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Towards A Conceptual History Of Some Concepts Of Nature In Classical Chinese: Zì Rán 自 然 And Zì Rán Zhī Lĭ 自 然 之 理

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Chapter Summary

There has been some uncertainty among scholars in recent years about how most appropriately to approach the premodern Chinese conceptions of what we these days loosely call Nature. The electronic corpus of Chinese texts that is assembled and analyzed in the Thesaurus Linguae Sericae offers some material for the preparation of a philologically based answer to this and related questions. This chapter begins with a survey of some of the basic syntactic functions of zì rán. The notion of a creator imposing pattern on the world of things is present in China. There are only rules, constant rules, and more commonly, as history progresses, patterns; and, indeed, the all-important idiomatic zì rán zhī lĭ the history of which the chapter traces. Finally the chapter presents a survey of the concept zì rán zhī lĭ in some Chinese Buddhist contexts.

Keywords: Nature; premodern Chinese conceptions; zì rán zhī lĭ



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