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Author(s) Unknown, and . Yue Ji 樂記—Record of Music: Introduction, Translation, Notes, and Commentary

1995, Asian Music 26(2): 1-96.

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).

Chung-Yuan Chang, and . 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.

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.

Li Zehou, and . The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition

2009, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press

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.

Peng Feng, and . Li Yu’s Theory of Drama: A Moderate Moralism

2016, Philosophy East and West 66(1): 73-91.

Abstract: This essay presents an interpretation of Li Yu’s theory of drama that takes it to be a moderate moralism that is different from Confucian radical moralism, Daoist radical autonomism, and the moderate autonomism of fiction. In addition to practical considerations, Li Yu’s moderate moralism of drama is based on his awareness of the ontological difference between drama and music, poetry, and fiction. Drama was seen by Li Yu as a synthetic art that includes music, poetry, and fiction. If radical autonomism is appropriate for the evaluation of music, radical moralism for poetry and prose, and moderate autonomism for fiction, then moderate moralism would be most appropriate in the evaluation of drama.

Comment: Peng gives an account of the development of Chinese drama according to a contrast between Confucian moralism, in which morality controls aesthetics, and Daoist autonomism, in which aesthetics are autonomous from morality. He argues for an understanding of Li Yu’s theory of drama as a moderate moralism that evaluates drama according to a possible, yet contingent and unnecessary relation between moral and aesthetic virtue. This text is appropriate for a course on aesthetics and/or Chinese philosophy. It is particularly useful in discussions of the relationship between ethics and aesthetics.