Chinese Philosophy and Contemporary Aesthetics

Unthought of Empty

by Kejun Xia (Author)
©2020 Monographs XII, 116 Pages


The purpose of Chinese Philosophy and Contemporary Aesthetics is simple and straightforward: to discuss empty, nothing, opening, white, nature color, blankness, and different delicate senses, in ink-water painting and calligraphy, around discourses of poetics, philosophy ideas, and art critics.
Because xu has inner plasticity and re-generation, which are crucial for its aesthetic discourse, the relation between "nature" or "naturalness" and "emptiness" approaches a fundamental question of modernity—the relation between event revolution and "silent transformation."

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1: Introduction: Infra-White—An Impossible Beginning
  • Chapter 2: Color and White, the Blank Canvas: The Reverse Reconstruction of Non-Dimension
  • Chapter 3: Remnant and White, Color and Blankness, Qi and White
  • Chapter 4: Empty and White, Empty—Empty—Substance—Substance, the Empty Room Filled with Light
  • Chapter 5: The White Layout of the “Woodcutters Fighting for the Path”: The Ethics of Remnant Yielding
  • Chapter 6: Jade and White, Snow and White, Light and White
  • Chapter 7: “Black-and-Blankism” and the Silent Transformation of Invisibility
  • Appendix: The Ink Art of Chen Guangwu: Fasting of the Mind and Interval-Blankness of Chora
  • Index

← viii | ix →



Figure 4.1:Wang Shen 王詵 (1048–1104), Misty River and Layered Peaks, handscroll, ink and color on silk, 45.2 × 166 cm.
Figure 4.2:Dong Qichang 董其昌 (1555–1636), Copy of Wang Shen’s 王诜 Misty River and Layered Peaks, handscroll, ink and color on silk, 29.5 × 184.5 cm, 1620.
Figure 5.1:Zhang Xu 张旭 (ca. 675–750), Self-statement, cursive script, copy ink on paper, about “The Story of the Woodcutters Fighting for the Path.” Xi’an Ancient stone tablets.
Figure 6.1:Gong Xian 龔賢 (1618–1689), Endless Mountains (detail), ink on paper, 27.8 × 980 cm.
Figure A.1:Chen Guangwu 陈光武 (1967–), Double Yin-Yang Calligraphy, Huang Tingjian 黄庭坚 (1045–1105), Passing by the Fubo Temple, Ying-Yang, 2012, ink on paper, 147 × 365 cm.
Figure A.2:Chen Guangwu (1967–), Huang Tingjian: To the Honorable Guests (detail), 2011, ink on paper.
Figure A.3:Chen Guangwu (1967−), cursive script in Huang Tingjian (detail), 2011, ink on paper. ← ix | x →

← x | xi →



This book is an outgrowth of an unforgettable exhibition held five years ago in Beijing. As curator, I found myself deeply moved by the dialogue between painters over white and blankness, and the unique experiences created by the works of such artists as Qiu Shihua, Liu Guofu and Chen Guangwu.

For the publication of this book, I thank my translator Jeff Crosby for his dedicated and precise translation work. Our collaboration over the years has given us both a better understanding of contemporary art and the art of China. I would also like to thank Liu Yehua, editor at China Renmin University Press, for her great effort to make this book a reality.

Special gratitude goes to my friend Fabian Heubel, who has long been a close partner in philosophical discussion. Our dialogue on everything from contemporary interpretations of Zhuangzi to the contemporary transformation of Chinese traditional art has carried on for many years. This book would not have been possible without his support and affirmation. Thanks also to Dr. Dimitra Amarantidou who carefully edited this text to make it more comprehensible!

Finally, my heartfelt thanks go to my wife Jian Yankuan. Her steadfast love and support over the years have brought me the peace I need to think and write. I dedicate this book to her. ← xi | xii →

← xii | 1 →



Introduction: Infra-White—An Impossible Beginning

To begin with blankness implies the impossibility of beginning.

To begin with blankness demands the yielding of philosophy itself: to yield an empty remnant space, to yield itself.

To begin with blankness is the retreat of philosophy from itself, the yielding of its sovereignty to allow blankness to take control.

There is empty-white.

When blankness takes control, blankness is not blankness, but “empty white,” the emptying and blankening of, a mere perception of “empty” and “white,” the “empty” completely empty, devoid of anything, and the “white” completely blank, as if there is nothing, yet as if there is everything. This perception implies the beginning of aesthetics.


XII, 116
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XII, 116 pp., 7 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Kejun Xia (Author)

Kejun Xia is a philosopher, critic and curator. Xia received his PhD from Wuhan University in China, and completed his post-doctoral work at Universität Freiburg and Université de Strasbourg (following Jean-Luc Nancy). Xia has published more than ten books, including Waiting and Useless Nation: Zhuangzi and Heidegger’s Second Turn (2017) and The Theology of Uselessness: Benjamin, Heidegger and Zhuangzi (2019).


Title: Chinese Philosophy and Contemporary Aesthetics
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130 pages