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Yi Liu

Translator Casey Lee

Abstract

The ancient Chinese people believed that they existed at the center of the world. With the arrival of Buddhism in China came a new cosmic worldview rooted in Indian culture that destabilized the Han [huaxia 華夏] people’s long-held notions of China as the Middle Kingdom [Zhongguo 中國] and had a profound influence on medieval Daoism. Under the influence of Buddhist cosmology, Daoists reformed their idea of Middle Kingdom, for a time relinquishing its signification of China as the center of the world. Daoists had to acknowledge the existence of multiple kingdoms outside China and non-Han peoples [manyi 蠻夷] who resided on the outskirts of the so-called Middle Kingdom as potential followers of Daoism. However, during the Tang dynasty, this capacious attitude ceased to be maintained or passed on. Instead, Tang Daoists returned to a notion of Middle Kingdom that reinstated the traditional divide between Han and non-Han peoples.

Wen Lei

Translator Kathryn Henderson

Abstract

The Abbey Celebrating the Tang [Qingtang guan 慶唐觀], a Daoist temple on Mount Longjiao in southern Shanxi Province, played a special role in the religious history of China in the Tang dynasty. Because of the myth that Laozi himself emerged from this mountain during the war to found the Tang state, this abbey was closely linked to the political legitimation of the Tang. Even plants in this abbey were regarded as the harbingers of the fate of the state. The emperor Xuanzong erected a huge stele in the Abbey Celebrating the Tang, demonstrating the support enjoyed from the royal house. Images of the six emperors, from Tang Gaozu to Xuanzong, were also held in the abbey. After the collapse of the Tang dynasty in 907, the Abbey Celebrating the Tang lost its political, legitimizing privileges, but its connection with the local community continued to develop well into the Song, Liao, Jin, and later dynasties. The creation and transformation of the Abbey Celebrating the Tang not only show the political influence of popular religion in ancient medieval China but also provide an interesting case of how a Daoist temple grew in popularity and prestige after it lost favor with the state.

Shuchen Xiang

Abstract

This paper, unlike scholars who ascribe to it a copy theory of meaning, argues that the logic of the Xici is best described through “philosophy’s linguistic turn,” specifically Ernst Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms. Cassirer’s concept of the symbol as a pluralistic, constitutive, and functional yet concrete and observable form, is comparable to the symbolic system in the Xici 系辭: xiang 象, gua 卦, yao 爻, and yi 易. Their similarity is due to a shared philosophical orientation: humanism. The characteristics of the Xici—the part-whole (structuralist) relationship typical of correlative cosmology, the simultaneously sensuous and conceptual nature of its symbols, the stress on order as opposed to unity, and the importance of symbols per se—for Cassirer are characteristics that were only possible in European intellectual history after a substance ontology was replaced by a functional one. For Cassirer, a functional ontology is closely associated with a humanism that celebrates creations (i.e., language) of the human mind in determining reality. This humanism is coherent with the intellectual context—Confucian humanism—contemporary with the period of the Xici’s composition. It would thus be inconsistent to concede this humanism to the Xici without also conceding that its understanding of the symbols is akin to that of the linguistic turn. Finally, even regardless of this comparative framework, the Xici runs into a paradox if we read it through a copy theory of meaning, paradoxes that immediately dissolve if we read it through the paradigm of the linguistic turn.

Bin Wei

Translator Casey Lee

Abstract

During the Six Dynasties period, the cultural landscape of the mountains underwent a transformation. Most notable among these were the appearance of monasteries and Daoist temples as well as the system of immortals’ grottos and estates that accompanied the latter. Because of this shift, mountains began to constitute a special religious and cultural space. Two factors contributed to this shift. The first was religious, specifically, the movement of Daoist and Buddhist practice into mountain retreats. The second was political, namely, how political power was shaped by new geopolitical configurations centered on the city of Jiankang (Nanjing). With these two factors at work, a new cultural form and spatial configuration emerged from the mountains that reflects the intimate relationship between the Six Dynasties politics, society, and culture.

Series:

Guorong Yang

Editor/translator Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Daniel Sarafinas, Sharon Small, Ady van den Stock and Stefano Gandolfo

Analytic philosophy and Chinese philosophy are often seen as two completely different philosophical systems.1 Yet, from the perspective of Chinese philosophy, analytic philosophy does not merely constitute an existence of a philosophical “other,” nor is it just an incommensurable system of thought. Either from a historical review of Chinese philosophy or from the perspective of contemporary Chinese philosophy, the significance of having a solid understanding of the connection—and the possibility of establishing a connection—between analytic philosophy and Chinese philosophy cannot be overlooked.

Series:

Guorong Yang

Editor/translator Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Daniel Sarafinas, Sharon Small, Ady van den Stock and Stefano Gandolfo

Attempts to understand Chinese philosophy as philosophy have a unique history.1 It can be investigated in the context of Western philosophy or from the perspective of Chinese philosophy itself.

Mainstream Western philosophy, beginning with Hegel, does not properly situate Chinese philosophy. In Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Hegel mentions Chinese philosophy but does not incorporate it into his definition of what counts as philosophy. In his view, Kongzi (“Confucius”) (d. 479 BCE) is “China’s major philosopher,” but his thought is merely common-sense ethics: “In his thought, there is no analytic philosophy at all.” Although, says Hegel, the Yijing 易经 (“Book of Changes”) involves abstract ideas, it is not profound, it arrests at thinking of the most superficial.2

After Hegel, it seems that the mainstream Western philosophical understanding of Chinese philosophy continued as before. For major Western philosophers, Chinese philosophy never appeared on the horizon. One notices this in the courses offered in the philosophy departments of famous Western universities today: the most prestigious universities in Europe and North America, including Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Cambridge and more, do not have Chinese philosophy as part of their curriculum. In these universities Chinese philosophy can be found only in departments such as East Asia, Religious Studies, History, and others that are not philosophy. This phenomenon again suggests that, in comparison to its Western counterpart, Chinese philosophy is not considered philosophy in the genuine sense.

On the other hand, once philosophy had taken the form of an academic discipline in modern China, it inspired a number of different arguments about how to understand it. The question “Is Chinese philosophy a philosophy?” has become a source of controversy. Here we ought to mention the phrase “Explain China through China.” The original meaning of this direction is to explain Chinese learning through Chinese scholarship. According to this view, when one employs the concept of philosophy to explain Chinese thought, one is already approaching the subject through a Western framework. Such an argument is based on the premise that philosophy is distinctly Western, and that therefore using the concept and term to analyze Chinese thought will cause the loss of the original form and meaning of the subject.

In the rather extreme discourse of explaining China through China, we find a certain tendency: first to reconstruct philosophy as the history of philosophy; then to reconstruct the history of philosophy as intellectual history, and finally to reconstruct intellectual history as academic history. Contained in this pattern of reconstruction is the question of whether Chinese philosophy can be a modern academic discipline. These competing contexts create an unavoidable problem for basic efforts to understand Chinese philosophy.

Series:

Guorong Yang

Editor/translator Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Daniel Sarafinas, Sharon Small, Ady van den Stock and Stefano Gandolfo

In its original meaning, philosophy appears as the search for the individualization and variation of wisdom.1 In Chinese philosophy, the reflection of wisdom unfolds through the pursuit of human nature and dao, which achieves its concrete realization through the application of a series of questions. Based in the historical development of ancient Chinese philosophy, modern Chinese philosophy has returned to wisdom in a new aspect and has continued the contemplation of wisdom in a new form.