Ibid., 23.45/572. 41.╇ Qian Zhongshu, Guanwei pian, vol. 3 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 946. 42.╇ Ibid., 949–950. 43.╇ A set of anonymous five-character poems in shi form. 44.╇ See Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, Zhongguo meixue shi, vol. 2, chap. 3. For a translation of the Shishuo xinyu, see Richard B. Mather, A New Account of Tales of the World (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 2002). 45.╇ Feng Youlan, “Lun fengliu,” in Sansongtang xueshu wenji (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 1984), 609–617. 46.╇ References in the text are to the Shishuo xinyu jiao jian (see n. 39). 47.╇ Zhi Daolin [Zhi Dun, 314–366] is known as the founder of one of the six schools of early Chinese Buddhism. 48.╇ The ”jade tree” refers to a beautiful and talented person. 49.╇ “Zhuang Zhou zan,” collected in Yan Kejun, ed., Quan Jin wen, vol. 2, juan 60 (Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1999), 630. 50.╇ Wang Bi ji jiaoshi (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980), 640. 51.╇ As Wang Bi writes in “Ming Xiang,” “For completely expressing the idea, there is nothing like the image; for completely expressing the image, there is nothing like language”; and, “when one has obtained the idea, one can forget the image; when one has obtained the image, one can forget language.” Ibid., 609. 52.╇ “Da ren xiansheng zhuan,” in Ruan Ji ji (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1978), 71. 53.╇ Wenxin diaolong, 10.2/99/12.

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54.╇ Li Shan’s comments on Ruan Ji’s “Yong huai shi,” in Wen xuan Li Shan zhu, juan 23, collected in Sibu beiyao, vol. 562 (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1965), 2a. 55.╇ Ruan Ji ji jiao zhu (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987), 210 (5-ch. yonghuai poem, no. 1). 56.╇ Ibid., 291 (5-ch. yonghuai poem, no. 24). 57.╇ Ji Kang was executed by the Sima clan in 262, while his son, Ji Shao (253–304), died protecting Emperor Hui of the Jin. See Mather, New Account of Tales of the World, 540. 58.╇ Ruan Ji is thought to have used his drunkenness to avoid political involvement. 59.╇ From “Xuanzhou xie tiao lou jian bie xiao shu shu yun.” 60.╇ A lyric to the tune, “Que ta zhi,” in Quan Tang Wudai ci (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986), 4/363. In his seminal critical work, Ren jian ci hua, late Qing critic Wang Guowei says that Feng’s lyrics blazed a trail for the Northern Song style. See Adele Rickett, trans., Wang Kuo-wei’s Jen-chien tz’u-hua (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1977), 1.19 (p. 47). 61.╇ Xing, here translated as “imagistic association,” refers more precisely to the use of a disconnected image at the start of a poem to arouse and inspire the reader’s imagination. —Trans. 62.╇ This quote could also be read to say, “↜‘Sacrifice’ is like ‘present’; so ‘sacrifice to the spirits’ means ‘the spirits are present.’↜” —Trans. 63.╇ Li Zehou, Meixue lunji (Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 1980), 565. 64.╇ Zhao Peilin, Xing de yuanqi (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 1987), 247–248. 65.╇ Ibid. 66.╇ Li Zehou, Mei de licheng (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1981), 33. 67.╇ “Is ritual then secondary?” Confucius replied, “At last I have someone with whom to speak about the Songs!↜” (Analects 3.8). 68.╇ See Shitao, Kugua heshang hua yulu (Jinan: Shandong huabao chubanshe, 2007), chap. 18, 67. 69.╇ Xu Shen, Shuo wen jie zi, juan 1, pt. 1, p. 7a, in Shuo wen jie zi fu jian zi (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1972), 10. 70.╇ Li ji zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1992), 19.13/101/14. 71.╇ Wang Yi, Chu ci (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1965), 1–2. 72.╇ Li Zehou, Zhongguo gudai sixiang shi lun (Beijing: Renmin chubanÂ�she, 1985). 73.╇ To the tune “Que ta zhi.” This lyric is also attributed to Feng Yansi (903–960) of the Southern Tang. See Zhang Zhang and Huang Yu, eds., Quan Tang Wudai ci (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986), 4/269. 74.╇ Zhang Huiyan, Ci xuan (Taibei: Guangwen shuju, 1970), 24.

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75.╇ Zhitang huixiang lu (Hong Kong: Sanyu tushu wenju gongsi, 1970), 426–427. 76.╇ “The monk Jue Yin of the Yuan dynasty said, ‘When I taste the flavor of joy, I paint orchids; when I taste the flavor of anger, I paint bamboo. This is because the orchid’s flowing leaves and unfolding blooms suggest the spirit of joy, while the straightness and right angles of the bamboo, and its criss-crossing like a knife cutting cloth, suggest anger.” Li Rihua, Liuyan zhai er bi, juan 3, p. 27. See Li Zehou, “Shenmei yu xingshi gan,” in Li Zehou zhexue meixue wenxuan (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1985). 77.╇ Wenxin diaolong, 6.1/67/13. 78.╇ Ibid., 8.1/80/5; also Kong Yingda, Mao shi zhengyi, juan 1.1, p. 6b, collected in Sibu beiyuao, vol. 20 (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1965). 79.╇ Zhong Rong, “Preface” to Shi pin, in Zhong Rong Shi pin jiao shi, ed. Lü Deshen (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 2000), 14. 80.╇ Zhuzi yu lei, juan 80, 3287. 81.╇ Zheng Qiao, quoted in Xu Fuguan, Zhongguo wenxue lunji (Taibei: XueÂ� sheng shuju, 1980), 103. 82.╇ “Border worries” is shorthand for the complex of sentiments (homesickness, nostalgia, loneliness, separation, and even cultural alienation) of the soldier or official posted on the remote frontier, a common trope in Chinese poetry. —Trans. 83.╇ Xu Fuguan, Zhongguo wenxue lunji, 116–117. 84.╇ Tang Zhiqi (Ming dynasty), Zhiqi lun hua, in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lun­ hua mingzhu huibian (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1982), 219. 85.╇ Quan Tang Wudai ci, 4.444. 86.╇ Qi Baishi, quoted in Li Qun, ed., Qi Baishi yanjiu (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin, 1959), 19. 87.╇ Wang Fuzhi, comments on Shen Mingchen’s “Du xia jiang,” in Ming shi ping xuan, juan 5, collected in Chuanshan yi shu, vol. 8 (Beijing: Beijing chubanshe, 1999), 5107. 88.╇ Lu Shiheng [Lu Ji], “Rhapsody on Literature,” trans. David Knechtges, in Xiao Tong, Wen Xuan, vol. 3 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 217. 89.╇ See Li Zehou and Liu Gangji, Zhongguo meixue shi, 2:721–747. 90.╇ Lu Xun, Han wenxue shi gangyao, 42.

Chapter 5. Metaphysical Pursuits 1.╇ See Li Zehou, Zhongguo gudai sixiang shilun (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1985), chap. 6. 2.╇ See Hu Yunyi, ed., Song ci xuan (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1962), 284. 3.╇ The discussion in this and the following paragraph paraphrases some of my argument in chapter 6 of Zhongguo gudai sixiang shilun. 4.╇ Wang Shizhen, Daijingtang shihua, vol. 1, juan 3 (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1982), 83.

