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Viewing: Perceptive And Fleshly Eyes

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Chapter Summary

The idealization of 'perceptive eyes' had a long tradition within the rhetorical theme of recognition in Chinese literature. Over the course of the Ming, recognition and visuality became even more closely linked with the development of a distinctive visual culture and the rise of theatrical fiction. After contextualizing the late Ming and early Qing discourses on eyes, this chapter examines how idealized vision, or the ultimate eye, is embodied and particularized in Shuihu zhuan and Xiyou ji. The dissociation of visual acuity from morality and normative social hierarchy in Shuihu and Xiyou showcases the writers' preoccupation with using the viewing element of 'playful theatricals' to establish and articulate a subversive ocular order. The terms for different eyes are drawn readily from Buddhism, which distinguishes eyes or vision into five kinds: fleshly eyes, enlightened eyes, deva eyes, dharma eyes and Buddha eyes.

Keywords: Chinese literature; fleshly eyes; perceptive eyes; playful theatricals; Shuihu zhuan; Xiyou ji



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