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158 China Review International: Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1994© 1994 by University ofHawai'i Press Thomas P. Kasulis, Roger T. Ames, and Wimal Dissanayake, editors. Selfas Body in Asian Theory and Practice. Albany: State University ofNew York Press, 1993. xxii, 383 pp. Hardcover $59.50, Paperback $19.95. Selfas Body in Asian Theory and Practice is the first work of its kind to offer the reader multidisciplinary and in-depth studies on the cultural significance and philosophical implications of the body in both the East and the West. The book consists of twelve chapters and is divided into four parts, covering the various philosophies and theories of the body in the West and in three of the major Asian traditions: Indian, Chinese, and Japanese. The most fascinating aspect of the book is its double comparative dimension: East/West as well as India/China/Japan. Despite the complexity of its scope and its multidisciplinary nature, the book is still highly readable and illuminating, for the editors have done an excellent job in providing a general overall introduction as well as separate introductions to the various parts, which prove to be very useful in explaining difficult concepts to the general reader. The four parts cover a wide range ofperspectives from the cultural traditions of East and West. It begins with a discussion of the body in contemporary Western philosophy and social thought in part 1, followed by a close look at the body in Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Aieory and practice, in the subsequent parts. The text is not difficult to read, but it demands from its reader a basic knowledge not only ofWestern culture but also of fhe ofher three major Asian cultural traditions . As Thomas P. Kasulis, the chief editor of the book, states in fhe "Introduction ," the present study emphasizes the comparative perspective, and "Western philosophy serves as a foil in many of the essays" (p. xiii). Eliot Deutsch's "The Concept of the Body," and Wimal Dissanayake's "Body in Social Theory," in part 1 are excellent surveys and analyses of the concept of fhe body in the Western tradition . They trace the philosophical origin of the concept of the body, as well as related issues, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various Western schools of contemporary social theory in regard to the body as a cultural construct. While Deutsch's essay clarifies the concept from a Western perspective, Dissanayake's essay brings in cultural theory, particularly the insights of Foucault, thus offering a critique as well as a réévaluation ofWestern culture. These two essays succeed in establishing a framework for further investigation in a comparative and contrastive mode with oAier Asian traditions. Both essays are well documented and carefully argued, demonstrating the solid scholarship and critical insights of their authors . Reviews 159 As a Chinese comparativist myself, I was most interested in the Chinese part ofthe book, with an introduction titled "On Body as Ritual Practice," by Roger T. Ames, the editor of that section of the book. Ames successfully synthesizes the various arguments in the essays Aiat follow under the central idea of Confucian humanism. This in turn serves as the cultural background to John Hay's "The Human Body as a Microcosmic Source of Microcosmic Values in Calligraphy" and Mark Elvin's "Tales of Shen and Xin: Body Person and Heart-Mind in China during the Last 150 Years." Ames' introduction can also be read as a separate essay on the Confucian emphasis on fhe importance of ritual practice in self-cultivation, which is summed up in the Confucian idea that "benevolence lies in restraining/cultivating oneself and practicing fhe ritual" (kejifuli wei ren). While his introductory essay focuses on how fhe cultivation of one's self, mind, and body together (xiu shen), is seen in Confucian ritual practice, in his second essay, "The Meaning of the Body in Classical Chinese Philosophy," he expounds on Aie various levels of philosophical meaning of fhe body in fhe Confucian moral system. The idea of polarism in Confucian ethics is further discussed, and an insightful point that Ames raises is the idea of"self as a psychosomatic process," in which the mind is not separate...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 158-161
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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