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Abhinavagupta, , . Abhinavabhāratī
2006, In M.M. Ghosh (ed.) Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation.Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation.
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Summary: Abhinavagupta’s famed commentary on Bharatamuni’s treatise on drama, the Nāṭyaśāstra, in which he details aesthetic expression and experience according to a theory of rasa, or aesthetic relish. Abhinavagupta’s theory is the most influential account of how the rasas or aesthetic emotions transcend the bounds of the spectator and artwork in a three-part process including depersonalization, universalization, and identification.

Comment: This text is appropriate for an in-depth study of Indian aesthetics. It requires an at least an introductory background in Indian philosophy to be accessible.

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Author(s) Unknown, , . Yue Ji 樂記—Record of Music: Introduction, Translation, Notes, and Commentary
1995, Asian Music 26(2): 1-96.
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Summary: The earliest extant Chinese treatise on music. The Yue Ji presents largely Confucian ideas on the connections between music, self-cultivation, proper governance, and the realization of natural patterns. Human character is described as a musical progression with ties to the transformation of sound into a kind of music that is distinguished by its relationship to virtue. The exact identity of the author(s) is debated, and it is believed to have been compiled from various sources no later than the middle of the Western Han dynasty (206BCE-24CE).

Comment: This text is appropriate for an aesthetics (especially philosophy of music) and/or Chinese philosophy course. It is best accessed by a reader with a basic understanding of early Chinese philosophy (especially Confucianism).

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Chakrabarti, Arindam, , . Ownerless Emotions in Rasa-Aesthetics
2011, In Ken-ichi Sasaki (ed.). Asian Aesthetics. National Univeristy of Singapore Press.
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Summary: Chakrabarti explores the possibilities of rasa theory via the question of whose emotion is experienced when an audience relishes a work of art. Chakrabarti argues for the existence of a “centerless non-singular subjectivity” according to which the special emotions savored in aesthetic experience do not have specific owners. These personless sentiments indicate an ethical relationship between aesthetic imagination and moral unselfishness.

Comment: This text could serve as both an overview of rasa theory in Indian aesthetics, as a basis for comparative work in cross-cultural aesthetics, as well as comparative philosophy.

Related reading:

  • Abhinavabhāratī. Abhinavagupta. In Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni: Text, Commentary of Abhinava Bharati by Abhinavaguptacarya and English Translation. M.M. Ghosh (ed.). Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation, 2006.
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Chari, V.K., , . Validity in Interpretation: Some Indian Views
1978, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36(3): 329-340.
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Summary: An outline of the theory of interpretation within the language philosophies of ancient India. Chari organizes this extensive history according to topics such as verbal autonomy, intention, unity of meaning, polysemy, contextualism, and interpretation.

Comment: This text is appropriate for discussions of language and meaning in aesthetics, as well as philosophy of language.

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Chong, Kim-Chong, , . The Concept of Zhen 真 in the Zhuangzi
2011, Philosophy East and West 61(2): 324-346.
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Abstract: The term zhen in the Zhuangzi is commonly associated with the zhen ren or the “true person,” who is described, for example, as capable of going through fire and water unharmed. Some scholars take this as typifying a mystical element in the Zhuangzi. This essay investigates the various meanings and uses of zhen in the Zhuangzi and reaches a broader understanding of the zhen ren in various contexts.

Comment: Excellent on the concept of ‘zhen’ (authenticity, naturalness) in Daoism. Long but clearly written. Very useful for explaining the character of Daoist ethics.

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Chung-Yuan Chang, , . Immeasurable potentialities of creativity
2011, In Chung-Yuan Chang (ed.). Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry. London & Philadelphia: Singing Dragon.
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Summary: A study of the Taoist (Daoist) concept of creativity as a non-instrumental process in which all things create themselves. Chang argues for the foundational place of this understanding of self-emergent creativity in the aesthetics of Chinese art.

Comment: Can be used as both an introduction to Daoism and to Chinese aesthetics.

Related reading:

  • Laozi, Tao Te Ching. D. C. Lau, trans. New York: Addison Wesley, 2000.
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Coomaraswamy, Ananda K., , . Samvega, ‘Aesthetic Shock’
1943, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 7(3): 174-179.
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Summary: An explication of the Pali aesthetic term samvega as the state of shock and wonder at a work of art that occurs when the implications of its aesthetic qualities are experienced. Despite being an emotion, Coomaraswamy associates samvega with disinterested aesthetic contemplation.

Comment: This text would work well in a focused study of Indian aesthetics, as well in a cross-cultural study of disinterest in aesthetics.

