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1 Wang Guowei’s Aesthetics in Transcultural Perspective: “Jingjie” and “Atmosphere” Ondřej Dadejík Department of Aesthetics, Faculty of Arts, Charles University ondrej.dadejik@ff.cuni.cz Olga Lomová Department of Sinology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University olga.lomova@ff.cuni.cz Vlastimil Zuska Department of Aesthetics, Faculty of Arts, Charles University vlastimil.zuska@ff.cuni.cz I. Jingjie and Wang Guowei1 The notion of jingjie 境界 as a key concept in Chinese aesthetics was systematically developed by Wang Guowei 王國維 (1877–1927) in Renjian Cihua 人間詞話 (Remarks on ci in the human world), originally serialized in late 1908 and early 1909 in Guocui Xuebao 國粹學報, a journal produced by conservative reformers in Shanghai.2 James Liu contends that jingjie could be rendered in English as “world” (Liu 1975, 83– 86), an idea that has been adopted by many other scholars, mostly Western, but also some Chinese. Other authors translate jingjie as “mental image” (Golygina 1971), “state” or “poetic state” (e.g., Wang 2002), “aesthetic contemplation” (K’o 2005), or “aesthetic realm” (Li 2010), although they admit that any translation can only be approximate.3 Scholars and general readers alike mostly identify jingjie with the notion of yijing 意境. They ignore that Wang Guowei keeps 2 the two concepts separate and that it is only jingjie which carries philosophical meaning, unlike yijing, which he occasionally uses as a technical term of poetics. Thousands of articles and many books have been published in Chinese (and a few also in Western languages) on jingjie.4 Despite these efforts, a unanimously accepted definition of the concept has yet to be achieved; among other things, scholars disagree about whether Wang Guowei’s “theory of jingjie” represents Chinese or Western thought traditions. The prevailing view is that Wang Guowei borrowed jingjie from traditional Chinese poetics and that Renjian Cihua therefore represents the continuity of the domestic tradition in the modern era, perhaps with elements of Western thought “integrated into Chinese traditional criticism” (ronghui dao Zhongguo jiuyoude piping zhong 融會到中國舊有的傳統批評中來).5 A minority of scholars claim the opposite. Jiang Yin, a noted expert on traditional Chinese literature, has refuted the idea that Wang Guowei drew his concept from China’s long literary tradition. After studying a vast number of sources spanning centuries, Jiang Yin (2007) has come to the unequivocal conclusion that the concept of jingjie was not present in traditional poetry criticism, at least not with the meanings we attribute to it today. Jiang Yin eventually argues that jingjie might have been a projection of Schiller’s ideas about “the three spheres of nature, morality and aesthetics,” or Theodor Lipps’s “Einfühlung” . He eventually concludes that the concept “is a (not very successful) translation of a foreign notion.” (Jiang 2007, 22)6 Other scholars have suggested that jingjie might be an attempt at rendering Schopenhauer’s “Idée” (Kogelschatz 1986, 252–54; Li 2004) or “intuition,” (Luo 2002, 160, and elsewhere), or Karl Groos’s theories of play (Luo 2002, 160). Keping Wang has contemplated the existence of “a direct link between jingjie and Geist as presented in Kant’s Critique of Judgement” (Wang 2002, 50), but later he defined jingjie as “the true essence of intuitive 3 observation of the universe and man” (Wang 2010). Such associations may capture certain aspects of jingjie; however, their very diversity leads one to suspect that none of them can be true to its full meaning. Jingjie is indeed “like an eel that the reader may assume to have caught only to find that it has slipped through his fingers” (Wang 2002, 50–51). In this article we step aside from the Chinese–Western dichotomy and interpret jingjie as a completely new concept through which Wang Guowei expresses his innovative reading of Kant and in doing so touches upon some crucial problems discussed much later in Western aesthetics. We will examine Wang Guowei’s innovation by comparing his core term jingjie with two interrelated concepts in contemporary aesthetics, namely, atmosphere and distributed attention. II. Terminology and Narration Today, authors writing about jingjie often begin their considerations about this term by tracing its etymology back to the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit word viṣaya, which in Buddhist sutras denotes “the scope of...

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ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Launched on MUSE
2021-10-13
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