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Patterns of Tao (Dao): The Birth of Chinese Writing and Aesthetics

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In the Chinese tradition, the relationship between art and philosophy is conceptually explored in terms of the relationship between dao (Tao) and wen, which may respectively be viewed as representing philosophy and art. Over history, discourses on dao and wen are central to studies of Chinese literature, art, culture, and civilization. But just as dao holds a range of ideas in Chinese philosophy, wen is also one of the most complex terms in Chinese tradition, whose denotations and connotations are multifaceted and open to interpretations. This article argues that the elusive nature of wen can be understood adequately from the perspective of language philosophy and aesthetics via its relationship to the metaphysical principle of the Dao. By examining the discourses on wen and dao, this article advances a thesis with three interrelated ideas: (1) wen (writing) as manifestations of the Tao is an instance of “humanized nature”; (2) the birth of wen marked the beginning of reflections on literature and art, hence inaugurating aesthetics in the Chinese tradition; and (3) the early discourses on wen have determined the distinctiveness of Chinese aesthetic consciousness.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The College of Foreign Studies Yangzhou University Yangzhou, Jiangsu, China Literary Studies The University of Texas at Dallas Richardson Texas 75080-3021

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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