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5.╇ Wang Youcheng ji jian zhu, vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1961), 249, 240, and 243. 6.╇ Su Shi, Dongpo tiba, juan 5, in Tangshi lunping leibian, ed. Chen Bohai (Ji’nan: Shandong jiaoyu chubanshe, 1992), 1012. 7.╇ See Li Zehou, “Shenmei tan,” in Li Zehou zhexue meixue wenxuan (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1985). This type of pleasure would at some point merit analysis from a psychological point of view. 8.╇ From “He Ziyou Mianchi huaijiu.” 9.╇ From the ci to the tune “Nian nü jiao,” “Thinking of the Past at Red Cliff.” 10.╇ From “Deng Youzhou tai ge.” 11.╇ From “Shiba da aluohan song,” no. 9, in Su Shi wen ji, vol. 2 (Beijing: ZhongÂ�hua shuju, 1986), 589. 12.╇ Xu Fuguan, Zhongguo wenxue lunji (Taibei: Taiwan xuesheng shuju, 1974), 125. 13.╇ From “Lü ye shu huai.” 14.╇ From “Du Jingmen song bie.” 15.╇ From “Han jiang lin fan.” 16.╇ Hu Yinglin, Shi sou, vol. 1, “Nei pian,” “Jinti,” part 1, “Wu yan” (Taibei: Guangwen shuju, 1973), 227. 17.╇ Liu Xizai, Yi gai (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1978), 158. 18.╇ Xiong Bingming, Zhongguo shufa de lilun tixi (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1984), 151. 19.╇ Chen Zhenlian, “Chan shu yi ti hua Shangu,” in Wenshi zhishi 54 (December 1985): 115. 20.╇ These lines come from a poem by Pu He of the Ming dynasty, from juan 5 of Yunnan congshu: Dianshi shiyi, quoted in Du Songbo, Chanxue yu Tangshi xue (Taibei: Liming wenhua shiye gongsi, 1978), 369. The argument that follows differs from Du Songbo’s reading. 21.╇ He Yisun, quoted in Zhongguo meixue shi ziliao xuanbian, vol. 2 (Taibei: Fuxin shuju, 1984), 298. 22.╇ See Li Zehou, Zhongguo gudai sixiang shilun, chap. 6, sec. 3. 23.╇ Yan Yu, Canglang shihua jiaoshi, ed. Guo Shaoyu (Beijing: Renmin wenxue, 1983), 1. 24.╇ See Wu Guowen, ed., Shijie wenxue suibi jingpin da zhan (Shanghai: Shanghai wenhua chubanshe, 1992), 112–113. 25.╇ Cao Xueqin, Honglou meng, vol. 2 (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1982), 1142. The lines are from Jia Baoyu’s “Furong nüer lei,” written for his maid Qingwen in chapter 78, then modified in conversation with Daiyu in chapter 79. The lines seem to foreshadow Daiyu’s death and separation from Baoyu. —Trans. 26.╇ “Gao gu,” in Zu Baoquan, ed., Sikong Tu Shipin jie shuo (Hefei: Anhui renmin chubanshe, 1980), 38. 27.╇ “Dian ya,” in ibid., 42. 28.╇ “Ziran,” in ibid., 54.

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29.╇ Yan Yu, Canglang shihua jiaoshi, 26. 30.╇ Ibid., 22. 31.╇ See Li Zehou, Mei de licheng (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1981), 274–276. 32.╇ Mei Yaochen ji bian nian jiao zhu, vol. 3 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1980), 845. 33.╇ See Zhongguo meixue shi ziliao xuanbian, 2:34. 34.╇ Zhuzi yulei, juan 140 (Taibei: Zhengzhong shuju, 1973), 5344. 35.╇ Sikong Tu Shipin jie shuo, 72 and 86. 36.╇ Ibid., 77 and 30. 37.╇ Liu Shao, Renwu zhi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 2007), 1.1/2/12. 38.╇ Cai Zong-qi translates these terms as “breath resonance” and “daemon resonance,” respectively. See his discussion in “The Conceptual Origins and Aesthetic Significance of ‘Shen’ in Six Dynasties Texts on Literature and Painting,” in Cai Zong-qi, ed., Chinese Aesthetics: The Ordering of Literature, the Arts, and the Universe in the Six Dynasties (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2004), 330ff. —Trans. 39.╇ Shen Deqian, ed., Tang shi bie cai ji, juan 11 (Hong Kong: Zhonghua shuju, 1980), 166. 40.╇ From the quatrain, “Ti qiu lin tu.” 41.╇ Liu Zongyuan, “Yu weng,” in Tang shi san bai shou xin yi (Taibei: Sanmin shuju, 1991), 109. 42.╇ See Huihong (1071–1128), Leng zhai ye hua (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1988), 43–44. 43.╇ Liu Zongyuan, “Jiang xue,” in Tang shi san bai shou xin yi, 337. 44.╇ He Wen, Zhu zhuang shihua (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1984), 410 (quoting Zhou Zizhi’s Zhu Po shihua). 45.╇ Ni Zan, “Ti lin shui lan,” in Qing bi ge quan ji, juan 3, p. 18b (Taibei: Guoli zhongyang tushuguan, 1970), 126. 46.╇ Zong Bing, “Hua shanshui xu,” in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua mingzhu huibian (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1982), 15. 47.╇ Sun Liankui, “Shipin yishuo,” in Sun Liankui and Yang Tingzhi, Sikong Tu Shipin jieshuo erzhong (Jinan: Qilu shushe, 1980), 46. 48.╇ “Hou qing lu,” in Su Dongpo yishi huibian (Changsha: Yuelu shushe, 1981), 217. 49.╇ To the tune “Huan xi sha.” 50.╇ To the tune “Jiangchengzi.” 51.╇ To the tune “Wang Jiangnan.” 52.╇ This paragraph paraphrases my argument in Mei de licheng, 176–178. 53.╇ “Yi shu,” in Er Cheng quan shu, juan 18, pp. 42b–43a; collected in Sibu beiyao, vol. 365 (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1965). 54.╇ Zhuzi yulei, juan 139, 5331.

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55.╇ Ibid., 5332. 56.╇ Ibid., juan 140, 5353. 57.╇ Qian Mu, Cong Zhongguo lishi lai kan Zhongguo minzuxing ji Zhongguo wenhua (Taibei: Lianjing chuban shiye gongsi, 1979), 114–115. 58.╇ Zhu Xi, “Wen ji,” Zhuzi daquan, juan 70, p. 3; collected in Sibu beiyao, vol. 376 (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1965). 59.╇ The next two paragraphs paraphrase my argument in Zhongguo gudai siÂ�xiang shilun, chap. 7. 60.╇ From Cheng Hao’s “Ou cheng.” 61.╇ From Zhu Xi’s “Chun ri.” 62.╇ Li Zehou zhexue meixue wenxuan, 176 and 455. 63.╇ Zhang Heng, “Lunyu lun shi,” in Wenxue pinglun 6 (May 1980): 25–26. 64.╇ From Su Shi’s ci to the tune, “Shuidiao getou.”

