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Contemporary Chinese Aesthetics

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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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Comparative Concepts of Natural Beauty: Chen Wangheng 323

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Comparative Concepts of Natural Beauty Chen Wangheng The Chinese adopt a different approach to the relationship between man and nature from Westerners. It is the difference in cultural tradition, particularly in philosophical tradition, that has caused the disparity between Chinese and Western concepts of natural beauty. "The unity of heaven and man," the quintessence of Chinese philosophy, seeks to establish a close and harmonious relationship between man and man as well as between man and nature. All the three main schools of philosophy-he Confucian, the Taoist, and the Chan-na (Chan, or Zen Buddhist sect)-preach the "unity of heaven and man," but they stress different things. The Confucians proceed from political and ethical considerations; the Taoists are motivated by a desire to seek spiritual freedom by conforming to natural laws; and the attainment of enlightenment and Buddhahood through intuition taught by the Zen Buddhists presupposes a harmonious co-existence with nature, which is to them full of wonders and mysteries waiting to be discovered and understood, for "the green bamboos hold dharma; the bright chrysanthemums exude prajna." All three schools seek to build a perceptual and emotional relationship with nature on the basis of non-utilitarian and non-scientific understanding. One of the main characteristics of Confucian teachings is the union of external ethical nornlS with the inner feelings and desires of individuals. "The Master said on the river bank: 'Fleeting time flows by day and night like this water,"' a pronouncement full of emotional colors which characterizes the Confucian 324 Contemporary...

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