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The Significance of Xuwu 虚无 (Nothingness) in Chinese Aesthetics

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image of Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Just as nothingness is a fundamental concept in Daoist philosophy, it is also a fundamental concept in Chinese aesthetics, where it has multiple meanings: First, nothingness, as a reaction against unaesthetic psychical activity, is a primary precondition of aesthetic and artistic activity. Second, as the void or intangible “stuff” juxtaposed to “substance,” it is an indispensable compositional property of artworks as well as an essential condition for the manifestation of an artistic form. Finally, as a reaction against the unaesthetic world of daily life—the experiential world—nothingness is the fundamental basis and essential provision for establishing an artistic world.


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