Chapter 6. Toward Modernity 1.╇ From the Doctrine of the Mean, sec. 27. See Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall, Focusing the Familiar: A Translation and Philosophical Interpretation of the Zhongyong (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001), 108–109. 2.╇ See Li Zehou, Zhongguo gudai sixiang shi lun (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1985), 244–245. 3.╇ Ibid., 245 (quoting Wang Yangming’s Chuanxi lu, vol. 2). 4.╇ Ibid., 246 (quoting Chuanxi lu, vol. 1). 5.╇ Wang Yangming, Chuanxi lu zhu shu, ed. Deng Yimin (Jiling [Taiwan]: Fayan chubanshe, 2000), 274. 6.╇ This quote is attributed to Yan Jun (1504–1596), a follower of Wang Yangming. See Ming Ruxue an, juan 34, “Taizhou xue an,” “Can zheng Luo Jinxi xianÂ� sheng Rufang,” Wanyou wenku ed., vol. 7 (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1965), 1. 7.╇ Ming Ruxue an, juan 32, Wanyou wenku ed., vol. 6, 69. 8.╇ Ibid., 73. 9.╇ Zhuzi wen ji, in Zhuzi da quan, juan 67, p. 21b; collected in Sibu beiyao, vol. 375 (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1965). 10.╇ The Taizhou school is associated with Wang Gen; the Jishan school, with Liu Zongzhou (Liu Jishan). 11.╇ Ming Ruxue an, juan 32, Wanyou wenku ed., vol. 6, 63. 12.╇ He Xinyin ji (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1960), 40. 13.╇ Ming Ruxue an, juan 62; collected in Sibu beiyao, vol. 397 (Taibei: ZhongÂ� hua shuju, 1965), p. 9b. 14.╇ Chen Que ji, vol. 2 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1960), 461, 468. 15.╇ Li Zhi, “De ye ru chen hou lun,” in Cang shu, juan 32 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), 1827. 16.╇ Dai Zhen, “Yu Duan Yucai lun li yu shu,” in Dai Zhen quan shu, vol. 6 (Hefei: Huangshan shushe, 1995), 541.

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17.╇ Dai Zhen, Mengzi zi yi shu zheng, in Dai Zhen ji (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1980), 296. 18.╇ Kang Youwei, “Li qi pian,” in Kangzi nei wai pian, collected in Kang Youwei quan ji, 12 vols. (Beijing: Renmin daxue chubanshe, 2007), 1:111. 19.╇ Kang Youwei, Da tong shu, “Yuan Yu” section, in ibid., 7:32. 20.╇ Da tong shu, first section, in ibid., 7:7. 21.╇ Xu Wei, “Xu Wenchang yi cao,” juan 1, in Xu Wei ji, vol. 4 (Beijing: ZhongÂ� hua shuju, 1983), 1089. 22.╇ Yuan Hongdao, “Xu Zhulin ji,” in Yuan Zhonglang quan ji, vol. 1, juan 1 (Taibei: Shijie shuju, 1964), 194. 23.╇ Tang Xianzu, from his preface, dated 1598, to the play Mudan ting [Peony Pavilion], in Mu Danting yanjiu ziliao kaoshi (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987), 9. 24.╇ Shitao, Kugua heshang hua yu lu (Jinan: Shandong huabao chubanshe, 2007), chap. 1, p. 3. For a discussion of Shitao’s “One Line Method” in English, see Michael Sullivan, The Arts of China, 4th ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 257. 25.╇ Yuan Mei, Sui yuan shihua, juan 7 (Nanjing: Jiangsu guji chubanshe, 2000), 163. 26.╇ The Gong’an school of spontaneous expression in poetry refers to Yuan Hongdao and his followers. The Jingling school is associated with late Ming poets Zhong Xing (1574–1624) and Tan Yuanchun (ca. 1585–1637), and is known for the difficulty of its writing style. 27.╇ This is Mark Borer’s translation of the term. See Kang-i Sun Chang and Haun Saussy, eds., Women Writers of Traditional China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 777. 28.╇ Yuan Mei, “Da Zeng Nancun lun shi,” in Xiaocang shanfang shiji, juan 4; collected in Sibu beiyao, vol. 544 (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1965). 29.╇ Yuan Mei, Sui yuan shihua, juan 3, 67. 30.╇ Yuan Mei, “Da Ji Yuan lun shi shu,” in Xiaocang shanfang wenji, juan 30, pp. 1b–3a; collected in Sibu beiyao, vol. 547 (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1965). 31.╇ From the “Great Preface” to the Book of Songs: Mao shi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1995), 1. 32.╇ Xu Wei, “Answering Xu Beikou,” from Xu Wenchang ji, quoted in Zhong­ guo meixue shi ziliao xuanbian, last vol. (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1982), 118. 33.╇ Xu Wei, Nan ci xu lü, in Zhongguo gudian xiqu lun zhu ji cheng, vol. 3 (Beijing: Zhongguo xiju chuban she, 1959), 244. See also K.â•›C.â•›Leung, Hsü Wei as Drama Critic: An Annotated Translation of the Nan-Tz’u hsü-lü (Eugene: University of Oregon Asian Studies Program, 1987), 75. 34.╇ “Zu Chen Zhengfu Huixin ji,” in Yuan Hongdao ji jian jiao (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1981), 463. 35.╇ “Xu Xiao Xiu shi,” in ibid., 188. In these comments on the poetry of his brother, Yuan goes on to praise him for qualities that could hardly be further from

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traditional Confucian expectations: “by nature loving luxury, not content to suffer poverty or loneliness; if a hundred gold coins come into his hands, they will be spent in a moment.” 36.╇ Li Yu, “Yiqu jianxin,” in Xianqing ouji, “Ciqu,” part 2 (Hangzhou: Zhejiang guji chubanshe, 1985), 47–48. 37.╇ Li Yu, “Ji tiansai,” in ibid., ”Ciqu,” part 1, 21. 38.╇ Jin Shengtan, comments on chap. 41 of Water Margin, Shuihu zhuan hui ping ben (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 1981), 771. 39.╇ Jin Shengtan, comments on chaps. 36 and 54, in ibid., 684 and 1004. 40.╇ Yuan Mei, “Zai yu Shen Dazong bo shu,” Xiaocang shanfang wenji, juan 17, pp. 6b–7b; collected in Sibu beiyao, vol. 546 (Taibei: Zhonghua shuju, 1965). 41.╇ Yuan Mei, “Zai da Li Shayan shu,” Xiaocang shanfang chidu, juan 10, quoted in Yang Honglie’s Yuanmei pingzhuan (Taibei: Wenhai chubanshe 1972), 177. It is worth noting that in the first response to the letter Yuan still allowed that “↜‘Gentleness and sincerity’ were the words of the sage. To study the words of the sage and thereby arrive at mediocrities and trifles is the fault of the student, not the sage. You must be willing to go against this phrase (gentleness and sincerity) in order to teach the people. You should teach [gentleness and sincerity] like the sound of a campaign in the remote north” (juan 8). This reflects precisely the desire to break free of traditional strictures, but the inability to do so, and the lack of any conscious attitude of repudiation. 42.╇ Yuan Mei, “Da Youren lunwen di’er shu,” Xiaocang shanfang wenji, juan 19, pp. 8a–8b; collected in Sibu beiyao, vol. 546. 43.╇ Xiong Bingming, “Shufa lingyu li de xin tansuo,” in Dangdai (Taibei), vol. 2, June 1, 1986. 44.╇ Li Wenling ji, in Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao, vol. 35, juan 178, “Bie ji lei cun mu” no. 5 (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1965), 87 (3901). 45.╇ Xu Wenchang ji, in ibid., vol. 35, juan 178, “Bie ji lei cun mu” no. 5, p. 105 (3919). 46.╇ Yuan Zhonglang ji, in ibid., vol. 36, juan 179, “Bie ji lei cun mu” no. 6, p. 26 (3952). 47.╇ Liang Shaoren, Liangban qiuyu an suibi (Shijiazhuang shi: Hebei jiaoyu chubanshe, 1994). 48.╇ Hu Shi, Qing Zhang Shizhai xiansheng Xuecheng nianpu (Taibei: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1980). 49.╇ Zhang Xuecheng, “Fu Fuxue pian shu hou,” in Wenshi tongyi, neipian (Hong Kong: Taiping shuju, 1964), 175–177. Zhang was a prominent critic of Yuan Mei for his encouragement of female poets. 50.╇ “Xu gua,” Zhou yi zhu zi suo yin, Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute for Chinese Studies Ancient Chinese Text Concordance Series (Hong Kong: Commerical Press, 1995), 68/88/13.

