- Purchase/rental options available:
In comparative philosophy of art, there is a widely accepted view that while classical Western aesthetic theory emphasizes the unity of beauty and truth, classical Chinese aesthetic theory focuses on the unity of beauty and goodness. Indeed, though both functions of didacticism and entertainment are affirmed in the Chinese tradition, the former is emphasized over that of the latter by thinkers from Confucius to Mao Zedong. The ethical priority of Chinese aesthetics has much to do with the fact that in the formative years of the Chinese civilization, most thinkers showed a strong interest in the power of music and wrote discourses on the relationship between music and rites. This essay suggests that in early Chinese thought, since music is a much broad term which stands for art and rites in general, the discourses on music have formed an explicit system of value judgment which determined the primacy of social education and moral cultivation for music in particular and for literature and arts in general. It is therefore reasonable to say that from the outset, Chinese philosophy of art underwent an “ethical turn” via music. This essay critically examines major Chinese discourses on music and sheds light on some core issues of aesthetic thought and education.