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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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The Essence of Art: Chen Wei 343

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The Essence of Art Chen Wei What is an art work? At first this question seems easy to answer in the sense that most people initially have a rough idea what an art work is. But we fmd that trying to state it precisely, is like trying to reach the horizon-we can see it but we can't seem to quite get there. At least up to now, no one has reached such a definition with clarity and precision. In the West art has been considered "expression," or "significant form," or even an "emotional sign." Certainly, these defmitions have been useful in calling attention to important features of art. The problem with these definitions is that they are more complex and more difficult to understand than art itself-which they were introduced to clarify! In China there are two main views to explain the essence of art nowadays. One holds that the essence of art is feeling and the other holds that it is image. Both of them can provide lots of supporting examples, and both are interesting and worth our careful study. Those who hold the first view (that the essence of art is feeling) have two main reasons to support their position. The first is that only something which is true of all art works can be the essence of art-and that all art works possess feeling, but do not possess the defming qualities offered by other defmitions. The second reason offered in support of the defmition of art as...

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