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Contemporary Chinese Aesthetics


Edited By Zhu Liyuan and Gene Blocker

This book is a collection of translations of recent work by contemporary Chinese aestheticians. Because of the relative isolation of China until recently, little is known of this rich and ongoing aesthetics tradition in China. Although some of the articles are concerned with the traditional ancient Chinese theories of art and beauty, many are inspired by Western aesthetics, including Marxism, and all are involved in cross-cultural comparisons of Chinese and Western aesthetic traditions.


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Aesthetic Image and Conception: Yie Lang 253


Aesthetic Image and Conception Yie Lang Works of art are produced by artists in the process of aesthetic sensation and imagination (shen mei gan xing), or what we might call aesthetic intuition. The object of aesthetic intuition is not "the thing itself' (the substance), but its image (xiang). Western aestheticians tend to use the term "form" (including shape, outline, pattern, and harmony of parts), while traditional Chinese aestheticians refer to it as "visual image," or "sensory view." From the standpoint of aesthetic intuition, the practicality of the object represented, its usefulness and scientific properties, is neglected, calling attention only to its aesthetic in1age. But the image of a thing is not the same as the thing itself. A mountain, for example, is a relatively constant substantial object, while its image is constantly shifting from person to person and from one moment to the next. Ancient Chinese writers would say, for example, that "mountains look like ridges horizontally, but like peaks vertically," "mountains in spring are peaceful and pretty and look like they are smiling; in summer mountains are green and verdant and look full and drooping; in autumn mountains are bright and clean and look like they are being made-up; while mountains in winter are gloomy and dismal and look like they are sleeping." The image can change not only from one season to another but even within one day: "mountains look lower at night, closer in sunshine and higher at dawn." The san1e sort of thing can be said...

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