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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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Chinese and Western Realism: Zhu Liyuan 315


Chinese and Western Realism Zhu Liyuan In this paper we will look at the development of the Chinese theory of artistic realism. In the early primitive period, Chinese art, such as poetry, dance and painting, slowly evolved from realistic writing to freehand writing, from imitation to expressive romanticism, from realism to fantasy, from concrete to abstract. This evolution has been widely discussed by historians and has been amply proved in recent archaeological excavations of early Chinese civilizations. Following this evolving trend in art, aesthetic theories also developed from realism to greater aesthetic autonomy. So, for example, the developing trend in Chinese aesthetics was to steadily deemphasize the imitation of reality in art and more and more to stress the role of art as expressing one's emotion. By the time of the earliest civilized Chinese societies (the Yin and Shang slave societies of 16th- II th centuries BC) Chinese literature, art and aesthetic consciousness fmnly supported the idea of art revealing one's emotion and expressing one's thought as something higher than imitating reality. So, ancient Chinese aesthetic theories of realism developed in ways quite different from those in the West. Prior to the Qin dynasty (221-207 BC), the most mature and developed arts in China were music and poetry. Here the theory of the artistic portrayal of reality was definitely subservient to the function of expressing personal feeling. The ideas of "imitating objects" and "describing or depicting appearances of forms" were based on their correspondence or adequacy to associated emotion and...

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