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51.╇ The Four Wangs were Wang Shimin, Wang Jian, Wang Hui, and Wang Yuanqi, all early Qing landscape painters who saw themselves in the tradition of Dong Qichang. 52.╇ Dong Qichang, Hua chan shi suibi, in Shen Zicheng, ed., Lidai lunhua mingÂ�zhu huibian (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1982), 254. 53.╇ For a discussion of the origins of this term, see Adele Rickett, Wang Kuowei’s Jen-chien tz’u-hua: A Study in Chinese Literary Criticism (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1977), 23–28. Rickett summarizes Wang’s use of the term as “the total excellence which makes a poem a truly fine creationâ•‹.â•‹.â•‹.â•‹the verbalization of the unique moments of reality that are manifested in one’s heart and in the world outside” (p. 25). —Trans. 54.╇ Xu Fuguan believes that too much attention has been given to Renjian cihua, and that Wang’s “aesthetic realm” is really no more than the question of the relationship between feeling and scene. See his Zhongguo wenxue lunji xubian (Taibei: Xuesheng shuju, 1984), 69–88. 55.╇ Wang Guowei, Renjian cihua (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1982), fulu no. 16, p. 252. 56.╇ Ibid., no. 6, p. 193. 57.╇ Wang Guowei, Hong lou meng pinglun, chap. 1, in Wang Guowei yi shu, vol. 5 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji, 1983), 41b–42a. 58.╇ Liu Jizu et al., eds., Wang Guowei zhi si (Taibei: Qiling chubanshe, 1995), 2. 59.╇ Cai Yuanpei, “Duiyu jiaoyu fangzhen zhi yijian,” in Gao Pingshu, ed., Cai Yuanpei meiyu lun ji (Changsha: Hunan jiaoyu chubanshe, 1987), 1–5. 60.╇ Wang Guowei, “Kongzi de meiyu zhuyi,” in Jianghai xuekan 1987, vol. 4, 55. 61.╇ See Li Zehou, “Ershi shiji zhongguo (dalu) wenyi yi pie,” in Zhongguo xiandai sixiang shilun (Beijing: Dongfang chubanshe, 1987). 62.╇ Zhang Taiyan quan ji, vol. 6 (Shanghai: Renmin chubanshe, 1986), 15. 63.╇ Wang Bomin, Zhongguo huihua shi (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe, 1982), 8. 64.╇ In the words of Guo Husheng: “From Dong Zhongshu of the Han to the Song neo-Confucians, the doctrine of yin and yang, in which yang is superior and yin is inferior, was more and more strictly observed. It exerted a clear and direct influence on the layout of buildings. In architecture, the superior was marked by its central position, the inferior or secondary being placed on the sides. This resulted in a symmetrical layout. According to traditional Chinese views of the directions, the superior should be situated centrally, facing south, while the secondary should face east or west, and the least honored should face north. In residences, the position of honor would go to the older generation. The head of the family would usually occupy the main room, while the secondary positions would go to the older sons and their wives in the wings or side rooms. In the imperial palace, not only

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were the positions and directions regulated hierarchically, but also the dimensions, height, shape, and even color and decoration. Furthermore, the major palaces, halls, and gates of the palace were ordered along the same north-south axis in order to emphasize their superior position. For example, in the Forbidden City in Beijing, Tian’an Men [the Gate of Heavenly Peace] (the southern gate of the imperial palace wall), Wu Men (the southern gate of the wall of the Forbidden City), Taihe Men, the three main halls, the Qian Qing and Kun Ning palaces, Shenwu Men (the north gate of the Forbidden City), and Di’an Men (the north gate of the imperial palace wall) all lie along the same north-south axis, in order to clearly demonstrate the supremacy of the emperor. Furthermore, this axis extends beyond the walls of the Forbidden City itself, to include Zhengyang Men and Yongding Men (the south gates of Beijing’s inner and outer walls) on the south, and the Bell Tower on the north. The major gates and buildings of the imperial palace were located at the center, not only of the palace itself, but also of the entire city of Beijing. The greatness of vision that this all-encompassing plan for an entire city reflects is completely without precedent elsewhere in the world. It is a feature that has long made ancient Chinese cities the masterpieces they are, whether Chang’an in the Tang, Dadu in the Yuan, or Beijing in the Ming and Qing. Early European visitors to China (such as Marco Polo), familiar with the small-scale medieval European cities that had developed outward without a central plan from the feudal castles at their center, never failed to be greatly impressed with the greatness of Dadu or Beijing.” Guo Husheng, “Zhongguo gudai jianzhu de geju he qizhi,” in Wenshi zhishi, no. 68 (February 1987): 63–64. 65.╇ Analects 17.21. Zai Wo had asked Confucius whether one year of mourning for his parents would not suffice in place of the customary three-year mourning period. Confucius goes on to criticize Zai Wo for the lack of humaneness shown by the fact that he would indeed feel at ease with a shorter mourning period. —Trans. 66.╇ James J.â•›Y. Liu, Chinese Theories of Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975). 67.╇ Xiong Bingming, Zhongguo shufa lilun tixi (Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1984), 1.

Epilogue 1.╇ See the Translator’s Introduction. 2.╇ See my Pipan zhexue de pipan—Kangde shuping (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1984).

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Index

abstruse learning. See xuan xue aesthetic education. See Cai Yuanpeiaesthetic object: broadening of in Zhuangzi, 90, 92–93; unity with in Zhuangzi, 81 aesthetic realm (jingjie), xvi, 209–212, 220, 247nn53–54 Analects of Confucius, 59; Daoist flavor in, 86–87. See also Confucius analogy: preferred over abstraction, 218. See also moral analogy Ancient Prose movement, 36 anthropological ontology, x, 223, 225n2 archeological finds, 4; musical instruments, 17 architecture, 27, 56, 69, 218, 247n64 aristocrats, in Wei-Jin period, 132, 135–136 Aristotle, 24, 30 art as life, in mid-twentieth century, 209, 215 artistic conception (yijing), xiii, 29, 142, 149, 152–154, 158

Bergson, Henri, 53 bi. See metaphor bi de. See moral analogy blandness (dan), xiv, 174, 177–178, 180, 201 Bo Juyi, 33; “Xin yuefu,” 45 Book of Changes, 25, 87, 147, 206; Commentaries on, 67–68, 73, 74, 76; in Wei-Jin metaphysics, 136. See also “Xici zhuan” commentary Book of Documents, 5, 32 Book of Rites (Li ji), 12, 15; “Record of Music” in, 18–19, 21–24, 26, 29–30, 34, 70, 147 Book of Songs (Shijing), 22, 25, 32–33, 59, 118, 229n59; “Great Preface” to, 31, 107, 230n81; Han allegorical readings of, 33 boundlessness: beauty of in Zhuangzi, 91–92; of individual personality in Mencius and Zhuangzi, 92 brush, 27, 113, 169, 179, 215, 218, 219 Buddhism, Chan, x, xiv–xv, 90, 160–162, 181; aesthetic consequences of, 163, 174; aesthetic principles of, 162; Confucianism contrasted with, 167, 183–184; Daoism compared with, 167–168, 183–184; influence of Confucianism and Daoism in, 183; influence on neo-Confucianism, 188; Japanese Zen versus, 183; monasticism and reception of, 182. See also subtle awakening; sudden enlightenment