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Dehejia, Harsha V., , Makarand Paranjape (eds.). Saundarya: The Perception and Practice of Beauty in India.
2003, Samvad India Foundation.
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Publisher’s Note: A peculiar feature of the classical aesthetic thought in India has been the emphasis on the art experience as a special state of being, defined not so much by saundarya or beauty as by ananda or beatitude. Yet, saundarya has been a crucial ingredient in the aesthetic experience, prevalent not only in traditional art objects but also in articles of daily life. The discourse of saundarya, as distinct from its experience, was however conducted by or on behalf of the cultivated aesthete and was carried out within the ambit of classical thought. In contrast, modernity, understood not merely as modernisation but as a departure from traditional modes of thinking and behavior, has opened new vistas of human experience and creativity, some of them in total opposition to traditional aesthetic norms. But even as modernity opens new discourses and initiates fresh debates on saundarya, we are reminded that the experience of beauty is a primal need, not easily overcome or substituted by another Can a renewed quest for an understanding the perception and practice of saundarya in India ensure that it is not relegated to the status of an archaic relic or curio, but restored as one of the bindus or foci of our lives?This volume, perhaps the first of its kind, is a unique contribution to the history of Indian aesthetic analysis. Its eminent contributors, ranging from aestheticians, linguistics, philosophers, historians, literary critics, art collectors, curators, performing artists, painters, and musicians of the highest calibre, are drawn from across three continents and diverse countries. Profusely illustrated, this visual and textual treat on the craft and culture of beauty in India, promises to be a collector’s item.

Comment: Wide-ranging volume on the concept of beauty (saundarya) in both traditional and modern Indian aesthetics. Includes essays on the ontology, expression, politics, and embodiment of beauty. This text is appropriate for a focused course or module on Indian or Asian aesthetics in which the students have some introduction to Indian philosophy and art.

Related reading:

  • K. Krishnamoorthy, Indian Theories of Beauty. Bangalore: Indian Institute of World Culture, 1981 (Transaction No. 53).
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Eva Kit Wah Man, , . Issues of Contemporary Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Context
2015, Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
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Publisher’s Note: This book discusses how China’s transformations in the last century have shaped its arts and its philosophical aesthetics. For instance, how have political, economic and cultural changes shaped its aesthetic developments? Further, how have its long-standing beliefs and traditions clashed with modernizing desires and forces, and how have these changes materialized in artistic manifestations? In addition to answering these questions, this book also brings Chinese philosophical concepts on aesthetics into dialogue with those of the West, making an important contribution to the fields of art, comparative aesthetics and philosophy.

Comment: A timely discussion of the influence of the last century’s political, economic, and cultural changes in China upon its philosophical aesthetics. Man’s book addresses a number of key neglected topics of comparative aesthetics between China and the West, contemporary aesthetics and art in Hong Kong, the relation of gender and art in the politics of identity, and the role of tradition in new creative practices. Chapter 4 introduces the leaders of the major schools of aesthetics in new China, including Li Zehou. This text is best used in a comparative aesthetics context, especially in discussions of contemporary aesthetic mediums.

Related reading:

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Hsi K’ang, , . Music Has Neither Grief Nor Joy
1983, In Philosophy and Argumentation in Third-Century China. Princeton: Princeton University Press
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Summary: The controversial essay in which Xi Kang offered a distinct counterargument to the orthodox Confucian view that music contains and transfers emotions between musicians and listeners. Xi Kang crafts a series of arguments against the presence of emotions and images in music and contends that the widespread belief to the contrary leads to the misuse of music for political and moral agendas.

Comment: This text is best used in a course on aesthetics (especially philosophy of music) and/or Chinese philosophy. A basic understanding of Daoism is helpful.

Related reading:

  • Essay on Music. Ruan Ji. In Reed Andrew Criddle’s “Rectifying Lasciviousness through Mystical Learning: An Exposition and Translation of Ruan Ji’s Essay on Music.” Asian Music 38(2), 2007.
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Jiang, Tao, , . A buddhist scheme for engaging modern science: The case of taixu
2002, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 29(4): 533-552.
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Summary: In this paper Tao Jiang examines Taixu’s effort to revitalize Buddhism through an engagement with modern science. The main argument offered by Jiang is that a nonsubstantive view of the world is in fundamental agreement with many cutting-edge scientific theories and, therefore, Buddhism can indeed offer a new perspective in the debate between the practices of modern science and their social critics.

Comment: Good introductory paper to Chinese philosophy of science. The topic is highly specific and specialised, making this paper useful in postgraduate courses or, as the itself poses no difficulty of comprehension for more junior students, in specialised undergraduate classes.

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Kongzi (Confucius), , . Analects (Selections)
2005, In: Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (Second Edition). Edited by Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan W. Van Norden. Hackett.
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Summary: Selections from the Analects of Kongzi (Confucius), a foundational text in Chinese philosophy. It is split into twenty books recounting things that the Master (Kongzi) and his disciples said and did. Much of the rest of Chinese philosophy owes a debt, more or less explicit, to this work. Kongzi seeks the cultivation of virtue through ritual, so that worthy persons will occupy positions of power and influence. Society will thereby return to some of the splendor of the bygone ages of the legendary Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, as well as the more recent Xia, Shang, and Western Zhou dynasties.

