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4 Empathetic Vision in Yu Dafu’s Fiction

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Chapter Summary

Yan Fu's paraphrastic tussle with the liberalist notion of evolution shaped a pivotal facet of modern Chinese individualism, yet one must be immediately reminded that there are bound to be other facets of the Chinese self that arose from vastly different sources. Kant's use of the aesthetic to negotiate between the absolute impersonal "subject" and the subject of particular, embodied individuality seems to be legitimated by his belief that aesthetic judgments are "impersonally personal". This chapter illustrates Yu's ethical quandary with the story "Chi Guihua" in which the protagonist "I" first acquires a mentally framed portrait of an angel-like young female and then seeks to "identify", albeit in a condescending manner, with her, but he is purified in his courtship with her and her innocence is preserved while offsetting his lewd urges in one way and refining his mind in another.

Keywords: absolute impersonal subject; Chi Guihua; I-subject; Kant; modern Chinese individualism; Yan Fu's paraphrastic tussle; Yu's ethical quandary

10.1163/9789004265356_005
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