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Chinese Philosophy and Contemporary Aesthetics

Unthought of Empty

Kejun Xia

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."

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Chapter 5: The White Layout of the “Woodcutters Fighting for the Path”: The Ethics of Remnant Yielding


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The White Layout of the “Woodcutter Fighting for the Path”: The Ethics of Remnant Yielding


The Story of the Woodcutters Fighting for the Path is a calligraphy story. The moral of the story is that when the path is narrow, different forces will contend for it. The beauty is that relationships of ruler and subject, or principal and dependent, can be bent without being broken. The story first appeared in Li Zhao’s Tang dynasty text Supplement to the Nation’s History. It states that Zhang Xu 張旭 (ca. 675–750) recounted seeing a woodcutter fighting over passage on a goat trail with porters carrying a princess, with neither side willing to yield the path. They were able to pass each other by quickly dodging as they went forward, and this gave Zhang Xu inspiration regarding the layout of white in calligraphy, where the various components of a character come together, progressing and retreating with high precision.

The story of the “woodcutter fighting for the path” is a story of sudden enlightenment in ancient calligraphy. It is said that Zhang Xu, the father of caoshu 草書 wild cursive calligraphy, saw a princess’s retinue fighting with a woodcutter over a narrow path and was suddenly enlightened on the meaning of calligraphy, especially of fantastic changing among the interval spaces of characters (just like flying white).

This important story in the history of Chinese calligraphy is like a...

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