Bada Shanren. See Zhu Da beauty: etymology of, 1; and goodness, 2; sensuous nature of, 10; and taste, 1–2, 7–8, 10, 226n22 Becoming, 52, 54, 56–57, 68, 70 Being, 52, 179, 224, 225n2 Benedict, Ruth, 228n30, 229n63; on Dionysian versus Apollonian cultures, 24–25 249

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250

Index

Cai Yong, 113 Cai Yuanpei, x, xv, 209, 212–214 Cai Zong-qi, 243n38 calligraphy, 27, 35, 68–69, 113–114, 169–170, 217; in the Ming, 205 Camus, Albert, 121 Canglang shihua. See Yan Yu Cao Pi, 35; on qi, 63 Cao Xueqin, 220. See also Dream of the Red Chamber Carnal Prayer Mat. See Li Yu (Qing dynasty) Cauvel, Jane, xviii, 225nn1–2 Chan. See Buddhism Chan sense, 164, 165–166, 178–179, 181 characters, Chinese, 215–217, 219 Cheek, Timothy, xix Cheng Yi, xv; on poetry, 186 Chen Hongshou, 205 Chen Yinke, on Tao Qian, 102–103 Chernyshevsky, Nikolai, 215 Chinese language, 215–218; elastic character of, 217; monosyllabic character of, 216. See also characters Chong, Woei Lien, xix Chu, state of, 117–119 Chuci. See Songs of Chu clumsiness, as aesthetic, 93 cognition, xi, 6, 7, 175, 217; imagination’s basis in, 157 Confucius: on beauty and taste, 10; on time, 55–56; ritual deportment of, 13. See also under humaneness creation, artistic: nonconscious aspect of, 110. See also under Zhuangzi cultural-psychological formation (wenhua xinli jiegou), x, xviii, 4, 9, 215, 223 Dai Zhen, 200, 207 dan. See blandness dance, 3–7, 11, 17, 226n4 Dao (the Way), 12, 105; attaining in artistic creation, 112, 114; detrimental effect of poetry on in Song neo-Confucianism, 186; unity with in Zhuangzi, 81, 83, 84, 107

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Daoism: aesthetic consequences of, 77, 99; in Guo Xiang, 104; mutual complementarity with Confucianism, 76–77, 85–86, 89–90, 92, 99, 100, 116; nothingness as noumenon in, 134; reclusion and, 88; as spiritual solace, 88–89; subordinate position of, 89 death, attitudes toward in Confucianism, Daoism and Qu Yuan, 119–120 desire, xv, 25, 48, 58, 195, 198–199, 220; affirmation of in Ming-Qing aesthetics, 200; and the individual, 207, 211–212; sexual, 195–197, 201, 206–207. See also under Xunzi detachment: in Confucianism, 88, 89, 189, 195; of Su Shi, 185 Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong yong), 15, 23, 25, 87, 224, 228n40 Dong Qichang, 37, 100, 205; attention to form in, 207–208; “imitation of the ancients,” 207–208 Dong Zhongshu, 70–74, 147 dragon, 72 drama. See theater Dream of the Red Chamber, 173 drunkenness, in Wei-Jin period, 140–141 Du Fu, 37, 173, 220; compared with Li Bo and Wang Wei, 112, 169; humanitarian concern in poetry of, 43–44 Du Yu, 15 emotion, 220; and the aesthetic realm, 210; in Chan aesthetic, 170; direct interaction with in calligraphy and painting, 218; exclusion of intense, 26; harmonizing of, 24; humanization of natural, 27; individualized, in Qu Yuan, 125; objectification of, 142–143, 210; universal emotional form, 21–24, 125–126; and wisdom in Wei-Jin aesthetic, 133, 135, 150; Yuan Mei on, 201. See also under music; noumenon; ritual empathy, xiii, 152 emptiness, 81, 165

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Index

Encountering Sorrow (Li Sao), 118, 122, 158; popularity in Wei-Jin period, 136. See also Qu Yuan Ershisi shipin (Twenty-Four Categories of Poetry). See Sikong Tu ethics: arts as tool of, 31, 35, 37, 186, 195, 215; divergence from in Ming, xv, 196, 202, 204; relationship with aesthetics in neo-Confucianism, 190; transcended in Wei-Jin aesthetic, xiii–xiv, 137, 152 existentialism, 54; versus Daoism, 90 expression, 34, 35; in Han Yu’s theory, 36; individual, in the Ming, 202, 208; versus representation, xvi–xvii, 28–29; in Wei-Jin period, 140 fenggu (vigor), 178; emotional foundation of, 158 Feng Menglong, 196 Feng Yansi, 141, 240n60, 240n73 Feng Youlan, 16, 88; on neo-Confucianism, 188; on Wei-Jin style, 133 filiality, 40 Fingarette, Herbert, 12, 231n3 Five Phases, 9, 14, 20, 71, 147 form, 207–208 Four Wangs, 208, 247n51 freedom: mastery as basis of, 47–48, 51; spiritual, in Zhuangzi, 79, 82, 83 Freud, Sigmund: reality principle and pleasure principle, 26 funeral dirges, 26; Han fascination with, 130–132 fusion of feeling and scene. See qing jing jiao rong Gadamer, Hans Georg, 121, 131 gardens. See landscape architecture Geertz, Clifford, 3, 9, 12 Ge Hong, 226n22 gentleness and sincerity (wenrou dunhou), 23, 33, 137, 141, 202, 204, 229n60, 246n41 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 46, 148 Gong’an school, 201, 205, 245n26 great beauty (da mei), in Zhuangzi, 91–92

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“Great Preface.” See Book of Songs Gu Kaizhi, 162, 220 Gu, Ming Dong, 225n6 Guo Moro, 86 Guo Shaoyu, 176 Guo Si, 111 Guo Xi, 97, 234n55 Guo Xiang, 104 Guoyu, the, 1, 20–21, 229nn53–56 Gu Xin, xix Han Yu, 36; on calligraphy, 113; compared with Li Bo, 112 harmony, 18–21, 23, 24, 70, 74, 84; as unity with the Dao in Zhuangzi, 84 heaven: concept of in Xunzi, Mencius and the Commentaries on the Book of Changes, 67 Hegel, Georg W.â•›F., 52–53, 99 Heidegger, Martin, 53, 99 He Xinyin, 199 He Yan, 89 Higashiyama Kaii, 172 homology of heaven and humans 69, 71, 73, 75, 82, 108, 115–116, 174 Honglou meng. See Dream of the Red Chamber Huaisu, 92, 169 Huang Gongwang, 220 Huang Tingjian, Chan character in calligraphy of, 169–170 Hui Neng, 185 humaneness (ren), 12, 195, 231n2; Confucius’ discourse on, 40; in neoConfucianism, 188, 198; origins in clan blood relations, 40 humanization of nature, xi, xii, xiv, 9, 19, 73, 98, 103, 105, 223, 225n1; in calligraphy, 114; in Xunzi, 66 human nature, xi, xviii, 9, 130, 223; Confucian view of, 40–41; Gadamer on, 131; Mencius and Xunzi on, 65; music and establishment of, 19; psychology of as noumenon, 219; ritual and origins of in Confucianism, 12–13; in Wang Yangming, 199

