In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics
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Already translated into six languages, Francois Jullien's In Praise of Blandness has become a classic. Appearing for the first time in English, this groundbreaking work of philosophy, anthropology, aesthetics, and sinology is certain to stir readers to think and experience what may at first seem impossible: the richness of a bland sound, a bland meaning, a bland painting, a bland poem. In presenting the value of blandness through as many concrete examples and original texts as possible, Jullien allows the undifferentiated foundation of all things -- blandness itself -- to appear. After completing this book, readers will reevaluate those familiar Western lines of thought where blandness is associated with a lack -- the undesirable absence of particular, defining qualities.Jullien traces the elusive appearance and crucial value of blandness from its beginnings in the Daoist and Confucian traditions to its integration into literary and visual aesthetics in the late-medieval period and beyond. Gradually developing into a positive quality in Chinese aesthetic and ethical traditions, the bland comprises the harmonious and unnameable union of all potential values, embodying a reality whose very essence is change and providing an infinite opening into the breadth of human expression and taste.More than just a cultural history, In Praise of Blandness invites those both familiar and unfamiliar with Chinese culture to explore the resonances of the bland in literary, philosophical, and religious texts and to witness how all currents of Chinese thought -- Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism -- converge in harmonious accord.
understood that this plainness "extends into the depths" and that this blandness harbors "plenitude" (pingdan suimei).1 Once joined in this way, ping and dan — "plainness" and "blandness" — will henceforth constitute a category commonly raised in poetic treatises.3 In addition, there is the awareness that blandness in this sense can only be attained after a period of development — that it is the fruit of a certain maturity. Such is the case, for example, for specific individuals. One great poet
The moral function of emotion, then, does not limit emotion's significance or its potential (as we find in our own moralizing and didactic poetry). Quite the opposite: by anchoring emotion more solidly (that is, by putting it in closer touch, through our perception, with the foundation of things and of life), the moral function develops it all the more fully — indeed, to an infinite extent. And the scope of this significance accounts for its beauty. As for the reference to the "ancient," it is
purified of the first shock to the senses, which is ultimately just that and nothing more. In itself, contact with the flavor represents only the zero degree of the true experience of it, an experience that becomes all the richer for its development through its relative absence (in one's stopping eating). This, in turn, serves as an ideal for poetic writing: In the region south of Jiangling [that is, outside the realm of Chinese cultural dominance], people are generally content to enjoy the
Tiandi," in Zhuangzi jishi, in Zhuzi jicheng, vol. 3, p. 4. Ibid., p. 300. 5. "Biaoji," in Liji, in Liji zhengyi, 3 vols., ed. Li Xuele, (Beijing: Beijing 185. 5. In the Laozi, for example, we find the passage: "Being and nonbeing give University Press, 1999), vol. 3, p. 1493. rise to each other; the difficult and the easy bring about each other; the long and CHAPTER SIX: OF CHARACTER: THE BLAND AND THE PLAIN the short signify in comparison with each other; the high and the low determine
society have the power to trans- images and strikingly original phrasing, resulting in evocative if somewhat her- form their readers and hearers. metic work. Living and working during the Five Dynasties, he has been credited as one of the originators of the literati tradition of monochrome-ink landscape painting. When, during the course of the Northern Song dynasty, landscape painting grew Precious little is known about the historical Laozi, a figure who, if he did exist, is to be the