Sunday, November 2, 2008

王国维:学无中西 Wang Guowei: Learn Both Chinese & Western Cultures

Before the concept of Aesthetics was introduced to China from the West, it was not an academic discipline on its own. The During the 20th century, there were many important aestheticians in China who made great contributions to the development of this subject by translating or adapting the Western aesthetic works into Chinese.
Looking back, it is noticeable that the attitude of most of the aestheticians at that time were positive towards both Chinese and foreign cultures. As such, they not only consciously learned the western modern aesthetic theory, they also actively revived and attempted to modernise the Chinese traditional aesthetics.
Wang Guowei (1877–1927) is one of such scholars. Wang Guowei was among the best during his time for the studies of ancient aesthetics in China, probably was the first person to introduce Western meixue to China.
His said in his Foreword to the Journal of Chinese Studies that:
It is clear that the nature of learning has nothing to do with making a distinction between the modern and the classical, the western and Chinese, or the useless and the useful…….
Human knowledge in the world is basically contained in such disciplines as science, history and literary studies. These studies exist in both China and western nations. The only difference is that they vary in the degree of depth and superficiality.
I would say that Chinese and western studies cannot be done without each other in terms of their respective rise and fall. There is a need to promote both to the extent that they thrive and decline in a synchronous fashion.

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