An Intercultural Perspective on Chinese Aesthetics
Since the reception of Western aesthetics in China at the beginning of the twentieth century, the modern Chinese aesthetic discourse has been defined purely by Western terms and categories. According to the main trend of Western aesthetics from Plato to Marx, the focus is on the category of beauty, hence the modern Chinese term mei-xue—‘beautology’, if we try to retranslate the term back into English. With the adoption of Marxism as the fundamental and all-encompassing new Western ideology in China, this trend towards Western discourse has reached further heights. China, however, with its long and continuous civilization, can look back upon an equally long evolution of aesthetic thought and reflection, which has a different focus, that of enquiring predominantly into the nature of artistic creativity and the artistic qualities of a work of art.
This chapter discusses some of the central notions in the history of Chinese aesthetics (such as ‘vital resonance’: qi-yun; the importance of the black–white calligraphic line; poetical suggestiveness; empty space as substance; natural creativity; yin–yang balance and harmony; Chinese art as ‘art-historical art’), and puts the development of Chinese aesthetic thought into the context of the asymmetric intercultural exchange between China and the West over the last 100 years.