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Husserl, Edmund, 81 Hu Yinglin, 114, 169 imagery. See xing imaginary reality, preferred over sensory reality, 155, 157 imagination, 4, 6, 8, 13, 142, 144, 148–150; in appreciation of calligraphy, 69; in Chu culture, 117, 119; Daoist, 77; primacy over senses, 155, 218–219; in Wei-Jin aesthetic, 135, 150–151, 153 Imamichi Tomonobu, 50, 52 “imitation of the ancients.” See under Dong Qichang immortality, 52, 55 individual: Confucian versus Daoist view of, 79; creativity of, 209; and desire, 207; individualism, xv; and modernity, 211–212. See also personality ingenuity: in Chan aesthetic, 168, 171; Li Yu on, 203 innate moral knowledge (liang zhi), 197–198 innate sensibility (xingling), 201, 203, 220 intuition: in art and aesthetics, 162, 221; in Chan Buddhism, 166; in Zhuangzi, 82, 84 Jian’an period, 44 jidian. See sedimentation Ji Kang, xiii, 89, 127–128, 139, 238n27 jingjie. See aesthetic realm Jingling school, 201, 205, 245n26 Jinpingmei. See Plum in a Golden Vase Jin Shengtan, 200, 202, 204, 205; attention to form in, 208 joy, heavenly: of spiritual transcendence in Zhuangzi, 79–81, 84 Kang Youwei, on calligraphy, 114 Kant, Emmanuel, ix, 53, 55, 62, 99, 148, 149, 189; influence on Cai Yuanpei, 212–214 Kierkegaard, Søren, 92 Kong Yingda, 15, 33

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landscape architecture, 27, 28–29, 183 landscape poetry, 144 Langer, Susanne, 6; on music, 21 Laozi, 77, 105 lawfulness: of nature, 47; unity of purposiveness and, 47–48, 51, 106 Liang Qichao, on Tao Qian, 102 Liang Shuming, 16 liang zhi. See innate moral knowledge Li Bo, 37, 95–96, 101–102, 111–112, 176, 220; compared with Tao Qian, 168 Li ji. See Book of Rites line, 69, 218; in calligraphy, 114; as time unfolded in space, 57 lingering flavor, xiv, 168, 171, 174–175, 178, 220; in landscape painting, 179 Ling Mengchu, 196 Li Sao. See Encountering Sorrow Li Shangyin, 182 Liu, James J.â•›Y., 221 Liu Kang, xix, 225n1 Liu Xiaofeng, 100–101 Liu Xie, 130, 137, 138, 153; on qi, 63, 64, 138; on Songs of Chu, 117–118. See also Wenxin diaolong Liu Zongyuan, 129, 179–180, 220 Liu Zongzhou, 199, 209, 244n10 lixue. See neo-Confucianism Li Yu (Five Dynasties), 156 Li Yu (Qing dynasty), 196–197, 200–203, 220; attention to form in, 208; criticized, 205–206 Li Zhi, 199–200, 207; criticized, 205 love, romantic, 223; lack of value in Chinese literature, 196; as subject of poetry, 204, 209 Lu Ji, 36, 137, 158, 227n22 Lü shi chun qiu. See Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals Lu Xun, 74, 119, 150, 158 Ma Liuquan, 44–45 Mao Zedong: poetry of, 53; voluntarism of, x Mao Zonggang, 208

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Marxism, x, xviii; aesthetic Marxism, ix, 225n1; see also humanization of nature Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals (Lü shi chun qiu), 5, 25, 229nn48–49 materialization, 82 material production, 3–4, 6, 9, 66 maturity, artistic, 138, 177 May Fourth movement, x, 215 Mei Yaochen, on blandness, 177 memory: and emotionalized time, 56; meaningful, and Chinese characters, 216; and ritual mourning, 132 Mencius, xi–xii, 59, 113; on beauty and taste, 10; view of human nature, 65. See also moral beauty; qi Meng Haoran, 37, 176 metaphor, 142–144, 146, 153, 220; in Chan Buddhism, 163 metaphysics: aesthetic, 221; Chan enhancement of, 161; in neo-Confucianism, 188, 190–191. See also under Wei-Jin. See also xuan xue miaowu. See subtle awakening mimesis. See representation momentum, 64, 69, 178, 218 moral analogy (bi de), 144–147, 150; contrasted with artistic conception, 153 moral beauty (yanggang zhi mei), 58, 61–62, 73 morality. See ethics music, xi; character of Chinese, 26; etymology of, 17; and government, 29–30, 42; and harmony, 18–20; imperative to serve ethical education, 31, 42; as moderating influence, 23–24; and the molding of emotions, 19, 23, 26–27, 42, 49; and the perfection of human personality, 49; and the rites, 17–19, 26; as universal emotional form, 21–23, 114. See also under pleasure; poetry

nature: enjoyment of by Chinese intellectuals, 97, 99; harmony with in Chinese art, 96–99, 101; intimacy with in Chan Buddhism, 163; spiritual solace in, 99; as symbolic form in Qu Yuan, 148. See also bi de; painting, landscape; unity with nature; xing neo-Confucianism (lixue), xv, 228n42; and the “art of living,” 187–188; influence of Chan Buddhism on, 188; metaphysical development of Confucianism, 188, 190; negative attitude toward arts in, 186; poetry of, 187 New Confucians (xinrujia), 16, 228n42 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 137 “Nineteen Old Poems of the Han,” 56, 132, 158, 170–172, 239n41 Ni Zan, 179, 182, 192, 220 no mind (wu xin), 163, 165, 180 nondifferentiation, in Zhuangzi, 82–83, 90 non-Dionysian character of Chinese culture, 10–11, 25, 28–29, 194–195. See also Benedict, Ruth; Weber, Max nothingness, in Wei-Jin Daoism, 134, 136, 139, 178 noumenon, xvii–xviii, 54, 57–58, 219, 221, 223; aesthetic realm as, 212; in Chan Buddhism, 165, 173–174; construction of psychological, 126, 149, 159, 224; emotion as, xviii, 52, 151, 174, 219; human nature as psychological, 223; landscape painting as poetic approach to, 192; in neo-Confucianism, 188; noumenal existence, 4, 132, 192; noumenal inquiry, 134–135, 136, 150

naturalization of humans, xii, xiv, 103, 105, 115, 223; in artistic creation, 112; in calligraphy, 114; in Daoism and Zhuangzi, 77–79, 98, 116

painting, 27, 28, 69, 155; landscape, 95, 96, 97–98, 144, 179, 191–192; in the Ming, 205; “Southern” school of, 36–37. See also Ni Zan; Zong Bing

object, unity of self and, 153; in Chan Buddhism, 163 Ouyang Xiu, 95–96, 100, 149, 227n22

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Peking Opera, 146. See also theater personality, 220; Confucian ideal, 47–50; independence of in Zhuangzi, 103; in Mencius versus Zhuangzi, 92; moral force of, 60–62. See also sage Plato, 10, 31 play, 3–5 pleasure, aesthetic, 51–52, 189; in Mencius, 60–61; and music, 23–24, 42, 50, 231n9; in neo-Confucianism, 189; of taste, 7–8; in Zhuangzi, 83–84. See also joy Plum in a Golden Vase, 196 poetry, 27; historical function, 33–34; humanistic spirit in, 43–45; and monosyllabic Chinese language, 216–217; moral function, 34, 35; music and, 31–34; origins of, 32; “poetry gives voice to the intent,” 31–35; as political criticism, 32–33; shi and ci poetry, 36, 37, 96, 202; Wang-Meng school of, 36–37 portraiture, 96, 137, 205 Prigogine, Ilya, 57 Principle, xv, 188, 190–191; equated with desire, 197–199 purposiveness, of universe, 163. See also under lawfulness qi (pneuma), 63–64, 220, 221; floodlike, in Mencius, 62–65; in Ruan Ji’s poetry, 138 Qian Mu, 187, 190 Qian Zhongshu, 36, 131 qing jing jiao rong (fusion of feeling and scene), xiii, 143, 152–153, 210, 247n54 qiyun, 178, 243n38 Qu Yuan, xiii, 34, 117–119; aesthetic significance of, 126–127; compared with Zhuangzi, 119–120; Confucian character of, 118–119, 147; influence on Wei-Jin style, 134; suicide of, 121–122, 125–126; Wang Yi’s comments on, 147, 231n89