Comment: The selections are best read in their entirety, as the work is holistic and difficult to interpret piecemeal. (So reading the whole text is better still!) It’s helpful to stress Kongzi’s particularism, as this makes sense of seemingly contradictory pronouncements he makes in different contexts. But if you’re looking to incorporate some Classical Chinese philosophy in a course without space for the whole thing, the selections from Book One include many key Confucian themes: ritual, the ideal of a junzi or gentleman, virtue, filial piety, and the appeal to tradition. Either way, it’s probably wise to give students some historical context to help understand the appeal of harking back to older traditions.

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Kuki Shūzō, , . The Structure of Iki
2004, In Hiroshi Nara (ed.). The Structure of Detachment: The Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Sh?z?. Univeristy of Hawai’i Press.
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Summary: One of the most important and creative works in modern Japanese aesthetics. Kuki develops a description of a uniquely Japanese sense of taste (iki) that brings together characteristics of the geisha, samurai, and Buddhist priest.

Comment: Best used by a reader with at least an introductory knowledge of Japanese aesthetics. Could be used comparatively with work on disinterest in western Aesthetics, e.g., Kant.

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Kwang-Myung Kim, , . Korean Aesthetic Consciousness and the Problem of Aesthetic Rationality
1998, Canadian Aesthetics Journal, 2
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Abstract: Aesthetic emotions are reputed to be irrational, but, aesthetic emotions as mental phenomena bear complex relations to rationality. Emotions give us knowledge about the world. The aesthetic consciousness of Korean is the internal roots of the Korean’s mentality. The aesthetic consciousness and the mentality are inseparably related to each other. The aesthetic consciousness as the analogy of reason, in the context of A.G. Baumgarten plays a role to extend the logical world. Aesthetic rationality is the common sense or the communicative rationality of it. For the argument of universality we discuss the problem of aesthetic rationality. Since the modern aesthetics, the problem of aesthetic rationality came on the stage of aesthetics. Shamanism as the deep-rooted element of Korean mentality is the most authentic cultural legacy of Koreans. Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and other religious elements influence the unique nature of the Korean character together with shamanism. They play a decisive role in determining the Korean mentality or consciousness. For Koreans, nature is a mirror of the self and a world of meditation which gives life, restoring all things to their proper state. As a peculiar color consciousness, Korean monochrome is characterized by vitality, spontaneity and unconcern for technical perfection. Korean art also tends to be devoid of an artificial movement and this reflects dislike of disturbance, deformation and convention.
If we are to consider Korean contemporary art from an international perspective, we must define what it means to be Korean, i.e. our cultural habits and artistic elements hidden in the artist’s unconsciousness. In this age of multiculturalism, the new interpretation on tradition makes it possible to merge the Korean art with the world stage. The extension of aesthetic emotion through experimentation shows us the change of aesthetic consciousness as a new possibility of interpretation.

Comment: Kim argues for aesthetic rationality, as a kind of aesthetic consciousness, at the heart of Korean identity. He traces its unique cultural legacy in Korean shamanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism in order to account for the characteristic vitality and spontaneity in Korean art. This text is appropriate for an aesthetics course. It does not require a background in Korean philosophy, but at least an introductory knowledge of aesthetics would be beneficial.

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Li Zehou, , . The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition
2009, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press
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Publisher’s Note: The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition touches on all areas of artistic activity, including poetry, painting, calligraphy, architecture, and the “art of living.” Right government, the ideal human being, and the path to spiritual transcendence all come under the provenance of aesthetic thought. According to Li this was the case from early Confucian explanations of poetry as that which gives expression to intent, through Zhuangzi’s artistic depictions of the ideal personality who discerns the natural way of things and lives according to it, to Chan Buddhist-inspired notions that nature and words can come together to yield insight and enlightenment. In this enduring and stimulating work, Li demonstrates conclusively the fundamental role of aesthetics in the development of the cultural and psychological structures in Chinese culture that define “humanity.”

Comment: Li’s synthesis of Chinese aesthetic thought from ancient to early modern times. Li incorporates pre-Confucian, Confucian, Daoist, and Chan Buddhist ideas to discuss art and the central role of aesthetics in Chinese culture and philosophy. Government, self-cultivation and realization, and ethics are all approached here as aesthetic activities. This text is well-suited to an aesthetics or Chinese philosophy course in which there is some introduction to key philosophical concepts from Chinese philosophy. It provides excellent material for cross-cultural aesthetics.

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