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The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition$
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Zehou Li

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780824833077

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824833077.001.0001

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Metaphysical Pursuits

Metaphysical Pursuits

(p.160) Chapter 5 Metaphysical Pursuits
The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition

Li Zehou

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the aesthetic influence of Chan Buddhism. More specifically, it considers how the Chan notion of subtle awakening leads to the enduring importance of transcendent states of mind and “lingering flavor” in Chinese aesthetics. It also discusses another major legacy of Chan: the widespread and long-standing preference for the aesthetic characteristic summed up in the word “blandness,” or “something that is without taste, but at the same time full of flavor.” Finally, the chapter compares transcendence in Chan Buddhism, neo-Confucianism, and Zhuangzi and explores the influence of Chan Buddhism on neo-Confucianism—which sought to establish a philosophical system that was more than a moralistic metaphysics. It argues that Chan Buddhism raises the transcendent aspects of Confucianism and Daoism to a new level of relevance, even as it remains firmly within Chinese aesthetic tradition.

Keywords:   subtle awakening, transcendence, lingering flavor, Chinese aesthetics, blandness, Chan Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, neo-Confucianism, metaphysics

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