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realism: lack of in Chinese theater, 155–156; lack of interest in Chinese aesthetics, 27–28, 57, 74, 208 reason, xiii–xiv; harmony of emotion and, 141; unity of sense and, 2, 6, 9 reclusion, 88–89 “Record of Music.” See under Book of Rites religion: aesthetics as superseding, xv, 57, 188, 189, 191; Cai Yuanpei on, 212– 213; reclusion in place of, 88–89 ren. See humaneness Renjian cihua. See Wang Guowei Renwu zhi, 132, 177–178 representation, xvi, 27–29, 57, 114. See also under expression Rites of Zhou, 4–5, 12, 17 ritual: beauty and, 13; and the emotions, 15–16; institutions, establishment of, 11; magical quality of, 12; mourning, 131–132; self-cultivation and, 15; socialization role of, 12–13. See also under music Romance of the Western Chamber (Xixiang ji), 201, 202 Ruan Ji, xiii, 89, 127–128, 138–139, 162, 220, 238n27 sage: Confucian, 51; in Mencius, 59–61; in Wang Bi, 136; in Zhuangzi, 79, 93 Schiller, Friedrich, 5, 214 scholar-officials, as artists, 184, 192, 202, 219 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 211–214 Schwartz, Benjamin, 12 sculpture, 57 secularism, 12–13, 46, 51, 52, 53, 58 sedimentation, x–xi, 7–8, 50, 65, 144, 186, 223–224; of consciousness within unconscious, 110; noumenal, in Zhuangzi, 84; of rational within sensuosity, 8–9, 84–85, 99, 166 Seng Zhao, 162 sensuosity, 50, 55, 99, 196; affirmed in Chan Buddhism, 161; affirmed in Zhuangzi, 84–85, 90; unity with rationality in Wang Yangming, 197–198; in Xunzi, 65

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Index

shamanism, 2–7, 11, 17, 53, 146; in Chu culture, 117. See also dance. Shangshu. See Book of Documents Shao Yong, 95, 187 Shen Deqian, 207 Shen Kuo, 110 shen pin (divine work), 177 Shen Yinmo, 69 Shen Yue, 208 shenyun (spiritual flavor), 178, 207 shi. See poetry Shiji. See Sima Qian Shijing. See Book of Songs Shipin. See Zhong Rong Shishuo xinyu, 132–133, 135, 136, 151, 239n37 Shitao, 200, 201, 245n24 Shujing. See Book of Documents Shuo wen jie zi, 1–2, 5, 17, 146 Sikong Tu, 37, 73, 175, 177, 183, 227n22 Sima Qian, 127, 238n27; on Qu Yuan, 237n7; “Treatise on Music,” 229n61 Six Arts, the, 47–48 Songs of Chu, xiii, 117, 152, 170–171, 238n11; natural imagery in, xiii, 147–148. See also Qu Yuan space-time framework, of Chinese art, 156 spiritual (shen), quality of a work, 111 strong beauty (zhuang mei), 59, 91 Su Shi, 191, 194, 220, 227n22; on blandness, 177; on calligraphy, 114; Chan flavor in poems of, 166, 168, 170, 171–172, 180–181, 183; Confucian character of, 184–186; on Liu Zongyuan, 180; on Wang Wei, 165 subject, construction of, xiv, 126; in Chan Buddhism, 174. See also subjectobject distinction subject-object distinction: in neoConfucianism, 190; in poetry of Tao Qian and Li Bo, 168; unity of in Confucianism versus identity of in Daoism, 82 sublime, the, xii, 58, 62 subtle awakening, xiv, 162, 164, 171, 175, 220

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sudden enlightenment, xiv, 161–163 suicide, Chinese versus Japanese view of, 127. See also under Qu Yuan; Wang Guowei Tang Xianzu, 200, 201, 202, 207, 220 Tan Sitong, on qi, 63 Tao Qian, 102–104, 128, 130, 138, 168, 177, 220 taotie, 4, 58, 59, 226n8 teleology, 189 theater, 27–28, 56, 146, 209; Chinese versus Western, 155–156; Li Yu on, 203 time, 52–53; in Chan Buddhism, 163, 174; emotionalized time, 55–57; mortality and, 53, 55; space as, in theater and architecture, 56. See also under line Tongcheng school, 208 tragedy, lack of in Chinese tradition, 74 transcendence, 50, 52–53, 55, 57; in Chan Buddhism, 164, 165–166; in neo-Confucianism, 189, 197; in Zhuangzi, 80, 84 unconscious: in creativity, 110–111, 112–113, 179 unity of heaven and humans, 60, 64–65; in Cai Yuanpei and Wang Guowei, 214; in the Commentaries on the Book of Changes, 67–68, 70; in landscape painting, 191–192; in subjective teleology of neoConfucianism, 189; in Zhuangzi, 79, 84 unity with nature, 60, 67–68, 96, 99–100; in landscape painting, 192; in Tao Qian, 102; in Zhuangzi, 80–81, 84, 94 Wang Anshi, 88 Wang Bi, 89, 134, 136, 239n51 Wang Can, 44 Wang Changling, 154 Wang Fanggang, 208 Wang Fuzhi, 122, 124, 207

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Wang Gen, 199 Wang Guowei, xvi, 209–214; on ShangZhou transition, 11; suicide of, 212. See also aesthetic realm (jingjie) Wang Shizhen, 164, 172, 176, 212. See also shenyun Wang Wei (critic), 99 Wang Wei (poet), 37, 220; and Chan Buddhism, 164–165, 168, 170, 176 Wang Xizhi, 54, 128, 220 Wang Yangming, xv, 194; theory of Mind, 197–199 Wang Yi. See under Qu Yuan. Weber, Max, 229n64 Wei-Jin: dominance of Confucianism in, 140; influence of Qu Yuan on, 134, 137; influence of Zhuangzi on, 137; metaphysics, xiv, 89, 133, 136; period, 35, 89, 95, 130, 132; style, xiii, 133, 137 wenhua xinli jiegou. See culturalpsychological formation wenrou dunhou. See gentleness and sincerity Wen Tianxiang: “Ode to Right Qi,” 64–65 Wenxin diaolong, 28, 227n22. See also Liu Xie Western thought, ix, x, xv, xvi, xviii, 10; abstract speculation in, 99; entry into China, 209, 213 wisdom: and emotion in Wei-Jin aesthetic, 133, 135, 136 wooden structures, 215, 218 work of ease (yi pin), 93–94 Worringer, Wilhelm, 219 Wu Jingzi, 220 wu xin. See no mind “Xici zhuan” commentary on the Book of Changes, 25, 67–68, 107 Xie He, on qi, 63 Xie Liangzuo, 188 Xie Lingyun, 89, 162 xing (imagistic association), 142–144, 146, 153–155, 220, 240n61 xingling. See innate sensibility Xin Qiji, 138, 162, 173

