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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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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Ian James Kidd

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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Added by: Meilin Chinn, Contributed by:

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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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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Added by: Meilin Chinn, Contributed by:

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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Kwang-Myung Kim, , . Korean Aesthetic Consciousness and the Problem of Aesthetic Rationality
1998, Canadian Aesthetics Journal, 2
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Added by: Meilin Chinn, Contributed by:

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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Added by: Meilin Chinn, Contributed by:

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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Olberding, Amy, , Philip J. Ivanhoe (eds.). Mortality in Traditional Chinese Thought
2011, SUNY Press.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Publisher’s note: Mortality in Traditional Chinese Thought is the definitive exploration of a complex and fascinating but little-understood subject. Arguably, death as a concept has not been nearly as central a preoccupation in Chinese culture as it has been in the West. However, even in a society that seems to understand death as a part of life, responses to mortality are revealing and indicate much about what is valued and what is feared. This edited volume fills the lacuna on this subject, presenting an array of philosophical, artistic, historical, and religious perspectives on death during a variety of historical periods. Contributors look at material culture, including findings now available from the Mawangdui tomb excavations; consider death in Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist traditions; and discuss death and the history and philosophy of war.

Comment: This volume contains a number of excellent essays on mortality as it appears in Chinese philosophy. It would be useful in a history of Chinese philosophy course, or to provide an additional perspective in a course on philosophy of death, immortality and the afterlife. Of particular value for this purpose is Tao Jiang's chapter comparing Linji Yixuan's views on immortality to those of William James, discussing the degree to which remembrance counts as immortality.

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Wang, Robin, , . Dao Becomes Female
2017, In Garry, A., Khader, S.J. and Stone, A (eds.) New York: Routledge, pp. 35–38
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by:

Abstract: Daoism, a Dao based and inspired teaching and practice, has been considered to be the philosophy of yielding in Chinese intellectual history. One important aspect of yielding is being rou 柔—soft, gentle, supple—which the Daodejing couples with the feminine. Not surprisingly, then, the female and femininity have enormous significance for Laozi and Daoism. To highlight this unique philosophical aspect of Daoism, this chapter will place femininity/the feminine/the female center stage to investigate Daoist thought and its possible contribution to feminist thought in a contemporary global setting. In this chapter I promote a somewhat female consciousness of Dao, or a Daoist female consciousness, which may expand, support, or alter feminist assumptions about femininity/the feminine/the female. The overarching focal point of this understanding lies in a depiction of the female and femininity as a cosmic force, a way of knowing, and a strategy for leading a flourishing life. The main points are that Dao does not govern actually existing gender relations—or, at least, that the social and political reality of gender relations is not modeled on Dao, because the patriarchy is not Dao. Highlighting the female or feminine aspect of Dao, or Dao as becoming female, is a feminist intervention, using resources from within classical Daoist thought in order to re-imagine or reconfigure gender for our time.

Comment: A useful way of introducing some feminist thought into a course on classical Chinese philosophy. It would fit well either in a unit on Daoism or in a unit on feminism. It would be tough to use this in a feminist course to introduce some Daoist thought; the chapter is tricky without some familiarity with the Daodejing

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