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xinrujia. See New Confucians Xiong Bingming, 169, 205, 221 Xixiang ji. See Romance of the Western Chamber xuan xue (abstruse learning), 89, 139 Xu Fuguan, 154, 168, 247n54 Xunzi: on beauty and taste, 10; Daoist flavor in, 87; human nature in, 65; indispensability to Confucianism, 65; on learning, 48, 65; “On Music,” 18; on ritual and desire, 65 Xu Wei, 200, 202, 207, 220; his poetry criticized, 205 yanggang zhi mei. See moral beauty Yang Shen, 111 Yangzhou, Eight Eccentrics of, 200 Yan Jun, 199, 244n6 Yan Yu, 37, 170, 176, 183, 207, 212, 227n22 Yan Zhenqing, 92, 220 Yan Zhitui, 64 Ye Weilian, 101 yijing. See artistic conception Yijing. See Book of Changes Yi li (The Ceremonies and Rituals), 11–12 yin and yang: in architecture, 247n64; in Book of Changes, 69–70, 73; in Han cosmology, 70–71; Liu Xie on, 71–72; ordering of through music, 20–21 yi pin (work of ease), 93, 177 Yuan Hongdao, 194, 200, 203, 207, 245n26; criticized, 205 Yuan Lin, 208 Yuan Mei, 200, 202, 207, 220, 246n49; criticized, 206; on emotion in poetry, 201; on freedom of literature from ethics, 204; on Su Shi, 184. See also innate sensibility Yue Fei, 56 yun (resonance), 178 Zeng Guofan, 181 Zhang Heng, 190–191 Zhang Huaiguan, 93

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Index

Zhang Huiyan, 149, 150 Zhang Taiyan, 216 Zhang Xu, 36, 169, 220 Zhang Xuecheng, 64, 206, 207, 246n49 Zhang Zai, 54–55, 189, 197 Zhi Daolin, 133, 137, 162, 239n47 Zhong Rong, 137, 227n22 Zhong yong. See Doctrine of the Mean Zhou, Duke of, 11; cited by Confucius, 39 Zhou Dunyi, 188 Zhou li. See Rites of Zhou Zhou Zuoren, 150 zhuang mei. See strong beauty Zhuangzi, x, xii; artistic creation in, 106, 108–110; on death, 133; influence in Wei-Jin period, 133. See also

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aesthetic object; boundlessness; great beauty; nondifferentiation. See also under freedom; joy; naturalization of humans; personality; transcendence Zhu Da (Bada Shanren), 220 Zhu Xi, xv, 15, 68–69, 147, 194, 199; on “art of living,” 187–188, 190–191; on blandness, 177; lack of aesthetic theory in philosophy of, 187; on poetry, 186; on Tao Qian, 102, 104 Zhu Ziqing, on Tao Qian, 102 Zong Baihua, 74–75 Zong Bing, 97, 137, 162, 182 Zuo zhuan (Zuo Commentary), 20, 59, 118; on the rites, 13, 14–15

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About the Author Li Zehou is one of contemporary China’s foremost intellectuals and was a key figure in the intellectual foment of the 1980s. A philosopher of aesthetics and historian of Chinese thought, as well as China’s preeminent authority on Kant, Li is the author of The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 1995), and Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View (with Jane Cauvel; Lexington Books, 2006). A senior research fellow and retired professor of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Li has since 1991 resided in the United States, where he makes his home in Boulder, Colorado.

About the Translator Maija Bell Samei received her doctorate in Chinese literature from the University of Michigan. She is currently an independent scholar residing in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she occasionally teaches at the University of North Carolina. She is the author of Gendered Persona and Poetic Voice: The Aban­ doned Woman in Early Chinese Song Lyrics (Lexington Books, 2004).

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Production Notes for Li Zehou / THE CHINESE AESTHETIC TRADITION Interior designed by University of Hawai‘i Press Production Staff with text in Minion Pro and display in Warnock Pro. Composition by Lucille C. Aono Printing and binding by The Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group

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CHINESE PHILOSOPHY { CON T IN UED FROM FRON T FL A P }

LI ZEHOU was a key figure in the intellec-

MAIJA BELL SAMEI is an independent

scholar. She is the author of Gendered Persona and the Poetic Voice: The Abandoned Woman in Early Chinese Song Lyrics (2004) and holds a doctorate in Chinese literature from the University of Michigan.

A PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSLATION OF THE XIAOJING

OF RELATED INTEREST

Henry Rosemont, Jr., and Roger T. Ames 2008, 152 pages CLOTH: ISBN 978-0-8248-3284-1 PAPER: ISBN 978-0-8248-3348-0 In the Confucian tradition, human morality and the personal realization it inspires are grounded in the cultivation of family feeling. One may even go so far as to say that, for China, family reverence was a necessary condition for developing any of the other human qualities of excellence. On the basis of the present translation of the Xiaojing (Classic of Family Reverence) and supplemental passages found in other early philosophical writings, Professors Rosemont and Ames articulate a specifically Confucian conception of “role ethics” that, in its emphasis on a relational conception of the person, is markedly different from most early and contemporary dominant Western moral theories. This Confucian role ethics takes as its inspiration the perceived necessity of family feeling as the entry point in the development of moral competence and as a guide to the religious life as well. In the lengthy introduction, two senior scholars offer their perspective on the historical, philosophical, and religious dimensions of the Xiaojing. Together with this introduction, a lexicon of key terms presents a context for the Xiaojing and provides guidelines for interpreting the text historically in China as well as suggesting its contemporary significance for all societies. The inclusion of the Chinese text adds yet another dimension to this important study.

Ren Qingguo JACKET DESIGN: Julie Matsuo-Chun JACKET CALLIGRAPHY:

UNIVERSITY of HAWAI‘I PRESS HONOLULU, HAWAI‘I 96822-1888

ISBN 978-0-8248-3307-7

90000

9 780824 833077 www.uhpress.hawaii.edu

LI ZEHOU

tual foment of the 1980s. A philosopher of aesthetics and historian of Chinese thought, as well as China’s preeminent authority on Kant, Li is the author of The Path of Beauty: A Study of Chinese Aesthetics (1995), and Four Essays on Aesthetics: Toward a Global View (with Jane Cauvel, 2006). A senior research fellow and retired professor of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Li has since 1991 resided in the United States, where he makes his home in Boulder, Colorado.

The Chinese Classic of Family Reverence

THE CHINE SE A E STHET I C T R A D I T I O N

thought. Among the examples he cites are early Confucian explanations of poetry as that which gives expression to intent; Zhuangzi’s artistic depictions of the ideal personality who discerns the natural way of things and lives according to it; and Chan Buddhist-inspired notions that nature and words can come together to yield insight and enlightenment. In this enduring and stimulating work, Li demonstrates conclusively the fundamental role of aesthetics in the development of the cultural and psychological structures in Chinese culture that define “humanity.”

LI ZEHOU (B. 1930) has been an

T H E CH I N E S E A E STHETI C T R A D IT IO N LI ZEHOU translated by Maija Bell Samei

influential thinker in China since the 1950s. Before moving to the U.S. in the wake of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Li published works on Kant and traditional and contemporary Chinese philosophy. The present volume is a translation of his Huaxia meixue (1989), which is considered to be one of Li’s most significant works. Apart from its value as an introduction to the philosophy of one of contemporary China’s foremost intellectuals, The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition fills an important gap in the literature of Chinese aesthetics in English. It presents Li’s synthesis of the entire trajectory of Chinese aesthetic thought, from ancient times to the early modern period, incorporating pre-Confucian and Confucian ideas, Daoism, Chan Buddhism, and the influence of Western philosophy during the lateimperial period. As one of China’s major contemporary philosophers and a preeminent authority on Kant, Li is uniquely positioned to observe this trajectory and make it intelligible to today’s readers. The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition touches on all areas of artistic activity, including poetry, painting, calligraphy, architecture, and the “art of living.” According to Li, right government, the ideal human being, and the path to spiritual transcendence all come under the provenance of aesthetic { CO N TIN UED O N B ACK FL A P }